Nothing you read below is rocket science. The suggestions aren’t new or extravagant. What they are — reminders of how simple it can be to have fun with your children. All that’s needed–a willing heart. A heart and mind willing to put the phone down, carve out a little extra time and mark it on the calendar.
Watch the Sky
Look up! The sky offers so much (free!) entertainment. Picture you and your children resting on a blanket gazing up at the twinkling stars. (Okay, I realize there will be requests for food, then drink, a brief wrestling match and then an all-out brawl. At least that is how it will play out with my family of 2 boys. But once that has settled down, it will be relaxing. I hope.)
If you live close to an airport, look up its arrival and departure schedule online. Find a location where you and your children can park to watch the planes take off and land.
Watch the clouds. Take a popsicle, a Gatorade or a small snack and lie back and dream together.
Go on a Walk with No Agenda
This one sounds simple. But, if you are like me, you think “walk” and you immediately think “getting exercise.” Guess what, as good as exercise is for us, that’s an agenda. On this walk, our children set the pace, even if a snail races past you. Simply enjoy nature and being with one another. (Plus, there are development benefits for your children being outside in an “unorganized” fashion.)
Take a backpack or have them wear shorts/pants with pockets. I’m just saying…collecting “wonderful objects” will happen. You want something to keep those cherished items safe and secure.
Have them pack a backpack of household items they may find useful on the no-agenda walk.
Use your phone ONLY for taking pictures of items they like, things they make or things they do.
Let the conversation go where it goes.
Cook Dinner Together
This is a chore to most of us adults. Yet, to children, it’s often fun. Why? Because they get time with us.
The main ingredient for this meal prep–an adult with the right mind frame. Know that making dinner will take longer this night, but it’s worth the time you get with your children. And you have a cooked meal! Win, win.
Choose a meal that you know kiddos of your children’s age group can help with. So, obviously, if your child is 3, you choose a simple recipe. Or, divide tasks among your children if working with multiple ages, relegating the more difficult jobs to your older kiddos.
Let your children choose the meal. Now, be wise here. (You probably have a budget for grocery shopping and do need to go to bed at some point in the night.) In advance, select 3 to 5 “doable” meals on Pinterest or another site. Then, let them choose one to prepare from your pre-selected meals.
Turn on music as you cook together. Light candles as you eat together. Make the night extra special in simple ways.
Go Shopping as a Family
I placed this one next to Cook Dinner Together because these tasks are very similar. They are things we do on a daily and weekly basis. Thus, they feel like chores. But with a little prior planning and some excitement on your part, they will feel like family adventures.
As with cooking dinner together, this family shopping trip will take longer (probably much longer). So, plan accordingly. They are put on the calendar and planned in advance (well, most of the time. Spontaneity is another fun, inexpensive part of life.) Also, they don’t happen weekly. Rarity helps events feel special and, in this case, keeps your sanity.
The point is for these shopping trips to be intentional…in the conversations with our children, the time together and the lessons we are teaching. This shopping is NOT our usual yanking and snatching of items and throwing money at the cashier as we charge through the exit. (Picture the purple minions from Despicable Me 2. That’s what we often look like on our trips to Wal-Mart.)
Give your kids (reasonable) control over the selections. Apples on the grocery list? Let them select which ones or choose between 3 kinds that are in your budget.
For older kiddos, tear off a portion of the list and put them in charge of those items…buggy and all. Of course, multiple conversations about how to behave, how to push the cart, how to inquire about a product, where to meet, etc. must be had PRIOR to shopping. You know your children. If they aren’t ready, then scaffold the experience. Start by standing at the end of each aisle watching as they retrieve items.
Or, send them for just one item an aisle over.
Do your family shopping adventures during non-peak shopping times. Otherwise, it will leave you frustrated and other customers as well.
Draw names before going into the store. Each family member selects a small gift for the person they drew and, as secretly as possible, purchases that item. Be sure to put a price limit on the gift. For my family, less than $2. Then, when back in the car or at home, exchange gifts. Explain to one another why the gift was chosen. The conversation is just as important as selecting the small gift.
Make it a game. Choose a random aisle and have your children find items that begin with R or is less than $20 or would be perfect for a trip to the beach or is something they have never seen before. The point is to spur conversation, carve out time to be with each other and make memories even in the most mundane places like the automotive aisle in Wal-Mart.
Always do your “real” shopping on these little adventures. It instills the Work Hard Then Play Hard principle. And frankly, we are working to spend time with our children. But we ain’t crazy! If we get to Wal-Mart or Target, then we got to handle business too.
End these adventurous trips with a tradition. Spend the last 15 minutes in the book section reading together. Donate your change to the store’s charity. Grab a small snack for each family member. A tradition makes these shopping adventures even more cherished. Plus, it signals the end of the special shopping event, meaning the next time here will be our usual mad, panicked race through the store.
Wash the Car
Any time water and kids are involved, you’ve got fun! So the idea here is simple…get the car (windows, sidewalk, patio chairs, etc.) halfway clean while spending some much-needed time with your children.
Discuss ground rules before starting. Where to spray. When to spray. If to spray. Don’t drink the soapy water. Things such as that.
Allow kids to write using the soapy water.
Encourage them to wash their things (bikes, big wheels, etc.) next to you. They love talking to you about their progress.
Simple and intentional. These words summarize this article.
All of the suggestions are simple. They are easy to implement, and many are things we already do.
All of the suggestions are intentional. Everyday things and usual chores become anticipated, cherished events with some prior planning.
Simple and intentional become loving and meaningful.
About the Author: Rachel Eubanks, a freelance writer in Huntsville, AL. She writes about her experiences in life, motherhood, and business at inspiretoengage.com. She tries (really hard, bless her heart) to inform and inspire other mothers who are navigating the murky waters of motherhood and entrepreneurship.