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The Unexpected Things My Entire Family Loves Equally – Because Collectively Agreeing On Things Is Something We Can All Celebrate Right Now, RIGHT?

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In a quest for positivity headed into this week, I want to focus on, well, what we can all agree upon (in my family at least). It shouldn’t be remarkable to have things in common as a family, but when every single person wants to do the exact same thing at the same time, over and over, with no arguing, no negotiating, no complaining (!!) it is worth celebrating (and shouting/writing about). I’m not talking about milkshakes or bike riding (but sure, those too). I am talking more so some unexpected things…

A fun fact is that Brian and I don’t actually like to do the same things. We have the same lifestyle (and are strangely always on the same page, mood-wise) but different interests. For instance when we go on vacation (remember those?) I like to shop and he likes to golf, but we found early on in our relationship that we both love to bike so that’s what we do mostly on vacation – we rent bikes and explore. We even watch different movies and TV shows (for the most part) every night. Charlie and Birdie are very different, too. She likes art, unicorns and helping me cook and he likes science, building and turning anything into a weapon or setting traps. They BOTH love legos and marble racers and can play those for hours.

So for us four to want to do the same thing, watch the same thing, and play the same thing is something we relish and celebrate. Here goes…

GAMES & ACTIVITIES

Julia Donaldson + Axel Sheffler Children’s Books

We LOVE reading these books to our kids and our kids LOVE them just as much. They are funny and whimsical, unexpected and rhyme, almost like a musical. Our favorites are (but we love them all) Room On A Broom, Highway Rat, Tabby McTat, Stick Man, The Snail On The Whale, The Spiffiest Giant In Town, Tiddler, The Gruffalo… I mean ALL of them are great. We’ve been reading these to our kids for 5 years (discovered in Australia) and even Charlie, almost 7, still loves them (and is starting to read then to US). I heard this day would come and my heart sings with joy when he’s reading to us all in bed together.

The Questioneers Picture Book Series

I LOVE reading these books. They are smart, funny, illustrated so well, and have great messages for kids. They also rhyme, making it just way more fun to read. A new one came out called Sofia Valdez Future Prez that is GREAT, too. They are great for ages 1 – 8 (maybe even older–I don’t know). Our kids love these books too because they are entertaining (and long) and they are very empowering and inspiring to them.

The Secret Door & Outfoxed

These are THANKS TO YOU. I did this board game post early on and you guys suggested these in the comments for our kid’s ages. The Secret Door and Outfoxed have been a HUGE hit with all of us. I didn’t know about ‘collaborative games’ before (where you work together as a team) and these two are SO much fun and feel like a positive fun night (unlike them screaming over money via Monopoly). If you guys have more collaborative game suggestions please let me know. We also love Guess Who?, Sleeping Queens, and Uno, but it’s just way more fun to be on a team with them.

Scavenger Hunts

photo by jason frank rothenberg for rachael ray every day | from: 6 quick & easy tricks for a fun 4th of july party (that look like you tried)

Oh, you’ve seen us doing them on the blog and on social (the photo above was for a photoshoot obviously). We are scavenger hunt people. They started in LA in the backyard and inside, with clues that rhyme and a lot of squealing. Then up here since our house backs up to acres of mountain they became pretty epic, with the kids sprinting with maps. I will say they take a decent amount of work for 20 minutes (max) of squeals, but we all enjoy it SO MUCH. We used to have one on July 4th, and New Year’s day with all the kids we could collect, this year was different obviously but still do it with our kids and they always do one for me for Mother’s Day around the house.

