My children had a code phrase for it between themselves. They called it "F.F.F." which stood for Forced Family Fun. They weren't wrong. I did insist that we have fun together. This was because I knew that if I didn't intentionally build fun into our lives we would let the years slip by without enjoying each other. Read on for ways to make fun happen.
If you are a regular reader of Joyful Harbor Home, you know that when my children were young my resources were quite limited. It took a lot of creative energy to make for them the home that I wanted them to have. Just like you, I wanted to raise my children in a safe and nurturing home where they were well loved, well educated, happy, and morally sure.
Beyond that, I wanted my children to know how valuable and wanted and openly loved they were. I never wanted them to wonder about any of this. Love, energy, and imagination were resources I had in abundance and I wanted to lavish these on my children. It may take some rearranging of your schedule and your ways of thinking, but you can have fun with your family on purpose. You and your children can have Forced Family Fun. It's great!
Let's address the elephant in the room. Fun can be expensive and take up a lot of time. Time and money can be hard to come by. But take heart, friends! Fun does not have to cost a lot of money and it does not require an entire day or a long weekend. In fact, as I have said many times on this page, a budget breaking trip to a big box theme park may seem like a great idea, but real memories are made in the day in and day out family activities.
The key to enjoying your children and having fun with them is in how you think about fun. What does it mean to have fun with your children? What does it look like? As crazy as it sounds, fun can be had as we do housecleaning, meal prep, or other activities that are associated with things that are not, strictly speaking, fun in and of themselves.
Mark Twain spoke about this kind of fun in the first chapter of "The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer" in which Tom persuades his friends to paint his Aunt Polly's fence on a beautiful Saturday morning by convincing them that it was fun. Fun is what you make it.
Fun can be easily found in ordinary spaces with simple toys. Start with a local park on a breezy day, add a kite and couple of children and you have the potential for fun. A playground ball plus a hard outdoor surface are the only ingredients needed for limitless fun. Another advantage is that each of these activities have virtually no age restrictions. Everyone from a toddler through adults can enjoy this kind of recreation.
Consider other simple toys. Jump ropes, bikes, board games, building blocks. These items are as much fun to play with now as they were a hundred years ago. They still engage children from toddlers on up. Grownups, who have the right attitude, can have fun with these things too. But the secret sauce is deciding that you are going to have fun with your children. You have to choose to be fully engaged with the game at hand.
I know that it is easier to sit on the couch. I know that it is more comfortable to stare at your phone and isolate yourself. But consider what that easy comfort is costing you and your children. The price is a deep and beautiful connection and a lot of happy memories.
Here are a few ways to include more family fun in your home this year. Remember that fun is better when it is simple and very low cost.
Be Mindful Of Moments. You don't have to set aside a whole day or even half a day. Fun can be had in a ten minute joke telling time while folding laundry. Whenever you share a happy memory it becomes an uplifting moment for your children. Ask your children questions that open the door for happy conversations. Try asking this: "What can you do that you can teach me to do?" or "What's the coolest thing that you saw today?" There are many ways to engage your children in conversations that don't involve unpleasant words or arguing or fault finding. Smile at your children and ask questions. Discover who they are becoming.
Fun In The Kitchen. Most children can be easily tempted by the idea of creating something to eat. It is fun to make something yummy and then share it. Something as simple as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or slice and bake cookies or macaroni and cheese from a box can become a fun family activity. Be aware of your children's ability to stay focused and their motor skills. Sharp knives and hot ovens require adult or, at least, adolescent skills. As they become more able to function, give your children a chance to demonstrate their growing skill set. Admire their mastery of simple food preparation. This is family fun.
Go Outside And Play! People who were children in the post-WWII era grew up with this phrase ringing in their ears. Take a page out of a mid twentieth century parenting book, and go outside to play. But here is a twenty first century twist: you go with your children. Go for a walk in your neighborhood. Visit a nearby park or playground. Visit a local nature preserve and seek out hidden natural treasures. Ride bikes with your children. Set aside some time to be outdoors no matter the weather. Dress for the rain, the heat, the cold, whatever. Go outside and play!
Having fun built into your family life is vital in my opinion. I was raised in a gloomy, stern, cheerless family in which fun was simply not part of the equation. I was not going to continue that legacy to the next generation. I broke the cycle by intentionally and carefully adding the element of fun into our daily routine. I have been called "excessively cheerful" by friends, and I wear that with pride. A happy home is possible, but only when there is an adult who makes creating joyful moments a part of their job description.
You control the atmosphere in your home. You decide if your home is going to be a happy place to be or if it will be filled with people who are mostly angry. Each day you are writing in your child's memory book. What will they remember from their only childhood? That you insisted that the family took some time to play games and have fun? They may roll their eyes now and say, "Great. More F.F.F." but years from now they will set up the board game Clue in their own living room and call their own children to play. Create a joyful legacy.