The adoption of new family traditions can be tough as your children get older. But if the holidays are the only time of year that you all spend together, that’s no good for your family. Here are some ideas to help you create the ideal climate for spending time with your family during the holidays and beyond.
Host a Family Activity Night
There are all sorts of ways to have some dedicated family time, and many activities are suitable for the parents, adolescent children, and elementary school-aged children, too. Many activities are perfect for all ages, while others would appeal to younger children and yet others are most ideal for adolescent children. Simpler activities might not interest older kids, though. When it comes to new activities for some dedicated family time, you may invest in the right equipment, while other activities, such as soccer in the nearby park, hardly require any stuff. Your budget, space limitations, or personal preferences might dictate whether you launch any family activities that require a lot of items to do.
Let’s go over some examples. Why not start with board games? Even in the current age of digital games and Xbox, board games and card games still retain their appeal. In fact, playing on a board, using cards, and rolling dice can provide welcome relief from eye strain and computer screens, and studies show that the physical dexterity of using items such as puzzle pieces provides a mental boost. This is especially true for a child’s developing brain. Your family may have some board games in the closet that need some fresh air, and you can find joy in them all over again. Or, you can visit a local game shop and get staff recommendations for a game based on your budget and your kids’ age. Some games are very involved, while others are more child-friendly. Games such as Risk, Ticket to Ride, Monopoly, The Game of Life, and more are a fine place to start. Card games such as poker, bridge, and Gin Rummy are a good idea too, and plastic chips can be used for poker. More dedicated card games are quite immersive and are excellent tools for teaching a child about math, strategy, sportsmanship, and thinking ahead. Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Magic: the Gathering are all fine options.
Games aren’t the only route to take when everyone is together at home in the evening. Book-loving families can form their own book clubs, such as choosing short books or even short stories. Everyone reads the material, then discusses it or can have a good-natured debate. Books can open up an infinite world of imagination, of all genres and reading levels. Meanwhile, movie night is a simple but classic idea, especially if the family has a well-furnished living room. Vote on a feature film (or even two), make snacks like popcorn or nachos, and cozy up for a cinematic experience. And like with book night, the family can discuss or debate the more intellectually stimulating movies they watch. Why not try your hand as a movie critic?
Making custom jewelry or other arts and crafts is a good idea for dedicated family time too, especially if the family is already artistically inclined. Making custom jewelry is something the mom and her daughters may enjoy, and show off their creations. And anyone may like painting or try making music, such as on dad’s guitar or the piano in the living room. If someone is good at singing, try karaoke, such as with karaoke-oriented music online. See who has the best singing chops!
See What Your Neighborhood Has to Offer
You might find some fun and creation beyond the four walls of your house. During mild weather, such as a spring afternoon, the whole family can take a mini day trip to a local park, or look up a new park you haven’t visited before. The best family neighborhoods are often found near parks, hiking trails, or even lakes for this very reason. Many parks are gorgeous to visit, having their own gardens and trees, a pond or fountain, walking paths, and a playground. Dedicated family time in fresh air is not only fun and provides a change of scenery, but being around nature is excellent for your health.
Many Americans spend most of their time indoors, and that can take its toll. In just the last year, around 74% of all people reported being so stressed that they described themselves as overwhelmed. Relief doesn’t have to be found across a pharmacy counter; getting decent exercise and being around nature works wonders, and doesn’t cost a thing. Many studies have confirmed that exposure to sunlight can greatly boost your mood as well as kickstart vitamin D production, and just 20 minutes of sunlight can work as well as most medications for boosting mood. Meanwhile, good exercise can get your metabolism moving, help you stretch your legs, and elevate your heart rate a bit. Jogging can really burn those calories, and all this can help you maintain healthy body weight (not to mention lower your risk of heart disease or stroke). Finally, while it may sound silly at first, being around nature such as trees and flowers really can boost your mood. The Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” is becoming popular, and for good reason. You don’t even have to be jogging or riding a bicycle to get the benefit. Just surround yourself with nature, and be at ease.
Tackle Some Home DIY Improvements
Want some privacy on demand, and to make your house look good? Or perhaps it’s time to repaint that old dresser or change the wallpaper. While serious renovation work will require hiring a contractor crew, minor projects to freshen up the house only need your own two hands. Dedicated family time can be practical as well as fun, and everyone can help make the house look and feel its best. Some jobs require power tools, like repairing bedroom furniture, while others are more about sorting and organizing.