Cooking Matty Matheson’s Shepherds Pie

from: how i fell in love with cooking, and a man named matty matheson + four of his recipes reviewed

We made this early on in quarantine and it was DELICIOUS in every way and so much fun for us to make. We typically don’t eat the same foods because on an average day I eat mostly vegetables (with some meat and no, I don’t really like meat substitutes) and our kids will eat vegetables but not a full plate of them like me. But this meal is one that we all agree on. You wouldn’t think that this is “healthy” but it falls into the healthy category for me because it’s just good old fashion (pasture-raised if you can) meat and veggies, nothing processed. Sure, with a LOT of butter. They beg for this dish and it’s one that Brian and I really like to cook together. The kids have already asked for it for our Christmas meal and we are on board. By the way, I just bought his new cookbook for Brian and it’s a doozy… If you like cooking lamb shoulder and pigs feet it might be for you.

MOVIES

Hamilton

Oh, how lucky are we that our kids are obsessed with this magical piece of performance art. Brian and I saw the original cast on broadway (obstructed view but it didn’t matter) and are true, obsessive fans (oh right, we both love theater). We put the soundtrack on for the kids the last couple of years, walked them through the plot enough so when it dropped on Disney+ they were READY. We’ve now watched it close to 15 times and it’s such an incredible piece of art that you don’t get sick of it – I learn new things or catch a new amazing lyric each time. Charlie and Elliot know almost every single word and we even dressed up as the cast for Halloween yesterday. I wish that every era of history was taught via a Lin Manuel musical because our kids know the American Revolution, about the founding fathers and constitution better than I did before Hamiton. Lin Manuel is Shakespeare.

The Biggest Little Farm

If you are needing to feel some hope in the world, this documentary about a family leaving LA to build a sustainable farm is so beautiful (and entertaining). Sounds boring, but it’s absolutely not (and I’ve been channeling them to manifest a similar situation). Our kids don’t beg for this movie, but every time we watch it they love it and it gets them very excited for our move to Oregon. The reason I cry every time is that there is a real spiritual aspect to nature and mother earth that they embrace and nurture. You can witness what happens if all of our food was grown like this. It’s absolutely inspiring (not depressing at all).

Disney Nature Documentaries

These are narrated by actors and are so beautifully shot and entertaining. Our favorites thus far are the Chimpanzee one and Bears.

Current Disney Classics

Moana, Onward, and Frozen 1 and 2. I don’t need to convince you of these I’m sure, but it felt weird finishing this list without listing our favorite animated movies (and for an extensive list of over 50 of our favorite movies, we did a post about it here). I cry watching Moana and Onward almost every single time, and we secretly love Frozen 2 more than Frozen 1. We started watching the ‘Making of Frozen 2‘ series and the kids even love that and it’s opened their eyes to some professions they didn’t know existed.

TV SHOWS

Nailed it, Magic For Humans, and now Haute Dog (ok fine, Minute To Win It, too). Finding common ground on TV has been harder for sure. We started quarantine with Nailed it and we laugh out loud every episode (it’s a baking show for amateur bakers trying to replicate crazy complicated baked goods but its HILARIOUS). There are 8 seasons (skip the first, IMHO). Magic for Humans is Justin Willem’s incredibly funny and at times sweetly emotional magic TV show. Yes, the magic is incredible but it’s more that he is so relatable and charming and very self-deprecating. Haute Dog is the Nailed It’ for dog grooming (except they are expert groomers). It’s pretty darn funny, as they all have these wild challenges to do grand things to poodles.

So heading into this week, on the eve of this historic election let’s talk about things that we can all agree upon. I’d love to hear what you guys collectively love to get more ideas – any other no-fail family games, activities, or book series that you can recommend? xx

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Mountain House Reveal: Our Light-Filled Neutral & Textural Living Room

Fin Mark

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Sahaja

My kid is younger than yours, but the Bear series from Karma Wilson and any book from the Hello! Lucky collection by Eunice and Sabrina Moyle, like ABC Dance or Kindness Rules are crowd pleasers. Also, Gaston, the Cutest Thing Ever, and Breathe like a Bear.
This is a little niche, but if there’s any other Jewish/Hindu blend families here ( we call ourselves Hin-jews), Queen of Hannukah Dosas is a great book! Even if you’re not.

I’m surprised you didn’t add Coco to the animated list! But omg Onward made be cry big ol’ tears when I saw it the first time.

