By Monica K. Guthrie
In my last article, we learned about ways to spend time with your family by simplifying life. The more time you have in the day, the more time you have available to spend with your children, spouse or other family members. Today we talk about what to do once you have that time. Our fans shared their resolutions on our Facebook page and spending time with family was a popular resolution:
Amanda Tingolie: To spend more quality time with my family
Meagan Pruitt Tippett: To spent every free time I have with my family
Veronica Iris: More family time and less clutter!
Wanting to spend more time with family is great idea, but we want to take a “great idea” to a “great plan.”
- Game nights. Sarah Hall shared her resolution which said she wanted to create game nights and traditions for her family. Game nights are a great way to enjoy family time together. Having children of different ages can make it difficult but having activity games such as a bean bag toss or bowling can help bridge the gap. We recently bought the fishing game - you know the circle with little fish that rotates and you have a little pole with a magnetic end and you try and “catch” a fish as it opens its mouth revealing something for pole to attach to – anyway, it’s great for our family with ages ranging from 3 to 33.
- Date night with children. When I was little my dad and mom would take my sister and I out on dates. I’d go with my dad and my mom would go with my sister and then we would switch. It was fun because my parents could focus on what I liked rather than trying to find something we both would enjoy – plus it was fun to have those memories of just me and my dad or mom. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. I recently had a friend suggest taking my toddler to the dollar store and let him pick out gifts for our family without any help from me. In her case a grandmother got a plunger and the grandfather got a hammer. You could go feed ducks or go to the playground. Maybe do a photo scavenger hunt. As a side note – these ideas are great for the entire family too.
- Date night with spouse. Elizabeth Boyd Collado said she wanted to also “work on making more time to uplift my husband and make more us time.” It’s important to remember to make your marriage a priority (or if you’re not married, then make yourself a priority). We found a couple with similarly aged children that we trade babysitting with (saves money – and the kids like playing with their friends). Then we go to dinner or see a movie. My husband loves getting a foot massage so we get to spoil ourselves a little bit. It’s nice to recharge, child-free, for a little while. For my husband and me, we try and do it once a month. I know others who have weekly date nights. I envy them. In between date nights I write little notes and leave them in his car, in his pockets, in his socks, or I’ll take a dry erase marker and leave a note on this mirror before I go to work. They don’t have to be essays – just a little “I love you” or “Thanks for taking the kids today” or “thanks for getting the dishes last night” is plenty. He says he likes it so I’m taking that as validation that everyone would like little notes. I usually I write my notes in bulk and then give one every few days.
- Turn regular activities into family moments. My kids love cooking. Even the youngest will stir a pot like it’s going out of style (I don’t even turn the heat on!). We have fun measuring water, pouring sauces, pastas, sautéing vegetables, browning meat – and its all stuff I’d have to do anyway to make dinner. Two birds, one stone. You can do the same with cleaning. Channel your inner Mary Poppins and dance party your way through cleaning the windows. Or have a sing-off as your fold the laundry. You just might throw them both to the side and sing and dance the night away! Or try fixing things or building things (a shelf or paint over the crayon on the wall).
- Go on adventures. Take road trips – to the other side of town! I live in a tiny town and still am able to write a weekly column on what to do in the area. Every week. Maybe you visit a different park each week, or a different restaurant, or go for walks. Go to a museum or art gallery (don’t be afraid to go with a newborn, I did it, no one cares). Go to festivals and small-town parades. Participate in fun runs (or walks). Check out symphonies or local plays or library readings and activities. Maybe your kids will love it. Maybe they won’t. But at least they’ll know at the end of it – and they’ll be better for having experienced it, and you will too!
- Eat dessert for dinner. Probably my most favorite memory was during the summer when I decided we were having frozen yogurt for dinner. We created our own yogurt dishes and enjoyed the highly sugary dinner-dessert. I wouldn’t recommend doing this every night but doing something unorthodox for dinner can be great quality time for the family and create a wonderful memory (try a picnic in the living room or eating outside).
- Save memories. This past Christmas I started a project to record the memories of my parents and grandparents. I found the journal books “Mom Tell Me Your Story” and “Grandma Tell Me Your Story” by Susan Branch. The books have a series of questions about their childhood, growing up, their hopes and dreams, their jobs and loves and regrets. The idea is you go through the questions and write down the answers given to you. I adapted the same questions for my dad and began asking my family these questions. Sometimes it’s weird but the result has been wonderful and I know one day, when my grandparents and parents are gone, I’ll be thankful I did this. I’m also turning the questions on myself, writing my answers in a Word document. This isn’t a quality-time activity I’m spending with my children yet, but I hope it will be something they will treasure later in life.
These are just a few ideas of things you can do with your family to improve your quality time. What are some of your suggestions on how to spend quality time with your family? Share them with us in the comments below!
Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees.
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