Add the ‘Extra’ to your ‘Ordinary’ – Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side

Add the 'extra' to your 'ordinary' - Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side

Take the ‘drudge’ from your ‘daily’

Do you find yourself drifting through life doing the same things, day in, day out… or probably more likely speeding along in auto-pilot, with no time to really notice the details and appreciate the little things in life?

Are you so busy you rarely sit down but when you do, you don’t know what to do? Sometimes I look forward to ‘free’ time so much, but the rare times when I actually do get it, I’m not sure what to do with myself (or my kids).

I have found that just adding something a little bit different to the old routine can really shake things up.

None of the following ideas costs any money, and they’re all easy to implement and accessible to everyone. Although they’re particularly aimed at families with kids (with the summer upon us and all), absolutely anybody can have a go. You can do it with your family or friends.

For Idea 1, you could find a writer’s forum, for Idea 2, ask the neighbours round, and you can do Ideas 3 and 4 on your own.

Fun activities for kids and grown-ups

These four little projects are all easy, and each one carries big results to add meaning to your life and open up your mindset, inviting you to see the world just a little bit differently. They are fun activities designed for you to tweak your life into shape: build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude… and get really silly.

Add the ‘Extra’ to your ‘Ordinary’ – Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side
  1. Create a shared story
  2. Make a meal of it
  3. ‘Just Dance’ challenge
  4. Thank you for the… Gratitude

1. Create a shared story

How?

One person starts to write a story. They have to write between 100 and 200 words. Then they send it on to the next person. And so the story continues until…

The End.

You can use a shared document such as via Google docs or simply save the document after each turn and send it on.

Why?

This can be a long-term project and can continue for weeks, months… even years. It’s a great way to check in and share a little fun with friends who live afar.

A shared writing exercise really gets your creative juices flowing. Not only do you have to think up your own story, but you also have to make it tie in with what your friend has written. It exercises your memory as well as it’s not always easy to remember which character did what, where and when (particularly if you weren’t the author). If you didn’t invent this character yourself, getting to know them can be an adventure!

Because you only need to write 100 words minimum, this is really doable, even for the busiest of us. And for the busiest of us, it’s a great way to take your mind off ‘stuff’ for just a few minutes and concentrate on something completely different.

Who?

This idea comes from a friend who lives in a different country to me. The last time we spent some time together we talked about our shared interest in writing, and personal writing projects and she suggested doing this together. It’s given the term ‘writing prompt’ a whole new dimension.

Different strokes

You can try this with anybody whose up for it really. It would be a fantastic exercise for children as well as adults. Even teenagers, once persuaded to try it, could really get into this.

A similar idea with a completely different twist is to use paper and pencil and create a picture. Each participant draws a line and then passes on the paper. What image will appear?

My kids love this… until one of them doesn’t any longer. Then the beautiful image that is taking shape gets a cross line through it.

Add the ‘Extra’ to your ‘Ordinary’ – Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side

Result!

You’d think it would be a breeze to just add 100 words here and there but it is much more challenging than you’d expect. Any two people have different ways of thinking. It becomes quite exciting and you find yourself wondering where your writing buddy is going to take the story. It’s inevitably in a different direction to the one you would have headed for.

The best bit is that it can make you more daring with your writing. You go to places you’d never go if left to your own devices.

For example, it’s just not my style to write about sci-fi, but this is exactly the realm into which I was led. Once I started, I had a lot of fun. I realised you can go anywhere you want to go and have giant mechanical pink bunnies gnashing metallic teeth and firing radioactive jelly through their eyes at your main character (a joss-stick-wielding hippy called Gerard).

If that’s what you want.

Here are a couple of exerts. Can you spot the ‘I-forgot-the-main-character-had-already-been-given-a-name cover-up in the first one?’

Can you tell there are two different writers? Who wrote what?

‘I’m sorry for that, Gerard. It is your name right?’ Edgar tutted silently to himself, ‘you see just last week we discovered an infiltration, everyone’s on edge, suspicious if you like. The code was hacked and now a release is imminent… 

So the codename we initially gave you, Denver, just won’t wash any longer, you see. It’s all been unravelled and it’s making a few of us rather…’ he cleared his throat, glanced disdainfully back towards the group. Gaynor was no longer anywhere to be seen. ‘Well, let’s just say, it’s put us on edge somewhat.’ 

‘Well,’ Gerard hesitated. ‘No harm done, I suppose.’  

The two of them knelt down and began to scoop up Gerard’s paraphernalia. Picking up a plastic orange rabbit-shaped jelly mould, Edgar raised his eyebrows and handed it to Gerard, ‘Rather nice piece you have here.’ 

