Family Fun Tips

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What can my kids do on hot summer days?

Water Fun

On those hot summer days, nothing is more refreshing than playing in the water. Here is a fun activity your kids can do when a swimming pool is not available. Give the kids an inexpensive paintbrush and a bucket of water. Let them "paint" the driveway, patio, sidewalk, etc. The sun will quickly evaporate it but they will have fun playing in the water plus you get your concrete surfaces washed off! This is a good activity to follow after they have enjoyed a day of sidewalk chalking. Expect some "water fights" so dress the kids accordingly.

   
Any inexpensive ideas for a day of fun?

Short Day Trips

Plan a short day trip for you and your children. If you are within a couple hours driving distance of a metropolitan area, you have a wide variety of things from which to choose. You can plan a day at the park or zoo, visit museums or historic sites, attend festivals, parades, and other city events, visit science centers or other city attractions. Day trips are generally less expensive than overnight trips and involve less planning. And if you have room, invite another single parent family to join you and split the cost of the gas.

   
Should I teach my children cooking skills? Boys too?

Teach Your Kids to Cook

Get your kids involved with food preparation early, adding additional responsibilities as they mature. By the time they are teenagers they should be able to prepare an entire meal by themselves. These skills will be much appreciated by their future spouses and college roommates! This applies to boys as well as girls. In this day and age with many women in the workforce, the cooking duties are equally shared by husbands and wives. Teach them early how to do their part.

   
What are some good ideas for family hour?

Family Hour

Set aside a quiet hour for the whole family every week. Turn off the TV, and maybe have fun together with a board game. Kids get to take turns, socialize, verbalize and sometimes use their math skills. Or, you may wish to start a new family tradition and have a family reading hour when you read to yourselves or each other.

   
How can I make our evening meal special?

Plan a Special Dinner

Once or twice a month have a special "dinner party" for you and your children. Go all out and treat your family like royalty. Get out the "good" dishes, use a tablecloth and cloth napkins, napkin rings, and light some candles. If the kids want to know who is coming to dinner, tell them they are the special guests. This is a good time to teach your children to practice good table manners and how to conduct themselves in a formal setting. Be sure to play some soft, soothing music in the background, rather than having the television blaring.

   
What is a good way to escape from the stresses of life?

Escape for the Day

When you started getting stressed out, plan an Escape Day to get away from it all. There are no rules on Escape Day, except everyone must have fun. Eat when you want, take off your shoes and go wading in the creek, climb the lookout tower, swing on the swings, etc. In short, have fun with your kids and be a kid again yourself. Sometime we forget how good it feels just to swing. After a day out in the fresh air enjoying nature, you'll be better able to cope with life's pressures. And your kids will appreciate having that special time with their parent.

   
What is a great family outdoor activity?

The Great Outdoors

While it is tempting to want to stay inside in the air-conditioning during the hot summer months, you will miss a lot of fun to be had in the great outdoors. Load up the kids and head for a shady park. Enjoy the amenities afforded by many national forests where you will find creeks, hiking trails, lakes, rock formations, and even lodging facilities. And of course, the scenery is usually incredible. Check it out.

   
What is a good way to escape from the stresses of life?

Escape From Stress

When life gets too stressful, plan an Escape Day. Pack up the kids and a picnic lunch and head for a park, preferably a national park within 1-2 hours driving distance. Go exploring and check out sites you have never visited before. As many parks have nature or hiking trails, make sure everyone has on their walking shoes, and hike the trails. Enjoy being alive and the outdoors. It will give you some quality time with your kids, as well as help clear your head.

   
How can I encourage my kids to be kind?

Kindness Tree

Source: Family Wonder, creator Miriam Berman. Here's a good activity to teach your child the importance of being kind to others and to look for ways to help others. Make a kindness tree. Cut a large triangle from a piece of green posterboard to form a tree, making the tree the height of the board. Use a smaller piece that you cut way and make a trunk for the tree, gluing some brown construction paper to the trunk if desired. Hang tree somewhere visible such as on the door of your child's room, hallway, etc. Trace your child's hand on a piece of cardboard, cut out handprint, and use as a pattern to cut hands out of various shades of green construction paper to decorate the tree. Each time your child does an unsolicited kindness for someone, that deed should be recorded on the palm of the hand with the fingers pointing downward (to resemble branches on the tree). This encourages children to be kind to other people and presents a visible reminder of all the good things your child does. You will not only boost his self-esteem, you will be teaching the virtue of kindness which is getting lost in society today. Provide a suitable reward for the successful completion of the tree.

   
Any inexpensive ideas for a day of fun?

Lunch Notes

When packing your child's lunch for the day, include a cute joke, or note to your child letting them know just how special they are. To make it even more fun, let it be the first clue for a treasure hunt when they get home to find their after-school snack.

   
Any ideas for outdoor projects?

Make a Bird Feeder

If you have a large pinecone available, tie a string around it for hanging. Cover pinecone with peanut butter and then roll in birdseed. Hang pinecone outside on the porch, from a tree or wherever it will be visible for the kids to watch the action. If you want, you can mount the pinecone with some sticky putty to a porch or deck rail or banister. If you don't have a large pinecone available, you can do the same thing with a toilet paper roll. Punch two holes in one end of roll and insert string for hanging. Spread peanut butter over roll and then roll in bird seed. Glue roll to a paper plate or mount with sticky putty to Styrofoam or plastic-coated plate. Hang or place outside and have fun watching the birds enjoy their treat. This will help teach children an appreciation and respect for wildlife.

