This month, military families get a shoutout.
Every November is Military Family Appreciation Month — an observance dedicated to honoring the daily sacrifices families like yours make.
You know what it’s like to live a life of service and dedication to protecting our country’s freedom. You stand by your service member’s side, and patiently wait for them to return from each deployment.
You’re the backbone of our military.
This month, we encourage you to set aside time for your family. Take advantage of the deals local businesses are offering military families throughout the month as you plan your family outings.
But most of all, take advantage of the days you have together.
Here’s a list of 10 ideas to try during Military Family Appreciation Month:
1. Start a Family Gratitude Jar
The month of November is all about showing thankfulness and appreciation. In fact, there’s varying fun gratitude challenges you can do throughout the month. Get a large jar with a lid and start collecting what your family is grateful for on tiny slips of paper. Pop them in each day.
Gratitude jar topics to consider writing about:
- I’m thankful for you because…
- I’m grateful for our family because…
- I’m grateful for…
Keep a small notepad and a pen next to the jar. Make sure it’s in a visible place where it’s hard to pass by and not leave a little gratitude message each day!
Memory Making Tip: Collect these for an entire year and read them aloud throughout the day during Thanksgiving 2020. Or, take the slips of paper out each weekend and have the family read them together over dinner.
2. Visit a National Park
Many military bases are located within driving distance or a short trip to stunning national parks. Save $80 and pick up your free national park pass at any federal recreation site before you head out to explore. Current U.S. military members and dependents in all branches can get a park pass each year.
Some of the best national parks to visit with kids:
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Glacier National Park
- The Grand Canyon
Plan a day trip if you’re close to a national park. Or, schedule a weekend getaway to one of the more than 2,000 sites around the nation. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges and day use fees. You just have to get there!
Memory Making Tip: After your visit, gather together to pick your favorite pictures from the trip and create a photo book.
3. Explore Your Local Area
Take the time to explore your own backyard as a family. Sit down as a family with a map (yes, a real paper map) to see what natural attractions and historic sites are in your area. Circle any areas that look interesting and make a plan to go.
Ideas of local hot spots to explore:
- Historic sites
- Unique attractions
Not sure where to start? Ask a local or make a stop at the county’s visitor’s bureau. Create a plan to take in everything that’s special to your local area before you get your next PCS orders.
Memory Making Tip: Make a family bucket list. Ask each member of the family to pick several places they’d like to visit in the area before your next move.
4. Tour Your Service Member’s Base
Sure, you go to the military exchange and drop lunch off to your service member, but have you ever really seen the base? If it’s not a top security clearance base, ask your service member to give you a tour.
Places to go on a base tour:
- Work site
- Vistor’s center
- On-site museums
- Game areas
- Family support center
- Historically significant spots
A base tour will give you a closer look and appreciation at what they do every day. Your kids will love it; just make sure they’re old enough to walk distances comfortably.
Memory Making Tip: Snap pictures around the base of your family in front of iconic statues, historic markers, and other impressive backdrops. It may seem mundane now, but years later you’ll love recalling your time at that duty station.
5. Cook a Meal Together
For some military families, it can be hard to sit down and have a meal together. Make the time to plan an elaborate meal that isn’t holiday related. Turn on music, turn off the t.v., and get ready for warm conversation while meal prepping. Not much of a cook? Consider a home meal delivery service to make it a breeze!
Some questions to kick-off interesting dinner conversations:
- Do you know the story about how your parents met?
- Do you know how your name was chosen?
- What was your favorite part of today?
- If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Lighthearted questions can lead to intriguing conversations, especially with little ones. Include everyone in the conversation and minimize interruptions by allowing everyone to talk until they are finished. Want to learn more on getting conversations going? Check out The Family Dinner Project website for extra ideas.
Memory Making Tip: As you find recipes you love as a family, create a homemade cookbook with the collection of recipes. If your family likes crafting, consider letting your kids decorate each recipe page and putting it into a scrapbook.
6. Set Up Special Military Home Decor
One of the coolest parts of being a military family is all the unique places you get to live. Whether you live on or off base, you can create a gorgeous conversation piece in an entryway or living room that tells the story of your family’s military journey.
Some options to consider:
- Customized signs – A popular option is creating a home sign that reads “Home is Where the ______ Sends Us”. Fill in the blank with your branch.
- Photo collage – Collect your favorite images from previous duty stations and hang them on the wall in frames of varying sizes. Guests will love seeing all the places you’ve been!
- Patriotic decor – Mix in personal mementos with red, white, and blue home decor to create the perfect military family home display.
Memory Making Tip: You can buy a sign from an Etsy shop or make your own. Make it a family affair by having kids craft each part of the sign or contribute their own unique creations to the military decor wall.
7. Have a Family Game Night Marathon
You don’t have to spend money to have a good time as a family. Consider having a relaxing evening with no TV or cell phones around. If you don’t have any games yet, stop by Goodwill or other thrift store to pick up some games dirt cheap. Just be sure all the pieces are included!
A few of the best family games to play?
Memory Making Tip: Pop some popcorn, pour some tasty drinks (apple cider is perfect this time of year!), and enjoy quality family time together.
8. Throw a Block Party
This is an especially fun family experience — whether you’re new to the area or have friends on the entire block. It’s a great way to socialize with your neighbors and introduce your military friends to each other. If you’re the social type of family, this is a great way to spend time together and have fun in your favorite way.
Easy block party games/activities to set up:
- Hula hoops
Memory Making Tip: Set up easy games and activities early on for the kids (and adults) to play throughout the party. Ask your neighbors to take pics and share via a private cloud once the party is over.
9. Have a Scavenger Hunt
There’s nothing like a good scavenger hunt to get your creative juices flowing and your heart rate pumping. Doing it in the backyard is fine for little ones. If your kids are a little older, consider taking them to a local park or the downtown area to participate in the hunt.
Some ideas for a scavenger hunt list:
- Take a pic of a classic car
- Video yourself singing on the street
- Match objects to a color list
- Head outdoors for a nature hunt
Memory Making Tip: The more outlandish the hunt, the better. Parents can sit back and watch the fun or join in to help little ones.
10. Plan a Family Photoshoot
When you’re apart more than you’re together, sometimes it can be hard to get those really great family photos. Hire a local photographer (ask around for recommendations) to capture family memories while your service member is home.
Location ideas for a photoshoot:
- On base
- Downtown area
- In front of your house
If your service member won’t be home for the next major holiday, consider doing a holiday-related photoshoot. Christmas in July, anyone?
Memory Making Tip: Bring your favorite silly props to the shoot and let loose. You’ll have a blast making memories, cracking jokes, and getting it all captured on film.
Military Family Appreciation Month is About Quality Time
Military Family Appreciation Month isn’t about how fancy you get with your activities or events as a family.
It’s all about finding ways to spend quality time together.
Deployment orders can come up quickly, which is why making family time together a priority is crucial for military families to stay strong. Find ways you all enjoy being together or rotate different ideas from each family member to make sure everyone gets to do something they like doing, too.
Life gets busy, making it easy to push aside the fun, leisurely, and lazy days that make-up the agenda on family days. Instead of letting everyday bustle get in the way, opt to sit down and select one day a week that your family can reconvene for relaxing activities together.
Take this month to slow down and evaluate how you can spend quality time together as a family. You’ve earned it.
What do you have planned for Military Family Appreciation Month? Share in the comments below!