If you read last week’s blog, you already know that this is Part 2 in a three-part serial blog — and if that is the case, thanks for coming back! If you just happened upon this installment, make sure you check out Part 1 of the list of ideas as well as our prior blog entitled, "What Do Children Really Need From Parents?" It makes a pretty solid argument for ‘quality time!’
34. Story, Journal, Blog
Taking an interest in writing with your children can be a fabulous way to encourage your children to become comfortable with writing. It can be done easily in the form of story writing, daily journaling, or even blogging. For younger children who have not yet developed writing skills, have them dictate to a writing family member. There are several ways to encourage writing — family style. Write a creative story. Have one member of the family start a story by writing a few sentences or a paragraph; then, pass it on to the next family member to continue the story line; then, to the next — and the next — and so on and so forth. There is no reason to stop at one paragraph per family member either; perhaps you’ll get a short story, or a long story — or maybe even end up with a novel to publish! Another fun idea is to write a family biography. Have each member write a chapter about themselves; then, pull it all together to leave a historical record for future generations! Daily journaling — especially at bedtime, when reflecting upon the day — can also be an excellent way to share writing. Nowadays, blogging is more popular than ever, so create a family blog and have everyone contribute writing and photos. The bonus is that it’s a nice way to share your family writing and news with faraway relatives.
35. Good Old-Fashioned Fun
Who doesn’t remember playing games with other children in the schoolyard? And there were reasons schools encouraged it — imagination, creativity, exercise, social interaction, and no equipment needed! So put down your i-phone and drag your children away from their screens — get out in the backyard and play-play-play! Here’s just a few schoolyard games that I’m sure will jog some memories from times of long ago. Red Rover, Red Light - Green Light, Mother May I, Sly Fox, Hopscotch, Simon Says, Duck-Duck-Goose, Jump Rope Rhymes, Hands Clap Games, Four Square, etc. I could be missing a few; please share them below if you know of any other fun schoolyard games.
36. Enjoy the Sunrise
It’s as simple as getting up just a few minutes early. Enjoy a beautiful sunrise and spend some quality quiet time with your children before the hectic day begins. It’s a terrific time to talk about your hopes and dreams for what the future has in store or just plan for the new day.
37. Visit a Playground
I know, I know — the playground seems like a no-brainer. Most towns have a least one! If you have more than one playground in your area, pack a lunch and have a playground marathon to see how many you can visit in one day! And just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you can’t go down the slide or see how high you can swing!
38. Create a Family Abstract
Get an extra large (ginormous if you’d like!) studio canvas and create a family piece of abstract art. Design a color palette that will look lovely in one of your rooms and have the whole family add to the work of art until their heart’s content. Research some modern artists and mimic their style at The Art Story – Modern Art Insight. If you’re exceptionally brave, you could even create your painting like abstract expressionist Jackson Pollack and fling the paint onto the canvas! Whatever technique you choose to create your family masterpiece, I promise it will be priceless and the most treasured work of art in your home.
This outdoor game can also be played indoors on rainy days when you’re looking for something fun to do. Have you ever heard of the ‘Sardines’ variation on the game? I hadn’t until my children taught it to me. It’s basically Hide-And-Go-Seek in reverse! One player hides, and everyone else searches for the hidden player. Whenever a searching player finds the hidden player or players — which soon becomes the case — the searching player becomes a hiding player by joining the other hider(s) in the hiding spot. Soon this group of hiding players begins to look like a bunch of sardines — thus the name of the game!
40. Pillow Fights
What better way to spend quality time with your children that having a pillow fight? Just make sure you put away all the breakable family heirlooms for safe-keeping. I would also recommend using poly-fiber pillows, just in case things get a little out of hand. Goose down can be real messy to clean up!
41. Just Plain Down and Dirty
Children aren’t afraid to get down and dirty playing — so why should you? If you have access to a beach, visit and make sand castles or bury each other. Spending the day near a lake or the ocean can be a fun and relaxing way to spend quality time with children of all ages. If you don’t happen to be near any sand — just find some dirt and bring out the bucket of water. Younger children surely will have just as much fun making mud pies as they will building sand castles. And don’t worry, everybody's washable!
