Credit: manicmorffAs a parent, you know you need to work quality family time into your busy schedules. Once you have managed to find the time and the activity, you may find that you don't have everyone's full attention. Besides the old stand by suggestions of movie and game nights, you may find a few new ideas here.
Many families collect board games that end up sitting on a shelf, collecting dust. Bring them out and go through them one by one and figure out which are your family's favorites. But game night doesn't need to be the same old thing. Your teenage boys might enjoy playing video games with you. Incorporate puzzles and card games into your routine. Consider alleviating chores for the winners as a good way to keep everyone interested in the game.
Kids love dancing, especially younger ones. Turn down the lights to low, turn the music up loud and let your kids dance on the tables. If you have an iPod or digital music player, make a playlist of favorite songs and save it for regular dance nights. Make sure the kids get to show off their moves and if you plan to keep it up for a while, make sure to take regular breaks with plenty of water. A pair of flashlights shaken rapidly will make it even more fun for your kids as it gives a nightclub feel. If you prefer a bit more structure, buy one of the dance games available for your gaming console and make it into a competition.
This is a great standby for most families as it is a fairly inexpensive way to entertain the family all at once. However, it is almost impossible to get your teenagers excited about a Friday night movie when the rest of their friends are out with each other. If you have teenagers in the house, schedule a mid-week movie night. Make sure homework and dinner is out-of-the-way early, or order a pizza and eat on tray tables. Or make movie night into movie morning. You can tie this into your child's evening out on a Friday, by allowing them to go out with their friends, as long as they are going to be up and active at nine the next morning for a movie. This is also a great start to your weekend, as it asks you to prioritize your family before your errands and housework. After all, what is more important?
Date night with your child can be very exciting, especially in the tween ages. It is just a one-on-one evening with your child, but it is a great way to develop special memories. Leave the other children with your spouse, or a regular caregiver while you two hit the town. Go to a movie or the bowling alley, browse a book store or head to your child's favorite restaurant. Work with a specific budget your child needs to work within or the duration, so that as you rotate, one child doesn't become jealous of another. It is just as important to have alone time with each child as it is to have that time with your spouse.
Dinner time is usually cook's choice. Make one evening your child's favorite meal, whether it is pizza or hamburgers, and prepare the meal from beginning to scratch with that child. From running to the shop to grab an ingredient to serving it on the table. This will give you good quality time with one child as well as teaching him how to make his favorite foods. Have your child talk about the recipe and encourage other children to ask questions and get them to clean up after the meal.
Parents are often the ones to make the decisions when it comes down to what happens for family time activities, including what and when. Try making it kids choice at least some of the time. Ask them what they would like to do and when. Some of the ideas they come up with may surprise you. If you have more than one child, consider having them agree between them or rotating the choice between them. If they are involved in the decision making, they might be more involved in the activity.
Download an old radio program or buy a set in CD format. Many good titles have been re-released by BBC Radio (and are available in the United States through Amazon). Then turn off everything in the house (lights, televisions and phones to start with) and gather around the "radio". Pretend you are listening on a short-wave and that is all the entertainment available. Often these old radio dramas were divided into episodes, with great cliff hangers at the end of each one. If you listen to one episode at a time, you can stretch this over a few days. By using your ears and not your eyes, you are free to see your spouse's and children's reactions. You can also all use the time to sketch pictures of what you are listening to. As you will all be at the same point in a story line, you can talk about what you think will happen next at dinner the following evening.
Make a Book
Whether you cut pictures out of magazines, draw them yourselves or pull images from your computer - your family can write and illustrate their own stories. Grab some blank paper and start by writing the first sentence. For example, "Ben was a ten-year old boy who was about to have an adventure." Then pass it along to the next person. For older children, you can work in paragraphs and not sentences. And for children too young to write themselves, they can dictate and you can write it out for them. Just don't interfere with their words or put suggestions about what happens next into their heads. When the book is finished, or several books are, you can scan in the pages and have the files made into a bound book at a local print shop or by sending your material away to a website offering this service. These make great family keepsakes as well as gifts for grandparents.
Mix and match the suggestions to fit your family. Remember to spend as much time with everyone while you can. It is true, they grow up quickly.