Siblings as best friends

 

Sibling relationships and how to help brothers and sisters get along is something that we Mothers will be focussing on a lot as our children grow up together. The more children you have, the more opportunities there are for conflict to develop. In our family we talk about brothers and sisters being best friends and are constantly reminding the children that their friends will come and go but their siblings (their best friends) will be there for them always. When there is conflict, we ask the children if they would treat their friends outside the family in the same way they are treating their best friend (brother or sister.)  I have a couple of posts on this topic (see sibling relationships and spoilt walls) but today I wanted to give you some links and recommended resources for addressing conflict. The fact is, our children are sinners and will get into conflict; we as adults still find ourselves in conflict situations! The question is, how are they going to handle the conflict that IS going to arise?

Are they:

  • able to display enough self-control to talk calmly through the issue?
  • beginning to use negotiation and compromise in sorting out their problems?
  • learning what to do when disagreements arise in times of non-conflict; perhaps through role-playing various situations that they are likely to face?
  • re-playing a situation that has arisen from the beginning, practising saying and doing what they should have done in the first place? (This is essential for toddlers.)
  • playing with appropriate supervision? (Leaving a toddler and older sibling unsupervised for long periods is a recipe for disaster, unless the older child has the moral maturity to handle the toddler.)
  • being given direction as to what and where to play as part of a flexible routine, without too many choices?
  • speaking respectfully to their brothers and sister? Taking too many verbal freedoms?

Teri Maxell of Titus2.com has 2 sets of posts on the subject that are excellent. Here are the links to the first article in both series. Follow her links to find the other articles in each set.

Carla Link has also produced a brilliant resource with her Mom’s Notes. They are all well worth a listen, with the Dealing With Sibling Conflict part 1 and part 2 messages available as MP3 recordings that you can download immediately or purchase as a hard copy. While not free, the talks are reasonably priced and well worth the investment.

Teaching our children how to give and receive love while they fill each other’s love tanks is also important, as is a good understanding of the different personality types. Learning to give each other the 5 A’s will help us all nurture each other and above all else, a solid relationship with God will be the foundation on which all else rests.

 

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Empathy in action with a family “night” activity

IMG_9720Family nights (or mornings, afternoons or whenever!) with our children are important to us and we try to do something special at least once a week. It need not be fancy or expensive, as long as the family enjoys some time together as we seek to build a strong family identity and close relationships.

With colds passing through the family, we didn’t have the energy for a physical activity the week so we decided to do one of the ideas from those we have been discussing and using to build empathy, compassion and thoughtfulness during our Easter circle time.

Each child was given $2 to spend at a secondhand shop. The catch was that they were not allowed to spend it on themselves. Each person drew the name of another family member out of the hat and endeavoured to find something special for them within their budget. We all helped with spotting good ideas and all purchases had to be approved by Mum and Dad first. (No, our oldest son does not want a Barbie doll!)

While many broad hints are given as to what might be a great idea for themselves, we usually manage to keep most of the gifts a surprise and smuggle them home without the recipient seeing them or at least without them being sure of what they are getting. Each child wraps their gift and we all get together for the presentations.

We took the opportunity for a review of gift giving and receiving etiquette  and how to show thankfulness when receiving a gift, which is so important.

Today our gift exchange morning led to a spate of tidying out desks and wrapping up even more gifts for each other which was lovely to see as these ones really did come from the heart. Those children who’s love language is gift giving were particularly over the moon and were seen dancing about with huge smiles on their faces for the rest of the day.

Fruitimals – a stay at home family night activity for all ages

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Building strong family relationships is vital (read why here) and one of the vehicles we use to do this in our family is by having regular family nights. These “nights” are at any time of the day and simply involve spending time together as a family doing something that we enjoy; building memories and strengthening our ties with each other.

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One of the activities on our “family fun spot” last week was fruitimals. It is a new one to add to our mega list of 101 stay at home family night ideas and comes from our good friends the Clarks. (Thanks Mrs Clark!)

