This year, instead of focusing on SELF improvement, I wanted to work with my husband and kids to create resolutions to improve our family life. (I’m not saying that I don’t need self-improvement! That’s a given and would take a much longer post.) Last year was a hard one for our family and we really wanted to work on a plan to strengthen the family bond by spending more quality time together, improving our relationships, celebrating our successes, and most importantly, having more fun.
We focused on 4 key areas that we wanted to improve, so it wouldn’t be so daunting to stick to them. The first thing we did was sit down as a family and ask each other where we wanted to improve or focus our energies. We talked a lot about eating healthier, being more social, giving back more to our community, saving more money, adding more variety to our family time together, and being more physically active. We are still working on our final details, but here’s the gist my family’s resolutions for 2012.
Eat in more often.
We are going to work together as a team to cook more at home. It’s healthier, cheaper, and gives us an opportunity to spend time together in the kitchen talking. Now that our kids are a little older and interested in cooking they can help more. Here are some tips on Getting Your Family to the Dinner Table for Fun.
Volunteer as a family.
We are in the process of looking for ways that we can give back more but working together as a family. We do a lot of volunteering at school, the Y, and for our son’s scout troop. We also write a lot of checks to various organizations and raised a lot of money for JDRF to find a cure for my daughter’s diabetes this year. However, we want to give our children a chance to actually see how we can make an impact by helping others in need. We want to give more of our time. My goal is to find an organization or activity that we can do once a month together to help out those less fortunate. Any ideas?
Whether it’s a big party or just inviting a neighbor family over to watch a movie, we want to engage more with our friends and family. So every month, we’re putting something on the calendar where we are connecting more with others by inviting them into our home to share our fun. I’m tired of waiting to be invited someone or not inviting friends over because it means I would have to clean the house. I find that letting that stop us from spending time with friends is sad. I rediscovered an old post I wrote on 5 Fun, Easy Ways to Entertain Friends Even When You Hate to Entertain and thought I would share it again. (Psst, we are available if you want some company! We don’t smell and we rarely make a mess on the carpet.)
We want to really engage more with each other when we have our family time. So, instead of just flopping in front of the TV on Friday Night, we’re going to turn off the cell phones, TV, video games, computers and have some old-fashioned fun together like Family Game Night, Family Slumber Parties, Camping Indoors, or Homemade Pizza Parties. Read all of my posts on fun, easy and inexpensive ideas for Family Night. My family is committed to doing them more often this year and I hope the ideas inspire you to have some fun, too.
Want even more ideas to improve the health of your family this year? Here’s a great article from Education.com on New Year’s Resolutions for Families as well as another from SheKnows.com.
To create your family’s New Years Resolutions, make sure you discuss it all together, focus in on the areas you want to improve most or where you want to see some lifestyle changes. Then use these tips to help make your resolutions stick, that I shared in a post over at Patch.com.
What are some of your family’s resolutions for the new year?
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Looking for some new ideas for Family Night this weekend? But it’s already Thursday, you’ve been busy all week and haven’t planned anything? No problen. I’ve got your back with some inspiration. I know you are a busy Mom so here are 5 easy, inexpensive and yet incredibly fun activities to do at home with things you probably already have around the house. Amaze the kids with your creativity this weekend! Click on the links for more tips and advice on how to pull off some major fun at home this weekend.
1. Indoor Snowball Fight – Too cold outside for a real snowball fight? Create “snowball” ammunition out of white tissue paper, cotton balls wrapped with saran wrap, or large marshmallows. Give each “team” an equal amount. Then fight it out in the basement or other kid-friendly area of the house. Build some forts out of boxes or blankets while you are at it to protect yourself. Of course, if it’s not too cold out you can do this outside with real snowballs. A reader over at SavvyMom.ca shared her idea to keep the snowball fights safe. They make chalk drawings of each other on their fence and throw the snowballs at the drawings. No one accidentally gets hurt then. Genius!
2. Spa Night – A little pampering makes everyone smile – even Dad!
3. Homemade Pizza Party – Don’t just order pizza in, throw a pizza party
4. Family Slumber Party – Why do the kids get to have all the fun?
What are some easy but fun things you like to do with the kids on family night?
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Want to do something fun with the kids this weekend but out of ideas? Here are 5 easy, inexpensive and yet incredibly fun activities to do at home with things you already have around the house. Wow the kids with your creativity this weekend!
1. Spa Night – A little pampering makes everyone smile – even Dad!
2. Movie Night – Add a little creativity to make movie night at home extra special
3. Host a Family Game Night – Raid the closet, play some games, and let the competition begin. Invite a neighbor family over to make it more fun.
4. Camp in the Great Indoors – It’s cold outside so bring the camping fun indoors. It will get the family in camping shape for summer.
5. Go on a Date … With Your Child – Spend some one-on-one time with your child. It will make their day to get you or Dad all to themselves!
Whatever you do this weekend, have a blast and make some memories!
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Here’s an idea for some family fun. Does your family like to play games? Do you know other “gaming” families? Why not start a Game Night Club? I have been trying to start a Gourmet Club with some friends in my area where we would get together every other month to cook, gnosh, and have fun over fabulous food. It would be a great excuse to actually start making those recipes I pull out of my food “porn” magazines. But it got me thinking about a Game Night Club as well. It would save you money since you wouldn’t be going out, you can include the kids so no sitter needed, and you can use the games you already have in your closet. Well, put like that, what are you waiting for?
Here’s how it would work:
Find 2 or 3 other families to join and pick a consistent date to get together like the third Sunday of every month or the first Saturday of every quarter so that it is easier for people to keep their calendars clear. Consistency makes it easier to plan and creates anticipation.
Choose a host for the first Game Night. You can rotate houses going forward so you only have to clean your house every now and then. The host family provides drinks and a snack. Other families bring a snack to share, as well. Set up a kids game table and an adult game table, if you want, especially if you have big age gaps in the attendees where you need more age-appropriate games. You can also have several tables set up around the house with different games and adults and kids alike can travel from table to table as the games are completed. Try to make sure that no one is sitting out at any time. That leads to boredom which leads to unruliness which leads to a ruined evening. (You know I’m talking about the adults here, right?)
Get some prizes for the winners or inexpensive little trinkets for everyone to get in a festive mood. Candy bars, ribbons or medals, and small drink umbrellas seem to make everyone feel like a winner.
Finally, the host family gets to pick the games. Not everyone will like every game but that is part of the experience – trying new games or playing a game you never would have chosen yourself. When you host, it’s your choice. However, the guests do get some veto power. Anyone can ask to stop a game, but at least one or two others have to agree that the game is lame and then you can move on. Over time you’ll start to recognize the types of games that work well for the personalities and preferences of the group.
Most importantly, have a good time.
Stay tuned, on Friday, we are going to announce a Family Game Night Giveaway. It will be the perfect prize to get your Family Game Night Club started.
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How to Choose the Most Fun Game for Family Game Night
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Looking for a place to go with the family that offers clean, family entertainment that actually makes you laugh? Go see the Harlem Globetrotters!