42. The Hunt Is On
Scavenger and treasure hunts can be fun quality time with children, plus they’re easy to create and can be tailored to any age, any theme, and any place! You can make almost anything into a fun game — even chores — by turning into a hunt. What’s the difference between a scavenger hunt and a treasure hunt? The scavenger hunt starts with a list of things to find (or do) and a set time limit. There is no set order in which players must find everything on the list and the player (or team) who does so first is the winner. In a treasure hunt, players follow a set of clues — often posed as riddles — on predetermined path that leads them to the treasure. The player (or team) to find the treasure first is the winner. So whether you scavenge or search for treasure, either way, it’s guaranteed fun!
43. Make Homemade Popsicles
We love to have an assortment of popsicles in the freezer year-round especially for those extra-hot summer days or those extra-sore winter throats! They are so simple to make and so much healthier when you do. Use all natural juices and fresh fruit for a yummy treat. My children especially love my homemade orange creamsicles with fresh berries! Recipe: 8 ounces of full-fat coconut milk; ¼ c. organic orange juice concentrate; 1tsp vanilla extract; 2TBS maple syrup or organic raw honey; sliced strawberries, whole blueberries, or whole raspberries. Mix the first four ingredients and pour the mixture into popsicle molds. (If you don’t have molds or are making an extra large batch, use 3 ounce Dixie bathroom cups with wooden popsicle sticks.) Once filled, carefully add the berries; then, place in the freezer until frozen. Last, but not least, enjoy! Pinterest is also a fantastic resource for lots of other homemade popsicle recipes!
44. Rain Frolicking
Catch raindrops in your mouth. Jump through puddles to see who can make the biggest splash. There is nothing better on a summer day than playing in the warm rain; however, if thunder roars go indoors!
45. Have a Pancake Party
Weekend mornings were simply made for quality family time. Have a pancake party! Make a big batch of plain batter and let everybody add things according to their individual tastes as the pancake cooks (side one) on the griddle — things like berries, chocolate chips, m&m’s, toffee, sliced bananas, nuts, etc. And make your pancake party perfect with hickory smoked bacon — and of course, pure Vermont maple syrup!
46. Go Fishing or Go Fish
Fishing can be a fun activity for spending quality time with your children. If you aren’t necessarily the angler type or you can’t fish for the real deal because you don’t live near a water source or it’s not fishing season; well, do the next best thing — deal out a deck of cards and Go Fish. You could play any other card game, for that matter. 52pickup.net is a great resource to get you started with a list of and directions for fun card games perfect for children!
47. People Watching
Pull up your nearest park bench or city bench and do some people watching. It can be fun to guess who people are, what they are like, where they are going, and what they are doing. It’s also a great discussion starter for making sure that we are always empathic and compassionate towards others.
48. Try Picking
No not your nose! Take advantage of the growing seasons and go picking! Pick something local and healthy! Depending on where you live that could be anything from apples to avocados to blueberries to peaches to plums to oranges to pumpkins to raspberries to strawberries — if it’s grown in the US, you can probably pick it. After picking, I’m sure you can spend more quality time with your children doing something fun and deeelish with your harvest!
49. Redecorate or Rearrange
Children love new things, and that includes a new look for their bedroom. If it’s in the family budget to completely rehaul and redecorate — I say, "Go for it!" If not, children can be just as excited by a simple rearrange. Moving a bed from this wall to that wall can give a room an entirely fresh look and new feel for children to enjoy! Either way, it’s the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with your children doing something fun for them, while checking yet another thing off your ‘To Do List!’ Trust me, at the prospect of changing their room they’ll be all too willing to help you clean it too!
50. Make a Difference
So now, if you’re considering #49 and you’re cleaning out their room anyway, it’s probably a good time to purge some of those perfectly good clothes and toys that they’ve outgrown. Turn redecorating and rearranging into a donation event. Find a community shelter, a home for teenage moms, a local church, a Ronald McDonald House — any organization that might be in need of gently used children’s clothing and toys or has access to individuals who are. Wash the clothes and clean the toys with your children in preparation for the donation. And by all means, let your children accompany you to deliver the goods. It’s wonderful for them to experience giving, understand that there are those less fortunate in your community, and take pause to appreciate everything they have in life that others may not.