If you’re a fan of Indian/vegetarian good, this Saag Paneer recipe in the insant pot is a crowd pleaser. But instead of using actual paneer, I used cubed feta. It’s DELICIOUS.
https://spicecravings.com/palak-paneer-indian-cottage-cheese-in-spinach-gravy
Also, I started adding peanut butter into Kodiak pancake batter for nut exposure for my toddler when he was younger, but really the whole family loves them now.

Jamie O.

Emphatically, YES to liking Frozen 2 more than Frozen 1! The story felt more cohesive (so many plot holes in the first one!?) and we loved the music. We being my grown adult self and husband, haha!

Rachel

LOL….I was on board with all of Emily’s recommendations (especially Julia Donaldson books) except for Frozen 2! My son loves us to “tell him a movie” before bed (telling him the plot of a movie as a story) and I always struggle to explain what happens in Frozen 2 (although I do love belting out “Lost in the Woods”)

Tarynkay

This is actually a one player game rather than a collaborative one, but my kids love Gravity Maze. They play it together, so both of them are solving the puzzles. It involves building 3D marble mazes so it sounds like your kids would like it as well.

We are not very current on TV, but my husband and I and our 8 and 4 year old boys all loved Avatar: The Last Airbender. Just the animated show, we did not watch the movie. The best part outcome of this has been that our kids go outside afterwards and pretend to “bend” with colorful pieces of fabric. It’s pretty hilarious and awesome that they are out there essentially ribbon dancing while they sincerely believe they are re-enacting fierce ninja warrior battles.

Alexis

Yep to both of these! I have Gravity Maze in my Elem. school library for Center time and aftercare and the kids love it (honestly it’s my favorite too). It’s a marble maze puzzle so Emily’s kids would probably be great at it since they are into marble runs.

My kids (8 & 4 when they first saw it) also love Airbender. The graphic novels are great too. Never thought to give them fabric while they bend, they are going to love that.

A

Avatar is amazing. Great message too.

Brandi

Last Airbender animated series is amazing and the follow-up series is now on Netflix as well. It’s called Legend of Korra and it’s about the avatar after Aang. It takes place 70 years after the events in the original series and has an amazing voice cast.

I also liked Frozen 2 better because Anna was less naive and I enjoyed the music more.

Suzanne

We love Avatar (definitely skip the movie). My daughter watched it when it first came out, real time, and again, at 16. My husband and I decided to watch it on our own, and we loved it. The Legend of Korra is good, too, but not as good as Avatar, and it feels like it is for slightly older kids.

Heather

You probably already have it but there is a newer title in that questioneers series called Sofia Valdez, future Prez. Very cute and timely. Melissa and Doug floor puzzles never get old in our house, especially the solar system one.

Sam

My son loves to play Zombie Games Evolution. It’s collab and you get envelopes to open every few games when you achieve goals.

Kingdomino is fun for kids and adults but not collab.

Sam

Sorry it’s Zombie Kidz Evolution!

Great roundup! Hoot Owl Hoot is our favorite collaborative kids game. So good.

Jeannie

Thanks for the rec on Disney Nature documentaries! We can never agree on what to watch as a family, but I think those would be a winner. We love the board game Camp. It has different levels, so my husband and I get the hard questions, and our daughter gets the easier questions. It’s not collaborative, but it is educational.

Diana

Oh, I’m so surprised to see someone else knows the board game Camp! It’s my 6 year old’s favorite game. It’s quick to play and we have learned tons of nature facts.

Megan Lec

Would these collaborative games work with a three year old? He’s a fan of candy land but I’m not sure what other games are age appropriate and need some cold weather suggestions!