My family was lucky enough to get free tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters when they came to Chicago a few weeks ago, courtesy of PTPA Media. (Thanks, PTPA.) My husband and I were looking forward to it since we loved the Globetrotters when we were kids. Hey, they were big stuff back then. They had their own Variety Show, they were on TV all the time, and they were on Scooby Doo, for Pete’s Sake. (That is one of my dreams – to be on an episode of Scooby Doo. That, and to be Grand Marshall of the Rose Bowl Parade.) But I digress!
To read my review of the Harlem Globetrotters and why I think you should take your family, head on over to the Parent Tested Parent Approved Blog. Spoiler Alert – I got a hug from Curly Neal! Woo Hoo!
If you buy tickets online from the Globetrotters website, USE THE CODE “PTPA” TO RECEIVE A DISCOUNT ON TICKETS!
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Holiday Tea at the Peninsula Hotel
You know Holiday Traditions don’t always have to be about family. One of my favorite traditions is a Mom’s Night Out. For a few years now, three of us girl friends have been getting together in December to have Holiday Tea. So civilized! Chicago has some amazing places for tea – the Drake Hotel, the Peninsula Hotel, the Russian Tea Room. We meet, drink, eat and exchange some gifts. I dig the champagne, exotic teas, and the cute little sweet tray. I look forward to it every year. (While the food is better at the Peninsula, I like the Drake best for it’s traditional decor.)
Here are some other ideas for outings with your bestest Mom friends. Take some time for yourself during the Holiday Season to unwind and recharge. After all, if Mommy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
1. Shopping Spree – Kill two birds with one stone and organize an outing to get your Holiday shopping done. Head on over to that new Mall you’ve been dying to visit. Or take the train and go to the big stores downtown. It’s always more fun when you have someone helping you shop for those impossible people on your list.
2. Cookie Swaps – Do you and your friends like to bake? Get a cookie swap going this year. CreativeMama.com has all the tips on How to Host a Cookie Swap. Stand around the kitchen with some cookie dough martinis and bake up a storm. Put on some music and dance while you’re at it. (Make sure your husband takes the kids to the movies. You don’t want them to die of shame while you boogie and sing.)
3. Holiday Wine Tasting – Do you have a local winery or gourmet wine shop in your area? Call and see if they will give you a tour or a mini wine tasting class. You can tell your hubby that you are going to find the perfect wine for Holiday dinner but we all know you are going for the fun. They may even have little snacks. Bonus!
4. Nutcracker Ballet – I love the Nutcracker Ballet. We are lucky in Chicago to have the Joffrey Ballet perform the Nutcracker every year. I’ve seen numerous versions and noboby does it better than Joffrey. I fortunately have a husband who doesn’t mind going to the ballet with me. However, many of my friends don’t. So, this is the perfect excuse to get together with the girls and get your sugar plum fairy fix.
5. Cooking Class – Another option for a fun evening out with the gals is a cooking class. If you don’t already have a favorite place for cooking classes, ask your friends what they recommend or look online. Some Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table stores have Holiday themed cooking classes. You can even have a private chef come to your house and teach the class in a more comfortable setting. Learn how to make killer Holiday desserts or New Years Eve party appetizers.
What do you like to do on your Mom’s Night Out?
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Friday night rolls around and you want to do something fun with your family, right? However, you’re tired, it’s cold out, and you didn’t plan anything. No worries! Use this list of easy ideas to have some extra special fun with your family this Fall! Best part, you can use whatever you have at home already. No shopping necessary and these ideas work with kids of all ages. Have fun!
1. Disco Dance Night – Turn the dance music up real loud and dance the week’s stress away. Good fun and good exercise.
2. Neighborhood Fire Pit – Put the fire pit on the driveway and have the kids round up the neighbors.
3. Camp in the Great Indoors – Too cold to camp outside? Camp inside. Cook the s’mores in your fireplace.
4. Family Slumber Party – Put the PJs on, get your sleeping bags, and play games.
5. Bring Game Night Back– Get those games out of the closet and rediscover some fun.
6. Family Movie Screening – Make movie night more special by watching yourself on screen. Get out the wedding video or watch the movies you’ve taken over the last few years of the kids and haven’t watched.
7. Wii Tournament – Challenge the family to Bowling, Raving Rabbids, or Mario Kart.
8. Bake cookies – Take turns licking the batter and making some favorite recipes. Bake Holiday cookies, freeze them and have them ready for upcoming Holiday parties. Now that’s organized!
9. Create your Holiday Newsletter – Have everyone write their section for the Holiday newsletter or better yet, film it this year and send out a CD or post the video on YouTube.com. People will love seeing 3-year-old Michael talk.
10. Family Room Picnic – Lay out the blanket, grab your paper plates and eat dinner on the family room floor. A change of routine makes an ordinary dinner seem extraordinary.
What does your family like to do on Friday night to have fun?
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Hot summer nights are perfect for stargazing! My husband and I are fascinated by astronomy so a few years back I bought him a telescope to enhance our view. Well, lo and behold, our kids love it too and it’s become a fun family activity. We pull the telescope out on the sidewalk on summer nights and some of the neighbors come on over to view the night sky, too. It turns into a fun, mini-gathering!
If you live in a city or busy suburb, you may have a problem with ground lights obscuring your view of the night time sky. You might want to pick a clear night and head out to a forest preserve or out in the country, where you can see the stars and planets a little better. (Don’t go breaking any after hour rules or traipsing through someone’s field. Trespassing is not a good lesson to teach kids. Really!) However, you can definitely gaze at the moon no matter where you are. Kids love the funny face of the man in the moon. Or is it cheese? I can’t make up my mind on which story I like best.
If you don’t have a telescope, no problem! Grab a pair of binoculars or just lay on a blanket and stare at the sky. Ask your neighbors if they have a telescope they’d be willing to pull out and share. See if there is a Planetarium near you and check out their summer stargazing programs. In Chicago, visit the Adler Planetarium. They have several telescopes mounted on their balcony. The helpful guides will already have the telescope trained to certain stars or the moon, so you don’t have to spend time trying to find the most important objects. Psst! The balcony of the Adler Planetarium not only provides you with access to star gazing but offers one of the best nighttime views of the city of Chicago. Take your camera, tripod, and see if you can capture a nighttime skyline shot. Check their website for times and special events when they offer night time hours or Museum Overnight Programs.
If your family really gets into stargazing, then you might want to look into an astronomy-themed vacation. Check out the Primland Resort in Virginia or this article on Top 5 Places for Stargazing Family Vacations.
Summer Stargazing Highlights
So what’s up there worth viewing? In the Northern Hemisphere, Mercury is easy to see in early summer. Jupiter, Saturn and Venus are all visible at different times in the evening during late summer and early autumn. We can actually see the rings of Saturn on our telescope on a really clear night. Totally Cool! In late summer or early autumn, if you see a Harvest Moon, run and get the telescope. There is nothing more amazing than a huge red moon sitting off on the horizon. Check one of these ideas to get a better handle on what you can see each night.
