Oklahoma City family fun doesn't have to be complicated.
Autumn, with its crisp air and shorter days, is soon approaching. Back-to-school season brings up images of new school supplies, yellow buses and the excitement of new beginnings. Football and tailgating are here to stay in other households; we're not sports fans but I still feel the community pull toward red, orange and high school glories about to begin.
Before long, the air will smell like wood smoke and it'll be time to roast marshmallows outside and make trick-or-treating plans, Thanksgiving plans, Christmas plans. There will be cooler days that turn cold and finally a first snowfall. As parents and caretakers, we will help with homework, oversee projects, read along and sign off. We'll dust off the crockpot, make soup and chili, cornbread, shepherd's pie and pumpkin pie.
It's our job to match the socks, find the mittens and keep everyone moving through another school year. We'll do it all, of course, juggle, struggle, stretch 24 hours into 25.
Finding quality time with your family doesn't have to mean adding one more activity to your already-packed planner. When you do have time for something outside of what has to be done, MetroFamily's calendar is a terrific resource and there's never a dull weekend with the top 10 events featured in Weekend Picks.
Out of time doesn't have to mean out of luck.
Here are five ways to have fun together when your calendar is full:
1.) Make the grocery store a field trip: You have to be there anyway. I know at least in our household, the weekend implies grocery shopping. Carve out a little extra time and do what kids love to do at the supermarket: let them choose a new tropical fruit, weigh your produce, visit the live lobsters, order donuts. The bakery and deli counters give kids the opportunity to practice speaking loudly enough that an adult can understand them. Choosing a recipe on your smartphone and shopping for the ingredients is a hands-on way to teach about what we eat and why. Sam is 8 and the phrase "you get what you pay for" is new to him. A trip to the grocery store was illustrative to help explain the concept.
2.) Cook together: If your kids choose the ingredients in a particular dish, they're more likely to be excited about it. Cooking together is one of the activities I enjoy most with my sons. Time is not on my side most days but we still manage to eat at home six days out of seven, in part because I enjoy the process. It doesn't have to be a whole meal for kids to get something out of the experience. Late at night, when my children are asleep, I think about what we're going to prepare and if there are any books that fit a theme then reserve them online through the Metropolitan Library System. "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" by Laura Joffe Numeroff provided our most recent theme because I happened to have just-add-water muffin mix on hand. The book was waiting for me when we got to the library and it took all of 20 minutes to stir together muffins. If you ask my toddler about the experience, though, it was the highlight of his week. Isaac has asked every day since if we can make muffins again.
3.) Play games with household tasks: My husband works time-and-a-half so I'm on my own for dinner cleanup most weeknights. Three kids under 10 means a lot of mess. Getting the table cleared, the dishes tucked into the dishwasher and the floor mopped is labor intensive with a baby in your arms. It's doable, though, because we make a game out of most tasks. When I can't use their help, we play and seek and I take extra long finding them while I go about doing what needs to be done. My iPhone has a stopwatch included and boys also seem to come with an innate sense of competition, so we put both to good use with races to put away laundry and pick up sectioned-off areas of toys. Sam has to vacuum three rooms before he can use the iPad. That's as close as we can get for now to earning a privilege. See that cable behind the little boy in the photo? I could say that it's out of place in an otherwise nice portrait of Isaac with one of the muffins mentioned above. Instead, I'm choosing to think of it as something Sam's proud of too. Rewards for helping don't have to be complex. The ultimate motivator for Isaac? "If you clean up your room, I'll let you blow out a candle!"
4.) Sing: Remember Raffi? I was a child in the '80s and he was the unofficial song leader of my (our?) generation. My children seem to get calmer when we start in with "Baby Beluga" and "Down by the Bay." It's all on YouTube. If you can't stand another minute of kid bop, switch to something less…child-centered. Research continually shows the benefits of music on the developing brain so I try to put on Vivaldi and Mozart for my little one when I think of it. I've also put on the Billboard Top 50 more than a time or two and no one seems worse for wear. It just lead to some dancing too, which totally counts as exercise for the whole family.
5.) Take a walk: Even if it's just 10 minutes, sometimes a quick stroll around the block is enough to change the mood at home. Break out the razor scooters, find the stroller, practice with training wheels. Go outdoors and enjoy the nice weather before winter weather makes it impossible.
If you have other suggestions for how to enjoy fun times when you're otherwise out of time, email email@example.com and it could be featured here.
P.S. Click here to enter MetroFamily's Ultimate Freebie Friday giveaway. We're giving away an Ella's Kitchen-brand Baking Cookbook and a Grace Thomas American Girl doll that will have your kids asking to help in the kitchen too.