Beyond Game Night: Adding more fun into family time
As parents our lives are filled with homework, activities, sports, and school events, making it hard to find time to connect with our children. We are all looking for simple ways to create happy memories and have bonding time with our children. Even the most well-intentioned of us find the days and weeks rushing by with the uncomfortable feeling of being stuck in the same, never-ending routine. A helpful strategy for choosing how to spend family time is to ask yourself the question, “How do I want my children to remember me?” I’m guessing that “chauffeur” and “schedule manager” are not in your top 10. “Loving,” “spontaneous,” and “fun” are most definitely on my list, leading to many silly adventures in our household. Here are some helpful tips I have found that I like to share with my patients and fellow parents:
Say “Yes” to New Things
Doing the crowd-pleasers you know is easy, but trying something new helps children learn about their likes and dislikes and makes it easier to try new things outside of home. Some ideas: Mail (or hand deliver) invitations to your family for a Sunday High Tea and Poetry Reading. Mark “Talk like a Pirate day” on your calendar and leave eye patches at their seats for breakfast.
Be Bold, Be Creative
You can design any type of night that you all might enjoy! Here are some ideas for starters:
- “Fancy Night” – Everyone has to use perfect manners and dress up nicely (Pinkies up!).
- “Bad Manners Night” – Kids love to get permission to act inappropriately and absolutely love to see their parents act this way. Chew with your mouth open, interrupt, reach across the table, eat with your hands!
- “Singing Dinner Night” – From start to finish-everything has to be sung. Choose your favorite style: opera, rock and roll, heavy metal…
- “Funny Expression Night” – Who can use the most expressions when having a conversation. “He was madder than a bee with a bee in his ear.” “We’d better make hay while the sun shines.”
- “Outside-In Camping Night” – Get out your sleeping bags! If you have room, you can even set up a tent. (Sheets or blankets and a couple of chairs works too.) If you have a fireplace, make s’mores or popcorn over the fire.
- “Secret Mission: Acts of Kindness Day” – Plan a day to carry out secret acts of kindness! Your kids will love sending out “secret admirer cards” or leaving flowers on a doorstep and running so they don’t get caught.
Put it on the Calendar
Marking the date makes the event magically more important, and you’ll be more likely to follow through. Make sure your children know about the event beforehand; this builds the anticipation and the excitement for the event.
It would be great to do something big with your kids every week, but is that actually doable? My Father-in-law’s family used to have strawberry shortcake for dinner in the summer when strawberries were in season. This did not take lots of prep time or thought, but is fondly remembered by him and his siblings. It’s a tradition we are happy to carry forward with our kids!
Document the Special events
Be sure to take a photo or write a journal entry about the event. When you look back on your photos or journal entries it will be sure to spark some fun memories. It may also help you decide if the event should be repeated next year or if it’s best left as a one- timer.
Let the adventures begin and memories be made!
Dr. Michelle Reynolds is a Licensed Psychologist in the state of Connecticut. Dr. Reynolds has a passion for helping people integrate healthy lifestyle choices across all aspects of life using a holistic model to help patients flourish. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Health Psychology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, and has worked in the mental health field since 1995 in diverse settings including hospitals, mental health clinics, home-based services, and private practice. In her free time, Dr. Reynolds enjoys geocaching, biking and kayaking with her husband and children.