Sky & Telescope gives you a weekly update of the Sky at a Glance so you can check your area.
Definitely check out your cell phone App Store and download one of the many stargazing apps. It’s amazing how you can point your phone up to the sky and it will identify the stars and planets you are seeing. This makes life so much easier than just guessing. You want to look smart in front of your kids not “Well, it might be a UFO but I think it’s really the Degoba System.”
If your family really gets into astronomy, you can learn more at the following websites that I thought were interesting.
Have fun gazing up at the summer night sky with your family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
You might also like these Family Fun Ideas …
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Summer means blockbuster movies, right? Well, for us, summer also means viewing your favorite movies au natural. What better way to catch the latest flicks than enjoying them outside?
The Drive In.
Remember the drive-in? I vividly remember going to the drive in as a kid. My parents would throw a small mattress in the back of the car so we could lie down to watch the movie and then fall asleep. My brother and I were so psyched we got to wear pajamas in the car! I vaguely remember going to see Bambi at the drive-in. (If you remember going, what did you see?)
Then in high school, drive-ins took on a completely different vibe – teens smoking pot, making out and who knows what else – and most of them closed. (I feel like such an old lady ranting at those young whippersnappers.)
But guess what? In certain areas of the country, the drive-ins are coming back as a family friendly place. Here in the Chicagoland area, the McHenry Drive-In Theater is a fun place to hang with the kids during the summer. First of all, they show one kids movie and then an adult movie afterwards to please all viewers. (Moms and Dads! You might actually get to see a grown up movie without waiting for it to come out on video.) Second, you can bring your own food and drinks which keeps the entertainment budget down nicely. They do have a nice snack bar, if you want. Third, the vibe is that of a block party or a tailgate party, so it’s fun to go with a group. We’ve gone with a few of our neighbors several times. Before the movie starts there is plenty of grass area where kids are throwing footballs, Frisbees, or playing tag. Parents can gab and share food while relaxing on their lawn chairs.
It’s so easy. Parents pull their SUVs into the parking slots with the rear door facing the screen to let the kids watch their movie. When it’s done, turn the car around so Mom and Dad sit in the front of the car to watch their movie, while the kids sleep in the back. Here’s a list of drive in theaters by state.
Movies in the Park
Check your local or nearby major city park district to see if they are showing movies outside during the summer months. Chicago’s Park District offers their Movies in the Park program from June to September. Bring a blanket, chairs, and some food and enjoy the show. Best yet, they are usually FREE!
Backyard Movie Theater
Can’t find a drive-in nearby? Don’t worry, create your own backyard movie theater and host a party. To set up a backyard theater, you’ll need:
1. a video source (usually a DVD player or laptop computer)
2. a video projector
3. a screen ( a sheet against the garage works well)
4. a sound system
If you have a home theater system, you probably have all of these components and can move them outside. If not, use your laptop computer and rent a projector at a local AV store.
Here are a bunch of links on how to plan and set up a Backyard Movie Night event from the simple to the elaborate:
Tell us, what are some of your family’s favorite movies?
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More Fun on Friday Night Movie Night
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We came across a wonderful blog post at Simple Mom on 4 Ways to Practice Playful Parenting and thought we would share.
What is Playful Parenting? It’s what our family has been doing for awhile but I just came across the term in a book by Lawrence Cohen. According to his site,
Playful Parenting is joining children in their world of play, focusing on connection and confidence, giggling and roughhousing, and following your child’s lead.
I like to call it Engaging in Supreme Silliness. (or acting like a Goofball. Take your pick.)
Here are 3 more ideas we would add to Megan’s list.
1. Dance Like You Mean It – In the post, Megan talks bout Shaking It Out to change a child’s mood. In our house, we use music and dancing to not only get our smiles on, but as great exercise. There’s nothing like a strong bass beat and seeing each other groove to make for a happy family moment. Whether your dancing to Ralph’s World or AC/DC, get up and move.
2. Dress Up. There’s nothing like wearing someone else’s clothes to produce a fit of the giggles. If everyone’s bored and cranky, head on up to the closet and put on an outrageous outfit. Where Daddy’s tie with a tee shirt and try to get on your toddler’s hat. Let your kids put on one of your outfits and they’ll be thrilled.
3. Declare it Opposite Day. Make your day even more fun by turning your day upside down. Have breakfast food at dinner time. Eat in the bedroom instead of the kitchen. Take a bath in the morning or at night, opposite of when you usually do things. Read a “Good Morning Story” instead of a “Bedtime Story.”
What do you do with your kids to act silly and playfully parent?
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Slumber parties are a blast but why should just the girls have all the fun? Throw a family slumber party where Mom, Dad, sis, bro, and the various pets in the family get to experience the late night bonding. It’s a great and inexpensive way to have fun on a Friday Night and you can also “test” out recipes, games, and movies for a future slumber party that the kids want to have with their friends. It’s very funny to see Dad and brother playing “girlie” games, too.
Here are some suggested activities for your family Slumber Party:
Mix and match pajamas. Everyone should wear pajamas for their slumber party but wouldn’t it be funny if you wore each other’s pajamas? Your kids would find it hilarious to wear Mom and Dad’s large pajama pieces or see Dad trying to wear Jr.’s slippers for the evening.
Conversation Games- Play a conversation game to get things rolling, like our Truth or Dare or Slumber Party Conversation Games. So, Dad, who was the first girl you ever kissed? Hmm? “What do you mean it wasn’t Mom!?!”
Flashlight Board Game – Pick your favorite board game and play by flashlight or candlelight to make it a little more spooky or special.
Spin the Nail Polish Bottle – If the boys in the family are up for it, this makes a hilarious game. Take several colors of nail polish and place the bottles in the center of the group. One person picks a bottle and spins. Whoever it points at has to paint one of their toe nails that color. Keep going until you have a rainbow of colors on your feet.
Pillowfight – You can’t have a slumber party without a pillow fight. Your little kids will love it. Keep the fighting away from the big screen TV or Dad will be mad.
Custom Made Pillowcase – Even if you aren’t a crafty family or have any artists in the house, it’s fun to make a “You Are Loved” pillowcase for another family member. Pick up some pillowcases and some fabric markers at a craft store. Put everyone’s name in a hat and each of you will pick a name. Now use your pillowy canvas to draw or describe why you love that person. (We do something similar as dinner time conversation when we are having bad days to booster everyone’s spirits. I thought it would be fun to take it a step further and remind a family member why you love them. They’ll be smiling every time they sleep with that pillowcase.
Sleepiest View in the House – Have everyone lay out their sleeping bags on the floor to watch a movie together. Or, if your family room couch is a pull-out bed, pull the bed out and have everyone pile on to watch together.
What to Watch? – The movie you watch depends on the age of your kids or your family’s interest. If your kids are older, you can watch scary movies. If your kids are younger, Monsters Inc. is a great slumber party movie. For a “Girlie” movie – Princess Diaries 2 is a good choice because there’s a slumber party scene.
