How to Create a Family Bucket List With Your Kids

Do you encourage your kids to dream big?

Are there adventures you’d love to experience together as a family?

Write them down so you’ll have options on hand at a moment’s notice.

In this article I’ll show you how to create a family bucket list.

First you and your kids will share dreams of places to go and things to do together. Then you’ll organize, prioritize and turn your wish list into tangible goals with a fun family project.

Want to have ongoing adventures with your kids? Create a family bucket list of things you'd like to do and a bucket full of memories to remember all the fun.

Why Build a Bucket List?

A bucket list consists of things you want to do in your lifetime (before you “kick the bucket”).

The expression has been expanded to include goals people want to achieve within other time frames as well: before certain birthdays or life events, before holidays or vacations come to an end, before the kids reach a certain age, etc.

The bucket list concept has been around for a while and got a boost in popularity by The Bucket List movie, but it may be new to your children. Once you explain that it’s a way to think of the fun things you’d like to do together, they’re sure to get on board right away with lots of ideas!

It’s fun and exciting to come up with goals using input from the whole family. Kids love to feel that their contributions count.

For this adventure, you’ll actually make a special bucket, then gather, create and preserve a bucketful of family memories.

The best thing about this kind of bucket list is you can renew, reuse and extend it to include new adventures as your kids grow up.

Your kids may have either very simple or very extravagant wishes to start. As they get older and you start fulfilling the wishes on your bucket list, their ideas may change.

kids with bucket list

Put all of your dream adventures together in a family bucket list. Image source: Kate Henke.

One thing kids will learn for sure is that while some adventures have a price tag, many remarkable experiences cost little or no money. They are done for the joy of it. That’s a great lesson.

Types of Bucket Lists

Here are some examples of categories for family bucket lists.

  • Vacation: Things to do on summer or winter vacation
  • Weekend: Ideas for staycations, family projects and local adventures
  • Travel: Places and/or landmarks to visit as a family
  • Hobby: Adventures relating to a shared family interest (sports, outdoor, photography, music)
  • Age: Things to do before your kids start school, become teenagers or graduate high school

Once the idea of the bucket list takes hold, it may become the focal point of your mealtime conversations. This will put family goals and dreams front and center.

You Will Need

  • Paper and pens or pencils
  • New galvanized bucket or paint can
  • Markers
  • Assorted stickers, ribbons and other decorative craft items
  • Several dozen wooden clothespins
  • Envelopes for holding tickets and collecting memorabilia
  • Camera (optional, but recommended)
  • Index cards, hole punch, scissors
  • List of community events from local newspapers and websites
  • List of ideas from family members

    supplies

    Gather your supplies before you create your family bucket list. Image source: Kate Henke.

Preparation Time

60+ minutes

Activity Time

Varies

Location

Varies

Dream big, and dream as a family. Turn events and interests into opportunities. This adventure will help you make sure your family’s dreams won’t fall through the cracks.

Here’s how to make a bucket list with your family.

#1: Create Your List

Have a conversation with your kids about what a bucket list is and things to put on it. Share examples of bucket activities, and decide if you want a theme. Is this a bucket list of things to do during the school year, over the summer or before your kids turn a certain age?

Grab your paper and pens, crayons or pencils, and encourage each family member (parents too!) to create a top-ten list of “things you would most like to do.” If you need extra inspiration, check your community paper or look online for local events.

kids making list

Have a conversation with your kids about what a bucket list is and things to put on it. Image source: Kate Henke.

The list can include anything: the simple (a picnic in the backyard or an afternoon at the library), some travel (a trip to a fair in another town or a drive to an area of your county you have never been before), the educational (a day at a science or art museum) or even a big dream (a cross-country drive to the ocean).

bucket list ideas

Gather the family, talk about bucket lists and make your own list. Image source: Kate Henke.

The only rules to this part of the adventure are that everyone participates and all ideas are considered. You’ll most likely hear old favorites like roller skating and bowling, but expect to be surprised by some of the listed items. Of course, parents, feel free to nudge the process along by offering suggestions.

After a reasonable amount of time, sit down as a family and take turns sharing your ideas. Read your lists and give convincing reasons for including each item.

bucket list ideas

Make lists and then share them. Image source: Kate Henke.

Set a flexible limit on how many total items to put on your list, determined by how many clothespins fit around the edge of the bucket or by the number of days available. Then make a master list. Merge duplicate items and add a certain additional number from each family member.

Have too many good ideas to discard any? No problem! Make a “reserve list” for ongoing items, which you can use to fill in your bucket after you get through some of the list. This is your family’s commitment to fun and time together, and is a work in progress for years to come!

#2: Decorate the Bucket

Take your bucket or paint can (find one at any hardware or craft store), and turn it into a centerpiece. Make your bucket colorful and personal, since it’s an important part of this family activity.

Decorate it with paint, markers, stickers (which are great for younger kids) and any other craft materials.

display bucket

Display your bucket to keep your goals in mind. Image source: Kate Henke.

Once the bucket is ready, use markers to write the selected activities on wooden clothespins. Perhaps color-code the clothespins for different types of activities: meals, travel, indoor fun, outdoor adventures, events, etc.

So you don’t miss out on time-sensitive events, color the tip red if the activity occurs on a certain date like a concert or museum exhibit.

activities on clothespin

Write each activity on a clothespin and place them around the bucket. Image source: Kate Henke.

Now clip the clothespins around the edge of the bucket.

