By Naazish YarKhan
When you turn off the TV, be prepared with a list of activities to fill your time. Some should be things the children can do on their own-such as art projects or reading. Others should be things you do together-go for a walk or to the park. Each day, pick a special activity. Here are a few suggestions.
• Bake together. Everyone loves to bake, even preschoolers. Decide on a recipe, make a list and do the shopping together. While you bake, explain the science behind how heat helps cook food, sneak in some measuring cup fractions or share the history of chocolate. Check out Nestle's Web site, vwww.verybestbaking.com.
• Make dinner together. Decide on dinner recipes that everyone can cook. We love baking green bean casserole or sliced potatoes rubbed in salt, pepper and oil. Our all-time favorite meal is Tandoori chicken. Create your own list of family favorites.
• Learn some science. Let your kids decide on some experiments they can do at home and have a science party. If you search the Internet for “science experiments,” you'll have trouble choosing just one. Invite over some of your childrens' friends. Let the kids have their own science fair with you as the audience.
• Sow a container garden. One packet of seeds, dirt from the backyard and the bottom half of an empty egg carton are all the supplies you need. Thyme, scented geranium and lemon balm all have wonderful aromas and medicinal properties. Sneak in a biology lesson about the parts of a plant or its growth cycle.
• Dress-up, anyone? Thanks to school social studies classes, our children are always learning about a different time or a different culture. My daughter Taskeen's kindergarten class is learning about ancient Egypt. We did some extra reading at www.ancientegypt.co.uk/ menu.html and we've decided to make a native Egyptian costume out of an old sheet and our imaginations.
• Embroider. We bought an embroidery kit at a craft store and my 5-year-old loved the calming effect of this activity. The simplicity of using a needle and thread to create something was a pleasure. We decided it is just like paint by numbers, only with thread.
• Volunteer. Family volunteering is a wonderful activity for everyone. Make a project of researching what you would like to do. Call your local township office, village or city and ask about family volunteer opportunities. The Community Resource Network's Web site, www.chicagovolunteer.net, lists numerous volunteer opportunities in the city and suburbs. In addition, www.volunteermatch.org, a national Web site, lists about 1,000 volunteer opportunities in the Chicago area.
• Go online. The Web site for TV Turnoff Week, www.tvturnoff.org, offers a 30-page book of TV-free ideas to keep families busy all year long.