Family History Questions to get the conversation going

With your loved ones around let's find time to ask the family history questions that lead to the stories and experiences of our families.

Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, the summer holidays are all times when we have the opportunity to see extended family for longer periods of time. When you’re in the company of family how much time do we spend sharing stories from our family history? How many stories can the children recite because they’ve become family favorites?

I came across this quote and decided it was time to change.


family history


With your loved ones around let’s find time to ask the family history questions that lead to the stories and experiences of our families.

  1. Set the scene
  2. Choose a few questions and check in.
  3. Find ways to record

Set the scene

Turn off the TV and have some background music playing. It’s much easier to have conversations without the distraction of the TV. Sitting around a fire or having a quiet time in the afternoon help because you’re already slowing down. Activities that involve us looking at each other and around an area than all staring in one direction help us to have more conversations. But what do we talk about?

Choose a few questions and check in

Use photos, current events, topics from school and choose a few open ended family history questions to start the conversation. Before you ask though it’s best to check in with someone else to make sure you’re not opening up a can of worms.

There are so many topics that are good to talk about from everyone’s life and likely a few that we’d all do best to avoid. Since we’re spending a good bit of time together it’s probably wise to make sure we pick the 75% good areas than stumble into the wrong area without realising.

It’s not a test of quick fire or multiple choice but a chance for family members to wax lyrical and share an experience. We indulge their exaggerations and rosy glow memories as well as laugh at the terrible twists they got into.

Ask early on in the visit to give everyone a chance to recall and retell their stories and experiences.

Find ways to record

Listening without checking devices is perfect. Listening without looking at a screen. Recording the voice using a smartphone or computer is a choice if you’re looking to keep a special retelling. Younger children may want to draw a story while it’s been told. Journaling and note taking help each families too to remember conversations. It’s all about being attentive and that’s different for each of our families.

As in times past a good story always gets retold. in the days and weeks that follow, when all the relations have long since gone home have regular story telling times.  Storytellers always thrive in life. Retelling stories gives a family a sense of unity, purpose and grounding.

Download this free printable of 9 questions to get you started on your family history questions.



With your loved ones around let's find time to ask the family history questions that lead to the stories and experiences of our families |



Best audio books for a Simple and Slower Family Christmas Season

Best audio books for a Simple and Slower Family Christmas Season

Audio books are not just for long car journeys.

Since you can download the apps to your phone and other portable devices it’s even easier for the family to take their stories with them.

I grew up listening to stories on the radio and love the theatre and drama of it all. There’s something about stories that bring them to life when you hear a good story told to you.

The challenge around the Christmas season is to keep things simple and continue to have a slower family life. One of the ways we’re going to try this year is having audio time together.

Unlike watching the same productions on the TV or going to the movies while you are listening you can be coloring, making, baking and doing or playing. This makes it perfect for the family to experience some downtime together doing what we wish and enjoying a shared experience of story.

Here’s a list of the best audio books for Christmas wish list, including affiliate links, that suit the family who wish to have more time together listening to great story and building memories.

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5 simple tips for smoother time management in families

Reduce the stress levels at home by working with the children on how to manage their time so they don't get overwhelmed. Learn more at Play-Activities.comManaging our own time is hard enough and making sure things get done. But what about time management for our children. When you have a few you start to notice that we all have different views of getting out the door on time. One child is always dragging or lost their shoe, favourite toy or put down snack.

Like many families we have our ups and downs with time management. We definately have a dreamer who takes life easy. There’s no hurry and no time. In our family we also have perfect time keepers who are ready before the time. We also have variations in between.

What we have learnt about time management is that it’s not caught. You have to teach it and slowly over time they get it ( Usually when they are somewhere else they do it!) If we don’t teach them these skills they don’t have anything to fall back on when all else is failing or choose to do and be proactive.

Learning time management skills is a life skill we all wrestle with and within the family is an important time to teach and share different ways to tackle time issues. It can only help them as they move through school and the pressures of schedules increase and on into higher education and work.

