Let's review the idea I got last year from a blog friend and look at our Seasonal Fun Charts, (also be sure to see Summer 08, Winter 08-09 and while we did Spring 09, I didn't blog it). If you've read these posts, you know I use a lot of activities that are inexpensive or free. The museums we put on our list we generally either have a membership or I know there are a lot of BOGO or discounted coupons.
For this year's summer fun, have you...blown bubbles, gone to a park, had a picnic (indoors if it's too hot outside) had a camp out (ours is done on the hide-a-bed...indoors...this mommy doesn't camp), or movie night? My list goes on as we also have Family Game Night (I'm going to come back to this one), play dough fun (I prefer outside on the deck so the play dough is less messy in my house), run through the sprinklers, play with sidewalk chalk, roll down grassy hills or lay in the grass to count the stars?
So far, I've named of lots to do and the biggest cost would be $1 at a Redbox to rent a movie. All of this good old-fashioned fun is the stuff memories are made up of. A lot of it is just spending quality time with your kids and your family.
Now, back to Family Game Night. When the kids are really young, it's hard to find a game for everyone to play. Taking turns is a difficult lesson to learn and a lot of game concepts are beyond the very small. Yet, it never stopped us from playing with the bigger kids holding an infant or very young toddler on our lap. If we were playing cards, we'd give the little one the jokers or cards from a different deck. Keeping them at the table with you helps teach turn-taking without lecturing. They learn by example.
The point I want to make with Family Game Night is how good it is for your children on so many levels. The first time I really saw the difference was when I volunteered weekly in Andrew's classroom. Kids who play games at home have a distinct advantage in the classroom. They have better attention spans, they understand taking turns and they have some of the logical reasoning skills already in place. We don't have to teach them how to think logically or how to think strategically. They have already learned it. Kids who played games at home with their families did better in every subject I helped with.
The other thing I realized is the sense of family stability. When you're willing to sit down and play a game with your child, it gives all of us a chance to get to know each other better and share things we wouldn't talk about in passing. It also brings a sense of unity and harmony to our home. OK--the harmony doesn't happen DURING the game since we're way too competitive as a family, but the feeling carries out of the game and into life.)
Andrew's game of choice is Cribbage. For an 11 year old, you'd better not 'go easy' on him because he'll beat your socks off. It took time around a table teaching him the strategies of the game (and waiting for him to count to 15). Now he plays with adults all the time and doesn't slow down the game. He also took a liking to Backgammon and will play anyone who gives him a chance. We also went through a Scrabble phase where we ended up purchasing a "Travel Scrabble" to use at home. Since the letters locked into place, we could leave the game in the middle and not worry about little brothers and sisters messing up the board.
Candy Land was the first game Nathan would sit and play from start to finish. He loved the colors and it is an easy game to understand and play. Considering his Twice Exceptionality (he's Gifted and Autistic), finding games for him was not an easy task. Once he loved playing Candy Land, we tried some additional games from the easy set. He would play Chutes and Ladders, but it wasn't his favorite game. We discovered that he LOVED playing High Ho Cherry-O and that was when I started to see how intelligent he really was. His math skills are incredible and he would be mentally adding some pretty large numbers in his head to keep track of the total amount of cherries in his basket. It's not part of the game, but it was something he did on his own to add to his fun. He's also our Phase 10 player. As long as we have card holders, he was good to go. (And in the beginning, he needed someone to help arrange the cards and not remember what they saw.)
I hope you'll be encouraged to spend some time playing games, or doing other fun things before our summer is gone. This summer has been very nostalgic for me and I've craved family time and activities. I'm working on going back to basics and some of these simple things are my methods. Just last night our backyard was filled with kids blowing bubbles. Some would be up on the deck blowing bubbles while the rest ran around the yard trying to pop them. It brings a lot of joy to my heart to hear the laughter and squeals of delighted children. What a treasure. Don't let summer slip away without spending some time enjoying your greatest treasure of all--your family.