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6 Ways For Parents to Add More Family Fun Before Bedtime

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6 Ways For Parents to Add More Family Fun Before Bedtime

Bedtime can be a sweet time, but it can also be a hair-raising nightmare. Sometimes, the same old routine just doesn’t cut it for your little tiger who’s still bouncing off the walls 30 minutes after “lights out.” It is in those moments that you must get creative or risk getting committed to a psych ward.

So, here are six ways to break up the monotony of putting kids to bed while adding a bunch of fun. Same old, same old gets…well…old. If you’re stuck in the same routine each night and want to change things up, try one of these methods:

1. Jump out the wiggles.

Kids have energy. Lots of energy. Some kids simply walk past a piece of candy and start wiggling. They have a lot of energy because they’re so full of life. With that comes the test of a parent’s daily endurance. Oftentimes, parents feel more ready for bed than they are. OK, every time. Adding a set time to be intentionally active (WITH mom/dad) right before bed will help kids wind down in a fun and different way.

ACTION STEP: When bedtime approaches and the little ones are still racing from one end of the house to the other, try throwing every soft item in your living room, i.e. cushions, pillows, and blankets, into the middle of the floor. Honestly, the kids take it from there. It’s like lining the flooring underneath with magnets; kids simply have to pounce. You can also play music and join in the fun.

2.  Build a “Story Time Tent.”

Many families curl up on the couch to read bedtime stories, but sometimes children get wiggly or bored – or both.

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ACTION STEP: Try constructing a tent with several chairs and a bed sheet. Line the floor of the tent with a blanket and some pillows. Turn out the lights, snuggle in, and read by flashlight. Kids love crawling into places that offer a new experience or some discovery. Imagination plays a big part in the fun. Kids just so happen to be experts in that department.

When we provide creative avenues in which our children can use their imagination, studies show that we’re actually helping them get a grip on reality. According to a study released on the Wall Street Journal, imagination is an integral tool for children as they learn about events that happened in other places in the world or in the past – events they couldn’t see. It also helps them wrestle with the proverbial question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

No flashlight in the house? Grab a flashlight app for your phone if the real thing isn’t handy.

3. Listen to audio books.

This option may not be as exhilarating as throwing a light switch rave or turning the house into a giant maze, but when you want the children to wind down, this can change things up. It also has a more important benefit. According to Tricia at The Domestic Fringe, routinely teaching your children to sit still and listen to audible books or songs helps them develop the patience to sit still in other settings like church, the doctor’s office, etc.

ACTION STEP: Designate a special reading area or reading chair for your child. Tricia recommends one hour each day if your goal is to train your child to sit still. Less time may be sufficient if you simply wish to add variety to storytime.

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4. Get in on their game.

Do you remember that ridiculous video of a yoga class being led by a toddler? It looked like a fun workout as each adult tried to mimic the wild and sporadic movements of their tiny instructor. You can bet the child was having the time of his life. Imagine your own child leading in one of his or her games tonight. The Childhood Development Institute reports that playing with our kids tells them that we love them, and “it’s also a great stress reducer for overworked parents.”

ACTION STEP: Try putting down what you’re doing tonight, even if you’re tired, and playing what your children are playing. Get floor-level. You’ll be amazed what you’ll discover when they take the lead.

So often parents feel the need to monitor play time like we’re security guards on patrol. Give yourself permission to build a tower out of blocks or paint nails or jump into a pile of pillows tonight.

5. Let them scribble.

“Don’t write on that!” is a common expression in most households. You probably have planners and notebooks and perhaps a journal resting in various parts of your house. It’s alright for kids to learn that those items are off limits, but what if you permitted them to write or draw something special for you – under your guidance? According to the American Psychological Association, one very important responsibility for parents is to nurture children as they develop their own interests. Another way to say it is this:

“Parents and caregivers offer their children love, acceptance, appreciation, encouragement, and guidance. They provide the most intimate context for the nurturing and protection of children as they develop their personalities and identities and also as they mature physically, cognitively, emotionally, and socially.” – APA

ACTION STEP: Your challenge is to sit down with your children before bed and let them write a special note in your notebook or journal. Give them the freedom to express themselves in a way they normally don’t get to.

For example:

Your children can dictate a story, draw a picture, sign their name, tell you about their day, or just scribble. If they’re too young to draw, trace their handprint and label it with your child’s name, age and the date.

Someday, you will flip through that journal, see their scrawlings, and it will be a cherished memory. Or you’ll burst out laughing. These are both excellent reasons to try this.

Don’t have a journal?  Grab a spiral bound notebook and start one.

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6. Skype with friends and family.

Many families have at least one parent who works evenings. It can be hard to miss so many good night hugs and kisses from one’s children. Research also says the irregular night shifts so many parents face has the potential to impact a child’s development. To help combat that, start a new routine at bedtime.