Try out these 5 simple tips for smoother time management in your family where we teach them and share how and not just give them new things to do and overwhelm them. [Read more…]

Reflective Journal Prompts on Parenting

 Just start. If you're trying to start the habit of journaling, try answering some of these questions next time you sit down to write.

Journal prompts come in all shapes and sizes for parents.

If you want to get closer to your children

If you want to be closer to your daughter, son, teenager

If you want to inspire your children to draw

[Read more…]

I’m done! 4 questions to ask before going over to check

4 questions to ask before going over to check on a child. Find out on Play Activities

One potential hotspot in the home with your family atmosphere is when you are short on time and you need to oversee a few things at once. You have to switch focus regularly between things and ONE of these switches requires you to go over and check something.

Examples to check

  • check they completed a contribution
  • check they tidied their room/ made the bed/ clean up a mess
  • check they completed their homework
  • check they followed all the instructions for the yummy cake/filling the washer

As you’re doing your thing your children are busy doing theirs. Once you have more than one child it’s easy to see how tensions start to rise.

[Read more…]

The Weekly Marriage and Family Meeting – where relationships are nurtured

Simple way to keep positive conversation going within the family with a weekly marriage and family meeting. Grab the free printable for your next conversation at

Things always seem to go smoother when both my husband and I are on the same page. Just this past week we’ve had sickness in the family so we’ve been back to broken sleep, frequent visits to the doctor or to get medicine. Since we’d been out of our regular routine we didn’t get a chance to catch up with family things.

Regularly during the week we try to share what’s going on with the family and have a chance to talk about us- what’s on our mind. We’ve been doing it regularly and during times like recently it’s easy for this casual family meeting to get bumped.

Meeting regularly together as family happens during our family roundtables but we found we needed a special space to talk…

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Awesome Family Habit: How to Preview our expectations

How to practice previewing as a family habit to share expectations

Part 1 showed us why we need to preview with our children for a happier harmonious family home. Go there now to catch up on what is previewing and why we need to do it more in our homes.

Here in part 2 we’re looking out how to preview with our children and how to have that better experience when transitioning.

Here’s how we previewed our weekend away to a family retreat to Great Wolf Lodge.

Tell them what’s about to happen ( Preview)

We’ve signed up for a family retreat and there’s lots of fun things for the family to do like a water park. We’ll stay in a hotel and we have to drive a little bit to it. We went into as much detail as we knew and before we’d got much out the questions started coming.

Ask them the expectations ( Retrieve)

What do you think we should be doing when we’re in the hotel room?

What happens if things are different to what you’re used to?

We asked these and a few other questions that helped to manage their expectations and ours about what we flet would happen. We painted a picture. It was a chance for them to ask questions again about our family rules. So of course we discussed TV and electronics time and how to tackle a buffet. Not everything we do at home should be done when we’re away. It’s a chance to so the flexibility of the family and how we adapt to different situations.

Walk them through some scenarios  ( real time thinking)

What happens if you get lost? What’s the best way to share a space? What’s the best thing you can do when you’re awake and bored at 5am? ( In your room, humming and drumming on the bed would have been fine but in a shared hotel room you just wake up 4 other people who are cross- true story!)

Based on other experiences and the temperaments of the children we can walk them through situations to help them feel secure while in this new environment. The children  will offer advice, ideas and support to each other.  Anticipate and provide a chance to discuss solutions.

and allow chance to adjust and comment ( reflect)

We had these conversations in the week leading up to us leaving. There was ample chance for them to come back with more questions after they had time to reflect. These reflect times really gave the boys time to see into what could go and build a picture of what was to come. Once there, none of them seemed anxious or sullen. A big contrast to the ball. The reflection time helps them think of others and not just themselves.

Share your family way of handling it ( values)

Here’s the good opportunity to take a fresh reminder of our family values. For us we talked some about manners, politeness and minding others since we’re sharing space. Letting things go and thinking of others. Here’s a printable prompt of family values. We used questions like, what would be the right thing to do if someone bumped you in the line? Often we’d start conversations with- in our family we would…. We gave other families permission this way to do what’s best for their families and we choose what we feel is best for ours.

