Some time ago I promised my children, ages 5 and 7, that my husband and I would try our best to keep Friday nights free of adult plans so we could institute Friday Family Fun Night. It would be a guaranteed night of the week when we would put down the laptops, blackberries and remote control and just do something silly or fun or creative as a FAMILY. It's crazy that we even had to pick a family night, but during the week between their school work, my husband and I working full time, and extracurricular activities that creep their way into our lives, I had to make this promise to them and to myself.
What do we do on Friday Family Fun Night? It totally varies on the weather and the mood. But here's an idea of what we've done this winter and maybe you can incorporate them into your family fun night, or use them to kick off your own weekly routine.
Popcorn and a Movie
With DVD's falling out from bookcases and TV stands, we often pick a favorite movie and cuddle up on the couch with a fire, movie candy (M&Ms and Starbursts are big hits) and fresh popped popcorn. And while I appreciate the convenience and low calories of a microwaved bag of corn, we have found our way back to a real oil popcorn popper when making our favorite snack. The West Bend Stir Crazy was a gift for the kid's birthday and they love watching the kernels inside the bubble pop right in front of their eyes. And yes, I do occasionally doze off during the 5th showing of Hotel for Dogs, but not every time, I swear!
Trouble is the hit of the house these days. And don't mistake that for my son, I mean the game Trouble. Leave it up to the pop of the bubble to decide your fate. Obviously there are many options out there thanks to Hasbro resurrecting the game night passion. We even have a rule for Don't Break the Ice that the person who breaks the ice has to run a lap around the house. Don't ask - I don't know how it started but the kids think it's a riot and why not combine exercise into the games, right?
Ah. The Wii. The I-was-so-on-the-fence-about-getting-it system. I'm glad we did. My daughter is a bowling ace and has quite a serve in tennis. My son rolls around on the ground no matter what he's playing and I make a FOOL out of myself with Just Dance. If you are thinking of a game system, but don't want to provide your children with just a thumb work out, I'd recommend the Wii. The graphics won't win awards, but the purpose is to get you up and laughing – and it delivers on that.
Arts & Crafts Time
Glue. Paper. Markers. Something foamy. Popsicle sticks. Scraps of ribbon. Styrofoam balls. Rubber stamps. Paints. Yarn. Beads. Paper bags. Rubber bands. Enough said? Combine any and all of those items and my kids could create masterpieces for hours! We can't always identify what they are, but they smile proudly when they are done and that's good enough for us.
Breakfast for dinner is a huge hit in our house, probably because my daughter only eats eggs and cheese or pancakes, but nonetheless, the idea of a flapjack shaped like Mickey Mouse at our local diner gives them a thrill. We all sit around the restaurant table and get sticky while we enjoy corn beef hash (Okay, I enjoy corn beef hash) with eggs and pancakes. And someone else takes care of picking up the maple syrup mess. Love that!
It really doesn't matter what we're making in the kitchen, as long as they can lick the batter and help mix the ingredients they're good. So far this winter we've make cupcakes, cookies, banana bread (yeah, don't eat that batter), muffins, juice pops, chocolate nut fudge and rice krispie treats. I'm not a big sweets person so this activity is okay for me. However, if we were whipping up chips and dip every Friday, I'd be in big trouble!
Hide and Seek or Make Believe
Come out, come out wherever you are! Running through the house and hiding behind curtains or in closets not only helps them burn off all that pent up energy from the cold days, but makes us laugh because my daughter cannot hide to save her life. Giggles is her nickname. Follow the laughter and you'll find her in .045 seconds.
Or how about playing "school" to pass the time? Apparently they only have reading, snack and nap at school (at least in my kid's versions). On occasion my son will coerce my husband into "karate studio" or "police" when he's feeling especially aggressive. I don't mind, as long as he keeps it in the house; I don't need him drop kicking or shooting at his friends at school. My daughter would spend the night playing "vet" if we let her. No stuff animal is safe from a shot or two when she's on duty.
As you can see, at the end of a long week, during the cold months, these are very simple things that don't cost a lot (except for purchasing a Wii), and when I tell you that my kids have told everyone from their teachers to their friends about Friday Family Fun Nights, well that makes this ritual even more rewarding. How do you spend time with just the family? Are you in the same boat as us in having to reserve at least one night? I'd love to hear more suggestions to get us through March when we may be able to incorporate outside activities once again. I don't venture out when the wind chill hangs below 10. Sorry.