DeniseGK

Outfoxed might work, if you help a lot and he is very engaged, which you won’t know until you buy it and play. I would recommend instead some HABA games. We started our children as toddlers on the “My Very First Games” series, with First Orchard being the favorite. Rabbit Rally is not part of the First Games series, but still appropriate and easy to handicap when playing with a wide mix of ages. They also have Animal On Animal (or Tier auf Tier if you need to buy it from a European website) that is good for kids and easy to devise variations for age. We also have a game called Lagoonies that is from some other game company, but is excellent fun and also easy to handicap. Once your son has even a little bit of gaming skill you can move on to games like Rhino Hero, The Happy Farm, Enchanted Tower, Tiny Park, Zack & Pack, Martian Dice, Spinderella, Monza, Cuckoo’s Egg, and Feuer Drachen (Fire Dragon). Some of these are HABA and some are not. I would recommend that you check out boardgamegeek dot com to look at pictures of these games, read reviews and discussions… Read more »

DeniseGK

Sorry for the wall of text. I put in paragraph breaks, but I’m on mobile so I guess they don’t work.

Megan Lec

Thank you so much! Already adding some suggestions to my cart!

Rebekah kohmescher

Look into the Peaceable Kingdom games which are all cooperative. My 3 yr old could do Count Your Chickens and Hoot Hoot Owl.

Erin

I love all the peaceable kingdom games!! Our favs are Race to the Treasure and Mermaid Island

Sara

Hi. Not collaborative, but my almost 3 year old enjoys Zingo and Hungry Hippos (the classic!)

Sara

I somehow never played Clue as a child! We’ve been enjoying that as a family. TV/Movie-wise, we’ve been loving the weekly episode of The Great British Baking Show and we’ve been working our way through Harry Potter and loving it. My kids are 8.5 and 6.

Carrie

This is a great list! I will definitely be checking out the board games. Some of our family favorites are:
For TV shows – Lego Masters on Fox, Shop Class (on Disney+, hosted by Justin Long), Be Our Chef (also Disney+) and The Floor is Lava (Netflix).
Book series – Magic Tree House, Princess Pulverizer (this one is a newer find for us and we love, she is a Princess who wants to be a knight and goes on a quest of kindness to prove to her dad she can do it), and Dog Man.
Board games – Ticket to Ride First Journey, and Color Brain Disney Edition.

Annie

If you like the Disney Nature Docs, they are currently releasing “The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom” and it’s all about the animals and the zoo keepers and it’s just wonderful. You just get to see the love these zoo keepers and vets have for the animals, and it doesn’t feel like an advertisement for Disney so much as it feels like the Zoo shows. (They are on D+ too, I think it’s just called “The Secrets of the Zoo” or something like that, it’s about the Columbus Zoo and it’s ALSO wonderful)

MelissaB

We’ve been watching; How it’s made, Crazy Delicious and the Great British Bakeoff. Making lots of kids treats picked out of cookbooks and playing Yahtzee, Silly Street, Puzzles and Magnatiles. My kids are 5 and 8 months

Heather

This was a fun read! Thank you.
My kids (6 and 8, girl and boy) both loved Kids Baking Championship, Duff vs. Buddy and Lego Masters. Those were fun to watch together!

Eve

I agree-I think your kids would love watching Kids Baking Championship Emily! I am an adult with no kids and I watch it! lol

Shana

Another great family show – Paradise Run – evokes visions of tropical vacations and the kids love it. It’s on Hulu now, but originally ran on Nick Jr. I think

northerngirl

I have been trying to figure out why I have not been enjoying the blog as much lately, despite being a loyal reader for years and years. Today I realized it is because I feel like 90% of what I encounter here these days is a list of things to buy. And I have less and less interest in inconspicuous consumption, especially now.

I recognize the need to finance the blog and pay people, but these days the way it is being put together and presented is just not working for me

HH

This seems like an odd criticism on this post because a good number of these things don’t need to be bought and a lot of (yes, privileged) folks have at least one subscription to a streaming service. Books, movies, TV series, and sometimes even board games are available at libraries (provided yours is open due to Covid) – folks could utilize those to find these, too. While streaming services are a form of consumption, they don’t result in more stuff. Also, a recipe and an activity aren’t conspicuous consumption.