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It’s very simple and great for all ages. All you need is a selection of fruit and veg (plus cheese, nuts and seeds if you have them) and a couple of toothpicks and wooden skewers. Use them to create weird and wonderful animals, patterns and sculptures (fruit + animals = fruitimals) before gobbling them up for a super healthy lunch. Wholesome family fun with the added bonus of being good for them too. A great way to get fussy eaters to eat their veg!

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It can be a competition to see who can be the most creative, or have complicated design rules that must be followed (e.g.. must include at least 3 veg, 2 fruit and 3 different colours, be a pattern with at least 3 components, be a sculpture that will support the weight of another fruitimal ….. etc.)

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The little people can participate or not as they desire and the hungry ones eat as they go. Limiting toothpicks meant they had to eat one creation before they could make another.

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This is the second time we have done this and straight away the kids were asking if we can do it again. It could even work well for a kid’s birthday party activity with a few treat items thrown in to make it party food.

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Family night ideas – Family fun spot

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Depending on your personality, it can be easy to become too focussed on the mountain of tasks that surround us as Mothers (especially when you are homeschooling many children) to the detriment of our relationships with those children. With 6 children and a newborn in our house, life can get busy and with night feeds keeping me slightly sleep deprived it is easy to let all the fun leach out of life. Relationships take the back seat and jobs take priority.

In order to keep this somewhat in check we endeavour to keep our family “nights” going. Too often though we don’t get around to arranging anything and fall back on the old standby of movie nights. Despite having a very long list of ideas, I just wasn’t getting around to planning any of them. Introducing a family fun spot has addressed this issue for us. It gives us a place to write our family activities and keeps us accountable to actually getting around to doing some of them!

So how does it work?

The children write ideas of things they would like to do in a suggestions spot and Mummy and Daddy transfer appropriate ones onto the “coming soon” space on our whiteboard (adding our own as well) until we are ready to do them. We then transfer a couple at a time to the “fun spot” when we know they will be slotted in sometime in the very near future. We avoid giving a specific time as to when they will happen as a newborn can be unpredictable and we don’t want to make plans that keep needing to be changed and disappointing and frustrating the children. We simply wait for a good opportunity and announce the event as we are ready to go ahead. Once we have been there, done that, the idea is erased and a new one added in its place.

It gives the children something to look forward to with anticipation – a little sparkle in their day. It keeps them in front of me too so I can’t forget and am forced to plan the upcoming events – the children are very quick to point it out if there is nothing written in the family fun spot! The added bonus is that we do some of these type of things as part of our everyday life anyway and our children have it so good that they take them for granted, barely noticing the fun stuff that we do with and for them. Writing activities we were just going to do “because” on the family fun spot helps them to notice the good things we are already doing.

For more info on family nights (the why’s and a great list of ideas) see this post.

Relationships; joyful or difficult, they all need the 5 A’s

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Some time back I was privileged to hear Alma Wakefield of Elijah Ministries address the ladies at family camp. She reminded us of the importance of the “5 A’s” in our interactions with others.

  1. Affirmation (showing value in a person)
  2. Appreciation (thankfulness)
  3. Affection (Love languages)
  4. Acceptance (Things you can’t change)
  5. Authenticity (Our relationship with God is our priority)

As we come into the Christmas period, it is a good reminder for all of our relationships. Is there a difficult relationship that you dread renewing at this time of year? Difficult relationships need the 5 A’s.

Is there a particular child who is getting under your skin? Children need the 5 A’s.

Have you been making your marriage relationship a priority? Husbands need the 5 A’s.

All relationships need the 5 A’s. Give yourself a relationship check-up to see if you need to spend a little more time on the 5 A’s.

other posts you may find helpful:

Stay at home date-night ideas

101 Family night ideas

The 3 times rule for husbands

Sibling Relationships

We all want our children to get along and to enjoy being with each other. I would take that one step further and say that I’d like them to develop life-long friendships and to be each other’s best friends throughout the childhood years. So what is our role in this process? Throwing them together and hoping for the best is unlikely to yield the outcome we are looking for, so some proactive parenting is necessary. Here are some specific steps we can take as parents to help siblings develop close relationships.

