With summer behind us and school in full swing, practices, recitals, and everything else happening in our day-to-day lives can make it challenging to spend time together as a family. It is especially difficult with all the TV’s, tablets, smart phones, and other electronics that seem to fill up the remainder of our fleeting time during the day. Though, if we set aside some time daily or even weekly to devote to spending time with our family, we just might find that we can have a lot of fun together and look forward to that time spent in each other’s company. Here are 7 ways that you can get that meaningful time together, face-to-face, completely unplugged:
1. Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of items that you can find either outdoors (like a leaf, a rock, a dandelion, etc.) or indoors (a spoon, a game piece, a penny, etc). Divide your family into teams and have a race to find all of the items on your list. An alternative is to go on a “Photo Scavenger Hunt” – instead of checking off or collecting items on your list, you must take a photo of each item and at least 1 person from your team has to be in the photo. This version makes for some really great family pictures and memories to look back on in the years to come!
2. Family Game Night: There are many games out there that can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike, and many of them educational as well – ones that encourage memorization, math skills, fine- and gross-motor skills – all while providing an evening of entertainment, smiles, and togetherness!
A few of our favorites are:
Jacks. Building coordination has never been so much fun! Tossing the ball in the air while trying to grab some jacks before it lands can be a interesting challenge – but if it’s too much of a challenge for the younger ones in your family, feel free to mix it up a little. You could try having one person throw the ball in the air while another person grabs as many jacks as they can before the ball is caught. The goal is to help your child feel like he’s contributing to the game, and whether or not you play by the rules or decide to make up your own, make sure every one gets involved and has an opportunity to feel successful in the game.
Shut-the-Box. The rules of this game can be a little tricky for younger kids to follow, but as soon as your child is interested in math, this game is a fabulous way for him to get to learn his budding math skills! Even if your child doesn’t follow the rules at first, he can certainly learn about adding his numbers – have your toddler roll the dice and add up the number rolled. If that number is between 1-9, have him knock down that number in the box. For older children and adults, follow the rules as described and keep score as per this printable here. This printable is part of a post that will also help you teach your child about composing and decomposing numbers so he can get the most out of playing this game.
Pick-up Sticks. This is fine-motor skill development at its finest! Your whole family will enjoy figuring out ways to gather as many sticks as they can without disrupting any of the other sticks. Sliding, lifting, poking, rolling…it’s all a part of this game.
Suspend Family Game. This game is CRAZY cool. It has our whole family on edge, laughing, and trying to help one another find the best spot to place a game rod. It is amazing to see the whole thing shift from one side to the other with each new move. A lesson in balance? I think so! Bonus: There are beginner, intermediate, and expert rules so this game will grow with your family!
3. Eat dinner together:
If you’re pressed for time in the evenings, make a concerted effort to arrange schedules so you can all at least eat dinner together as often as possible. While you’re all sitting around the table, instead of watching TV, make meaningful conversation. If you’re not sure what to talk about or where to start, write down some questions ahead of time that will prompt discussion, or use this Family Dinner Box of Questions – it is full of thought-provoking questions for everyone to take a turn answering. And it may surprise you what some of your child’s answers are and how much you really get to know them just by asking a few simple questions at dinnertime.
4. Service Activity: Whether it’s spending an hour baking cookies to take to a neighbor, or 5 minutes spent picking up litter, everyone benefits from lending a hand…together. To make this an engaging activity for everyone, try becoming “Secret Service” agents! Work as a family to serve others without being caught! For more ideas and free printables, check out this post on becoming a member of the Secret Service for a day!
5. Go bowling: Help your child practice his hand-eye coordination while having a great time doing it! Not enough time to go to the bowling alley? No problem! Find the longest hallway you have and play this game at home using your own set of bowling pins. If you’ve got little ones, download this simplified bowling score card to keep track of everyone’s achievements. Simply keep track of the number of pins knocked down each turn.
6. Story Time: If the few minutes just before bed are the only ones you’ve got during a busy day, make the most of those minutes by telling your child a story. Whether it’s from a book, from memory, or completely made up, your child will enjoy your time spent with him. Not only will it help calm him just before bedtime and increase your parent-child bond, but it will help to boost their imagination and encourage language development.
7. Build a puzzle together: A 24-piece, 100-piece, or 500-piece puzzle…take your pick! Whether it takes 5 minutes or 5 days to finish, tackling a project as a family can bring your family closer together and provide a sense of accomplishment for your child. Find a puzzle about something that your child/family enjoys – it makes it easier to strike up a conversation about what they find fascinating about animals, for example, if we are working on a Safari puzzle with pictures of that same thing.
If you make the time, you can have a fabulous time spending it with the people you love (and who love you!) the most. Mark your calendar and make it a date!
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