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Weather outside too daunting to leave the house? No problem! Forget the video games. Throw a summertime party—an afternoon chockfull of games that you can create without a trip to the store, from things you’ve got hiding in your cupboards. It’s time for summer fun in the dead of winter!
Kick off your event by slipping an official invitation under everyone’s bedroom door. Then turn the heat up and invite everyone to slide into t-shirts and flip-flops.
Nothing chases the blues away like a trip to the amusement park. Bring the fun home with easy do-it-yourself versions of some boardwalk favorites. Cluster some empty bottles together in a small box, grab some bangle bracelets, and give everyone a chance to Ring the Bottle. (To sneak in some learning, tape numbers on the tops of each bottle and for each round, give kids a number target. They'll need to add, subtract, or multiply the numbers on the bottles they "ring" to determine if they've won!) Or set up empty garbage bins, tape a line on the floor with masking tape, and let kids try Basketball Free Throw. Don’t forget to print out carnival tickets redeemable for future prizes, whether it’s a physical prize like a toy, or an event like a pizza party or trip to the movies.
Ready for another game? Set up some indoor bowling! Gather ten empty water bottles from your recycling bins and line them up in your hallway for an instant bowling alley. Keeping score helps kids work their math skills on the fly. And bowling gives kids an excuse to work on gross motor skills and coordination.
Looking for more gross motor action? Dig out a pair of pantyhose and two metal hangers left over from the dry cleaners. Bend each hanger into the shape of a racket, slide the hose carefully over it, and then secure with duct tape. Roll up a pair of socks into a ball and you’ve got an instant game similar to badminton… don’t let the sock hit the floor! Not only does this give kids more practice with large muscle coordination, but it forces them to completely focus on one thing—something today's kids, who excel at multitasking, rarely practice.
Now that you’ve gotten out some of that excess energy, it’s time for some concentration, and practice with fine motor skills. Working the small muscles in their hands helps kids become more comfortable with handwriting… a dying skill in this day and age. A game of tabletop shuffleboard makes practice fun. Tape down a triangle on your kitchen table and divide it with tape into three sections—the tip is worth 50 points, the middle is worth 25, and the bottom is worth 10. Give everyone a set of four quarters or bottle tops and let them take turns trying to score on the board.
Once the games are done, break for some lemonade and summer snacks. Whether it’s hotdogs, popcorn, or cookies, lay down a picnic blanket and eat on the living room floor. And if the phone rings, let it. You can’t get away from it all unless you pretend to be away from it all. Make today an excuse to slow down, make eye contact, laugh together, and connect. Even better, make it the first of many family days like this…and let your kids plan the next one!
Want more tips on how to connect with your kids? Here are five resolutions to make this year:
Be in the moment.
When we’re preoccupied with the past or worried about the future, we may be physically there with our children, but we’re mentally absent. Children don’t need us to be fully available all the time, but they do need our full attention on a regular basis. When you interact with your kids, don’t nod at your child’s latest art masterpiece as you talk on the cell phone, or listen to his concerns with half an ear. Try this: set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes of undivided attention every day—it may not seem like a lot, but you’ll be amazed at how hard it is to commit to that fully. Work from there.