Have a routine. Too much time together, particularly unstructured time, is a recipe for conflict. Nerves become frayed and patience short. Think about the time of day that siblings play together. If they are tired and hungry things are unlikely to go well. The length of time is important. Wind it up while everyone is still having fun. Finish on a positive note rather than waiting until play turns sour.

Refer to them as best friends. Tell children regularly that they are each other’s best friends. Talk about how other friends will come and go but brothers and sisters will always be there for each other. Ask them if they are treating their sibling as a best friend should.

Supervise sibling play times. If children are not getting along well then they should not be given the freedom of unsupervised play together. Mum or Dad need to be within earshot and ready to step in before a situation blows up into a conflict. If you can hear a problem brewing and fail to do something about it then you as a parent are partly responsible for it. There is a place when children are older to let conflict run it’s course and give them the opportunity to use the conflict resolution skills you are teaching them. If they are never tested or given the opportunity to do what is right, then they will not be able to grow in this area. Be wise with this though.

Good modelling. Older children should be regularly reminded of their responsibility to be a good role-model. Even young children are a role-model if there is a younger sibling behind them or to friends outside of the immediate family. Teach children about good leadership; learning when to follow a good leader and when to be a good leader.

Non-conflict training. The majority of your training should be in times of non-conflict, rather than in the heat of the moment. Take time to teach Godly character. Act out and work through common conflict scenarios. Role-play conflict resolution and negotiation skills. Teach specific phrases for dealing with conflicts the children are likely to face; turn- taking for example.

Personality Types. Spend time teaching your children about the different personality types. Help them to identify their character strengths and weaknesses and to work on improving those weaknesses. Help them to understand each other better and relate with other’s needs in mind.

Dominion. All children need to have personal dominion over something. Special toys that are theirs alone and that they are not required to share is an excellent way of allowing them to exercise this dominion. Toys that they are not prepared to share should as a general rule not be used during playtimes together. If a sibling wishes to use that particular toy they must ask first and respect the answer given.

Memorise scriptures that relate to the conflicts they often face, such as “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Ask children what God says about a particular behaviour? Make sure that children know the moral reason why. Read about sibling rivalry and its result in the bible. For example, Joseph and his brothers Gen 37 and Jacob & Esau Gen 25-27.

No means no. Teach children to respect another person’s “no” or “stop.” From a very young age we teach our children to stay “Stop please” when they do not like the play that is going on. They are expected to listen and stop the first time they hear those words. This includes parents and applies to wrestling, tickling, chasing and any other fun game. Children soon learn not to say “Stop please”unless they mean it as our play immediately halts. We avoid just “no” or “don’t” because children often shout those in fun when it is clear they do want the tickling to continue. “Stop please” is not something they would normally say unless they actually mean it.

Conflict resolution. Once a conflict between young children has occurred, walk through from the beginning and model the correct things to say. Ask older children what they should have said and then have them go ahead and say it. Require younger children to repeat the appropriate words after you. Give children specific strategies to address issues they face such as using a timer for turn-taking.

Pow-wow time. Older children can be asked to sit together to talk through the problem calmly and quietly until they reach a compromise that both parties are happy with. Some time apart to calm down may be necessary first. There is to be no yelling, raised voices or unkind words. This works best when a parent steps in before a conflict has had a chance to escalate into something serious. The solution decided on should be bought before the parent to ensure it is fair and equitable, otherwise one child may always assume the “peacemaker” role by simply giving in to their more forceful sibling in order to get the problem sorted out and move on. That is not a fair and suitable compromise. Watch out for older children manipulating younger ones. Both parties should be satisfied with the solution.

Justice and judgment. Teach children that if they are unable to resolve a conflict by themselves they should come to a parent. The idea that children need to just “work it out” is a faulty one. It leads to older, physically stronger or more dominant personality children always getting their own way and unpleasant character traits developing. “Might makes right” becomes the order of the day and good relationships will not be the result.

When someone has been wronged, you as the judge should listen to both sides of the argument. Have one child speak at a time with a calm voice – no interrupting. If there are tears, whining or loss of emotional control in any way, they may need a few moments to sit alone and regain their self-control before bringing the matter before you. Children should be expected to have taken steps themselves to work out the problem before coming to you. Pray for wisdom. The children may be able to come up with a solution themselves or need you to supply one.