Homeowners with the right tools and skills can repair or replace things like a window’s blinds or screens, fix a wobbly table, or even install new slides in their kitchen drawers. The kids can help keep something steady, hold a flashlight, and do anything else to help (stay safe about it). A room may look much nicer when plain old blinds are removed and a fancy new set is put in, or a window may get some blinds for the first time. Doing this improves the aesthetic as well as maintaining privacy. As a bonus, closed blinds can keep hot sunlight out of the house during summer, which eases the strain on the air conditioning.
You don’t need a hammer or screwdriver to tidy up the house. Many American households have a lot of stuff in them, from kids’ toys to clothes, spare furniture, electronic goods, toys, and who knows what else. Don’t beat yourself up; you’re not a hoarder. Then again, studies suggest that just the sight of clutter and messes puts a strain on the mind, and a messy house makes it too easy to lose things. So, some dedicated family time can be used to beautify and streamline your living space. Either do this room by room or tidy up the house by category. A new and popular strategy is to divide all items by category and type rather than location since items of the same type might be found across many rooms. But if items are gathered by type into piles and stacks, that makes it easier to see how much of everything you have.
Once everything is accounted for, everyone in the family can spend a few hours sorting through the stuff and decide what they want to keep, or not keep. Anything that isn’t useful or desirable can be set aside, and those things can be either thrown away, recycled, donated to charity, or perhaps put in a self-storage unit (such as spare furniture). Many Americans have far more clothes than they wear, and don’t be surprised if you end up giving away half your duds to charity! Many needy families will appreciate the donation, and you’ll have a much more streamlined closet. Some clothes need to be hung, like coats, but others can be folded and put into drawers or cube units to save room. If you don’t already have one, you can invest in a shoe rack by the front and/or back door, and even get a wall-mounted shoe rack to save floor space. The parents will go through all books in the house and choose which to keep, and the parents may supervise the children as they assess their toy collection. American children often have many toys, but don’t always use them all, so spare toys can be donated to charity. This can help curb messiness in your child’s room, something that everyone can appreciate. Dedicated family time can be very rewarding when your old stuff is sent to those in need and you have a wonderfully spacious and organized place to call home.
Take a Day Trip
Think of this as a more dedicated version of dedicated family time seeing what your neighborhood has to offer. Yes, everyone may have a busy schedule with work, school, and sports team commitments. But with a little coordination, everyone can figure out a free day when the whole family can go do something together. Depending on your region, there may be fascinating parks or historical areas to visit, such as old forts and pioneer towns in the Midwest or state parks across the nation. For smaller families, a muscle car can be a stylish way to travel, but larger families may call for a minivan to fit everyone.
Going to a huge shopping mall can be great fun, and a huge mall may have dozens or even a hundred different retailers to visit, plus other attractions. The food court may have a burger joint, Chinese food, or a pizza place, and the biggest malls even have small indoor parks. Some malls offer indoor playgrounds for the kids, and some may have a working carousel. You don’t have to visit the famed (and fantastically huge) Mall of America to enjoy a mall trip, and the family may discover all kinds of neat things in unique shops there.
Take Turns Picking Activities
Don’t forget: this is all about dedicated family time, with emphasis on family. It’s best if everyone takes turns to decide what the family will do, and older children can, in fact, plan an activity all by themselves. Everyone might have different preferences on where they go or what they do, and for how long. So, dedicated family time can be something that’s decided on rotation, among the parents and the children. Younger children might decide what to do, and everyone else can handle the actual planning. Or, if a child cannot decide, then their turn to make plans means the parents can present several viable options, and the child can choose from among them. For example: would you rather play Monopoly, watch a popular movie with popcorn, play soccer at the park, or browse that new novelty store in the mall? If nothing else, the family can keep a jar or bowl that has slips of paper inside, each with a different idea on it. An idea is drawn, and that determines the plan. If the weather or time doesn’t allow for an idea, you can simply draw a new one. At any rate, your next idea for dedicated family time should be right around the corner.
Plan a Family Cooking Night
Now this is a wholesome activity that anyone can enjoy. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to visit that highly-rated burger place downtown or go out for Mexican food. But your kitchen may beckon, and cooking is a pretty rewarding activity. Not to mention it’s generally cheaper to cook a meal for several people than eat out, especially if you have a good eye for bargains and ingredients at the grocery store. If needed, one or more people can go out and buy the ingredients, and then it’s time to cook! Younger children should be safe about this, and avoid knives or open flames or boiling water. Otherwise, everyone can help by mixing batter and putting it in the oven, slicing vegetables for a salad, marinating and spicing up meat for grilling, and a whole lot more. The family may opt for general dishes such as casserole or lasagna, or something more specific like stirfry, Greek salad, or even stylish southern dishes with cornbread, grits, barbecue, and more. And goodness knows that once everyone’s done cooking, they can all sit down together and taste the results!