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The Five Ultimate Steps to Make a Bucket List with Kids

We are big fans of bucket lists in our house.  They help set the stage for all of our hopes and dreams – no matter how big (or small)!  But, the absolute best way to make a bucket list is to make sure the topic is solid and that everyone gets a say. 

So, what does your family want to make a bucket list for? 

Before You Make a Bucket List: Decide on Your Topic

Making a topic for a bucket list is probably the easiest step, because there are so many great ideas!  What has your family been focused on recently?  Are there fun and exciting seasons coming up?  Have you considered planning for a big trip?

These are some of my favorite bucket list topics:

  • Seasonal Must-Do Activities
  • Family Travel Ideas
  • Restaurants to Try
  • Nearby Places to Visit
  • At Home Family Fun
  • Recipes to Make at Home

Honestly, there is no limit to the bucket lists you can create!  Just make sure that your family is excited about the topic, and you’ll be fully prepared to make a bucket list in no time!

Building a Family Bucket List

Step One: Brainstorming Session

The first step in making an epic bucket list is giving your family time to start brainstorming.

What you’ll need?

  • 5-10 Minutes
  • Paper & Pens for Every Family Member
  • A Timer
  • Optional: Rockin’ Jams

Once you have your supplies ready, turn on your music and set the timer for 5-10 minutes! 

During this time, everyone should work on writing down their favorite ideas for the bucket list topic.  (If your kids are too young to write their ideas, have Mom or Dad work one-on-one to help!  You’ll have to go through the timer an extra round or two, but it will be worth it!)

This should be a focused 5 minutes where everyone is working independently without sharing their ideas with one another.  The more ideas, the better!  They will be pared down at a later step.

If your family can work with music, we definitely encourage a few themed jams.   Think:  Christmas songs for a holiday bucket list!  Or maybe some happy-go-lucky tunes when planning out your summer.  There is nothing quite like setting the mood for excitement!

Step Two: Pick the Top Ideas

After the brainstorming session has ended, take a few minutes to clean up your lists and collect your thoughts.  This is a good time to rearrange your ideas, so that your favorite ones are near the top!  (Again, if the youngest members of your family need some extra help, you know what to do!)

Once everyone’s list is ready, go around the table one-at-a-time to share your ideas!

If a person’s idea is possible (like going sledding in the winter vs. having a beach day) and well-received by the family, that person should mark the idea by circling, underlining, or giving it a star.

Often, some of our family members will have the same ideas.  When that happens, the person who announces the activity first gets to claim it as their own.  This piece is only important when making the physical bucket list, but still good to know!

After all ideas have been shared, each family member should have a handful to add to the bucket list.  You’ll want everyone to have roughly the same amount to keep it even.  We find bucket lists in the 10-20 item range do well in our home. Of course, this will depend on the number of people in your household, and your ability to conquer all of the items on your list. 

If you have older kids, you might be able to get more accomplished – so maybe you’ll aim for a bigger selection.  If your bucket list is focused on EPIC FAMILY TRAVEL, you might not want as many options listed.

Just remember:  a bucket list includes your goals, hopes, plans, ambitions, and everything else.  You might not be able to accomplish everything on your list, but it sure is fun to dream! 

Step Three: Making the PHYSICAL List

When it’s time to actually make the bucket list for your family, you’ll want to decide on how it should look!

We have two main ways of presenting our bucket lists:

  1. On a big poster board
  2. In a jar with popsicle sticks

Both options are great in their own way.

Poster Board Bucket List

When you make a poster board version of your bucket list, it can be presented so that everyone can see its contents all the time.  This is a really good choice for big ticket bucket lists or ones that might set the mood for a new season!  (Hello, free holiday décor!)

You’ll want to be sure that you put the theme for the bucket list bold and centered on your poster board.  For this, I often create a quick graphic using Canva and print it out to place in the center of the board – leaving lots of room on the outside!

Popsicle Stick Jar Bucket List

The jar with popsicle sticks is also fun, because when you choose your activity, you have no idea what to expect.  For that reason, the popsicle sticks work for smaller-scaled bucket lists.  You’ll want to be sure you can commit to any idea that goes in the jar – just in case.

You know we love popsicle stick jars for all kinds of things, but especially our family boredom busters!

Step Four: Everyone’s Voice is Heard

My favorite part of making a successful bucket list is making sure that everyone’s voice is heard.   At this point, you’ve already decided on your top bucket list ideas.  Everyone in the family should have an awesome selection to add to the list.

But here’s the fun part:  now, everyone gets to write down their ideas for themselves! 

This will create a sense of ownership and excitement for each member of the family.  Instead of mom (or dad!) controlling the activity, everyone will get to see their contribution!

So, how do you make sure that happens?

  1. Everybody gets their own marker color (maybe with those super sweet school supplies?)
  2. Taking turns, everyone gets to write their family-approved bucket list items on the poster.
  3. If you’re doing a jar with popsicle sticks, everyone can write their bucket list items on the corresponding popsicle sticks at the same time.  To make sure you’re mixing it up when choosing activities, you’ll want to mark each stick for each family member.  (Think: colorful tape around the bottom, special stickers for everyone, or rainbow sticks!)

Step Five: Now, Hang it Up!

When your bucket list is ready, make it front and center in your home!  I’m talking about hanging up the poster in the kitchen or the family room!  If you decided on a jar, put it on your center island!  Be proud of your creation.

There is nothing more exciting that seeing the work your family has done.  When you present the bucket list in a bold way, your kids will take ownership of their contributions!  This in-your-face presentation also creates a sense of excitement about what is to come!  You can keep spirits high and encourage great behavior by pointing out the goals your family has for the future.

Back when I taught third grade, we created our classroom rules in this same way.  Everyone’s voice was heard and everyone had a space to write.  When it came time to follow the rules, each child felt responsible because they had created the guidelines.

When your bucket list becomes part of your home, you can bet the whole family will be excited to see which items can be crossed off each week! 

Have so much fun working on this activity with your crew!  And be sure to share what bucket lists you create!


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Making a Family Bucket List

About the Author

The Merry Kate

Katie Johansen is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with her M.A.Ed in Children’s Literature.  She spent 6 years as an elementary school teacher in South Florida before transitioning to stay-at-home #momlife.  Now, it’s all things PB&J – with an extra large cup of coffee on the side.

The Five Ultimate Steps to Make a Bucket List with Kids

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