The winter doldrums have arrived and we are all looking for ways to add some fun into the shorter and colder days. All of the ideas below allow for opportunities to involve the entire family in the planning, and preparation which increases buy-in, and extends the activity beyond the time it takes to actually do it. There are some great family bonding opportunities!
Themes for certain days of the week.
Kids love themed nights. They tend to keep them focused, engaged and less likely to run aimlessly around the house in circles screaming. Craft night, movie night, baking night, game night are favorites.
Our latest addition is mindfulness night! Mindfulness can be anything that helps you stay present and aware of what you are doing. The more you are able to incorporate your senses, the easier it is to stay mindful.
To get buy-in from your kids, it is always helpful to give them a general idea of what the theme is and have them take part in some of the planning for it.
Sensory Bins-Sensory bins can be a whole lot of fun and you can involve the entire family in creating them! Involve your children in the planning process by bringing them to the craft store and have them try to find items based on a theme. Look for things that have interesting textures, sounds, colors, and smells. Enjoy a sensory experience on it’s own just by going to the craft store. What textures can you find?
Our favorite seasonal sensory bin ideas:
Summer: Beach theme – kinetic sand, water beads, sand toys, shells
Garden theme-coffee grounds or dirt, grass, flowers, leaves
Winter: snow (baking soda and shaving cream), snow dough (Approximately 1 c. of each corn starch and lotion, peppermint extract, glitter optional) cotton balls, craft snowflakes, “shoveling” tools, glass beads, pinecones
Spring Easter eggs, gummy worms and “grass”
Fall Pumpkin washing bin-warm water, soap, sponges, mini pumpkins
Pumpkin Guts Seeds/Goop from a pumpkin (do this one in a bag)
Tips for success: If you have very young children, avoid anything that can be a choking hazard and use larger items. If your child doesn’t like a texture don’t force them to touch it, even if they created it, Use towels/blankets under your bin to contain the mess so you can focus on the fun
Blindfold dining/snacking: If you have little ones, start with snacking. Dry cereal, fruits, veggies, any finger food will do. If your family is older, try a full meal and rotate each week with who is preparing it or have older kids take over one course. They will enjoy the responsibility and planning of keeping their course a secret. Another benefit to these meals is you can get picky eaters to try new foods. To keep it fun and playful, don’t force them to eat anything they don’t want to.
Walking meditation: A very simple way to enjoy nature. Keep conversation to a minimum and focus on your environment. What do you see, hear, smell,and feel? Notice each step you take and how it feels underfoot. Can you feel the air on your skin and entering your lungs? Focus on your breath and taking in everything around you. Try taking a family walk just before dinner and talk about what you noticed and how it made you feel during your meal.
Essential Oils: Try diffusing certain oils for a simple way to stay in the moment. Lavender, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Chamomile, and Ylang Ylang are some of our favorites but check out different scents with your family and let everyone pick their favorite and rotate or have them pick a signature scent for their room. I have met more than one person that can’t stand lavender, so just because it is “supposed” to be relaxing, doesn’t mean there is not one that will work better for you.
Create a comfort corner: You can have one in everyone’s room or a general family one. Involve children in picking out blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, rugs, fidgets, and anything else that they find calming.
Music-Soft calming music can do wonders for creating the home environment you are trying to create. Have each family member search out and have a turn sharing their favorite calming music along with a song that has lyrics that makes them feel confident, inspired, or happy.
Heartbeat-Get in touch with your hearts! For young children, have them feel your heart, count the beats, feel the beat under your hands and do the same for themselves. Older family members can feel their own heartbeat and breath and practice different breaths and how they make their body and mind feel.