Why Ditching Family Dinner Can Make You a Better Parent

Researchers say the average family spends just over one half an hour (38.5 minutes) per week engaged in meaningful, connected conversation with their kids. I considered researching the number of minutes the average parent spends online, but this article isn’t about guilt, it’s about inspiration.

For decades, I’ve been saturated with the message of the value of sharing family dinner several times per week. And numbers support that message. In fact, children who eat dinner with their family two or more times per week demonstrate fewer depressive symptoms, make better grades, show significantly less chance of smoking, drinking and using drugs.

But can I be real for a minute? Even if we get everyone to the dinner table (which we know with busy after school and work schedules can be extremely challenging), the story can unravel. After the ‘pass the salt’ and ‘he’s looking at me’ comments, the actual time spent in connection and meaningful conversation is just over 10 minutes.

Of course, playing table games and having some table topic question cards available can really improve and facilitate richer conversation. But I would like to propose a radical idea. What if we “took the show on the road”? What if we get all Goldilocks and the three bears and just leave the dinner table behind, in the interest of adventure and magic?? What? You don’t like adventure or magic….well by all means, sit back down! The family dinner table is a fabulous place….But, if you’re up for a little more magic, I would like to introduce you to the idea of the 15 minute family adventure.

The reality is, what is most important for connected families and happier kids is not WHERE these conversations and activities happen….it is THAT they happen.

As an added bonus (as if happier more resilient kids weren’t enough), there is some additional research to consider. Each time a person experiences a new sensation (taste, smell, sight, sound, touch, experience), he grows new dendrites. These dendrites are the tiny but mighty connectors in your brain which help you access all the wealth of information you have stored up there.

Research further suggests that kids who experience true moments of connection and engagement with their parents display far fewer discipline problems and those that are displayed are more easily resolved.

So this week, as you map out your schedule, consider squeezing a couple of 15 minute adventures. You’ll not only be building happier, more resilient kids, you’ll be smashing that 38.5 minute statistic as you build more joy, creativity an adventure into your life and the life of your child. Need more inspiration? Try these ideas:

• Visit a local playground and play hide and seek or make an obstacle course
• Collect the stale bread, chips and cereal at your home and go feed some birds
• Study the night sky and find a constellation
• Write messages to each other on a steamy window or mirror
• Have an indoor picnic
• Turn on some old-school jams and have a dance party
• Cook a favorite family recipe together
• Tell each other your favorite jokes
• Catch a bug in a pickle jar and watch him before letting him go
• Plant a little indoor garden and watch it grow

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Adventurer’s Guide to Summer: Rest Stop Rescue

Are we there yet? Almost….summer is just around the corner! And with summer comes all the joy, fun, adventures and headaches of entertaining the troops. One inevitable challenge (since the days of horse and buggies) are the four dreaded words….”ARE.WE.THERE.YET?” These sounds usually begin about the time the car creeps out of the driveway and continue until arrival or parental meltdown…whichever comes first.

There are a few little magic tricks up our sleeve for making your journey more peaceful and magical. One of the most potent is called Rest Stop Rescue. These are games and other 15 minute adventures that can break up a road trip and create a little magic along the way.

*Vending Machine Grab Bag
In this adventure, everyone in your group chooses a secret treat from the rest stop’s vending machine. Each treat is placed inside a bag and each person draws out a treat. (Trading is allowed, and often makes things more interesting).

*Rest Stop Tour Guide
Each player chooses one tourist brochure from inside the rest stop. Take turns reading each brochure aloud or sharing highlights. (little people may need sobme help with this part). Vote on which attraction everyone would most like to visit. If time allows, add this destination as a stopover on your trip.

*Rest Stop http://dailycialisuse.com/ RAK (Random Act of Kindness)
Tape coins to a vending machine, write a sweet message on the bathroom mirror or design a piece of art with sidewalk chalk to brighten other travelers’ day. Bonus points for creating a RAK of your own….maybe it can be your family’s signature and you can leave it at rest stops all around the country.