Pause and time to process ( Sets a direction or destination as a choice)

They could naturally come up with things to bring in the down times, suggestions of things to do nearby or when we’re there. They might have choices for audiobooks or DVDS along the way. Instead of unchartered territory as a family we had given them a few landmarks and a direction. There’s still space to explore and learn but now within secure and safe parameters. Allowing at least time overnight helps as they transition from their regular rhythms to this new experience. Giving a timed warning is another effective method.  We’re leaving in 20 minutes is better than let’s go. It’s time to go.

Unexpected outcomes of previewing

When previewing situations becomes a regular family habit there are a few unexpected outcomes. They bring situation to you about things that happen in school. They have the framework of how to couch the situation without getting their friends into trouble. Often we’re faced with dealing with situations alone and in the moment. Previewing allows us to put lots of heads together and get many ways to view a situation.  It normalizes, it is okay to ask for advice and help.

Now we have alternatives and choices and are reminded that there’s many ways to react and do and each bring different results.

Getting our children to think before they act is a hard.

As is deferring gratification for some children. Previewing gives the family chance to practice these essential skills within our loving atmospheres. Previewing doesn’t just happen in families. After all, CEO and future leaders share their vision, their next big idea, the project with their workers. They have to work through the situation, be proactive, foresee problems head them off and reflect too.

 Where to get ideas

Keep a list of family situations that could do with some previewing. Here’s some family preview ideas in this printable.

What situations do you preview with your children? Here are some examples of encouraging unity, boundaries, expectations, reducing anxiety, letting them process and reflection. Family habits to cultivate

Download the family habit preview printable

I love Evernote for this as I see Facebook Videos, Pinterest Stories and Magazine News reports, I either screen shot them or send them to a family notebook dedicated to conversation. Great for conversation starters at mealtimes or in the car. Topics don’t have to be heavy but relevant for your family. Other peoples situations make for good family learning too.

Previewing takes time. Bedtime is a great time to do this although as our family has gotten bigger it’s easier to do this altogether than with each child at least when we’re initially talking. As the children have gotten older family roundtables and meal times have been good times too.

This is part 2. Read part one about how previewing will lead to a more harmonious household.


Awesome Family Habit: Preview our expectations


Sharing with our children what's coming up next before it happens. Previewing supports the family expectations, values and offers security and calm in a transitionary time

My dress was ready.

The uniform was looking sharp!

I’d found the cute bag and matching shoes. We were ready for the ball. It was on my electronic calendar but somehow it didn’t get written on the family calendar. We were ready for the ball but the kids had no idea that their Friday night was about to be hijacked. Friday night in our home is family night. It’s not surprising then that on Thursday during a casual conversation about the ball did we not realize the emotional tsunami to come.

A complete oversight. Caught on the hop. Three annoyed boys.

The next night didn’t go so well. Two sullen boys and one happy boy left with very overdressed and apprehensive parents.

Two were embracing the phrase: Misery loves company and the other was just in his happy place, much to the frustration of his brothers.   After hurried and whispered exchanges with the wonderful caregivers, we left. Hopeful that they would get it together or keep it together and that once the object of their frustration, namely us, was gone that they might have a reasonable, indeed a good time.

As much as possible we prefer to preview with our children as it makes life a lot easier. Previewing is when you talk about what’s going to happen before it happens to discuss likely ways that things might happen or ways that you might behave depending on what’s going on. We’ve found previewing an excellent way to answer all those questions and reassure the children of choices they can make and remind them of our expectations.

We’d failed to do that with the ball and we felt it.

Why Preview?

  • When you set high expectations we try and reach them. When we set no expectations there’s nothing we have to aim for and we use the knowledge we have which may not be what we’d like to see our children do.
  • Takes away the anxiety of a new situation less likely to act out, flip out or blurt out.
  • Gives children a chance to process without the pressure of the situation and plan. E.g. bring resources, defer gratification , do something different now etc.
  • Allows them to learn how to plan their time and not be whisked away at a moments notice. (Respectful of time)
  • Allows them to prepare, manage expectations and be at peace with the situation.
  • We are all clear on setting our family boundaries and outlining expectations.
  • We’re together on this. There’s no misunderstandings. Children have a lot to remember. Bringing things to the top of our minds.


