Simple, low-cost ideas for a family fun weekend

Making time together has always been an important part of a healthy family life, but never more so than in today’s technology-obsessed culture. With its siren song of beeping gadgets, television, Internet and cell phones, it is not easy for family members to connect with each other.

Kick off the new year by resolving to dedicate one entire weekend a month as “family weekend,” a time to focus on bonding, having fun and building wonderful memories.

What will you do on family weekend? The sky is the limit. The secret to success for family weekend is to focus on recreation. Recreation stimulates bonding, increases communication, builds a feeling of connectivity and improves the overall mental and physical well being of each family member.

Setting the stage

Prior to your big weekend, post the family weekend plan on the refrigerator or someplace where everyone can see it. Encourage your kids to add an idea or two. Set some expectations for the weekend by limiting-or avoiding entirely-screen time and phone calls/texting. Parents also need to make a commitment to keep gadgets off, or at least limit their use, during this weekend.

In advance, make official family weekend T-shirts that say something like “Pate Family Weekend” or “Pates are #1.” These T-shirts can be made easily by designing a logo on your computer, printing it on iron-on transfer paper and ironing the transfer onto the shirt. Start the weekend with everyone wearing their family shirt and then do some activities involving your last name. For example, make up a poem with a word for each letter in your name or make a song about the name. P-powerful A-awesome T-tall E-eloquent.

Spin the family yarn

Children like to learn more about their parents/caregivers. Why not turn these fun facts and stories into a game?

Here is one called, “Did You Know This About Mom and Dad Bingo.” Instead of calling out a number, one calls out a question; the answers are on the bingo card. For example, “Where did mom go to college?” The answer, “Illinois State University,” would be on a square, and the person whose card had that answer would cover the square with a bean or something similar. Like regular bingo, the person who covers a row first, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally, wins the game. Other topics for questions could be birthplace, first job, favorite childhood pet or favorite toy. Look online for free bingo card templates.

Get closer

Other types of activities to plan would be games that encourage eye contact, such as “Silly Poker.” You will need a deck of cards and 20-30 peanuts (in the shell) per person. Deal out a card to everyone face down; everyone holds this card on his head facing out. Players look at the other cards, then place a bet using their peanuts, based on whether they think they have the highest card. After everyone has bet, the one who has the highest card gets to keep the peanuts. Following the game, the children can use their peanuts to buy items you have pre-selected and priced. A twist on this is to have an auction for the prizes so no one fights over them.

Don’t forget to plan activities that incorporate physical contact and team building. Try “steamroller” where parents lie down and kids roll over the parents. Another team-building activity to try is the shoe match game. Everybody puts on lace up shoes. Holding hands in a circle, each person must take off their shoes and put them back on without letting go of each other’s hand. You have to work as a team in the game. For an added element, use a timer.

Don’t forget your parting gifts

At the end of the weekend, ask family members to come up with some words to describe the weekend, such as “fun” and “wonderful.” Turn the words into a unique design. It will be a great memento for your family weekend.

I used to constantly hear my parents and others complain about how fast time flies. I never truly understood this until I became a parent. Don’t let time fly by-get unplugged and connect with your family.

Deidre Omahen is a mom and freelance writer.

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