You’ve cleared the dinner dishes and helped the kids with their homework, but there are still a few hours before it’s time for pajamas, brushed teeth and bedtime reading—what’s a parent to do? You don’t want to rile them up with high-energy games, nor do you want your kids to settle into the couch for an hour’s worth of television. Instead, the perfect activity for this “twilight family time” is interactive, designed to inspire creativity, and most of all, something the whole family can do together. Here are a few new ideas to help you make the most of this tricky block of time.
Iron Chef Dessert: Family Edition
Channel your inner Bobby Flay or Mario Batali and get cooking! Split the family into teams and choose a secret ingredient (to avoid a sibling conflict, flip a coin to see which kid gets to pick). Like the TV show, each team must create a dessert using the secret ingredient in only 20 minutes. The best part? Judging time, where everyone gets to eat the yummy concoctions. Earlier in the day, hit your neighborhood farmer’s market to select the secret ingredient—it’s a great opportunity to encourage fresh, healthy choices and for your kids to try new, locally-grown foods.
Not A Box (or Blanket or Wrapping Paper Roll)
As the bunny in Antoinette Portis’ book insists, a box is not a box. Grab an empty box—or wrapping paper roll, blanket or other everyday item—and let your family’s imagination take over. One family member “turns” the box/blanket/paper roll into something, while the rest of you have to guess what it is. A perfect indoor activity during the cold-weather months, this game will give everyone’s creative muscles a workout and is sure to inspire some big laughs, too.
The “What” Walk
Go on a family walk with a scavenger hunt twist. Keep a bowl by the door filled with slips of paper with colors, letters, numbers and shapes written on them (aka “The What”). After dinner, lace up your shoes, pick The What from the bowl, and you’re off! Search for The What all over—in store windows, in bus ads, on the people you pass. A great activity for younger kids, you can help your kids expend their last bits of energy and sneak in some basic learning skills, too.
What Day Is It?
Did you know every day of the year is some official day? Sure, we celebrate the big holidays, but there are plenty of lesser-known celebratory days that are great fodder for family activities. First, find out what day it is to inspire your activity. (For a list of days, try familycrafts.about.com and search for “special days.”) March 5 is Parachute Day, so make your own parachutes for a few toy dinosaurs with string and paper towels. October 25 is Pablo Picasso’s birthday, so find some of Picasso’s work on the computer, discuss which ones you like and get some art supplies for an inspired drawing session. Exploring new people, places and ideas is sure to spark a conversation you’ve never had before, plus all of that random knowledge could make your kid the next “Jeopardy” champion.
Want increased attention span, enhanced ability to focus and overall feelings of calm and happiness? (Who doesn’t?) Give meditation a go with relaxation techniques created specifically for families. Don’t think the kids will sit still? Check out the books “Moody Cow” and “Peaceful Piggy Meditation” by Kerry Lee MacLean (you can also view some exercises at kerryleemaclean.com). Then don some comfy clothes, plop down on the floor and try some of the exercises. Not only will they teach your kids some basic calming tools they can use anywhere, but you may find yourself “settling your thoughts” the next time you’re waiting (again) for the delayed express train.