The weekend posts always incorporate “lists of things to buy”, but there’s been some great content lately that is not just consumption based – Velinda and co’s recent designs, the introduction/content from the BIPOC collaborators, voting registration deadlines, Design Mistake on walls/art configurations…

I’ve felt similar to you about being less interested in buying more “stuff” and I just skip over roundups for things I don’t need. (Most likely you do the same.)

Clare

I agree it’s just buy buy buy, affiliate links! It seems strange to me that she’s posting all the kids tv watching stuff esp when the election is tomorrow!

KMR

A post about “things we can all agree upon” on election eve put a lump in my throat. I’m all for it today, affiliate links and all. But maybe it’s because I live in DC and it’s just so dang stressful here right now. I’m happy for this sweet diversion.

Rebekah kohmescher

This list is so fun! ESP for those of us in colder places headed back into LOTS of indoor family time. We are game obsessed so I will share on that topic. All three of my kids ages 4/9/11 are obsessed with Otrio. Goes quickly so you can play again and again sort of a triple layer tictack toe game. And we do teams for our fav Low Down, card game, to help the younger ones. Snug as a Bug in a Rug is collaborative and has different layers of difficulty for different ages. My kids can all play that one, as well. They are also all obsessed with Slamwich which comes in the cutest lunchbox and is a take on war.

Wendy Stewart

My boys are now 9 and 11 and they still love the game Race to the Treasure, we’ve been playing it for years! Peaceable Kingdom is a great collaborative game brand that is also sustainable in it’s packaging and materials. Also, Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s Child are favorites of ours too! Those and Room on the Broom have TV specials which have great actors doing the voices, you and your kids will probably love them!

Sara

Hi Emily! If you like the Andrea Beaty books you should check out the accompanying chapter books. My daughter is the same age as Birdie and we’ve been reading the chapter books each night as some special one on one time. Finishing up Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote right now.

Also, we’ve been introducing them to old musicals and classic Disney movies and it’s been really fun. They LOVED The Sound of Music which made my heart so happy.

Heather

My boys love the game Rat-Tat-Cat (by Gamewright, the same makers of Sleeping Queens). We’ve been playing this game since my kids were your kids’ ages and now my boys are 12 & 10 and we still play this game and it’s actually one that I don’t mind playing (it’s a card game).

DeniseGK

Never heard of Rat-Tat-Cat, but we do have Sleeping Queens and love it.

Alice

Check out books by Chris Van Dusen,
They rhyme and are creative and funny
If I Built a Car, If I Built a House are favorites along with Mr.McGee series

Kiana

Emily! I also have a tutu wearing, unicorn loving daughter and a son who’s all about Legos and star wars. Here’s things we all enjoy (all free!!)

1. Stories podcast (great for road trips or when you don’t have the energy to make up a story)
2. The Beatles (son’s favorite song is Nowhere man, and daughter’s favorite song is Obla di, Obla da)
3. Cosmic kids yoga on YouTube
4. Walks in the woods. Especially fun if you give the kids something to find like “a tree with a branch snapped in half, a leaf with bite marks”)
5. Brainpop Jr videos. You probably need a subscription to access most of these but even I always learn something when I watch one.
6. Art for Kids Hub on YouTube. This cool dad teaches kids how to draw stuff step by step. I’m not a great artist so even I enjoy learning from him. There’s thousands of videos and you can even search for preschool ones if your kids don’t have good control over the pencil yet, like my daughter.

DeniseGK

I will be checking out the youtube art thing. My kids are doing virtual school and the little one and the high schooler both have full days with electives, but for some reason my middle grades kid does not and she really misses the “special activity” classes. Thank you for this.

Lauren

Lots of our family favorites on this list!

