The crew behind Bunch, an online family culture magazine specializing in inspired ideas for family fun, share their tips for revamping family night. "Doing something engaging and interactive, such as playing a board game, drawing pictures together or reading books before bed, can make a huge difference to everyone," says Rebecca Brown, a mother of two and the creative director at Bunch.
"I definitely feel better when I commit to putting my phone down for 30 to 60 minutes to do an activity with my kids." She recommends planning one night a week where the whole family can take part in a real-time activity, preferably one that has a creative, DIY component.
1. Take it outside
Outdoor activities don't have to be elaborate to be positive and memorable experiences for kids. Something as simple as going for a family stroll in your neighbourhood is a great way to get some exercise and spend quality time together. "My family used to go on Yonge Street walks (in Toronto)," says Brown. "I was blown away by the street life. It was my favourite thing to do." Evening walks also offer a chance for your family to talk about their day while exploring a new neighbourhood or simply enjoying your own.
2. Make a collaborative craft
Collaborating on an art project you can display in your home will serve as a daily reminder of how imaginative and cooperative your family can be. Bunch regularly showcases bloggers across Canada who share their experiences making crafts with their children.
"We see from the craft bloggers that the parents end up learning more about their kids," says Meghan Housley, Bunch's online editor. Step-by-step accounts show that the act of participating in an artistic activity together provides a platform for creative problem-solving and perseverance.
Page 1 of 2 -- From board game night to indoor camping, discover four more great ideas for fun family activities on page 2
3. Check out your local library
This venerable community hub offers a refuge from passive screen-gazing. Many library branches host a variety of creative programs for families of all ages, ranging from cartooning workshops to puppet shows. Some libraries even offer families the chance to enjoy other local cultural institutions free of charge when you flash your library card.
"Having cultural outings is a great way for families to stay connected to their cities and communities," Housley says. "It's a reminder that there's a whole lot more outside of our homes and schools."
4. Get into a book
Reading as a family can open gateways for conversation. "I find out the most about what is bothering my kids or what is going on with them when we read books before bed," Brown says. Choosing children's books that your young ones can relate to creates opportunities to discuss difficult issues, or help with setting and achieving goals, she explains.
To make a night of it, choose a book that can be supplemented with a craft or recipe -- for example, read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then make your own wrapped confections. For older kids, read a lengthier novel, like The Secret Garden, then plan to start an herb garden on your window sill.
5. Put a retro spin on gaming
Bunch's emphasis on reinventing family traditions makes it a popular read for parents who are looking for new ways to keep family history alive, yet fresh. "Reinventing something and making it your own is what makes it special. It's the details that your family comes up with that the kids will remember for years to come," says Housley. Since board games are an age-old family night activity, why not get out your favourite board games and share a piece of your childhood with your kids?
6. Have a living room camp-out
Indoor Extreme! is a section of Bunch that encourages families to turn an ordinary space into one they can explore when outdoor play is not an option. Here, the emphasis is on resourcefulness and creativity, not on breaking the bank.
Embrace the great indoors with a frost-free alternative to an age-old family favourite: backyard camping. Pitch a fort in your living room, turn off all the lights, make s'mores in the oven and read spooky stories by flashlight. "Sometimes when you're watching your kids getting creative, some whole new aspect of their personality emerges," says Housley.
Don't let family time be a daunting task. Set aside a window of time one night per week, write it on your calendar and clear your mind of work. Who knows, you might just start some new traditions.
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