…and a little later…

His mouth dry, Gerard fished about in his pockets seeking a mint, or something of a similar nature for salvia relief. Temporarily distracted he missed the slow movement of an object in the distance coming to life and only through the sound of a slow hum, of what could be described as some form of engine, was Gerard stirred to abandon his pocket fumbles…

He shot his head up and surveyed the scene once again.

Hard to see where the noise was coming from. Each sparkle, every twinkle reflected light as if the whole place was daintily dancing, a shimmering disco ball of movement.

He scanned from left to right. Maybe he was imagining the engine sound…

But no. It was becoming louder. Whatever was making it was closing in. 

Gerard backed off a couple of steps, nearly tripping over his own feet as he saw a shape appear through the glimmering landscape. 

A smooth glowing head, with two floppy ears and little whiskers. A rabbit! Was it made from jelly?

2. Make a meal of it

What?

Two people pair up to plan, shop for, prepare and serve a meal, once a week. The next week a different couple are in charge of one meal. The meal has to be relatively well balanced and healthy, i.e. it must include the necessary food groups (otherwise – if children are involved – you may end up eating ice cream followed by cake and then maybe some biscuits). Main dish and desert. Any particular dietary requests or needs (vegan, for example) must be catered for.

Add the ‘Extra’ into your ‘Ordinary’ – Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side
Believe it or not this is all cake (and jam)

Why?

The initial idea is to teach children how to cook and to take a bit of pressure of the main meal provider.

This activity not only gets kids curious about cooking but it is also a great way to team up, work together, connect, and then be proud of providing something that people can share and appreciate.

Who?

This is perfect for families to get everybody involved. For us, a family of four, it went like this: Dad with Kid 1 one week. Mum with Kid 2 the next week. Dad with Kid 2 the next. And so on.

But we’ve all got to eat so you could try this with friends or neighbours. You could even do a version of this by yourself.

Different strokes

Add the ‘Extra’ into your ‘Ordinary’ – Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side
Love in a dish

If you’re happier doing this on your own, simply challenge yourself to try a new dish once a week. Visit a different shop or even better, a market. Try new ingredients and see if you can increase your personal go-to meals that you’ve mastered and find new recipes you enjoy.

If you live by yourself and would like to share some food experiences, why not to do a weekly exchange of cooking duties with your neighbours? This could add a whole new dimension to your (and their) life and increase that feeling of community.

Food is a great way of bringing people together.

Result!

The kids learned about food groups.

They also really got in to the presentation. Using a pepper as a bowl, shaping an ice cream desert into a dragon, making a melon into a boat were just some of the ideas they came up with. And it has really ignited their wish to learn more about nourishment and cooking.

But I learned a few things by simply letting them have a say about what went into our shopping trolley. Going to the supermarket can become such a routine outing. You don’t open your eyes or exercise your creativity when trudging down those familiar aisles. Even something as simple as choosing green beans (instead of your usual… peas) mixes things up a bit and makes you take notice.

3. ‘Just Dance’ Challenge

What?

My new discovery!

The Just Dance series on YouTube is a real gem. You just stick on a song, and follow the moves. Whether your teacher is a cowboy or a dancing panda, it’s usually hilarious and plain (not that) old-fashioned fun! 

My young daughter introduced me to this after her school sleepover. We were sent video clips of her teachers dancing riotously as they tried to follow characters on a screen, in front of their hysterical class.

We did this as a 30-day challenge. My girl decided we were doing it after she saw me and her dad taking part in a Yoga With Adriene 30 Day Challenge.

Why?

A challenge in a set time period really helps to get you motivated. If you’ve only got to do one song of your choice each day (or one each), then it will hopefully not be too difficult to fit in.

This activity builds connection and gets you moving and laughing together for five or ten minutes, sometimes more.

Who?

Doing this with my daughter was a brilliant way for us to have a laugh together and be in the moment. Sometimes, when my tween boy wasn’t too cool for school, he joined in too.

Again though, you could do this perfectly well on your own – or with friends.

Go on – give it a whirl!

Different strokes

You can find any kind of challenge which suits you. I love a bit of a challenge, and you can do anything for 30 days.

Result!

Kids move so naturally and unselfconsciously, so why reserve dancing for party games like musical bumps at birthdays?

If you try it, you might remember, as I did, how much you love dancing. It reminded me how I used to do Zumba classes and laugh at myself, go clubbing and just enjoy moving to the music.

And it gets your body working for just a few minutes.

This was a reminder to me to get moving and keep moving, while I still can!

It really ups your connection with your kids – or whoever you’re silly dancing with – if you can just lose yourselves to the same daft, fun activity.

There is no choice but to laugh!

4. Thank you for the… Gratitude

What?