When emotions are running high, it may work better to separate the children and hear one side of the story at a time without the other person participating initially. Sometimes this allows children to be more honest about their fault in the situation and what they need to do to make it right.

Telling tales. The difference between tale-telling, tattling or dobbing and sincere reporting of a problem for mediation is all in the attitude. If damage to person or property will occur they should be able to come immediately. The first step is to encourage the other sibling in right behaviour. When the intent is clearly to get another sibling into trouble, rather than a sincere effort to solve the problem, the tale-teller receives the consequence that would otherwise have been given to the offending child. When children first come to you they should be asked whether they have tried to encourage their sibling to do right and also whether they have done all that they can to resolve the problem first. “What have you tried to make this right?” is a good start.

Isolation. Children, especially older children, may need some time to work through the problems alone before coming back together to talk it through with the other party. Ask them to think through their responsibility in the situation, whether they have treated their sibling as a best friend and what God’s word has to say about it.

Physical touch. Hugging or shaking hands when the matter is resolved melts the tension and helps to repair friendships. Verbal forgiveness needs to be asked for and given. Shaking hands afterwards often helps children to break through that last barrier of unresolved anger or hard feelings towards their sibling. While children can forgive someone without hugging or shaking, often this physical contact will get them smiling at each other again.

Forgiveness and restitution. Saying “sorry” is for accidents, not for deliberate acts of unkindness. If the wrong was intentional then forgiveness is needed. Model this by asking for forgiveness yourself when you are in the wrong. Children are very forgiving and LOVE it when a parent apologizes and asks them for forgiveness. If something has been destroyed, taken or otherwise damaged, restitution or “paying back” must be made. A child who has knocked over another child’s tower can build it back up. A child who has drawn in a sister’s book can use their pocket-money to buy another one.

Consequences. Clear consequences for wrong behaviour should be given and acted upon consistently. Some examples of consequences for unkind behaviour are acts of service, losing the opportunity to play together and saying 3 nice things about the other person’s character – not physical features. See spoiled walls.

Reinforcement. Character reinforcement systems may be useful to jumpstart the process. Praise good behaviour and character when children do the right thing; catch them being good. Use specific praise that clearly labels what it is they are doing well. You may like to temporarily introduce a marble jar, praise plate, or treasure tree system.

The sorting out prayer is useful for the wronged child to work through and helps them to forgive their sibling. Based on biblical instruction, it is something we will introduce as the children get older and have to deal with more weighty situations.

“If… then…” charts are good for clear consequences. Take the time to write them up with the children’s help and refer to them when a problem occurs.

Resources:

I have linked to The Book Depository when products are available through them as that is the cheapest source for Australia in most cases. Other sources as stated.

Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself


For general personality information and identification see Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.

Personality Plus for Parents

Personality Plus for Parents is by the same author with more information specifically for parents.

Spirit-Controlled Temperament

Spirit Controlled Temperament is a Christian take on the 4 temperaments and how the Holy Spirit can help us overcome our inbuilt weaknesses and improve our strengths.

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends: How to Fight the Good Fight at Home

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends is a good tool for teens to read through either by themselves or with you, with time to discuss each chapter together.

Proverbs for parenting is an excellent resources for finding what the bible has to say about parenting related topics with Proverbs sorted into easy to reference categories.

 The Power of True Success How to build character in your life.

A good resource for the Christian family for teaching character to children.

Mom's Notes Volume 3 - Notes in Binder

Dealing with sibling conflict by Joey & Carla Link is a topic from the Moms Notes.  These are an excellent resource for all things parenting. Very detailed with ideas for all ages. Brilliant but it is pricey. Audio CDs also available.

For Instruction In Righteousness

For Instructions in Righteousness Pam Forster is another character training resource with bible verses, stories and other ideas for training and building character into your children. (Also available at Heart and Home Bookstore in Australia.)