ACTION STEP: Depending on your significant other’s occupation, schedule Skype or FaceTime dates to let the children speak with their working dad or mom before bed. This also works great for out of town grandparents or cousins (who are also getting ready for bed. See the added benefit?).

Routine and structure are great things, but sometimes life calls for a change up. For the sake of your sanity and that of your amazing kids, try something new tonight.

What are some ways you’ve spiced up an old routine to make it fun for everyone?

Featured photo credit: 137 – Look Up! / David D. via flickr.com

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

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Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important (And How To Do So)

In today’s chaotic world, having family time isn’t always easy. It can get pretty hard to coordinate schedules, especially if the family is large. Life demands that we work, attend school, nurture friendships, hobbies, etc. All of those things are extremely time-consuming and important—but so is spending time with your family.

Why is family time so important? Because we all need love and support, and a good, strong family can provide that regularly. For children, spending time with their family helps shape them into good, responsible adults, improve their mental health, and develop strong core values.

There are many positive effects of spending time with your family. My family and I, for instance (and this includes grandchildren as well), meet every Tuesday night for dinner and games. My older son and I take turns cooking. This gives all of us a chance to try some new recipes. After dinner, we play games. And without fail, they inspire competitiveness and laughter. As family night has evolved, the grandkids have invited their friends over as well, creating the need for more chairs but also expanding our circle of fun.

Aside from the obvious fun and games, there are other reasons why spending time with your family is paramount. In this article, I will provide you with multiple reasons why spending time with your family regularly is a win-win. And then, I will lay out some ways on how to do it.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Why Spending Time With Your Family Is Important

Here are six reasons why it’s important to spend time with your family.

1. Provides the Opportunity to Bond

When you spend time together as a family—talking about your day, your highs, your lows—it fosters communication. As parents, it gives you the chance to listen to your children, to hear them out, to learn about what’s going on in their world. It also provides you with the opportunity to use life situations as teaching moments.

Before our Tuesday night dinner/game nights, my family used to see each other pretty regularly but not consistently, especially the grandkids. Our family night changed all that. Now, it’s guaranteed that the grandchildren, along with some of their friends, will be there. Not only do I get to find out what’s been happening in their lives, but they also get to know us better. It’s creating memories they can treasure forever, as well as modeling the Get-Together tradition for when they eventually have families of their own.

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“Spending time partaking in everyday family leisure activities has been associated with greater emotional bonding within families.”[1]

2. Teaches the Value of Family

Taking the time to be with your family lets your children know they are valued—that spending time together is a priority. I know that in today’s world, both parents are busy as both usually working. What better way to let your children know they are loved than by carving out time each week to spend with them?

According to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., “words like honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage are core to centuries of religious, philosophical, and family beliefs. Use them and others to express and reinforce your family values. Teach children the behaviors that flow from these principles. Use quotes to ignite meaningful dinner conversations and encourage kids to talk about these values.”[2]

3. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Spending that quality time together gives your children a safe platform in which to express themselves, ask questions about things that are bothering them, or talk about their day and things they’ve learned. I know that my 9-year old granddaughter can’t wait until it’s her turn to talk about her day. She usually goes on and on and has to be stopped to give everyone else a chance to talk about their goings-on.

“Research shows the quality of family relationships is more important than their size or composition. Whoever the family is made up of, they can build strong, positive relationships that promote wellbeing and support children and young people’s mental health.”[3]

For children, having the opportunity to seek advice from parents they trust—as well as being able to have a sounding board and help with problem-solving—is priceless. In addition, being able to voice their opinions and be heard—and to feel like what they have to say matters—is an esteem-builder. All of these can have a very impactful positive effect on their well-being.

4. Helps the Child Feel Loved

How do you think a child feels knowing their parents want to spend time with them—talking, sharing experiences, playing games, listening to them? It will make them feel as though they are important, and a child that feels important is happier and more apt to thrive. Setting aside chores or work to spend time with your children demonstrates that they’re essential—that they matter. What a gift to give your child!

“If a child has your undivided attention, it signals that they are loved and important to you. This can be further nurtured by experiencing joyful activities together, as it demonstrates that you want to spend time with your children over and above all of the daily demands.”[4]

5. Creates a Safe Environment

If you regularly spend time with your children, you are also creating an atmosphere of trust. The more trust they have, the more likely they are to share with you what’s going on in their world. As they get older, you’re going to want to know. Negative influences can show up at any time, but if you’ve always been there for your child, they are more apt to come to you and ask for your advice.

Spending time together generates familiarity and feelings of being supported. When a child feels safe and comfortable, they’re more likely to open up. This is one way to get to know your child and know what’s on their minds. Are they okay? Do they need your guidance? If so, how?

6. Reduces Stress

This is significant. We all suffer from stress at one point or another in our lives. Spending time with family helps alleviate that stress. It’s an opportunity to talk things out, get feedback, and maybe brainstorm for a solution to the problem that is causing the stress.