Home Movies. – Don’t forget that you can watch family movies as well. Our kids still love watching the video of our wedding.
Popcorn, ice cream sundaes and chocolate fondue are our top picks for a slumber party.
Here’s our recipe for Chocolate Fondue:
2 lb. of your favorite milk chocolate bars (we like Ghiradelli’s)
8 oz. dark chocolate bar
1 1/2 cup heavy cream (can use half and half for less calories)
2 Tbsp. vanilla
Break the candy bars into pieces and place in your fondue or hot pot. Turn to a low setting. Add cream and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. If you are melting this on a stove top, don’t walk away or the chocolate will boil and be ruined. Add the vanilla right before serving. Then dip away! (Serves 12)
- Hazelnut or almond biscotti (more for the adults)
- Salted pretzel sticks
- Cubed pound cake
- Sliced bananas
- Stem strawberries
- Large marshmallows
Send us photos of your family slumber party. We’d love to see them.
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It’s Friday Night, you don’t have any plans, no babysitter, and you’re sick of movie night. It’s the perfect opportunity to host a Neighborhood Firepit Party. It’s a simple, fun, and easy way to be sociable and amuse the kids, no matter what age.
Our neighborhood is pretty friendly so if you build a firepit, they will come. Before it gets dark, we put the firepit out on the driveway, set up some chairs around the fire and that’s all the invitation the neighbors need. If that won’t work in your neighborhood, type up a quick flyer and have the kids hand it out to the neighbors or spread the word as you walk the dog around the block.
Tell everyone to bring their own drinks and bring some munchies to share. If you start planning earlier in the morning or the day before, people might have time to whip up something, otherwise I love seeing what people have in their fridge or pantry to share at a moment’s notice. Run to the corner store and buy supplies for s’mores. Tell the odd numbered houses to bring the appetizers and the even numbered houses to bring dessert. Our “go to” dish to bring – Guacamole and Chips. We keep our favorite guacamole in the freezer and can thaw it out for any occasion. Costco has some good pre-made guac.
When you have little kids, these parties are great because everyone will keep an eye on the kids. Or the bigger kids in the neighborhood will take them in hand and run some games. Sweet! You can go inside and put them to bed when needed.
The older kids can run around playing hide ‘n seek, ghost in the graveyard, or get a flashlight flag football game going. Set up a tent and let the kids play in the tent. Get out the baggo, bocce or Super Parachute Party Game. If there is a big sporting event on that evening, bring a radio or TV outside. We’ve got a large telescope so it’s fun to bring that out and let the kids take turns looking at the moon.
I love to do these parties right before school starts. The parents talk about who got which teacher, who’s going to be at the bus stop, and what to look forward to this school year. If your child is going into kindergarten, it’s a perfect time to pair him or her up with an older kid to help them on the bus.
Tell us about your neighborhood parties or your “go to” dish.
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Good morning! Welcome to Day #4 of our 30 Day Summer Fun Challenge, where we’re giving you 30 days of simple, creative & most importantly memorable ideas to make this the most fun summer EVER for your family.
Putt, putt everyone. Tomorrow is Father’s Day and I know my husband wants to spend some QUIET time on the golf course, so it got me thinking about what to do with the kids while he’s golfing. (Our kids are taking golf lessons, but notice I highlighted the QUIET part earlier so they are staying home.)
Today’s fun tip: Build your own backyard miniature golf course. Use plastic cups or sand pails for the holes. Or use flower pots and designate each hole with gardening stakes you have in the garage.
You can also have the kids make flags for the holes out of old fabric – T-shirts, rags, etc. – and tape them to some stakes. If you want it to really look nice, cut triangular flags out of felt and staple them to a wooden dowel.
Hint: garage sales are great places to find cheap, sturdy, weather-resistant obstacles. If you have some old putters, use them. Check your phone book, you can also pick up some used kids clubs at your local used sporting equipment stores.
Now you are ready to design your course. Build on the natural topography of your yard to increase difficulty and keep the game interesting. (It’s OK to have to shoot through the patio furniture, under the deck or chip over the tree stump to make it more fun.) If your kids are older and good at this game, make it hard. Putt uphill. Put the hole behind a tree. Put the hole halfway up the side of the ditch. Try not to put any holes near a neighbor’s window, too close to the street, or in the direct line of fire to Daddy’s car.
Have the kids practice all summer and then host a neighborhood tournament in August. Give prizes out to the closest to the cup, hole in one, ball still on the grass, etc.
Want to make this even easier? Order out Alex Toys Miniature Golf Game. You’ll get two clubs, balls and 6 holes. Today only, take 25% off this fun outdoor game!
Want to make this even harder, but more cool? This Old House gives you instructions on how to make your own mini golf course which is totally cool.
Send us pictures or a drawing of your course to sue (at)chocolatecakeclub.com. We’d love to post it and give you the glory.
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Looking for something fun to do this weekend with your kids? Consider splitting up and spending some precious one-on-one time with your kids by going on a date. My kids just GLOW when they get Mommy or Daddy all to themselves. It doesn’t even matter what you do, it’s the time together that creates the gooey “Chocolate Cake Moment.”
Bonus for parents: If your kids are going through a patch where they are just fighting all the time and it’s driving you nuts, cut the fighting off at the pass by separating them. Trust me, the peace and quiet is soooo worth it.
Make sure you choose an activity that your child wants to do. If it’s not, then it’s just like running another errand to your child and the magic of the evening is lost. When you are together, make sure you spend some time communicating. This is the perfect time to ask your child about their day, their school work, what classes they love taking, and who’s their best friend. Get to know them and learn a little more about their personality and what they love. Discuss ideas for your next date night or what the family is going to get Mommy for Mother’s Day. (OK, that was just wishful thinking.)
Date night doesn’t have to be at “night” either. If you can’t schedule something in the evening, go out for breakfast together or do something in the afternoon.
Here are some ideas for Parent/Child Dates:
1. Dinner and a movie. Let your kids choose their favorite place to dine and then go see a flick together. Bonus tip: Dads, bring your daughter a flower for your date. Transform into a superhero because there is Power in a Flower.
2. Cooking class. If one of your kids likes to cook, check out some of your local cooking class locations to see if they have parent/child classes. You get to talk, eat and laugh together. Mangia!
3. Museum Trip. If one of your kids is really into history while the other is into astronomy, splitting up and hitting different museums in town can be a great way to indulge your child’s hobbies without the other child whining “Can we go, yet?”
4. Book Store Excursion. My kids love to read so they are thrilled when we go to the library or especially the book store, because they can sit and eat. Head on over to your local book store and spend time finding a book your child would love to read. It’s a perfect way to find out what interests them. Then go sit in the coffee bar section and share a hot chocolate or dessert while reading your own books together or reading your child’s book out loud. Bonus tip: Go to brunch before the bookstore trip. Make it a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning outing.