Four Chart Special

The Brother offended checklist and booklet and If..Then Chart are helpful in the thick of dealing with conflict. Great to take children straight to to help work through their conflicts with a biblical framework. Available separately or in a set at Heart and Home and Doorposts.

Parents Arise

Janine Targett’s book Parents Arise and scripture CDs show you how to use God’s word to overcome character weaknesses amongst other things. This is the source of the “sorting out prayer.”

101 (mostly) stay at home family night ideas

Dog and Bone newspaper hockey championships.


We are about to start another family night. Tonight the plan is for each family member to make their own pizza following a rousing game of Dog and Bone newspaper hockey, with perhaps a sock wrestle afterwards, depending on the state of the troops.

Family night for us is actually in the late afternoon so that we can do all our special things and still get the kids into bed at the usual time. It feels later than it is because we have done so much together before bedtime rolls around.

We have family night as part of a deliberate strategy to build family identity, foster unity and strengthen family ties. The old adage that “the family that plays together stays together” still applies and both quality and quantity time are important. With that in mind, here are lots of ideas to get you started.

  • dark hide and seek A variation on traditional hide and seek which is also lots of fun. Wait until the sun goes down and turn off all the lights in the house. Players move in pairs of one older and one younger family member which reassures those little ones who don’t like being alone in the dark. Hiders use torches to find their place to hide before switching them off, with older family members helping their younger partner to find a hiding place before hiding themselves.  Seeker pairs find by feel and peering about in the dark. It allows a wider variety of hiding places simply because in the dark you can be more exposed and still remain undiscovered. Works well as “Sardines” also – see further down the list for an explanation.
  • photo albums Children are fascinated by photos of themselves and love re-living family memories together. They also enjoy seeing their parents as children and hearing stories about them growing up. My children regularly ask us to tell them about our childhood and ask all sorts of questions about other family members too. Having a new baby and watching me photograph all his milestones prompts a heap of questions about themselves as babies and it is fun to go back through the albums I have created for each child to show them their own special milestones and events.
  • family shields Another way to build family identity is to create shields, banners and flags with mottos, goals, creeds and values that you want to cultivate and uphold as a family. There are lots of examples on the web and instructions on how to do these with ideas and examples of the kids of things you may like to include.
  • sleep-outs Whether it be in the back yard in a tent or cubby house or indoors in the loungeroom, a sleep-over is always heaps of fun. Combine it with fun food, story telling and games or any other family night ideas and you will have a memorable time together.
  • toast marshmallows It’s rare for us to have the opportunity, but a campfire cook-out is always very special, especially for boys! Toast marshmallow, roast damper and potatoes or BBQ over the camp fire for a great evening. Whether it be the real deal, combined with camping out, or simply an evening in the backyard with a gas burner, sitting about the fire is a great way to bring the family together.
  • late library run Once at the library, everyone heads off to find picture books that interest them and meet back together for a shared reading time. Older children can read their picture book to the family and choose a chapter book or two to take home for themselves. If you are game enough, the whole family can go in their PJ’s for some extra fun. The kids will love it and won’t be able to stop giggling at Mum and Dad in their pyjamas too. (Neither will the public, but I dare you to do it anyway!)
  • Duplo charades See here for instructions and ideas.
  • board games and card games Play in teams with older and younger pairs; younger children count squares, move counters and hold the cards while older family members deal with the strategy side of the game.
  •  dog and bone/newspaper hockey Split into 2 teams. Traditionally numbers are allocated so that a given pair (ie. number 1 from each team) comes to the middle when their number is called, however we play that a name from each team is called so that uneven ability matches can be evened out and uneven numbers of team members are not a problem. Each pair races to the middle (we crawl because we play in a combined space), grabs their newspaper bat and hits the ball towards their team goals while the other person attempts to do the same. See photo at top of article.
  • icecream run 50 cent cones from drive through at McDonalds are a bargain for us. Grab one each and head to a beach or somewhere with a view to eat them.