Purchase passes or tickets you’ll need for the red-marked, date-sensitive events in advance. Put them in the bucket or a special envelope below it for safekeeping.

#3: Go on Adventures

Now for the easy part: Choose your first adventure.

You may want to determine a time and frequency for your adventures. One per week works well during the school year. Depending on your flexibility and the amount of planning needed, choose the day’s activities during breakfast or make it a dinner conversation the night before.

Plan ahead, so everyone knows and is ready for fun. Talk about things you’ll need for the event (food for picnics, sturdy shoes for the day you hike), and be sure to take a camera to capture the experience.

pictures of adventures

Take lots of pictures of your adventure to keep in the bucket, even if the activity is something simple like making dinner as a family or playing backyard games. Image source: Kate Henke.

Now enjoy your adventure. Take lots of photographs and collect memorabilia as you go.

Have a basket or envelope in the car to catch important things: special shells, ticket stubs, a pressed flower or maybe a brochure.

memorabilia

Ticket stubs, brochures, scorecards and other memorabilia are great ways to remember your adventures. Image source: Kate Henke.

The most important thing is to have fun. Your bucket list activities will provide chances for lots of laughter and endless conversations with your kids.

#4: Bucket Check-in

Once each adventure is completed, gather around the bucket and share your favorite part of the experience. Write your memories and impressions down on index cards. Be sure to include the kids’ thoughts, too!

recorded adventures

Record stories of your adventures on index cards to include in the bucket. Image source: Kate Henke.

Write the date you completed the bucket list item on the back of the clothespin. Leave room for future dates if you repeat the activity.

written descriptions of adventures

Photos, memorabilia and written descriptions kept together are a great way to recall fun activities later on. Image source: Kate Henke.

Clip the description, souvenirs and printed photographs together. Then drop the finished pin into the bucket.

bucket filled

It’s so rewarding to see the bucket fill up with memories. Image source: Kate Henke.

Now you not only have a bucket list, you have a bucket with mementos you can look at whenever you want. Watch how often your family reaches into the bucket to read through your adventures.

#5: Display Your Bucket List

Keep the bucket in a prominent place. If it’s on display, it’ll keep up excitement and encourage your family to plan the next adventure.

Keep markers and pins available, so you can add new items to the bucket list any time.

display bucket and ideas

Find a prominent place to display your bucket list. Image source: Kate Henke.

Once your bucket is filled with pins and mementos, save the contents to a dated box and start again.

Some Final Thoughts

A family bucket list supports togetherness, organizes your plans and is a fun learning experience. These memory-making times will be filled with laughter and creativity.

pictures of adventures

Gather memories from your family outings and look at them any time. Image source: Kate Henke.

When you start a family bucket list, you embark on a series of wonderful adventures.

Keep the activities in the family or invite friends and relatives; do the bucket list in your hometown or travel to exotic places. Whatever you do, do it as a family. And that’s the best part.

As your children grow, so will their dreams. Raise the bar high, so they know they—and you, as a family—can accomplish anything!

What do you think? What activities made it on your family’s bucket list? Which idea surprised you the most? Did you rush home to add new bucket list items you thought about while completing a day’s activities? Which adventure was your favorite? Share your experiences below and feel free to add a picture or two. Your bucket list ideas might just be the thing another family needs to add another item to their list. Most of all, have fun creating memories.

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About the Author, Maryalice M. Leister

Maryalice M. Leister is an educator, writer and artist whose own life adventures have included 3 children, 5 grandchildren, a parade of pets, and a year-long Gratitude Walk. Other posts by »


  • Charlene

    Great idea! Thank you!

  • Maryalice Leister

    You are welcome! It is ever evolving and fun to revisit often. We often catch the kids sifting through the clips and reminiscing.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinammerman/ KJ Ammerman

    I love this whole concept of selecting activities to saving mementos in the bucket. Thank you for sharing! -Kristin

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Maryalice! This is a great idea for setting goals as a family and the cute bucket craft makes it even better! I may wrap up the supplies for these with copies of your article to give as Christmas gifts this year.

  • Maryalice Leister

    You are very welcome. It has been the forerunner of other “lists” in my family as well. Enjoy!

  • Maryalice Leister

    Oh, I would be so honored and I love that you find it inspirational! Thank you for letting me know – what a grand idea!

  • globetotting.com

    What an inspiring post! I love this idea and am definitely going to try it at home with my kids as well share it with our readers who are families that love to travel. Children love making wishes (as do adults!) and this is a lovely way of sharing them. I can almost guarantee their first wish will be to go somewhere where it snows! – Victoria

  • Maryalice Leister

    Thank you so much for your feedback. I agree – children love to make wishes and this helps them organize them and get excited about completing them in a fun way. The nice thing is it is an ever-evolving activity – completed activities make room for more dreams. Here’s to finding snow!

  • Andrea

    This is lovely! Not only am I going to do this with my kids, I think I may use it for teams who want to build trust and achieve their purpose. Thanks so much

  • Maryalice Leister

    Another wonderful direction this idea can go – thank you for that insight. I appreciate your feedback!

  • http://www.fineartmom.com/ Crystal Foth

    What a great idea! I love it. Such a cute way of keeping the ideas together an saving the mementos on the clip! You could even string them up once you’re done and see them on display too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Maryalice Leister

    As people are sharing there are so many different ways to assemble and display. I say do whatever fits your family life, available space, and creativity. Glad you like it! Thanks!

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