According to Brandy Drzymkowski, “During the holidays, your closest five people probably shifts to family and friends. You may even get to see loved ones who live far away. Good news! This can actually help lower your stress levels. Studies show ‘face-to-face interaction…counteracts the body’s defensive ‘fight-or-flight’ response.’ In other words, quality time spent with loved ones is nature’s stress reliever.”[5]

So, now that you know some of the benefits, what are some ideas for making family time happen?

How to Make Family Time Happen

Here are four things you can do to make family time happen and spend more time with them.

1. Family Dinners

This, as I said above, is a wonderful way to spend time together. While you’re having dinner, you have the chance to discuss things that are going on in your lives—the ups, the downs, and everywhere in between. It’s like having a buffer against life’s challenges.

Aside from that, eating dinner together has many additional benefits. Studies have shown that for kids who eat regularly with their families, there is less risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression.[6]

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“Our belief in the ‘magic’ of family dinners is grounded in research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals.” It further states, “We recommend combining food, fun and conversation at mealtimes because those three ingredients are the recipe for a warm, positive family dinner—the type of environment that makes these scientifically proven benefits possible.”[7]

According to Parenting NI, “children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to get involved in risky behavior. According to studies done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse via Arizona State University, teens who have infrequent family dinners are twice as likely to use tobacco, nearly twice as likely to use alcohol and one and a half times more likely to use marijuana.”[8]

As you can see, there are multiple benefits to spending time with each other routinely. You can’t go wrong with this family activity.

2.  Regular Movie Nights

This is another fun event, although, from personal experience, I have to caution that choosing a movie that everyone wants to see is not easy. So, give yourselves plenty of time so you don’t spend two hours searching for a movie, and then end up watching no movie at all because the night is practically over. Try and choose a movie before the day, if possible.

Afterward, open it up for discussion. Ask questions pertinent to the movie. What do you think of ABC? Should they have done that? Would you have done something differently? There are so many questions you can ask to spark a conversation and keep the night going.

3. Game Night

This is another occasion for great fun. If you have a competitive spirit, it makes it even more fun. There are numerous games out there—Balderdash, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Charades, to name a few—that can create fun havoc. All I can say is, on game nights, don’t take yourself too seriously. It’s okay if you lose the game. The fun is in being together, laughing, debating, and having a good time.

In addition, “Playing board games is great for children for many reasons besides the obvious; it’s fun to play games! Age appropriate games can help children to think strategically, solve problems creatively, work on pattern recognition and build simple math skills. They also help children develop social skills such as following rules, taking turns, and graceful winning or losing. Additionally, a family game night provides an opportunity for children to bond with siblings, parents and family members as well as peers. It can promote tradition building and establish a fun routine.”[9]

So, go find your family a game and start having fun!

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4. Sharing a Hobby

If you and one of your kids like to do the same things, do it more often. For example, my oldest son and his teenage son go on long bike rides together on the weekends. Not only do they get to exercise, but they also get to talk and look at beautiful sceneries. They’ve also incorporated cooking into their routine. They plan the meal, shop, and prepare—activities that bring them closer together.

Sharing a hobby is a great way to bring family members together. It bonds people in amazing ways. According to Alison Ratner Mayer, LICSW, “One of the easiest and most important ways to build a child’s self-esteem is to spend time with them doing something not only that they enjoy but something that you also enjoy. There is a special magic that happens between a parent and a child when they share a mutually beloved activity. It sends the message to the child that their parents are having fun, true, honest, real fun, with them.”[10]

Final Thoughts

Spending time with the family is an investment. It is an investment in the happiness, well-being, and security of that system. It can also serve as a way to break out of the daily rut and the constant worldly demands, while at the same time, building a strong family unit.

Even though it isn’t always easy to find the time, finding the time is key to staying close and to providing and receiving love and support. There is no greater gift than the gift of time. That’s what we all seem to be missing nowadays. So, in giving that gift consistently, everyone feels loved and appreciated.

The family that takes the time to interact regularly is typically happy. They know they are part of a tribe, and that’s essential in today’s chaotic world. To know that there are people whom you can count on—people who will have your back in times of need—is invaluable.

Now, go and plan something plan with your family, if you haven’t already.

Featured photo credit: Jimmy Dean via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Pittsburgh Parent: Spending Time Together—Benefits of Family Time
[2] Roots of Action: Integrity: How Families Teach and Live Their Values
[3] Beyond Blue: Healthy Families
[4] Esperance Anglican Community School: The importance of family time
[5] Brandy Drzymkowski: Spending Time With Loved Ones Reduces Stress
[6] Harvard Graduate School of Education: Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime
[7] The Family Dinner Project: BENEFITS OF FAMILY DINNERS
[8] Parenting NI: The Importance of Spending Time Together
[9] WNY Children: Family Game Night- The Benefits of Game Play
[10] Child Therapy Boston: The Benefits of Sharing a Hobby With Your Child

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