  • trampoline star-gazing On a clear night, take sleeping bags, pillows and blankets onto the tramp to watch the stars and find as many constellations, satellites, aeroplanes or falling stars as you can. Take some kind of treat to snack on while you do it and be prepared for littlies to be jumping all over you while you do it. Perhaps combine this with a good sock wrestle. (See below.)
  • sock wrestling Every family member puts on socks (the longer the better, but only one pair allowed!) The simple rules are that the last person left wearing a sock wins. You may like to confine the wrestling to a certain place or make it a fast paced, wide-ranging game that moves throughout the house. Ground-rules are necessary and older children must be taught how to look after the little ones and how to make it fun for them ie. NOT removing both their socks in the first 3 seconds of the game or handling them too roughly. We like to sock wrestle on the trampoline and Mum and Dad both enjoy the tussle. With little kids, we pretty much wrestle each other while they gang up on us to try to get our socks. It’s harder than you think but lots of fun. You can play that once you have no socks you are out of the game but we let the children continue regardless.
  • giant icecream Sundays Provide a stack of yummy ingredients and everyone helps to create one large masterpiece. All dig in with spoons to the same dish to enjoy the creation once complete. A large serving tray or similar works well.
  • feeling rich? Visit the local ice-skating or roller-skating rink, theme park, miniature golf, bowling, indoor playground centre or other attractions in your city.
  • fish and chips at the beach Summer is perfect for a fish and chip dinner and sandcastle competition or even a dip. If the budget is tight, take tomato sauce, mayo, and a loaf of fresh bread from home and just get a bulk lot of chips for chip buddies.
  • progressive dinner Follow clues to track down the entrée and enjoy it wherever you find it. More clues lead you to the main in a different part of the house and still more to an interesting location where dessert is waiting.
  • museums Museums are usually free and can be interesting. Find out what is on first and choose a couple of sections to visit that will appeal to the children. Don’t drag them through every single display and insist on reading every plaque or they will hate museums for ever! Many museums have sections especially designed for children and some even have hands-on displays and activities to do. Find out what they usually do for school class visits and ask for an activity pack or whatever they usually supply to the students.
  • sardines Another variation on hide-and-seek. One person hides and everyone searches. As each seeker finds the hider, they must join them in their hiding place until everyone is squashed in like sardines. The trick is not to hop in the hiding place when others are watching, but to wait until you are alone to join the hider.
  •  hiking/nature walks Head to the country, local lake or river or anywhere scenic for a nature walk. Take a kite, football, quoits, bocce or any other outdoor games to enjoy together. Enjoy a picnic along the way and perhaps have the children create their own trail mix to take with them before you leave home.
  • pick fruit or berries together Visit a fruit orchard or berry farm and pick tonnes of luscious fruit for jams or just to enjoy fresh off the tree. Have fun cooking it up into treats when you get home.
  • bake-off Choose you favourite biscuit and/or cake recipes and hold a bake-off. Pair older and younger participants. Take some of the delicious cakes and cookies to neighbours, visit someone who is sick in hospital or spend time visiting a retirement home.
  • art and craft night Find some simple craft activities the whole family can enjoy. Things that require mess and/or effort that you wouldn’t normally get around to. There are unlimited ideas available on the net.
  • make birthday, Christmas or special occasion gifts and cards
  • catch a bus or train to an area you don’t usually visit. Perhaps go to a cafe and let the children choose a special drink or snack.
  • indoor picnic or backyard picnic. Under the kitchen table, in the cubby, under or on the trampoline, in a sheet tent, at the local park, beach, bush area etc.
  • Go on a neighbourhood walk. See how many different kinds of plants and flowers you can identify. Prepare a list of items to spot along the way. Perhaps the kids can ride bikes while Mum and Dad walk.
  • tub of icecream  Swing past the supermarket for a tub of icecream. (Don’t forget the spoons.) Take it to the local park and let everyone grab a spoon and go for it. If you want to be more civilized, buy a pack of cones as well.
  • backwards dinner Start with dessert and work backwards. Tip: Don’t prepare a large main meal or entrée. Chances are the kids won’t get that far!
  • movie night Make caramel popcorn or another suitable movie style treat. Set up a snack stand and “sell” the treats and drinks for Monopoly money. Roll out the red carpet (bath mats, towels, sheet etc) and make pretend tickets for the kids to distribute. Darken the room and have ushers seat guests by torch-light. Set out doonas, pillows, beanbags and cushions. We watch very little TV on a day-to-day basis so a movie night is something special for the kids.
  • make your own pizza. Roll out the dough and top it with sauce. Set out a selection of toppings and let the kids choose their own. Don’t forget to make a dessert pizza too.