51. Homemade Ice Cream Sundae Festival
If you have an ice cream maker — making homemade ice cream is super simple! No ice cream maker, though? No problem! Taste of Home gives you simple step-by-step instructions on how to make ice cream it without an ice cream maker. The hardest part about making homemade ice cream is waiting for it to freeze! But as soon as it does — waste no time arranging some deliciously decadent toppings as a topping bar, and let the Sundae festivities begin!
52. Blowing Bubbles
Blowing bubbles is a memorable part of everyone's childhood. But, did you know that scientists have been studying bubbles and soap films for centuries? Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau first laid out four basic tenants of surface tension — the reason that bubbles take their round shape — in the early 1800's. And you thought blowing bubbles was just fun? Blowing bubbles is fun for children; however, it can also be an enlightening lesson in physics. And on top of that, there's chemistry and a special soap recipe behind blowing the biggest, most amazing, long-lasting bubbles you’ve ever blown!
53. Watch a Parade
That is if it’s parade season and there happens to be a parade nearby. If not, it's more likely there might be a road race — running or cycling — and watching one can be almost as exciting. Naturally, a parade keeps little ones engaged without much effort. To do so during a road race, give them an activity to keep them occupied. If you’re there to specifically watch a friend or family member make sure you know their participant number, so everyone can watch and root for them. Perhaps you can even arrange to supply them with water. If you don’t happen to know anyone in the race, just pick a participant number. You can also make a game of it by having children count the racers that pass, or giving them a pad of paper to record numbers they see on participants — starting with 0 and going as high as they can.
Color-A-Day? How does one color a day? Well, pick a color and make everything in your day about that particular color — all day long. Say you pick orange. Then everything you do during the day should have to do with the color orange. Wear orange clothes, socks, or orange ribbons in your hair. Eat only orange food. Look for orange things around you. Paint your face orange. Write everything using an orange pencil or pen. Paint an orange picture. Find books about something orange. You could even take it one creative step further and do a rainbow week, where every day is a different color of the rainbow.
55. Make Homemade Cards or Bookmarks
Always keep a box filled with card-making supplies around. I promise it will come in handy on more than one occasion. Even if you don’t happen to need a homemade card or bookmark at the moment, this can be a fun way to spend quality time with your children. Trust me; there will be a time when you’re frantically looking for a card to send, and you’ll be thrilled to have an assortment of hand-made cards on hand. And handmade bookmarks given with a book make the gift that much more unique!
56. Fly a Kite
Of course, this only works if it’s a windy day — if it’s not a windy day you could always build a kite in preparation for a windy day. My Best Kite is a great resource for all having to do with kite building and flying.
Looking at the starry sky on a clear night can be a fun and relaxing way to end your day. Temperature permitting, make popcorn as a treat and set up blankets for a real star gazing party! Have fun counting them, wishing upon them, as well as naming them in everyone's honor. If you have a telescope, all the better; however, with just the naked eye you are likely to see such sights as the Milky Way, multiple star systems, globular clusters, bright planets, satellite galaxies, artificial satellites, open star clusters, the zodiacal light, and perhaps even meteors. Tip: The biggest meteor shower is the Perseids, on or about August 12th. Another tip: Give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to the dark for optimal stargazing. Yet another tip: Star Chart is a free app for iOS or Android devices, and it’s a pretty incredible tool for stargazing!
58. Make A Fairy Garden
Younger children love the fantasy part of making a fairy garden — you know so the garden fairies will have a place to live! Encourage children to use the roots of trees, leaves, rocks, flowers, sticks, anything they can find outdoors — and of course, their imaginations — to build a house in the fairy garden. At our home, the fairies usually spend just one or two nights as they travel from garden to garden and always leave behind a little fairy dust (aka glitter) and a special fairy gift as a thank you for providing their lodging! Just make sure you know when the fairy garden is being built, it can be a real tragedy if those ‘fairies’ forget to leave dust and a small token of their appreciation! Wink-wink! For older children — perhaps too big for fairy magic — check out these fantastic fairy craft ideas. Even for non-believers, these can be a fun project and a beautiful addition to any home or garden.
