It’s a rainy fall afternoon. The children have a day off, and they’ve been busy creating, playing and arguing all morning. It’s the perfect day to put on a movie, get some popcorn (and warm coffee for the adults) and snuggle in bed.
“I want to watch this!” says my daughter, pointing to one of the titles displayed on the screen.
“No. I want to watch that!” argues my son, pointing to another one.
“Well, I don’t want to watch that, it’s for babies!” my daughter retorts.
This is supposed to be a fun family activity. What is happening right now?! Time to practice the art of compromise. After some additional choices are given, we finally pick out a third choice we can all agree to watch.
And we also give a quick reminder about using kind words with one another.
We get into our comfiest clothes and get close under warm blankets. We crunch our popcorn and settle in the dark room as the movie begins.
Family time can be fun, but it’s never going to be perfect. Trust me, I know. Don’t kid yourself into believing it will always go smoothly. But you know what those bumps mean? Teachable moments.
Family time can lead to great teachable moments, where you can brush up on social skills.Here are some great ideas to spark imperfect fun together while also practicing social skills.
Love this! We traditionally have a family movie night once a week, usually Saturdays. There always seems to be a conflict around what movie we’re going to watch. It’s the perfect time to work on compromise, and understand that you will not always get your way.
Movies are also a good way to spark conversations about tough topics. You can use a movie like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and talk about bullying, teasing and friendship. Just ask a couple of questions about what the characters are experiencing and see what your children say.
Children need to practice winning and losing graciously. They also need to practice how to decide who goes first and who gets to play with which piece. If they practice playing games with you, then they’ll be better able to play with their peers when they’re having a playdate or at school.
Games can also be a way to get to know each other better. We recently played Conversation Starters Tumbling Blocks Game and I learned something new about my husband. We’ve known each other for 20 years, so that’s hard to do.
Taking a Walk
You have to think about about each other and pace your walking to each other. Plus you learn what is socially expected on a walk. When we walk at our local suburban park, people nod and say hello. When the kids were little, sometimes we’d even get into a short conversation. But if you’re walking in the city (like we often did in Toronto), it’s unexpected that you’d greet everyone as you were walking down the sidewalk.
There’s more to riding a bike than just learning how to balance and keep pedaling. When you are riding with other people, you also have to learn the right distance to leave between one another to prevent scrapes and falls. We learned this one the hard way this past summer, and my daughter has a nice scar to show for it.
We just did this for my son’s birthday. What a blast! We were encouraging each other and we pushed ourselves past our comfort zones, but still respected everyone’s own individual comfort level. As soon as I got on the wall, I remembered immediately that I wasn’t a fan (as in I was TERRIFIED). My son and my husband went right up. My daughter was nervous but kept going and conquered her fears.
Visit a Museum
Our kids love all types of museums, big and small. When you visit a museum with interactive exhibits, you have to practice waiting your turn, sharing and watching your space bubble. Plus it’s just awesome to experience something new together as a family.
I’ve done baking before with my kids, and a bit of cooking. We like making granola bars, muffins, apple crisp, etc. It’s a helpful life skill to practice cooking. You can help them learn to make simple dishes and eventually have them contribute to making meals in the home. They’ll feel great that they participated and have a better understanding of what it takes to get a full meal on the table for dinner.
Grow a Garden together
When you grow a garden together, you can work on making decisions by figuring out what to grow. If they are old enough, they can practice being responsible for their own plot of land, making sure it’s watered and weeded. They can also learn that things don’t always turn out the way you expect. (like our unexpected garden visitor, Gerald the Bunny, who really loved lettuce and beans)
Farm to Table
If you live in an area with a pick your own farm, get out there together as a family and try it. It’s fun to see how plants grow and make the fruits and vegetables that we eat. In the spring, we went strawberry picking and it was awesome. The berries were delicious!
When we got home, we worked together to make homemade ice cream and whipped cream. It turned into a fun family time. It was especially sweet because my husband had been away for two weeks and this was what we did as soon as he got home. It was a rough two weeks without him, and this was a great way for the four of us to reconnect.
Read a Book then Watch the Movie
One of my husband’s favorite rituals is to read books to our children. His mother did this for him when he was little, using incredible voices and bringing the characters to life. He’s continuing this family tradition by reading chapter books to our daughter. His voices are amazing. He’s started reading books that we both enjoy, and it’s neat to share our interests and preferences with our children.
Watching the movie once it’s all done is a cool activity to do once you’ve finished a book. But let’s be honest, some of the movies lack interest for my son. He’d prefer to watch something else other than Harry Potter, but that’s expected because he’s only 5. So we divide and conquer. I usually go to another spot with him, and watch his choice. Family time doesn’t necessarily mean all four of us together in the same room. Each child could also use individual time with a parent.
Like it or not, video games are part of the culture now. Be involved with what your children are doing and learn the language of the world of video game. Play with them, even if it’s just a little bit. Put them in the role of teaching you something; they will LOVE that. And you’ll have a better understanding of what they are playing and can make more informed decisions about what to let them play.
Later that night, when it’s time to get ready for bed:
“I want to brush my teeth first!” says my daughter.
“No, I want to brush my teeth first!” replies my son.
Ah, the art of compromise...