It’s a respectful family habit.

We maynot like to go or do somethings but give us a little time we can manage ourselves and get it done. We need to model this process with our families. Previewing supports this uneasy transition and encourages family harmony and flow.

Find out next how to use previewing in your family and establish another awesome family habit.

For more ideas on family atmosphere and family flows follow this Pinterest board

Follow Mel Avila’s board Simple rhythms and schedules in the home on Pinterest.


Follow the series

1. Awesome Family Habit: Preview our expectations

2.  Awesome Family Habit: How to Preview our expectations

15 Day Mom Challenge Nurturing Our Family Haven

Take our 15 day mom challenge!

The focus is on nurturing our family haven. Finding those things that take life, parenting and home life up a level all with a little fun along the way.


Take the 15 day mom challenge and nurture your family haven


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15 day mom challenge nurturing our family haven


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Raise your family: 5 surefire ways to support family life at home

5 surefire ways to support family life at homeThere are active ways to support family life that we each know works right now in our families.

As we transitioned from our home to a hotel to another country, another hotel before coming into a new home there were lots of things we just weren’t able to maintain. But there were many things we just knew if we hung onto them family life would be so much easier for us all. I’m sure you feel the same.

Whether it’s due to a move to a new place or wanting to change the atmosphere at home, here are 5 ways to support family life at home to try.

Retelling stories from family history

Our families have a rich history, if only we heard more about it. We can learn so much about family through the experiences they had and learn why things were perhaps the way they were. Children find it hard to believe that their parents made mistakes, reaped consequences and made poor choices. It’s here the life lessons come up naturally and how we learn from others. It gives us a sense of who we are within our families and how often we’ve changed as parents. ( Gives our children hope!)

Raise your expectations

Expecting children to do better as they get used to a new system, behaviour or plan is a natural progression. Sometimes we get stuck. When we teach the four year old to clean their room we allow that it’s not going to be the same as how we do it. They grow into this skill by doing. But if we keep the same expectation for their nine year old brother we’re doing them a disservice.  They are not learning to support family life. Not all things will be age related but often we forget to raise our expectations regularly to fit the growing maturity of our children.

Being around people that are different than your family experience

It’s easy to stay around people that are just like you. One thing that being around different people has taught our family and supported our family life is the conversations that are sparked.  We learn about festivals, observances, holy and high days, food practices, clothing, rituals as well as an ability to ask questions and see things from a range of perspectives.

Many of our worries are magnified.

When we live and mix in a wide social and cultural gatherings our family values are shaped, prodded and ignited. We live in a multicultural world and we don’t know where are children will work and live. Let’s not the first encounter of different people be to them when they are entering adulthood but often and frequently when they are young as their minds are forming.

They need us to hold the space open of stillness and quiet and not let everyday be just about busyHolding the space for down time, unstructured play, silliness and quiet

As we bounce from season to season of family as parents we need to hold the space for things we know that strengthen the family and nourish our individual children ( and us!) The quiet ones in the family need their downtime to recharge and continue to do great things. We need time for silliness, fun and laughter within our family and it not be such a serious tiring place for everyone. We all need quiet and stillness to reorganize. With the pressure to conform and imitate what everyone else is doing we must look within our own families and choose the best ways to support our family life at home according to the season. My season and family will be different to yours.

Be specific

“Go tidy your room!”

“You are being disrespectful to your sister!”

Just like the phrase, “Good job!” These types of phrases are way to vague for our family members to really achieve the aim we have in mind. The more specific we are saying exactly what we want or would like to see, the better the result. We want our children to succeed yet we often miss this one rule.

Be specific.

“Go pick up all the books of the bed, the clothes on the floor and then come and tell me.”

As they get older I’ve found saying go tidy your room usually starts with books off the bed, clothes off the floor because this is how they learned to do it. There’s a system and way to tackle a huge area.

There’s always time to work on family atmosphere and create a place where children and adults want to stay.  There’s time to grow together as a family and support it by trying these surefire ways to support family life.

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