  • puzzle night Choose some difficult and some easy puzzles to work on as a family. For the younger kids, hide puzzle pieces around the room and have them search until they have completed the puzzle. Perhaps have a race against the grown-ups or older children to see who can complete theirs first.
  • watch home videos Most of us take home videos from time to time so sit down and enjoy watching them together. Kids love to see themselves on TV.
  • make home movies Sing songs, perform plays, read radio dramas, record favourite stories to make your own read-along audio tapes complete with sound effects, record video “letters” to friends or family who live a distance away, write scripts and act them out or try scripted funny home movies.
  • press flowers Go for a nature walk to collect flowers and sprigs of attractive leaves to press in home-made flower presses or in the pages of telephone books. A couple of weeks later, use them to make home-made cards for friends and family. Make sure children get permission before taking flowers from neighbours’ plants or trees.
  • Hold a gingerbread man decorating competition. Pre-make the dough and provide rolling pins, cutters, cutting boards, knives, toothpicks and the like. Lay out the icing and toppings for everyone to decorate to their heart’s content. Have several categories for winners (most interesting, most colourful, neatest, most appetising etc.) so that everyone can have a prize (eating the gingerbread man of course!)
  • obstacle course Use household items and equipment to set up an indoor or outdoor obstacle course and run time trials. Place time handicaps on older participants or have them do it running backwards etc.
  • old-fashioned games night Go bobbing for apples, play jacks, hopscotch and other traditional games.
  • scavenger hunt Collect all of the items on a written or pictorial list as quickly as possible.
  • treasure hunt Follow clues to get to the location for the next clue or look up bible verses to provide answers to questions that must be complete before the next clue is handed out. Don’t forget to have a “prize” at the end; perhaps a special snack to share together.
  • neighbourhood trivia hunt Spread out around the local area in teams with an older child or adult leading each one. Go to various locations to answer trivia questions once they arrive at the designated place. For example, “What colour is the letter box at number 10 James St?” or “How many trees are there in Mrs Jones’ front garden?”
  • playdough Pictionary Use suitable cards from Pictionary or create your own. One member from each team looks at the card and both race to create the object using playdough. The first team to guess what it is wins a point. Be sure to match abilities of team representatives for each round as evenly as possible.
  • visit the confectionary and chocolate isle at the local supermarket and let the children have the chocolate or lolly of their choice. When children are not regularly eating this kind of food it’s a big deal to do something like this. This can also be done in the lunchbox snack area with all those pre-packaged processed lunchbox snacks that I never buy my kids!
  • tower or castle building competition Use Duplo, Lego or whatever construction materials you have at home with a time limit for construction to take place.
  • Visit the local Bunnings, McDonalds or Ikea playground. Have a cone or sausage sizzle while you are there.
  • shopping centre adventure Ride on one of the merry-go-rounds you usually say no to before going into the supermarket and letting the kids choose items for lunch at the park afterwards (fresh rolls, packet of biscuits, snack cheese, sliced sandwich meat, yoghurt tub, mini chip packets or whatever takes their fancy and fits within your parameters.) Don’t forget to grab a cheap packet of  plastic spoons for those yoghurt pots – it’s very difficult to scoop out chocolate Yogo with your hands. (And yes, I am speaking from experience!)
  • $2 dollar shop Go to the local discount variety store and give each child $2 to spend.
  • op shopping Visit the local recycling boutique or secondhand store and give each child $3 to spend. The catch is, they lucky dip the name of a sibling or family member first and must choose something for them, rather than themselves. Supervision is required here for the younger ones. While my 4 year old daughter was sure my 8 year old son would LOVE a pair of pink sparkly shoes, I was not so convinced.
  • google playgrounds and parks in your city and visit one you have never been to before. We were introduced to a new one recently that was just 10 minutes from our house that we didn’t know was there and it was great!