* Wiggle Bootcamp Obstacle Course
Create an obstacle course using trees, picnic tables, curbs, trash cans and other available resources

There are infinite varieties of ways to modify and personalize these activities. . All of these ideas are cheap or free and take less than 15 minutes. .These are great opportunities for some great action shots and are an important part of the memories you are making as a family. They may, in fact, be the glue that holds all the other memories together. Let the adventure begin!

An Adventurer’s Guide to Summer: Hotel Horseplay

In one of my earliest adventures, as a tween in the 80s, I took a mini-road trip with a friend and her folks. We visited a sweet little craft community in Indiana-just far enough away from home to feel we had traveled, but far less than a long drive.

I have vague memories of visiting some artisan shops and there were likely a couple educational and nature-based adventures thrown in for good measure. But what I remember most of all is a magical evening at our hotel. We played putt-putt smack in the middle of the hotel. In what I thought was a “stroke” of genius, some wise soul placed a recreational Mecca square in the heart of the hotel. And we took full advantage. After a swim in the heated pool, we watched a scary movie, called “The Fog”. We took a quick trip to the vending machine for a before bed treat and were greeted by a little fog of our own (probably a result of the heated pool below). There was just something distinctly delightful about the simplest things. Magic moments.

As a mother, I’m putting this on my bucket list for my son. Create simple magic moments this summer. Here are some enchanted ideas to help you cultivate some vacation magic of your own.

Hotel Horseplay

*Send kids on a scavenger hunt for things like soap, coffee cup, map, etc. You can add seasonal items, and items that can be readily found depending on where you are staying.

*Play hide and seek.

*Have elevator races.

*Try some minute to win it competitions. Pinterest is filled with great ideas.

*Bounce on the bed and have a pillow fight-the things you never let the kids do at home are perfect entertainment for the hotel room.

Packing Possibilities

*Make a road trip survival kit. Include favorite snacks, dry erase boards/markers, magnetic games, printable games, jump rope, deck of cards, etc.

*Create surprise bags filled with fun small items they haven’t seen before. You can also draw out of a bag each hour for a different activity or game to play.

*Bring a large zip bag to collect all your souvenirs along the way.

*Organize adventure essentials for every trip. Include a flashlight, binoculars, notepad and pen and a great blanket.

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An Adventurer’s Guide to Boredom

Last night, I, along with countless millions of parents watched painfully as my 5 year old rolled his eyes across the table. “This is the BORINGEST thing EVERRRR.” I remember the idea of boredom…briefly, as a young child. My mom, as an intellectual giant, teacher, only child and daughter of two professional artists corrected that idea quickly. “If you are bored, you just aren’t trying hard enough.”
Unstructured time gives kids the chance to explore their inner and outer worlds, which is where creative thinking begins.. This is how they learn to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create.
Unscheduled time gives children a chance to explore their own interests. If a child is never bored, he might miss the chance to hear the whisper of his own hearts, which might lead them to build a fort in the back yard, make a monster from clay, write a short story or song, organize the neighborhood kids into making a movie, or simply study the bugs on the sidewalk (as Einstein did for hours). These magic moments are what make childhood so powerful — but only when children are allowed to experience boredom.
So, as we prepare to celebrate “Anti-Boredom Month” this July, I prepared my response to him carefully.
Boredom….what an amazing blessing. It is the portal to so many great adventures. It is a clanging cymbal of an invitation to dig deep. Find your inner creative genius. Engage in life, in the moment. There is ALWAYS and I do mean ALWAYS something to do. And more often than not, it is something awesome.
Here are a few of our ideas to get you started:

  1. Make something. (a recipe, a craft, a mess)
  2. Read something (a book, a poem, a cereal box)
  3. Explore something (the sky, your neighborhood, your glove compartment)
  4. Imagine something (the future, the past, another galaxy)
  5. Listen to something (the radio, the birds, the wind in the trees)
  6. Rearrange something (organize, reorganize, http://viagrapillnow.com/ reverse engineer)
  7. Write something (a letter, a note, chalk graffiti)
  8. Invent something (real or imaginary)
  9. Cook something (edible is good but not required)
  10. Create something (a song, a play, an alter ego)