A pattern emerged when our children were younger. I would be with the kids all day. Jason would come home and play with them while I finished dinner. After dinner one of us would do baths while the other did some other thing, and then before we knew it – bedtime. It dawned on me one day how little time we all spent together during this season of our lives. It was like we were constantly giving each other a break due to the intensity of the season.
So, before I give a few ideas about what to do with the little guys for family night, you must know that our family did these things more sporadically and spontaneously…not every week on a certain night. I would never want to portray myself as some sort of super-mama, when I know all too well that family night in the early years could range from chaotic to sanctifying for all involved. Therefore, it was inconsistent.
A few ground rules:
1. Have reasonable expectations. Fun family night playing bingo or having a dippin’ dinner is just around the corner, but with little ones you need to remember that their attention span is short, frustration level high, and capacity to just do stuff is limited.
2. Keep it short.
A few ideas:
1. Family coloring. My kids just love it when Jason and I sit at the table and color with them. If they are still at the scribbling age, that’s okay. We found that the boys liked the velvet poster things because it looked good no matter what the coloring abilities were.
2. For the brave: family playdough night. Same as family coloring, but with playdough. Just so you know, homemade playdough is much better because it doesn’t break up into a million little crumbs (how do kids manage to make such a crumby mess with playdough, anyway?!)
3. Dippin’ dinner variation: any meal on a picnic blanket watching a video is cool to little guys. It can be a happy meal, or pbj…if the entire family is sitting on a blanket calling it an indoor picnic, it will feel special.(even if your 2 yr. old can’t sit still for five minutes :)).
4. A few fun games we played:
Hide The Object: Make sure you have something (stuffed animal worked for us) for each child to find, then your older one won’t keep winning. Make it really obvious so they don’t get frustrated. You can do this fifty times and they won’t get bored.
Dance: Get out some funky dance music and dance with your kids. They’ll love it. I explain our version (freeze dance) here. My kids love seeing us get down and boogie, though I assure you, it isn’t a pretty sight.
Simon Says without anything tricky. Just have them follow the orders. Sometimes just hopping on one foot can be a huge victory for the little ones.
Bucking Bronco on daddy’s back. I would count to see how long they could stay on Jason’s back while he pretended to be the bucking bronco. Yes, everyone ends up hurt….but it’s worth it. (Toughens up the boys! They beg for more.)
The main thing is to just be together with your little guys. Even if you’re doing something completely ordinary, just doing it together as a family, laughing and enjoying each other, is a culture you will build on. It seems obvious enough, but sometimes in the craziness of caring for their physical needs it is easy to really not spend a lot of time together as a family until they are older and more manageable. Even though it is different when they’re toddlers and pre-schoolers, it is still so much fun…if you keep your expectations low, and time short!
Hope that’s helpful!
Anybody else want to chime in?