59. Love Thy Neighbor
The world has become so big and life so hectic that we seem to be losing the valuable connections with those who live closest to us. Show your neighbors you care by doing something special for them with your children. It can be a simple ‘thinking of you’ note left in their mailbox — using one of those beautiful handmade cards you now have. You could also shovel snow off their walk, mow their lawn, perhaps bake some homemade cookies. We have some elderly neighbors and sometimes just stopping by for a minute to check in will make their day. Let charity begin in your neighborhood.
60. Take a Drive
Driving in the car (for leisure of course, not because you’re hurried to get to a destination) can be a fun family activity any time of the year. In the spring, it’s fun to see that everything has finally greened up after a long winter. You might even see some baby animals. In the summer, it’s just wonderful to drive around and see all the flowers in bloom. Fall, of course, if you're fortunate enough to live somewhere in the north, take full advantage of fall foliage. And believe it or not — even winter can be fun. Especially nighttime during the holidays to look at all the beautiful Christmas lights. So you see, any time of the year is fun for a leisurely family drive.
Sit around in a circle — or perhaps around that bonfire from our last list of 33 — and take turns telling stories. If your children like to be scared (as mine always did), you can make them of the ghostly variety! Do it in the dark and have the person telling the scary story illuminate their face with a flashlight for an extra spooky feel!
62. Hand-Painted Tee Shirts
I suggested literally ‘hand painted’ by making handprint tee shirts as a family. We made them when my children were young, and even the dog put her paw print on them! I still have mine as a beautiful keepsake with my children’s little handprints. We also hand painted several tote bags that day, which made excellent grandparent gifts.
63. Paint Your Faces
Face painting is fun-fun-fun, and I don’t know too many children that don’t love to have their faces painted. You don’t have to be an artist to paint a face either — just go for it. Paint each other’s faces — let your children paint yours too! There are some wonderful all natural face paint kits out there by Luna Star Naturals and Natural Earth that come with some great face painting tips and tricks to get you started! And if you’re feeling exceptionally motivated Mommypotamus has some recipes for homemade all-natural face paint.
64. Set Up a Stand and Stand for Awareness
As a family, choose a charity that’s near and dear to your heart — and your community too. It could be a local food shelf, an animal shelter, an individual in crisis — whatever. Discuss how you will set up a stand to raise money and stand for awareness. Of course, the old 'standby' is selling lemonade, but it doesn’t have to be, it can be anything. Items made and sold by children are always a favorite! Fruit punch, cookies, pb&j sandwiches, beaded necklaces, artwork — here’s another instance when those homemade greeting cards and bookmarks could come in very handy!
65. Sort Socks
I don’t know of a house that doesn’t have a giant basket of socks to sort. It can be an unbearably tedious task for one person, but great fun when it’s a family event. For younger children, it’s way to learn about matching, colors, and patterns too! Make a game of it and see who can match the most socks! Not to mention, you’re ticking off one of those tasks on your ‘To Do List!’ And BTW — does anyone know what happens to the missing socks? I mean they simply seem to vanish into thin air. I’ve heard every theory from sock gremlins to magic dryer portals to the mysterious laundry room sock triangle. I have long since given up on ever finding them, but if I had a dollar for every missing sock in my family...!
66. Ice Skating
Believe it or not, ice skating can be a great year-round way to spend quality time with your children. A frozen pond or an outdoor rink work in the winter. But remember indoor skating rinks are perfect any time of the year because they can be both warm and cool. In the winter — they're warm — a place to go when it’s too cold to enjoy the outdoors, and in the summer — they're cool — a place to chill on an unbearably hot day?
We’d love it if you’d share your fun ideas for family time below. We’ll send the first ten people who comment a free 5-pound package of our earthen air-dry clay — to help accomplish #30 on last week's list!
Watch for next week's blog — the third installment (34-66) of "99 Super-Duper Fun Ways to Spend Quality Time With Your Children" — you won't want to miss it! We will be offering this helpful list in the form of a pdf. If you would like to receive it to have ‘on hand’ from Homespun and Hands-On®, let us know in an e-mail: email@example.com
Oh! And by the way, we'd be ever so grateful if you'd...