5. You’ve Got to Move it, Move it. Head on over to the gym and teach your child to play basketball. Go for a run together or train for a local 1 Mile or 5K race in your area. Ride your bikes and stop to have a picnic. Walk to a local park and play catch. Figure out what motivates your child to get up and move it, move it and get active with them.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to get a Date Night on the calendar with your child. What do you like to do on Kids Date Night?
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I just discovered that next Saturday, May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day AND National Pizza Party Day! How cool is that! Our dinner menu and family activity is now set, so thank you to the people who get to declare these days. You’ve made my life easier. We’re going to make homemade pizza and bake chocolate chip cookies.
We have posted before about How to Throw a Pizza Party at home and shared our Killer Homemade Pizza Recipe, so feel free to read up. If you don’t want to start from scratch, check out our Pizza Party Kit where everything but the cheese is included to make 6 individual pizzas at home. There are even paper hats for you to decorate while you are waiting for the pizza to cook.
While Nestle’s Toll House Cookie recipe is still our favorite, if you are in the mood for a richer, more chocolatey cookie, here’s another family favorite and the recipe we include in every Chocolate Cake Club order:
Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies
1 (21 1/2 oz.) package of Fudge Brownie Mix
1/3 cup oil
1 (10 oz.) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips, (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Reserved 1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. butter
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine brownie mix, oil and eggs. By hand, stir with spoon until well blended. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips and the nuts, if desired. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 9 to 13 minutes or until set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.
4. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate chips and margarine, stirring constantly. Drizzle over cookies. Let stand until set.
You don’t have to wait until May 15th to enjoy but we hope you have fun cooking together as a family.
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If you are looking for an idea for some unique Family Fun this weekend, check out the article that I wrote for HybridMom.com on Camping in the Great Indoors.
If you like the article, please leave a comment on their site letting everyone know.
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My daughter is so excited for tonight’s family fun Friday Night activity. She got to pick the activity and she’s been telling everyone in town about how she’s going to paint Daddy’s nails pink. With polka dots. Oh, and sparkles. Huh? We are hosting a Spa Night tonight at the Kirchner Salon and it all came about because of a bribe.
We were at our endocronologist and she was advising us that my daughter needs to be taking her insulin shots in other parts of her body, not just her arms. They were getting black and blue because she was only comfortable with shots in her arms. So the doctor suggested we give her a prize if she lets us give her shots in the hip or legs. Since she is newly diabetic, we had to make sure that the prize was not food related. (That is truly the bane of my existence – to have food all tied up in my personal reward system. When I feel like I’ve done something well, I immediately think of eating something tasty. When my kids did something stupendous, I would take them for ice cream. I wish this weren’t ingrained in my psyche so that I could think of rewarding with something other than food. I’d be a lot thinner! At least my daughter now has a fighting chance.) But I digress and divert.
So we told our daughter that if she took a shot in the leg she could pick an activity to do with either Mommy or Daddy – you know, the precious one-on-one time that all kids crave. She chose a manicure and pedicure from Mom. “But no hip shots!”, she declared. So, my husband said that if she took a shot in the hip we could paint his nails too. Well, that did it! Her excitement and glee over getting to paint Daddy’s nails has blown this Friday night into an all out spa night at the house. (My son is refusing to participate, but he can be swayed.) She even told her teacher that Daddy’s nails were going to be pink with white polka dots. “And sparkly!”, she said to my husband’s chagrin.
She went ahead and collected all of the manicure supplies and make-up we would need and arranged them nicely in a container. She took our back massager out and has it ready by the couch/massage table in the family room. We got out my foot water massager and plugged it in. I have my aerobics relaxation CD in the player ready to go. We have wet wash cloths in the freezer to put over our eyes for a refreshing, relaxing break. We even sprayed linen aromatherapy spray around the room so it would smell like lavender. The cats are sneezing now but otherwise, it’s spa like. And, all with stuff we already had at home – easy and cheap!
So, dim the lights. We are ready to relax and make Daddy’s nails sparkly.
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I was on WGN News a week back talking about some inexpensive ideas for having fun at home on a Friday Night. I was able to showcase some of our favorite Friday Night Family Fun products on the segment. Check out the clip and let me know what you think.
Hint: There is a coupon code in the segment for 20% off some of our Family Fun favorites.
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We saw this recent post at the New England Mamas site about Friday Night Family Fun ideas. We really liked the idea of Diner Night so we thought we would share their post with you.
Here are some of our archived posts on Friday Night Fun Activities with even more tips and ideas on how to plan some creative, wacky quality time with your kids:
What is your favorite way to spend quality time with the kids on a Friday Night?
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We promised to share our killer Homemade Pizza Recipe so you and your family can make pizza for some Friday Night Family Fun or host a Pizza Party. If you have a standing mixer, the dough is super easy to make. If not, it just takes a little muscle power to knead the dough. We love crispy crust so for this recipe we use a pizza stone. You could certainly use this dough in a pizza pan as well, but you’ll have to watch to see when it’s done. The dough comes out a little softer in a pan.
Warning: This is one of those family tradition recipes that isn’t really writen down but we have developed over several years of practice. I’ve tried to write it as exact as I can, but you might just need to eyeball some things and add your own touch.
3 cups flour
1 pkg. yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. corn meal, extra corn meal for rolling dough
1 16 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
2-3 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. onion salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1 lb. low-fat Mozzarella cheese
1 lb. Mexican Chihuahua cheese
Note: Since low-fat Mozzarella cheese has lost it’s flavor and doesn’t brown nicely, we mix it with Mexican Chihuahua cheese. The Chihuahua cheese melts nicer, is a little saltier, and browns up great! If you can’t find it, mix in whole milk Mozzarella or just use the low-fat Mozzarella. It will taste good, just not brown up as nicely.
1. Dissolve package of yeast in warm water in a small bowl. Mix well.
2. In a large bowl or standing mixer bowl, add all of the dry ingredients and mix well.
3. Make an island in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg, yeast and vegetable oil. Knead dough thoroughly with a standing mixer or your hands. (Use the bread hook attachment on your standing mixer and this is a breeze. You can turn it on and walk away. However, don’t overknead the dough. 3 – 4 minutes is all that is needed.)
4. Let the dough rise in the bowl for at least 10 minutes or set aside if you are going to make a double batch. Put pizza stone in the oven, sprinkle a little corn meal on the stone, and heat to 500 degrees. (The hotter the stone, the crispier the crust. Don’t be afraid to let it really heat up.)
5. Divide the dough into 3-5 balls to make individual pizzas. We can usually get 2 or 3 adult-size 12″ pizzas and 2 smaller 9″ kids-sized out of one batch of dough.
6. Sprinkle some flour on your rolling pin and sprinkle corn meal on a flat surface. Roll out the dough as thin as you like into a circle (or as close to a circle as you can get.) The dough will snap back a little when you go to pick it up and move it. That’s OK but if it snaps back too much, you need to roll it out a little more and make the dough less elastic.
7. Place the circle of dough on a pizza paddle or a large cutting board that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Before you start putting the toppings on, gently shake it back and forth to make sure that the dough isn’t sticking and will easily slide off.