At the end of each day, every household or family member writes down something they are grateful for and pops it into the gratitude jar.

Why?

To cultivate gratitude.

If you get into the habit of writing down something different that you are grateful for, then throughout the day, you find yourself looking out for things that you could put in the jar. You take notice and pay attention.

To create memories.

At the end of the year you’ll have a jar full of the good times to look back on in years to come.

Who?

This is great for families but is equally good for individuals.

Fun activities to build connection - Thank you for the… Gratitude
Thank you for the… Gratitude

Different strokes

A gratitude journal. Make sure it’s a really beautiful one. Many people (such as Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week) write down three things they are grateful for every morning. For others, evenings work best.

Haemin Sunim, a monk with a huge social media presence and author of Love for Imperfect Things – How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection, told Dr Chatterjee in his Podcast No 62, ‘Feel Better, Live More’, that he takes this a step further and finds five things to be grateful for each day. He says that the first three are quite easy to find, but numbers four and five get more difficult which has led to him actively looking for things to be grateful for throughout the day, thus training himself to be more appreciative of life in general.

Add the ‘Extra’ into your ‘Ordinary’ – Four activities to build connection, get creative, cultivate gratitude and unleash your silly side

Whatever number of things you choose to notice and be grateful for, and whether it’s a twice-daily, daily or weekly ritual, if you can get into the gratitude habit, your life will improve.

Result!

It doesn’t always go as planned. It seems such a simple idea to implement but there can be resistance from all sides sometimes. However, it really is worth pursuing as the more you practice, the more things you find to be grateful for.

If you begin the day with listing three things you are grateful for, you step out on a positive note. If you end the day remembering the good stuff, then sweet dreams are more likely! And whenever you choose to do it, throughout the day, you’ll be taking notice and looking out for those things – big and small – to be appreciated. This activity builds connection with yourself and the world around you.

Round-up - Thank you for the gratitude
Thank you for the… Gratitude

So, I hope you like my four ideas for easy and free activities to pare down your days and up your connection by making just a few small changes. Could you try the writing exercise, share a cooking experience, dance every day for a month or work on your gratitude?

We all have busy lives, and overflowing ‘to do’ lists. If quantity is coming at the expense of quality, perhaps these suggestions might give a little boost to your fun factor.

Go on. Give one of them (or all of them) a try! Stretch yourself, get your creative juices flowing, connect with friends, engage with your kids and add a sprinkling of gratitude into your life.

If you try any of these activities, please let me know how you get on 😊

Do you have any suggestions to give your ‘ordinary’ that little ‘extra’? 😊

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14 Comments

  1. All great ideas. When my kids were at home I always involved them in meal planning if not meal prep. They each had to suggest a dinner and make sure the ingredients were on the shopping list. If they were at home when it was being prepared they helped with that as well.

    My husband and I often listen to music and it is not uncommon when a special song comes on that we will have a slow dance in the living room. Special moments and memories. ♥

    1. Thank you for your comment 🥰 That’s really lovely that you and your husband keep your memories (and your relationship) alive with those slow dances 🥰

  2. I love all of your suggestions – the ‘Just Dance’ took me back to dancing with my class using YouTube clips and wondering how they made it look so easy 🙂 while I’m pretty sure I had awkwardly flailing limbs they were too sweet to tell me about!

    1. Thank you! 🥰 I think I was the oldest in the Zumba classes and I’d never thought it would be something I’d try… but it was the only class available in my lunch hour. And somebody’s got to be the oldest in the class 🤣

  3. Great ideas – love the shared writing one….great plan. It reminds me of when we were kids and we used to draw monsters, like the pictures you said your kids draw, the first person would draw the head and neck and folder the paper so you would only see the teeny tiny bit of the neck lines and then you would draw the body and fold over and then the feet. It used to be so much fun unfolding and seeing the crazy creatures we had created.
    Love a 30 day challenge – I am currently doing a 30 day yoga challenge – it got me back into doing yoga regularly….Thanks for more ideas! xx

    1. Hi Emma… thanks so much for reading and for your comment. You have really rekindled an old memory for me. Yes! We used to do the monster picture too with the folded paper. I’m going to try that with my kids this week 😊
      I need to get back into yoga. Which challenge are you doing if you don’t mind me asking? I love the Yoga With Adriene ones so I really must start again – what a difference it makes to how you feel 😊

      1. I’m babysitting this weekend so I am going to do the monster game with them 😂
        The yoga is 30 day yoga for weight loss with Julia Marie on amazon prime….I like her style, it wasn’t about the weight loss part…it was more that I like her and it was 30 days so fitted perfectly! She has a website which also has some free videos… juliamarieyoga.com I will check out Adriene too! X

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