The school year is here! And for many of us that means trading in long, lazy days together for a much more compressed period of time to connect. (In our house, it’s also going to mean daily tennis practices for my oldest son, weekly basketball and gymnastics for the younger kids, and a smattering of school-related meetings and events to try to fit in around family dinners, homework and bedtime. Ouch.)
So at this time of year I find myself looking for ways to reconnect with my kids in the evenings, when time is precious and limited. Here are some regular activities I’ve incorporated in past school years (and a handful I plan on working into the routine this year!)
7 Ways to Reconnect with Kids on Busy Evenings 1 of 8
Check out these 7 easy ways to make the most of your evenings with your kids:
Make dinner a family affair 2 of 8
It's tempting to kick kids out of the kitchen so you can just get dinner on the table already. But involving them in meal prep — even if it's just one or two simple tasks — is a great way to make the most of your time in the kitchen. Some of the tasks I give my kids: mixing, spreading, stirring, and, yes, even slicing. Big kids need to learn how to use knives!
Photo credit: Rachel Tayse, Flickr
Read a bedtime story together 3 of 8
I have five kids, so sometimes reading to everyone separately can feel like a game of musical books (and let's face it: it takes forever.) The solution: shared reading time with a book everyone can get into. Worried about finding a book everyone will like? Don't be afraid to try meatier material. I still remember listening to my mother read The Hobbit out loud when I was about 4 years old. I didn't understand it all, but I liked spending the time with my big brothers.
Photo credit: Chris, Flickr
Go for an evening walk 4 of 8
A stroll to get ice cream, to the playground, or even just around the block is an excellent way to take a time out together. Little kids love hunting for pinecones and acorns, while older kids may want to try their hand at ID-ing birds. A rousing game of I Spy is fun for all ages, and it's easier to play while you're walking than while you're driving!
Photo credit: Zach Taylor, Flickr
Play a board game 5 of 8
We love board games like Boggle, Yahtzee, and Monopoly. The Settlers of Catan (pictured above) is currently a family favorite. Even though it's fairly involved, there are easy ways to make it shorter, like reducing the number of points the winner must reach. Also (shh), I've been known to let my kids win in order to get them to bed.
Photo credit: Lauri Rantala, Flickr
Start a Conversation 6 of 8
Put the pieces together Ãï¿½ï¿½Ãï¿½Â¢Ãï¿½Â¯Ãï¿½Â¿Ãï¿½Â½Ãï¿½Â¯Ãï¿½Â¿Ãï¿½Â½ together 7 of 8
If you have space — a dining-room table your family usually doesn't use, for example — a jigsaw puzzle can be a fun, ongoing project that you can work on whenever you have a few minutes. You can also use a large flat piece of wood to construct the puzzle on your living-room floor or kitchen table, and carefully move it to an out-of-the-way area when you're not working on it.
Photo credit: Electric-Eye, Flickr
Create a bedtime ritual 8 of 8
I'm a huge fan of the family dinner, but with a bunch of school-age kids, it can be hard to pull off every single night. But just because tonight's dinner was grabbed on the go doesn't necessarily mean you can't find time to sit around the table together. A nightly ritual of cocoa and a bowl of popcorn is a great way to reconnect with the kids before bed, and it doesn't take much prep time or work.
Photo credit: Andrea Goh, Flickr
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