8. Spoon on the tomato sauce, use as much as you like. Add the toppings and cheese. Sprinkle a little parmesan on at the last minute and slide the pizza into the oven on the stone.
9. Bake for 8-10 minutes or when the cheese turns golden. Mangia!
Here are our favorite Pizza Topping Ideas:
My son: Sausage
My husband: Sausage, mushroom, onion and green pepper
My daughter: Cheese, please
Me: Goat cheese, sliced fresh basil, plum tomatoes, freshly shaved parmesan
If you are looking for something a little more exotic, we also like:
Taco Pizza – taco seasoned ground beef, tomato sauce or taco sauce, monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, (after baking garnish with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, black olives, sour cream, and crushed Doritos)
Hawaiian Pizza – canadian bacon and pineapple tidbits
Swiss and Onion Pizza – This is a great appetizer. Carmelize onions. Brush pizza crust with rosemary flavored olive oil, put slices of swiss cheese and carmelized onions on top. Yummy!
What are some of your favorite pizza toppings?
You Might Also Like:
How to Throw a Family Pizza Party
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We are so excited that our kitchen remodeling is going to be done this week, after several long months! Yippee, Hurray, and Thank Goodness! To celebrate, we asked the kids what they wanted to make as their first meal in our new kitchen. The overwhelming response was “Homemade Pizza!” My choice would have been beef tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese in a cabarnet wine sauce, but so be it. Believe it or not my kids would eat the beef tenderloin heartily, but pizza is more fun to make.
Making pizza is a tradition that my parents started and we have continued with our family. I know my brother has started this tradition with his family, as well. We have a killer recipe for homemade pizza and the kids just love rolling the dough, choosing their toppings, and eating a pizza that they made themselves. It’s family bonding time at its best – we put on the dance tunes and groove while we cook, we talk about upcoming vacations, or we watch a new movie together.
Still not convinced to put away the take-out menu this Friday Night and cook? Here’s 7 reasons why Homemade Pizza Night should be in your arsenal of Family Fun Ideas. (I’m sure I could come up with more than 7, but that’s the limit of my creativity today.)
1. You get to bond and talk with your kids or grandkids while cooking. (Priceless!)
2. You can multi-task by dancing, entertaining, watching a movie, or playing a game while you cook. (So, great for us ADD people.)
3. The pizza is super-tasty, you get to experiment with ingredients, and you can control the freshness of the ingredients. (If it didn’t taste good I wouldn’t recommend it.)
4. You are teaching them a life skill. (Sure, cooking in general is a life skill but I think making homemade pizza is one of the ESSENTIAL life skills.)
5. Homemade pizza is a casual and fun way to entertain. We love to invite another family over when we make homemade pizza, because all of the kids get such a kick out of cooking together. The parents like it, too. (Start inviting people.)
6. Since everyone stands in the kitchen during a party anyway, you may as well put the guests to work while they are there. (Free labor? Count me in.)
7. It’s a reason to use that pizza stone or pizza pan you got when you were married and have never used. (Please dust it off before using.)
If you are going to watch a movie this Friday night while making pizza, we suggest some cooking themed movies: The newly released Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the classic Ratatouille, or if your kids are older, Mystic Pizza, Julie and Julia, or Big Night. (We don’t receive any commission from Amazon on these movie links. At least, not until we figure out how to do it. These links are purely to make your life a little easier if you want to buy the movies.)
We do sell Kids Pizza Baking Kits and the new Pizza Party Kits over at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com, to make this even easier for you. You’ll have everything you need except the cheese and extra toppings. We even have an Alien Pizza Making Kit where the sauce is purple and the dough turns green.
If you have invited some friends over for your pizza party, let the kids make their pizza first and the adults can eat a salad while they are waiting. The fun of a pizza party is standing or sitting around in the kitchen and just talking and muching the night away. While one pizza is cooking in the oven, another person can be making theirs. If you have two ovens, this goes much quicker. When a new pizza comes out of the oven, everyone will be ready to try a new piece.
Check back tomorrow for our killer recipe for Homemade Pizza. If you have a recipe you’d like to share, please do so!
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We were recently featured on ABC TV Chicago’s 190 North program. Our TV debut was very exciting. Check out the video clip.
The topic was Family Fun for under $25. We got it!
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My husband and I love to entertain. We enjoying cooking, throwing parties, and spending time with our friends … both with and without kids. Entertaining gives us the motivation to clean up the house once in a blue moon, as well. But, every now and then we get frustrated because it seems like we never get invited to anyone else’s house. We finally asked some of our friends about it. Are we bad guests? Do we smell weird? Do we plug the toilet? Do we bring bad wine?
The majority of them told us, no (phew!), it was because they are intimidated about entertaining people at their house. They want to be hospitable and see friends more often, but they are afraid to invite anyone over. It means they have to clean and they don’t know how to cook a big, fancy meal. While we understand and emphathize with the sentiment, my husband and I need to get out of our house every now and then! We want to socialize with friends … in a different setting. I read all of the time that cocktail parties are popular again, people are coccooning and staying in more, and that intimate gatherings are all the social rage. Really? I also heard a comedian one time do a bit about how Americans spend an obscene amount of money on our houses and then never let anyone see them.
So, I have put together 5 fun and easy ideas on ways to entertain friends (ie. invite us over) at your house, without a lot of hassle. Before we get into the ideas, though, get over the fear of cleaning up your house. As long as there isn’t mold growing out of your guest bathroom toilet, your friends won’t judge you. They just want to spend time with you. Your other parent friends are incredibly forgiving. We have piles of toys, papers and other gear laying around our house just like you do. We are also sleep deprived so we don’t even notice what we are sitting on most days.
1. Soup Recipe Party - Make a soup. Your favorite, fail proof soup recipe. Or your Mom’s recipe. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Then, ask your friends to bring their favorite soup and to bring a copy of the recipe to share. Buy some French bread or corn bread as a side. Buy a ready made salad and some bottles of salad dressing. Throw it in a large bowl. Buy some styrofoam cups. Everyone can then use the styrofoam cups as their soup bowls to take a sample serving of each soup at the party. The styrofoam cups sit on a strong paper plate fairly nicely. Pass out the recipes to all guests. Viola! You have dinner served and you only had to make one soup. (You can also do this with chili. Everyone makes chili differently.)
2. Burger Bar - We have these burger bar parties all summer with our neighbors, friends, and family because it is easy. Get some ready made burger patties and buns. Then, buy some wild toppings and set them out on the counter so people can build their own burger. Pepper jack cheese, white cheddar, blue cheese, and smoked provolone are all good. Add bacon (buy ready made), grilled or raw onions, and even avocado slices. Then add sauces – BBQ, chipotle mayo, steak sauce, and salsa. See what you can find at your grocery store. The only cooking you’ll do is throwing the burgers on the grill. Buy some prepared cole slaw, chips, and brownies. You’re done. Low fuss but maximum impact. You’ll seem like a gourmet cook, when all you did was not burn the burgers.
