I have been doing this mom-thing now for a little bit and never cease to be amazed at the things my kids find joy in. I wish I could be half as amused at anything in life as my kids are with slime, bubbles, or glow sticks. It makes me wonder, am I wasting my time and money stressing about planning the perfect trip or buying the perfect gift? My kids are equally amused by a $200 iPhone activated droid as they are with the thing that just came out of the $20 Kiwi Crate! Two hours of free-play at the local park was more enjoyable than the last kid event we spent a bagillion dollars on tickets for while they whined the whole time.
Two of my favorite memories as a kid were 1.) having my mom throw us a dress-up tea party with all of our stuffed animals, and 2.) going up north to the beach with all of our family friends and their kids for a day of barbecuing and swimming. I can assure you that these weren’t the things she thought I would remember most fondly, with the vacations, ski trips, and other overly-planned and expensive activities, but they were the ones where there was no fuss or stress.
If you are like me and looking to find ways to spend more quality time with your kids, here are some free and/or inexpensive activities that my kids LOVE! Admittedly, some of them involve a little planning and creativity, but I assure you that it will be worth it:
1.) Movie nights- My kids love coming home from school, immediately taking a bath, putting on pajamas, and having dinner on the floor in front of the fireplace while taking in a new movie. Throw in some popcorn and dim the lights for the full experience.
2.) Playing outside in the rain/snow- My boys love an excuse to strip off their clothes and get dirty. Every time it rains, they beg to go out and splash in it (regardless of temperature). The same goes for a good snow fall, and bonus points if you can help them build a snowman!
3.) Family game nights- My kids think board games are the best! Games like Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, and Bingo bring at least an hour’s worth of fun and longer if there are prizes involved.
4.) Making slime- OK, this one takes a bit of patience because slime can be pretty messy, but my kids can’t get enough of it. Here is a link to a full-proof recipe for great slime: http://www.elmers.com/projects/project/elmer-s-recipe-for-glow-in-the-dark-slime.
5.) Christmas lights drive- We are fortunate enough to live in close proximity to downtown Rochester where they have a fantastic Christmas light display, but any neighborhood will do. Let the kids get in their pajamas, give them hot cocoa in their thermoses, and go for a drive together to take in the lights.
6.) Fort building- This one could be Pandora’s Box of perpetual forts, but pitching in to help your kids build a huge fort with all the blankets, chairs, and cushions can kill a large portion of your day. After the fort is done, climb inside and watch a video on your tablet or take a flash light in and tell stories.
7.) Cutout cookie baking- My kids love being in the kitchen. They will volunteer to help with any baking, but doing cut-out cookies and decorating them is something that they would do every day if given the chance.
8.) Family walks- We have taken evening walks with our kids somewhat regularly since they were little. With them being very high-energy, it is a good way to get rid of some of it before bed. Now that they are getting older, they really enjoy the family time where our attention is 100% devoted to them. Recently we collected leaves and had them laminated as a keepsake. Huge hit!
9.) Pretend Thanksgiving- This one is a bit strange, particularly because I am not a fan of the food, but my kids associate it with family and togetherness, so occasionally we will do a pretend Thanksgiving with a rotisserie chicken, stove top stuffing, mashed potatoes, and mini pies from the grocery store. I will set the table with my special plates, and we will pretend it’s a holiday meal.
The list of ideas is by no means all-inclusive, and the common theme is that our kids just love spending time as a family with their parents’ undivided attention. In this crazy fast-paced world we live in, it is increasingly difficult to slow down and focus on the things that are really important. These activities are a great way to do that while building memories that they will cherish.