My 4 year old has recently started watching House Hunters with me and it’s HYSTERICAL. She has so many opinions and it very into it. We did buy a new house last year and she went hunting with us, so I guess she really liked it. 😂

DeniseGK

we’ve been watching Escape to the Country and World’s Greatest Homes with our kids. They became quite opinionated very fast! It’s funny to listen to the discuss among themselves, they definitely have different priorities than I do. lol.

there was another one where 3 houses in England compete to be the best home (not just house) each week and then at the end of the season they pick one home to be best of the best. my kids got Very into the idea that some houses fit their family better than others. it was a big hit and we could probably just keep watching it over and over and they wouldn’t complain.

this is all Netflix stuff.

Patti

What a fab post! It must have taken so much thought and effort. Much appreciated and keep these lists coming!

Marci M Lambert

The Biggest Little Farm!!!!!!!! omg i loved it so much and want everyone to see it. it really does connect humans to nature in such a beautiful way!

Andrea

I would love a roundup like this for families with teens! It’s rare that we can get our 12-yr old and 16-yr old to be interested in the same thing at the same time. Games, tv shows, movies – they used to be on the same page but now are not, so it’s deciding if we’re going to have “Forced Fun” after dinner (aka we’re all playing a game together under duress) or if we let one or both of them slink back off to their rooms to Facetime their friends all night while we re-watch Lost or West Wing. I’m fresh out of ideas and the rainy season is coming!

Teresa

I have older kids (14, 16, 19) and here are some ideas that have worked for us during the shelter in place (*disclaimer* our teenagers never wanted to participate in these things willingly, BUT once we forced them to, they stayed engaged and everyone had fun)

Games
Telestrations or Scrawl
Card Games especially Egyptian Rat Tail, Spades, Hearts, and Gin Rummy
Mexican Train (dominos)

TV shows
Modern Family
The Office
Survivor and Amazing Race

Movies
Trains Planes and Automobiles
Uncle Buck
Stand and Deliver
MacFarland USA
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Would love other families’ suggestions!!

DeniseGK

Seconding Telestrations. Plus a card game call Oh Hell (or Oh Well if you play with kids) that we learned from a guy on youtube. Quint? His channel is Shut Up and Sit Down.

Also, Looping Louie is a little kids game, but our teen loves to play more than the young ones. It’s so silly but we are all screaming by the end trying to protect our chickens.

Eve

Hi Emily-
You guys might like watching Making It with Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman together! It so creative and artistic! I think there are 2 seasons to watch! My husband and I watch it together! 🙂

Chelsea

Not to be a downer, because as a musical I think Hamilton is fantastic (LMM’s ability to tell a story through song is masterful), but I’m an academic historian and Hamilton is… not great history. As a jumping off point for discussion about American history, it’s great, but I really encourage you to think critically about the narrative it’s circulating, and talk about that with your kids! What is the musical saying… and what is it not saying? And why might that be? (Now feel like I’m almost leading a class, ha.) I think a lot of people get distracted by the diverse cast and the hip hop music, but it’s a very conservative (and white…) story about American nationalism and progress, and something that still demands critique and interrogation. So I’m definitely not saying to stop watching it! But I would encourage you to use it as a way of thinking about nationalist stories, and who is included/excluded in the telling of those stories.

Laurab

“The Paper Dolls” and “Cave Baby” by Julia Donaldson (not illustrated by Axel Sheffler tho) are also really great.

MCD

Emily, I love these posts where you share your family favs and your readers give theirs. This is so incredibly helpful with Hanukkah and Christmas coming soon! Thanks everyone for the fab ideas!

Pamela

I LOVE these suggestions! (my boys are around the same age as your kids) I struggle to find games & activities that I really enjoy doing with them. I usually go the arts & crafts route, but a game we round recently that we all LOVE is Buildzi (no affiliation, just love the game and i feel like people haven’t heard of it). Check it out.

Katie

My girls are the same ages as your kids and the Peaceable Kingdom games are some great cooperative games where you all work together to win. Two we are loving currently are Cauldron Quest and Race to the Treasure. We decided to homeschool this year also and start day with a game everyday. It’s a great way to connect and get the day started in a fun way.

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