3. Order In - When we have invited friends over and then were too tired to pull off cooking a big meal, we order in from a favorite restaurant. We usually provide the appetizer and dessert ourselves. You can buy some great prepared ones at Costco. Then, we order in the main meal. It’s less expensive than meeting friends at the restaurant because you’ll save money on the drinks, appetizers, and dessert. Nobody cares whether you cooked the meal or not. It’s all about the getting together.
4. Cocktail or Dessert Party – It’s easier to host a cocktail party or dessert party than to plan and cook a full dinner. So, invite people over after 7:30 p.m. for drinks and/or dessert. Bake a cake or a few different cookies, add coffee, and you’re done. Make or buy 3 or 4 different appetizers, whip up a pitcher of cosmos, and you have a cocktail party. Put out some small napkins and you’ll look like a pro. Prep time and clean-up for these parties is a lot easier than full dinners. It’s also easy to buy great tasting appetizers and desserts, if you don’t want to cook.
5. Parties. They are not just for dinner anymore – - Host an afternoon tea party or cookie exchange. No dinner necessary, just some light snacks. Have a wine tasting party in the late evening and just provide cheese and crackers. Host a card party and provide nuts, pretzels, chex mix, and brownies on the tables. Invite another family over on Sunday afternoon for an ice cream sundae. Entertaining doesn’t always mean dinner, so be creative with your time and theme.
I hope these ideas have given you the confidence to go pick up the phone and invite someone over. Don’t forget about us. Have any other ideas on simple ways to entertain? We’d love to hear it.
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Here’s another fun idea we used to help our kids conquer their fear of the dark and go to sleep easier – we created guardians for our beds. While exhausted one night from having to come back into both of our kids rooms one night, we asked them what would make them feel safer in their bedrooms. Both our son and daughter said that something to watch over and guard their beds would be great. So, after using our creative juices, we thought what makes a better guardian of special treasures than a dragon? (I’m sure there is something, but at midnight we couldn’t think of anything better.)
So, the next night we went and got all of our books with pictures of dragons in them. We seem to have a plethora of books with dragons but if you don’t, go to the library and get some. Everyone in the family picked their favorite style for inspiration and then drew a dragon on a piece of paper. We then named our dragons (my dragon’s name is Fiero – very Italian, very hot!) and taped the dragon to the wall near our bed.
Pick any animal, person, or thing that would make your kids feel comfortable. Be creative. My son was considering drawing the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail but ultimately went with a dragon.
Whether this idea helps your kids conquer their fear of the dark or not, we had a blast sitting together at the kitchen table one night drawing and naming dragons. It turned out to be a Chocolate Cake Moment of family fun in my book. Plus, I now have a hot, Italian dragon guarding me at night. Cool! (Click on the picture below to see Fiero in his full glory.)
See our other ideas on helping kids conquer their fear of the dark using night lights.
Have you ever done anything similar? Please share.
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Looking for something fun to do Friday Night with the family? Why not host a Game Night? Start a tradition in your family that every Friday Night you stay in and play games. You can take turns with each member of your family picking their favorite game. Or invite friends and neighbors over for a casual, inexpensive, and very fun evening.
We’ll give you some ideas on how to host some awesome game nights, as well as our top picks for family fun games.
Why Your Family Game Night is going to rock –
Add some great food.
Keep it low maintenance by ordering in pizza, making chocolate chip cookie bars, or having an ice cream sundae bar. Indulge in your favorite munchies. If you are feeling more inspired, try out some of those appetizer recipes you keep marking and then never making. For the adults, have some beer in the fridge, make a pitcher of margaritas, or try out that new drink recipe. (See Rachel Ray’s site for some great drink recipes.) Make non-alcoholic versions for the kids. If you are inviting friends over, have them bring an appetizer or dessert to share.
Serve up some silliness!
Play some games that are just downright silly so everyone will be laughing. Some of our favorite gut-busting games are:
3 Years Old and Up:
Birds, Bugs and Beans – This card game will be a hit with your pre-schoolers, but the rest of the family will love it too. This is a wild, loud, and fun card game where you throw cards down and then react quickly based on which card is showing. You’ve got to tweet for the birds, clap for the bugs, and toot for the beans. Who doesn’t love making raspberry sounds for the Bean cards???
6 Years Old and Up:
Flapdoodle. In this game, you’ll have to use your creativity and imagination to answer crazy questions and do silly stunts. For example, you might have to take off your socks and shoes and have your two big toes talk to each other about potato chips. Crazy characters like Super Ninja Monkey, Pirate Luigi Pepperoni and the Platypus help you cruise around the board. This game is a huge favorite with our kids.
8 Years Old and Up
This game is perfect for larger gatherings since 8 people can play. We’ve played it during Holidays when the relatives are over. We’ve taken it on vacation for some evening fun. In the game, each player chooses the sound of a typical farm animal. As cards are quickly flipped over, tongue-tied players stumble and stutter to blurt out the animal sounds of the other players. The fun part of the game is that the animal on the card is not the animal sound you need to make so you get all confused and tongue tied. This game is hilarious. (It’s also a great drinking game for adults but you didn’t hear that from me.)
Put on a Costume.
Why just play a game when you can play the game in a silly way? For example, if you are playing a pirate game, have everyone wear pirate hats or eye patches. If playing Snorta, wear an animal mask. Make them out of paper plates before the game begins.
If you invite a few families over for Game Night, have them each bring their favorite game. Set up a game in the kitchen, one in the family room, and one in another room. Each person then moves round robin to the next game as they finish playing. That way you’ll end up playing a few different games and not end up stuck playing the same thing all night. Have a kids game table and adult game table if you want and make sure everyone knows which table to move to at the end of their game.
Get those cards out!
Whatever happened to the fine art of playing cards? My parents said that when they were just married and having babies, one of their main forms of entertainment was to invite over friends, also with babies, and play cards. I believe they said they used to line us babies up and throw us snacks as they played cards, although I could be imagining that.
The poker craze brought a newfound attention to card playing again, but it’s not the only card game in town. There are some other very competitive games to try. My husband’s family is from Iowa and they play Eucher. In Iowa, Eucher is treated as if it were a religion. Wikipedia has the rules. Backalley Bridge is another favorite. When playing for cards, use pennies or macaroni noodles for “betting” or keeping score.
(I’ve included links to the rules here but if you are like me, I have a hard time reading the game rules and then actually figuring out how to play it. So, a better strategy is to invite someone over who knows how to play. Create your guest list based on who knows how to play what.)
If you are going to play games, you’ll need prizes. Large chocolate bars or movie-theater size boxes of candy are great prizes to give to the game winners. If you are playing with younger kids you’ll need to make sure that everyone is a winner but for older kids and adults, let the competition begin. You can also play for chores or activities as prizes. If Mom wins, she gets to give a chore coupon to someone in the house so they have to empty the dishwasher. Before the game, have each player write down 2 – 3 coupon ideas. If they win, they get to hand in their coupon to another player. The other player then has to do what it says on the coupon. (You might need to set some limits but feel free to be creative.)
