The days of summer may be winding down but there is still plenty of time to embrace some good old fashioned family togetherness before the chilly days of fall set in. If your kids are small, they will jump at the chance to spend even more time with you (soak it up while you can!). If they are anything more than small, warm weather family time might take some convincing. And that’s okay. Regardless of whether your kiddos appreciate family time right now, know the time you put in today will benefit you, your kids, and your family unit in the long run. In fact, there is scientific evidence to prove it! Studies have shown that family bonding (including family meals together):
- Helps your child achieve greater academic success
- Increases trust among family members
- Deepens the emotional bond between parents and kids
- Encourages children to be more communicative and open up more to their parents
- Decreases fighting among siblings
- Encourages healthy habits in children
- Shows children you want to be with them and makes them feel proud
- Lowers a child’s desire to partake in risky behaviors
- Decreases behavioral problems in children
- Creates less stress and tension at home
Not bad for simply spending time with the ones you love most in this world. So dive in and try these family-fun-in-the-sun bonding ideas. And just in case your kids don’t thank you until they are 30 and have kids of their own, we’ll do it for them. “Thanks mom and dad!”
Family Fun – Warm(ish) Weather Edition
1. Make a time capsule: Choose a sturdy, resealable vessel such as a glass jar, coffee tin, etc. Fill with summertime memories of the things you and your kiddo did this summer such as game tickets, photos, notes, sand from the beach, a polished rock from a hike, etc. You can right down the year, comments about each item, your child’s height, or other tidbits such as what you think you might be doing in 5 years’ time, on a piece of paper. Have each member of the family sign it. Seal it up and either bury or hide it in a place where you can “rediscover” it later at an agreed upon time.
2. Geocache (www.geocaching.com): Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt style activity where families can use GPS receivers or mobile devices to hide and seek caches (or containers) anywhere in the world. Get a group together, search for a cache in your area by typing in your zip code at the address above, and follow the clues to your next cache. There are a few more steps than that but you get the general idea. Once you find the cache following coordinates and clues, open it up, browse the trinkets and goodies inside, and decide if you’d like to leave the cache or trade an item in the cache with something of equal or lesser value.
3. Go on a camping trip in the backyard: You just need a tent (or not), sleeping bags, a lantern, a few snacks, and each other. Set rules like “no electronics” and “no going in the house unless it’s to use the bathroom” to make the experience more authentic. Count the stars, tell stories, and roast marshmallows (provided you have a fire pit). You might not be able to count on a good night’s sleep but you can count on unique family time everyone will enjoy.
4. Find a new take on family movie night: Tired of movies on the couch with popcorn? Try setting up an outdoor theatre in your backyard. Hang a white sheet on an outside wall of the house or set up a portable screen. Procure a projector to hook up to your DVD/Blu-Ray player or computer. Set up some comfortable seating (including pillows and blankets), and enjoy the great outdoors while enjoying your favorite flick. Instead of serving the same old movie snacks, try making Rice Krispie sushi treats (http://www.ricekrispies.com/recipes/sushi-treats) for something different.
5. Find a new take on family game night: Playing traditional board games is fun but why not mix it up with a game your kids learned at school, in PE, or online? Let them show you how it’s done and they’ll gain confidence and leadership skills without even trying. If you have a dedicated game night each week, you can carry over “point totals” from one week to the next and reward first, second, and third place winners at the end of the month with a special dinner of their choice, a small toy, etc.
6. Implement DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) in the house: A favorite in schools (sometimes called SDR or stop, drop and read), stopping and reading for 20 or more minutes at various points throughout the day increases reading proficiency, fosters a love of reading, increases literacy, and provides parents and kids a quiet activity they can do together. You can read to your child, have them read to you, or each of you can read your own books depending on your child’s reading levels. With all of the hustle and bustle that goes on each day, DEAR is a great way for family members to settle down and connect on a more calming level.
7. Work up a sweat together: When the weather is warm, try working out as a family. You might enjoy a long family bike ride, a hike, or a run through the sprinklers. How about football at the park, playing a game of kickball in the driveway, or creating a hopscotch grid with sidewalk chalk and hopping along next to your kids? Too cold outside? Give yoga a try! Keeping fit with the family promotes togetherness, emphasizes the importance of staying healthy, and shows your kids that active play is good (and fun) for them!
8. Discover your town: Whether you live in a small town or big city, chances are you rarely visit the sites that made the town famous (that’s where tourists go, and you’re a local, right?). But there is something to be said for visiting and revisiting your city’s attractions and seeing them through the eyes of your children. You’ll have a greater appreciation for where you live and a better sense of community.