How do you want to look back at this vacation season with your kids or extended family? What will you do to make it a memorable bonding experience? Family time these days, as many of us recognize, has quickly morphed into several people inhabiting the same physical space while each individual gets lost in their own personal screen. One communication expert likened this new technological isolation to the “parallel play” that occurs between toddlers (a kind of interaction we probably shouldn’t model if we want strong non-toddler relationships). The takeaway is that our attention spans have regressed as a result of our technology, and so, perhaps, has our intimacy. So what are some Primal ways you can reconnect and strengthen the bonds within your family (while having fun in the process)?
While some people suggest getting involved in other’s electronic interests as a possible option— like playing video games with our kids or watching movies as a family—I’m going to take up the cause today of putting the electronics down altogether.
There’s nothing wrong with modern advances or some tablet time at home. After all, technology can help keep families in communication across great distances (like when mom or dad has to travel for work or the grandparents live across the country). But while it’s great for keeping in touch over distance, it can put up walls when we’re in the same room. Most of us are looking for more in our relationships. We want better for our kids and our partnerships.
Many of us eat Primal. We move according to Primal principles. So what are some Primal-friendly ways to bond as a family?
And let’s not limit ourselves to the modern nuclear family unit here. Our ancestral example sure wasn’t based on couples with 2.2 children. Large communal rituals and connection were greater organizing principles than family unit activities. So in that spirit, let’s bring in every member of the family—youngest to oldest—as well as the friends we’ve chosen to be part of our larger tribe.
So for those looking to bond with family and friends, here are a few Primal possibilities.
1. Commit to a weekly outdoor adventure
As a group, do something new each week or at least each month this summer. Try something you’ve never done, or give yourself the chance to recreate your favorite summer activities or trips. Retrace the steps of a backpacking trip you did 25 years ago, or try rafting. Not every choice needs to be an expensive or elaborate deal. Take the kids zip-lining, head to a water park, or do a summer luge run on an Alpine slide.
2. Take advantage of the night
There’s something about the dark that’s more fun and mysterious than daytime. Kids especially relish the subversive feeling of staying up long past daylight hours. A day hike turns into something totally different at night. Stories, games or singing/music making by the campfire will feel more intimate. Even lying on the grass, studying the stars, and watching the clouds move across the dark sky together will be a more memorable occasion.
3. Head out for a day of foraging
If you’re new to foraging, look for a local Meetup or naturalist organization devoted to foraging. Alternatively, visit an area farm that offers berry picking. Even a trip to the local farmer’s market can offer a different experience for every member of the family accustomed to grocery store fare. Foraging is a great chance to teach the kids what’s edible (and not) and how people used to feed themselves back in Grok’s day. It’s also great for infusing some added diversity to your Primal menu.
4. Go spelunking
Nothing says Primal like a cave. Spelunking is one of those adventures even the younger ones can manage (depending on the terrain), and they might be the most excited in the bunch. There’s something about those dark cave corridors that fuel the imagination with just the right mix of curiosity and apprehension. While the thrill of it is enough for most people, there’s plenty of scientific and aesthetic enjoyment to be had as well.
Load up with the right gear, be sure to go in a group, and make sure the caves you visit are approved for recreation. Some are home to poisonous gases, which can kill. For more information on staying safe and finding a cave near you, check out the National Speleological Society.
5. Enjoy mud, rocks and sand
Remember the days when these were the toys of choice? Let’s not kid ourselves. We all need these. Forget the perfect summer. Go for the dirtiest, messiest few months you can, and be sure it’s not just the truck that needs washing at the end of the day.
Get the kids back in the dirt and sand whenever you can, and join them. Look for sea glass on a rock beach, or make a miniature stone fort in the woods. Skip rocks at the lake, or make a sand castle. Create mud pies (or have a mud fight) with the cousins. Grok would approve.
6. Check off every park on the map
Depending on your ambition, find either a state, regional or even local map, and hit up every park, playground and nature preserve you find. Let it spur everyone’s competitive side. Bring a token back from each for fun. Be sure to save the map in your family memory box.
7. Study nature together
Let kids know the most important things to learn aren’t on the Interwebs. Choose a summer theme to “study” like birds or trees, and make it a family affair. Grab some binoculars and/or cameras, and add a scrapbook, sketchbook or nature journal that everyone contributes to. Leave time for plenty of first-hand study, and visit natural museums and nature centers for some screen-free education.
8. Spend time in natural bodies of water
This isn’t to discount the pool, but swimming (or other recreational activities) in natural bodies of water offer a totally different experience. Check out area beaches, lakes, rivers, and favorite swimming holes. For other options, consider surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing, and creek stomping. For the tiniest ones, even puddle stomping after a good rain is an awesome time.
9. Take up a family service project
Get in the Primal communal spirit, and do some good. You can often find community organizations or houses of worship that organize house painting, yard tending or other repair work. Additionally, groups like Habitat for Humanity build homes. Local chapters of ecological organizations or park and rec services often advertise for help with trail clearing.
10. Have a power outage party
Grab the kids or a whole brood of friends for a massive, late night (or overnight) power outage party. Munchies and games are welcome. Electricity, however, is off limits. Candles, backyard torches, and bonfires offer better ambiance anytime.
11. Start a family garden
While it may not be as literally hunter-gather-minded as foraging, it gets you in the dirt and in touch with what you eat. It’s a great project that everyone in the family (or neighborhood if you’d prefer to go that route) can contribute to. If you don’t have access to a plot (or don’t want to take on too much), consider some potted tomatoes and herbs.
12. Organize a track and field day
The bigger the crowd, the more fun you’ll have with this option. Consider an extended family or neighborhood event. Set up a large yard or field for sprints and relays as well as jumping and throwing events. Have the kids prepare by making homemade spears to throw and collecting coconuts for an easier “shot put” event. Throw in a Primal picnic to feed all the hungry athletes. Include some Ultimate Frisbee too, while you’re at it.
13. Grab the camping gear
Even if it’s just setting up the tents in the backyard or taking the pop-up camper to a campground with the cousins or friends, everyone will enjoy the break. As you’re willing and the kids are ready, take on bigger trips like camping in more remote spots and add activities like backpacking or canoeing to your destination.
14. Learn a new outdoor skill
Learn anything from rock climbing to kayaking, geode hunting to fishing, archery to matchless campfire building.
15. Build Something
Think of Grok’s clan building their shelters and gear, and take up the same spirit. Maybe it’s putting up a new garage with your brothers, working with your spouse to build the kids that tree house they’ve always wanted, teaching your kids how to build some simple furniture items, making walking sticks, or even setting up raised gardens or an agility/exercise course in the backyard with ropes and natural barriers.
16. Establish a screen-free sabbath
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I’d add imagination to that. Make the kids put aside their screens for a day (with parents following suit), and see what becomes possible once the grumbling and disorientation wear off.
17. Make a communal summer bucket list
On that note, gather the clan to plan how you’ll fill your time. What kind of summer do you all want anyway? There’s no reason to go overboard and schedule every minute, but you’ll likely get more out of the season if you bring a little intentionality to it. For those with kids or especially busy schedules, it helps to lay out a vision and make a plan because these months go fast.
What are your priorities this summer? Slow living? Adventures? Trying new experiences?
Give everyone a chance to add their interests. Better yet, make a family vision board with pictures, ideas, maps, and lists of what everyone in the family wants to try. All that’s left is to make it happen—and to enjoy a great Primal summer together.
Thanks for reading, everyone. What are your priorities this season? What activities will you share with loved ones? Thanks for reading, and have a good end to your week.
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About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.