If you have a Nintendo Wii, you can always have a Wii Game Night. We’ll do a separate post on that in the future.
We hope these ideas have inspired you to stay home and play games one night soon. By adding some creativity, you can make sure everyone will want to come to your house on Game Night. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to have a great Game Night at home. What are some of your favorite games?
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With today’s tough economic times, we all need to cut back on some of our family entertainment spending. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to cut back on the fun. We’ll show you how you can have even more fun with the family, staying home on Friday Nights. You just need a little creativity and planning. Today’s post will focus on Movie Night!
We went to the movies recently and dropped $60 for a family of four with tickets and snacks. Ouch! So, we have come up with some ideas on how to make movie night at home even more special than going out.
1. Don’t just sit on the couch! Make the movie watching experience even more fun by shaking up the way you watch it. If you have a large room, set up chairs movie theater style in front of the TV so it seems like you are at the theater. Make sure you turn the lights off for full effect. We have a pull-out sofa bed in our family room, so the kids love when we pull out the couch and watch the movie in our pajamas. We tend to have 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 cats, and a dog all on the bed by the end of the movie. Fun, but a little hairy. Set up a tent in front of the TV so all of you or just the kids can watch the movie through the tent flaps.
2. Fun snacks! Make popcorn and give everyone their own bowl and gourmet popcorn toppings like white cheddar or Cajun flavors. You can buy these shaker toppings at the grocery store. If you are really in the mood, make homemade caramel corn. Here’s a recipe from allrecipe.com that seems simple and is highly rated. We have also done an ice cream sundae bar. Before the movie starts set out the ice cream and various toppings and let the kids create. For pete’s sake, don’t forget the sprinkles! Finally, at Target or at Blockbuster you can buy the movie theater size candy boxes. Go ahead and splurge and let the kids gnaw on their Mike & Ike’s or Junior Mints while they watch. Just tell them to keep the smacking down and stop feeding the dog.
3. Build on a theme. If you know what movie you are going to watch ahead of time, you can have fun with the theme of the movie. If you are watching Indiana Jones – hide some rubber snakes around the family room to surprise the kids. If you are watching Madagascar, have your kids grab their zebra, hippo, giraffe, lion or penguin stuffed animals to help watch. If you have a world map at home, show them where New York is and where Madagascar is so they can see the distance and the journey of the characters. (You could bring all of your house plants into the family room and turn the heat way up to create a jungle atmosphere but uh, that’s your call.) If you are watching Cars, set up a Hot Wheels track so the kids can race while they watch. If you are watching Monsters, Inc. grab your favorite Ugly Doll or have your kids draw what they think their monster-in-the-closet looks like. Get the idea?
4. Share the fun. Just because you are staying home to watch a movie, don’t feel like it is a family only event. Invite the neighbors over to watch. The adults can watch the movie, chat or play cards while the kids watch. Have your kids make up pretend tickets and hand them out to their friends in the neighborhood so they can turn them in when they come over. Your kids will love ripping the ticket stubs when the guests arrive.
We’ll write more posts about our favorite family movies, so check back.
Any more ideas? We’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, have a blast on Friday Night Movie Night.
© 2009 Sue Kirchner
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We eat out a lot. What can I say? My husband and I love food. And, after working a full day and getting the kids through their homework, I’m pooped. I’m just too tired to cook. My husband heard a comedian tell this joke about how when Mom yells “Time for Dinner!” the kids run to the car. He thinks it’s hilaaaaarious. However, I’m too tired to feel guilty that my son once asked me if I knew how to cook. (BTW, I’m a great cook … on the weekend.) During the week, I want and deserve a good meal. But, when you go out to eat you want to make sure that the evening doesn’t deteriorate or add more stress to your life because the kids are bored and unruly.
So, here are some tips to not only survive but thrive eating out at restaurants with your kids, from the Kirchners, Masters of Eating Out. (It’s an official title. I looked it up.)
1. Choose Wisely. Don’t go to a restaurant where you will have to wait a long time. I don’t care if you are hankering for that special steak at Bistro X. When you have kids with you, no food is worth an extra hour of wait. You also don’t want them falling off of the stools in the bar, while you wait an hour for a table. Even if your son thinks that’s fun. Don’t. If you live in Chicago, don’t go out for deep dish pizza. It’s not worth the wait. That is Take-Out Food!
Pick a restaurant that you know has a kids menu. Call ahead. Play it safe. Especially if you are out of town on vacation and dining out. If you don’t do your homework, then I hope you have read “How to Con Your Kid” by David Borgenicht and James Grace. Tell them that the calamari are really fried rubber bands. They might go for that.
2. Bring Your Own Entertainment. Don’t count on the three crayons and preprinted coloring pages keeping anyone amused. My son thinks the games are lame. My daughter, the artist, is infuriated that they don’t give her white space to create. “Don’t they understand that I need room to draw a proper unicorn?” Our family does so much better with plain paper and some type of writing device – pen, colored pencils, crayons, eyeliner. Choose your weapon of creativity wisely. Bring plain typing paper and colored pencils. Or one of our best selling items at the Chocolate Cake Club are the Kids Art-to-Go Folios Paper & Crayon Sets. These cute little sets include a pad of blank paper, crayons, a handle perfect for small hands, and a fun fabric print to kick start creativity.
These fun kids travel art sets were featured in Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine’s May 2008 issue. We like it because the kids can draw, play hangman or write a letter to the dog about how they wish he were there.
3. Time it right. If you have a baby, give the baby his or her bottle right before you eat. That way the baby can slip into a food coma and the rest of the table can then enjoy their food. If the baby doesn’t slip into a food coma, you’ll need to take turns eating. If you think that is going to happen, then order a salad. It won’t go cold. With toddlers, make sure you eat at a time when they won’t get too cranky or be forced to stay out too late. If friends who don’t have kids want to eat out with you, don’t feel bad setting an earlier time for dinner.
4. Be Creative. Use the items on the table to make a fort for your son’s toys. You will need to pick this up before the food arrives, but my kids love to have their toys play in the sugar packet holder, coffee cups, jelly holder, or butter bowls on the table. We love to build a train out of the little jelly packets when we go out for breakfast. The creamer containers make a great smoke stack. Feel free to use the materials at hand to build and imagine.
5. When in doubt, read. I don’t mind reading to the kids while we are sitting at the table. It keeps them quiet and sometimes the people at the table next to us pull up a chair to find out if Bear will indeed Snore On.
6. Invite friends. While you might think that the last thing you want is to have your friends observe how your kids behave in public, we say the more the merrier. The kids will amuse each other, the adults can take turns keeping control, and you feel less guilt about the mess you made at the table when the blame is spread out over more than one family. It’s good for everyone except the waiter or waitress. But tip big and they’ll forgive you.
Have fun eating out tonight! Don’t forget to order Chocolate Cake. Tell us what works for you when going out to eat.
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