  • charades Play in teams and dress-up in costumes and props from around the house.
  • bike rides Bike riding is always fun. Use tag-alongs, baby seats or toddler trailers for the littlies and take the bikes, scooters or skateboards to the local bike path, unused basketball or netball courts or just for a cycle around the local neighbourhood.
  • wet weather exploring Don wet weather gear, get out the gumboots and go for a rain walk, jumping in as many puddles as you can find along the way.
  • karaoke/Australian idol Rehearse and perform for a family concert. Organise a ticket booth and snack bar as for movie night. Video proceedings for a laugh later.
  • surprise lunch For those whose children are at school, a surprise pick up and special lunch at a nearby park or take-away venue will be a memorable treat. Collect Dad from work in his lunch hour and “kidnap” your school children. (With the teacher’s knowledge of course!)
  • breakfast dates Head out early before church or school for a family breakfast together. This also works well for one-on-one dates with Dad or Mum.
  • dress up Choose from the dress-up box or Mum and Dad’s wardrobe if you’re game. The kids will love it, especially the shoes. There’s just something about shoes! Have a photo session with everyone in crazy attire, followed by a disco dance session to boppy music with a couple of rounds of musical bobs and musical statues.
  • talent quest and family orchestra or marching band Singing, playing instruments, acting, skits, reciting a poem and telling jokes are all suitable for the talent quest. Finish off with a family orchestra – everyone grabs a percussion instrument and plays along to lively music while marching about the house.
  • cooperative drawing Cover the table with a huge roll of paper and everyone draws. Try blindfold drawing. Everyone closes their eyes to draw a picture and has a laugh at the results.
  • pamper night Give everyone face masks (yes, even Dad!), paint nails, give the girl’s “up do’s,” spike up the boys’ hair and get dressed-up in fancy clothes. Take family photos now that everyone looks so nice and go out somewhere to take advantage of everyone looking so good. The photos could be serious (set up lighting, use a tripod) or silly (weird clothes, expressions and poses.)
  • teddy bear’s picnic or tea party All stuffed animals and dolls must be dressed for the occasion. Make invitations and menus. Cook some tiny food treats to share.
  • tapas night Serve authentic Spanish tapas or just little plates of nibblies. We put out heaps and heaps of tiny plates from every tea set we own with 7 of everything on each plate – one per person. 7 strawberries, 7 meatballs, 7 apricots, 7 grapes,  7 finger sandwiches and on and on. Ours was just regular food but after you’ve eaten one block of cheese, 1 cherry tomato, 1 mini muffin and so on, it makes for quite a meal.
  • outdoor movie nights Check local guides over summer for sessions and go all out with a fancy picnic. Don’t forget the chairs and blankets – even on summer nights these events can get chilly.
  • beanbag wars (See here for instructions.)
  • spy missions  (I’ll post on this separately another day)
  • story telling Combine this with a sleep-over, star-gazing or other family night idea. Take turns adding one sentence at a time to the story. Play “Fortunately/Unfortunately” where each person adds on a small section of the story at a time, alternating between fortunately and unfortunately. (1st person: We were driving along in the car when unfortunately the tire blew. 2nd person: Fortunately we had a jack in the boot. 3rd person: Unfortunately the spare tyre was missing.)
  • ping-pong (table tennis), badminton or tennis championships Play round robin style games where everyone gets a go and rotation is fairly fast.
  • junk modelling Collect boxes, tubes, containers and decorative bibs and bobs of all kinds. Use them to create sculptures and amazing creations as a family. (If the creations are suitable, the children may like to keep them in their rooms for a few weeks to play with eg. castles, 10 story building etc.)
  • nobody’s birthday party Complete with cakes, party food and party games. Choose gifts and donate to a charity organisation.
  • puppet shows Set up pairs of chairs with sheets draped across as makeshift theatres. Use old socks, paper bags, bottles, wooden spoons or other simple items to make puppets. Use your puppets to rehearse and put on a puppet show for each other.

Well, there you have it; please share your ideas via a comment below – its always nice to glean a new idea from someone else!

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