Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Keeping the Fun in Family

Being a parent is not glamorous and raising kids is not easy.  But even on those days when your patience seems to be tested in every way imaginable, being a parent is a pretty amazing gig and one I'm very grateful to have.  I also think having kids is pretty fun.  In the very least, it gives you an excuse to be silly whenever needed.

For me, it is really important that fun be part of our family's DNA.  It's not the most important thing, of course, but it is something I am intentional about building into our family life.  I think laughter and having a sense of humor are key ingredients to making the most out of whatever life sends your way.  I also think taking the time to play, having fun, and making a little harmless mischief once in a while increases creativity and helps us not take ourselves too seriously.  And since God delights in his creation, I think it makes God smile when we delight in creation and the people around us too.

Having fun as a family is also important to me because I've heard a rumor of sorts that says dads are more fun that moms.  A couple of years ago, someone told me that dads are the ones who have fun and moms are the ones who enforce the rules.  I remember thinking at the time that I didn't want those to be the default roles in our house, and I still don't.

Related to this, I recently read an article in Parents magazine about how dads have more fun with their kids and what we (as moms/wives) can learn from them.  Even though I understand where the guy who wrote it is coming from, I can't say I loved the article.  :) 

Of course, there are certainly times when fun cannot be the priority, and I definitely do not equate having fun as a family with being your child's best friend.  No siree.  But since life can quickly get so "busy," and our tendency is to rush from one thing to the next rather than stop and smell the flowers, today I'm passing on "seven secrets of fun families" that were highlighted in the March 2013 issue of Family Fun magazine.  The titles and ideas with an * are theirs; the others are ones I've picked up along the way.  Perhaps one of them will speak to you and work for you and your family.
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  1. They plan together for adventure.  I recently heard it said that "if you can light the spark of curiosity in them, children will learn without any other assistance."  Planning together for adventure seems to me like a great way to spark young people's curiosity.  Here are some ideas of how to do this: 
    • Each season, make a list of things you want to see, do, or explore and work at crossing items off your list.*
    • Fill a jar with activities to do as a family.  Or fill a Ziploc bag with spur-of-the-moment outing ideas written on index cards and keep it in the car.  When you need something to do or have some time to fill between other things, pick one of the ideas and do it.*                                         
  2. They turn their homes into fun zones.  The other day I bought Esme a $6 golf set from Kmart.  I gave it to her after bath time (a little incentive to take a bath) and then set the timer for six minutes of play time before continuing our bedtime routine.  The look at her face when she saw the golf set was priceless, as was hearing her ask, "Mommy, want to play with me?"  That is one of my favorite things to hear.  Here are some other ideas for turning your home into a fun zone.  
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    • Have a small stash of supplies, just in case.*  Pipe cleaners, coffee filters, sponges, finger paint, string...these can all serve a variety of functions.  
    • Create a hang out spot just for them.  Let your imagination (and their's!) be your guide.
  4. They celebrate the small things.  Look for excuses to add a dose of silliness and celebration to what would otherwise be an ordinary day or week.  
    • One family I know has "Special Fridays."  Each Friday, they do something to make it seem a little special, such as having a picnic dinner in front of the TV, watching a movie, or having someone come to visit.  What they do isn't necessarily fancy, but just the name "Special Friday" makes it something the whole family looks forward to.  
    • Another family in Poway, CA, hosts little parties every couple of months where they are the only guests.  The kids help pick the theme (think Super Bowl or the release of a DVD), then the family chooses the food and dresses in festive attire.  They get to spend good, quality time together and celebrate their togetherness as a family.*
  5. They find the silver lining.  Fostering a sense of gratitude helps us appreciate what we have, even when something doesn't go right.  It also goes hand in hand with being able to find the silver lining when the proverbial wrench gets thrown into your plans.  Here are some ways to help your family practice finding the silver lining:
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    • Share highs and lows each night, either at dinner or bedtime.  
    • Make a list as a family of things you are grateful for each week, or have a "gratitude board" where people can write down something they are grateful for.  
    • Let them eat cake (or pie).  When kids (or you) get the blues, distraction can often be the best remedy, and serving something like spaghetti pie, taco pie, or Oreo pie might be just the thing.*
  7. They fill their lives with sweet surprises.  Kids thrive on routine, but mixing things up a bit every now and then is good too.  
    • Go on mystery trips.  Put the kids in the car without telling them where they are going.  If you want, give them clues along the way, or play 20 questions to see if they can guess where they are going.* 
    • Have Sundae Sunday.  I got this idea from a family I met on internship.  What a great way to kick off the week!
  8. They make work feel like play.  Channel your inner Mary Poppins to make household chores seem a little less like work.  
    • Throw a laundry party or set a timer when you clean up.  If the family's able get their jobs done before the timer dings, you win!*
  9. They narrow the gap between playing and learning.  There are a million ways to do this.  Here are two: 
    • Grow a garden.  Whether it's big or small or something in between gardens are an awesome learning tool (and source of fun) for kids of all ages.  
    • Have an alphabet party.  Serve pizza for supper, watch Peter Pan, and wear purple clothes.  Or have grapes and grilled cheese, play Guess Who? and listen to guitar music.  You get the idea.*
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