Did you know that playing together is one of the key components of connected and joyful families? Letting loose and simply having fun keeps us in a relational place and gives us special memories to look back on. However, keeping the fun factor in our families can be particularly difficult during stressful times, like this long COVID season.
Recently, I noticed my family of 6 was getting a bit grouchy. Months of staying at home and missing our normal routines was wearing on everyone, and we needed an extra infusion of fun! Although I am highly relational, I am also super serious and play doesn’t come naturally to me – I have to be intentional about it. So my hubby and I began to ask God for help as we focused on building more play into our days. As a result, the mood in our home has noticeably lightened and laughter and connection have grown.
Here are a few simple tips we have used and that you too can implement to build the habit of play into your families!
Weave fun into the regular rhythms in your home:
Ultimately, the goal is to build a regular habit of play. One of the easiest ways to develop a new habit is to attach it to an existing one.
- Dinner Time Fun: Every night we intentionally connect at dinner, often by sharing highlights from our day, or something we are thankful for. But you can also get goofy by going around the table and telling jokes. Everyone can share something silly from the day, or one by one someone can hum a tune and everyone else tries to guess what they are humming. Get creative and come up with your own ideas!
- Bedtime Laughter: Add an extra 5 minutes to bedtime with a game of Eye Spy, Rock, Paper, Scissors, or a Thumb War. I have noticed that a few short minutes can completely change the mood in the room and end everyone’s night on a high note.
- Add in Music: If you have routines with chores or something similar, crank on some fun music and make it enjoyable! One of our favorites is “God’s Great Dance Floor” by Martin Smith on YouTube.
Keep it simple:
- “Playing” together doesn’t have to take long. Implementing new ideas often feels less overwhelming if they are short and easy. You can start by inserting fun into little pockets of time. A one-minute Thumb War or game of Eye Spy can make a big difference.
- A simple deck of cards can go a long way! Think Go Fish, Old Maid, 21…You can slide a quick game in right after school, after dinner, or before bed.
Take advantage of nighttime (especially with teens):
If you have teens, you might have noticed that nighttime is often when they are most open to connection. For our teens, we give a lot of time at night to hanging out. Our kids love watching comedies, so we watch lighthearted shows a few nights a week and often enjoy special snacks. Other nights they will just hang out in our room and we’ll talk and goof around. Over time, our regular evenings together have developed into a special and fun habit.
Have a weekly game night and/or movie night:
Take more time once a week to watch a funny movie or play a longer game together.
- If you watch a movie, make it special with some popcorn or other treat. One night I made movie tickets and changed the seating in our living room to feel more like a real movie theater.
- Games like Hoot Owl Hoot (great for younger kids) or Forbidden Island are great games where you play together as a team as opposed to against each other.
- We also just discovered the online games at jackboxgames.com, which are great for teens (I highly suggest using the family friendly setting.) A couple other favorites for older ages are Apples to Apples, Scattergories, and Skip Bo.
Go out on dates with your kiddos:
My husband is great about taking each of our children on a date once a month to get a treat and chat. You can also go for a walk, ride bikes together, or go to the park. Lately, we have been taking one child on a date together to work on our three-way bonds. These are very sweet times!
Be a learner of what your children enjoy:
As you implement new ideas, pay attention. What brightens their faces or makes them laugh? This is especially important for teens. They want to play too, it just might take some more discovery to learn what they consider fun. Capitalize on the things that bring joy into your home and repeat them. If an idea doesn’t work, toss it and try again until you find something that does. Soon you will fall into a groove that brings life and joy into your home and fits the unique flavor of your family!