Health Message for Families

Making the Most of Family Time

By Donna Warner Manczak, Ph.D. M.P.H.

Copyright – Clinical Reference System

Family history is built around shared events.   Yet, with complex and sometimes conflicting schedules of work, school, and extracurricular activities, shared time is often rare among families.

Quality family time generally does not occur spontaneously; consequently, a certain amount of planning needs to go into bringing family members together.

Some of the following suggestions may appeal to you and your family.

To begin planning, use the “brainstorming” technique to trigger multiple ideas for weekend outings, community projects, or ways children could earn extra money.   Spend about ten minutes listing the first things that pop into people’s heads.   No judgments or comments allowed at this point-farfetched ideas usually yield more practical ones.

Or, ask family members to list or name five things they especially enjoy doing together as a family and five new family activities they would like to do in the future.

* Plant a tree to commemorate a birth, anniversary, or family achievement.

* Photograph your home (or other special family spot) from the same location for four consecutive seasons.   Frame the photographs.

* Arrange a field trip.   Discuss what will be seen and how to behave.    Plan follow-up activities.   Places to visit: working farm, farmer’s market, dairy factory, bakery, museums, zoo, puppet show, children’s matinee, radio or television station, post office, newspaper plant, water treatment facility, airport, state capital.

* Divide into teams (e.g., father-daughter, mother-son) and have each team take turns planning a monthly “mystery trip” or “mystery activity”.

* Start a family scrapbook containing snapshots and mementos from family outings and vacations.

* Show community spirit by recycling old newspapers, bottles, cans, clothing, books, and furniture to appropriate centers.

* Plan one-on-one activities between parent and child.   Outings need not be elaborate: a meal or movie together is quite special.

* Prepare a “birthday quiz” about the birthday boy or girl. Ask your child (or spouse) for correct answers to such items as favorite song, food, book, movie, sport, color, hobby and career.   Together with your child or spouse, also list two bogus answers under each item.   Xerox the quiz and use at a birthday party.

* Have the family produce a skit in the form of a television commercial highlighting positive features about an honored family member.

* Tape record an interview with a grandparent.   Possible questions: What did you like to do when you were my age? Where did you live as a child? How many brothers and sisters did you have? How did you and grandma/grandpa meet? What do you like to do now? What do you like about your house and neighborhood?

* Using heavy construction paper, make family placements by drawing or writing something unique to each family member.   Cover with clear contact paper.

* Homemade cards are always a delight.   Make birthday, get-well, thank-you, or friendship cards by drawing or cutting out pictures, and writing a personalized message.   (Have your child dictate a message if he or she cannot yet write.)

* Design, write, and duplicate copies of a family newspaper complete with headlines, artwork, poetry and assorted columns about recent family events.   Send to grandparents and other selected relatives.

* Prepare something delicious from scratch in which the entire family can participate: bread, pasta, ice cream, or holiday cookies.

* Plan a monthly “ethnic festival.” select a cuisine and appropriate decorations, music, stories, or costumes.   Write out menus with translations and save in a family scrapbook.   Work on crafts from that country.