   
Any ideas for creative projects that will become keepsakes?

Press Agent

Let your kids pretend to be photojournalists for the day. Provide each with a disposable camera and have them pick a “news assignment” to document. After the film is developed, have them write stories to accompany the photos. Would make a great addition to your scrapbook or memorabilia file on your children.

   
What´s something fun we can do close to home?

Tourist Anyone?

What do many people do when they go on vacation? They check out and visit the attractions. So often we live in an area intending to check out some local sites and never get around to it, yet we will drive hundreds of miles to see somebody else's attraction. Write or drop by the Chamber of Commerce offices in areas nearby and pick up a brochure of attractions. You might be surprised at the sites listed you have never visited and some you didn't know existed. Take a mini vacation close to home. You'll not only support your local communities, you'll save money!

   
What can we do to alleviate boredom that is inexpensive?

Who Wants to be a Model?

Looking for something different to do? Have the kids put on some nice picture-taking clothes and hit the local sites. Pretend like you are tourists from out of town checking out the local attractions. Take pictures of the kids in all sorts of interesting poses, such as those seen in magazines. They will have fun being models and you will have some priceless moments captured on film. You don't have to take a trip to some exotic place to take pictures. Look around in your own backyard for some good background shots. Grab your camera and go! Years later you will be glad you did.

   
Any new ideas for kids who like to play in the water?

Mini Car Wash

Here's a fun activity for those hot days when the kids want to play outside in the water-host a car wash. If the kids are too little to wash your car, let them have a mini car wash and wash their own cars. Give them a bucket or plastic dishpan of soapy water and let them wash their riding toys, or other toys they may have that are washable (balls, plastic squeeze toys, play cars and trucks, etc.). They will have fun doing it and it will save you the job of cleaning them yourself. Make sure they wear some clothes you don't mind them getting wet in. Who said cleaning can't be fun?

   
Need your car washed and cleaned but don´t have time?

Family Car Wash

Get your kids to help you clean the car. Make sure everyone has on some old clothes that you don't mind getting wet as they are sure to have some water fights. Let them have fun while they are washing the car since children love to play in water and it won't seem so much like work. The end result is that you will get your car cleaned. Let one child be responsible for cleaning out trash, dusting, and cleaning the inside of the car, while the others work on cleaning the outside. After the water fights are over and washing is done, they can clean the windows, inside and out. Provide a monetary reward for their efforts in helping you or treat them to an ice cream at Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins. They will want to wash your car every week!

   
What is a family game night?

Family Game Night

Hasbro Toy Company has built a marketing campaign on promoting family game nights. They suggest you turn off the phone and TV, bring out a board game, and enjoy an evening of fun, learning and laughter that brings kids and parents closer together. Why not designate a set night each week for this fun event that will help keep the family connected? You will soon find everyone will look forward to it.

   
Any ideas for creative projects that will become keepsakes?

Scrapbook Fun

Let your child create a scrapbook detailing each year of his/her life. Provide your child with copies of family photos showing your child at various ages of life. Let them create a page or more for each year beginning with snapshots of their arrival on this earth, the trip home from the hospital, first bath, first Christmas, or whatever photos you have. They can make a collage, cut photos into artistic shapes, add newspaper headlines, etc. that they want to capture each year of their life. Add favorite mementos such as movie and concert tickets, amusement park admissions, even special printed beverage napkins that escaped being used. This is a good activity to do each year around their birthday. Many craft stores have scrapbook supplies available with precut designs, page backgrounds, etc. that can be used in designing pages. This is a good rainy day activity.

   
Is it okay to play games with my child?

Play with Your Child

Join your kids in having some fun! Playing checkers, Monopoly, Scattergories, or simply coloring with your child provides a great opportunity to spend quality time together and is a great time to talk about what is going on in their life.

   
How can I keep our special evening meal interesting and different?

Planning Your Monthly Special Dinner

You may want to select a different theme each month and expose your children to different cultures and ethnic foods. One month you may serve Mexican cuisine and at other times Italian, French, Chinese, Asian, Mediterranean, Tropical Island, etc. Decorate your table and dress accordingly. The kids will have fun dressing for the occasion and will enjoy helping you prepare the different dishes. This is a great time to try out new recipes and if your children help in the preparation, they will be more likely to eat it!

   
What can we do to alleviate boredom that is inexpensive?

Treasure Bottle

Wash and dry a clear plastic soda bottle, removing label. Gather several small objects such as small plastic beads, buttons, miniature toy soldiers, rings, doll shoes, legos, etc. and place inside bottle. Add uncooked rice to fill two thirds of the bottle. Tightly screw on cap so young children cannot open it. Shake well to conceal objects. See how many treasures your child can find.

   
Are there any cruises or trips especially for single parents?

Single Parent Cruises or Trips

In response to a reader's question, I am not aware of any cruises only for single parents, although I am sure singles can be found on just about any cruise. If you are interested in taking a cruise or trip such as this, your best bet would be to join up with an active singles group that sponsors trips and activities. Check out local chapters of Parents Without Partners or perhaps a SOLO group to see if they sponsor trips. Or get connected with other single parents and plan something yourself as a group. Since many single parents are on limited budgets, I am sure it is not financially feasible for a cruise line to devote an entire cruise to single parents. Disney has some cruises, which I would assume would cater to children that may be worth investigating. Or an Internet search for cruises and travel packages might reveal something of interest.

   
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Guru Spotlight
Ray Lokar