Family time means different things for different families, but the point is for all the members of your household to get together and have some fun. There are plenty of websites offering ideas for activities all the family can enjoy, so a quick browse on the Internet should provide you with some ideas for home-made entertainment. Making a family magazine with cut-out pictures or setting up a home obstacle course are undoubtedly fun things to do, but you are not alone if your heart sinks at the thought of supervising activities like this. There’s no need to feel inadequate as a parent if you can identify with that sinking feeling. What, then, could you do instead?
Board games may seem a bit old-fashioned when we have so many hi-tech gaming opportunities, but there are good reasons to consider them. The old classics have been around for years and are still popular because they are easy to play, and everyone gets immersed in the game. You could go for a simple game like snakes and ladders, which even little ones can play, or try the more strategic style games like Risk and Monopoly. Many board games, like Scrabble, Boggle and Yahtzee have an educational element that can help your children without them realising they are improving their language and math skills. If you fancy something a bit different, have a look at the range of newer games on the market, which cover an amazing spread of topics and skill levels. You might find these appeal more to your older children, who once they’ve got the board game bug will happily branch out into the classics.
Jigsaw puzzles may seem like a solitary occupation, but if you can get a couple of different jigsaws on a table that everyone can sit around, you can easily while away a rainy afternoon. Choose some very different pictures or styles, so the kids can help with whichever puzzle appeals most and they can have a go at both. It is a lovely way to have some quiet time, and you can have snacks and drinks, maybe play some music, or just enjoy the opportunity to have a good discussion that you can really get in to. If you need to clear the table and the jigsaws aren’t complete, use rolling jigsaw mats to store them securely until your next jigsaw afternoon. If you feel inspired, you could try a 3D jigsaw. These are made of interlocking foam pieces, or sometimes wood, and come in many different formations including globes, famous buildings, ships (e.g. Titanic), even Star Wars characters. Or if puzzles don’t appeal, use construction toys like Lego or K’Nex and have a challenge to see who can make the best robot or rocket ship.
In its simplest form, there are some great “choose your own adventure” style books. At certain points in the story you are asked to select one of several possible ways to proceed. Your answer affects your progress through the book and whether you ultimately reach your goal. To make this a family game everyone can take it in turns to choose, or take a vote on what to do.
You may not be so familiar with the idea of a home-based murder mystery game. The idea is to receive a series of clues by mail, which you then use to try and solve an engaging whodunnit. The clues arrive in a Dispatch Box, which contains objects that lead you to follow the trail of clues both in the digital realm and the real world. The stories are in the style of a cozy mystery, so no worries about blood and violence or any overly adult themes. Everyone can get involved in examining the clues, following leads and sorting the truth from the red herrings. As you get a new box every month, the game can become an ongoing adventure throughout the year.
Kids love baking, and will happily get up to their armpits in flour and eggshells. Cakes and cookies are the usual go-to goods to try with kids, and with so many recipes available online, as well as books dedicated to children’s cooking, there’s plenty of scope. You can keep it simple, or if you want to risk frosting, you can make some very elaborate creations. Don’t be limited by going for the obvious though, try out some recipes for savoury dishes and snacks. A lasagne for example, straightforward but with enough stages of preparation to mean everyone will be able to help. Cooking together is one of the nicest ways to spend time as a family. There is a sense of pride in creating a meal and sitting down together to eat it, and it’s always helps for the family to gain an appreciation for the work done by whoever is responsible for the everyday cooking. Cooking together also means cleaning up together, so don’t let everyone drift off after the meal is consumed and leave you to spend two hours rescuing the kitchen!
Words and Pictures
If you don’t feel you are very good at coming up with ideas or maintaining the momentum of creative play, the answer is to get the rest of the family to do it for you. Take for example the old drawing game sometimes called the Combination Man where each person draws a different body section on a piece of paper, folding it up before giving it to the next person. When the sections are unfolded to reveal the whole body, the results are often bizarre and hilarious. You can apply this principle to other activities too. Writing a story is usually done alone rather than by committee, but you could end up with the literary equivalent of the combination man!
Taking time to get away from TV and computer screens and do more diverse activities is a rewarding experience and does the whole family good. Home-made activities can require a high level of parental input and can sometimes make you feel stressed and worn out. Using some of the ideas in this article means you can make the most of family time and enjoy it to the full.