By Neil McNerney, Parenting With Purpose
Now that we are fully into the summer, some of us might be looking for ways to keep our kids engaged with each other as a family.
Family Meal Planning and Cooking – It’s never too early to begin to develop cooking skills. I thank my interest in cooking from being around my mother in the kitchen while growing up. Try assigning each family member an evening to plan and cook dinner. Depending on their age will depend on how much help they will need. This is a great way to spend more time with each child separately.
One-on-One Dinner Out – Another great food related idea is to spend some one-on-one time with each child at their favorite restaurant. Families with more than one child don’t tend to spend much time with each of them individually. Having a monthly time set up for each child to spend the evening with each parent increases bonding time and helps each child feel special.
Make a Family Timeline – Using multiple large sheets of posterboard, start a family timeline and have the family fill in important, fun, and memorable events for the family and each family member. The timeline could either start when the parents met, or it could begin at the birth of the first child. Adding pictures and stories to the timeline makes it a keepsake and a living document that can be added to every summer.
Hide the Balloon – This is a fun way for families to spend time indoors on a hot or rainy day. Blow up 5 or 6 balloons and hide them throughout the house. Then have the children seek them out. A balloon is a good item to use as it is big enough to only be hidden in more obvious places, which makes it easier for younger children. After a child finds a certain number, the remaining ones are left for the other children to find.
Don’t Break the Chain! – One person begins a story by writing down the first paragraph, and hands it to the next family member. They then read it and add another paragraph that relates to the first paragraph, and then hands it to the next person, and so on. It can go around and around a number of times. For example:
First Person: Once upon a time there was a small village named Messyville. It was a nice village, and it had lots of nice people in it, but it had one major problem.
Second Person: The big problem was that everyone was very messy. They never cleaned up after themselves and there was trash everywhere. But since everybody was messy, it didn’t really matter. Nobody really had a problem with it, until…
Third Person: … a new family moved in. The parent’s names were Patty and Peter Particular. Their kids were named Paul and Penny. If you haven’t figured it out yet, they were very neat and particular. During their first walk around their new neighborhood…
Mad Libs –Mad Libs is a series of fill-in-the blank stories. One person asks the group for the required type of word (noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, etc.) and fills in the word for the story. After all the blanks are filled, she then reads the whole story. This is lots of fun, always hilarious, and really helps with grammar skills. Keep a few Mad Libs in the car. They are great for trips.
Travel Related Ideas
Family Trip Accountant – Have one child keep a running tab of all the expenses during the trip, adding the expenses up each day. The ‘accountant’ can also separate the expenses into different categories.
Alphabet Games – These are the simple games families can play in the car. Try to find the letters of the alphabet on road signs or on license plates. These games are best played as a team since the younger kids will feel left out.
License Plate States – Have one child make a list of all fifty states and see how many state plates you can find during your trip. This increase geography and awareness. This can be a cooperative game as the family is all working toward one goal vs. each family member competing against each other.
Hopefully these ideas will help your family enjoy each other during the summer.
Neil McNerney is a licensed professional counselor and author of Homework – A Parent’s Guide To Helping Out Without Freaking Out! and The Don’t Freak Out Guide for Parenting Kids with Asperger’s. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org