It is cold in Michigan. Been having lots of snow and ice days. Lots of time spent indoors. Rather than just watching TV or playing video games, resurrect the practice of having some homegrown family fun. Not the fast-paced, Hollywood kind. The simple, stay-at-home-and-bond kind. Here are some creative in-home family “date” ideas taken from my book A Life That Says Welcome.to get you started:
• Get board. Be a card. Hold a family night of fun centered on a board game or round or two of cards. It can be a new variety such as Texas Hold ’Em. Or perhaps you’d enjoy a retro round. Many old favorites like Monopoly or Life can be found in new editions. Better yet, try an online auction such as eBay to locate an original. Pop some popcorn; make root beer floats or healthy fruit smoothies. Laugh and play together. (Okay, I’ll be truthful: And you’ll occasionally fight. You know, dad plays out of turn, someone accuses little sister of cheating. It doesn’t matter! You’ll still be making lasting memories.)
• Take a walk down memory lane. Occasionally get out the home movies and watch them as a family. Or look at photos from the past. Talk with your children about the way God was working in all of your lives at the time. Help to point your kids to the Author of life who ordained every one of their days even before any of them came to be.
• Hold a kiddy café. Let the kids (when old enough) plan, prepare, and serve a meal. With the exception of the grocery shopping, mom and dad must not be involved! Let them make decorations or arrange a centerpiece. Put on your finest attire and take in a meal at the Kiddy Café. Don’t forget to leave a generous tip.
• Read. Start the tradition of reading aloud as a family one night a week. It doesn’t have to be forever. Try the summer or the month of March. Choose a classic, a mystery, or a book from your childhood. We loved reading Charlotte’s Web using the very book my husband had read to him in the 1960s.
• Make a racket (in the kitchen, that is). Grab the pots and pans. Combine your efforts. Collaborate on a homemade family snack before enjoying a television show or movie. See the below for some easy and yummy ideas.
Sweet Eats and Sassy Snacks
• Orange-Cream Smoothies. Just like the expensive ones at the mall! Combine 12 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 20 ice cubes, 2 cups milk, and 1 cup sugar in a large blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Serves 6.
• Homemade Hot Cocoa. Skip the mix and make your favorite mug-filler from scratch. In a large saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, 2/3 cup water, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 8 cups whole milk and heat thoroughly, but do not boil. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon almond extract. Top with marshmallows or whipped cream. Serve immediately.
• The Layered Look. Make a layered bean dip using your family’s favorite Mexican eats. Try a large platter or pie tin layered with refried beans, taco meat, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. Serve with hearty corn tortilla chips for dipping. Blue corn chips are fun!
• Stuff it! Making your own stuffed-crust pizza is a snap. Simply make your favorite homemade crust, doubling the recipe to be sure you have enough. Roll the dough out about three inches larger in diameter than your pizza pan or stone. Lay pieces of mozzarella string cheese around the edges of the pan. Fold the excess dough up and over the cheese and pinch down to seal. Pre-bake crust for 5–7 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove. Add sauce and topping and finish baking, about 5–10 minutes longer. Yum!
• Get corny. There’s nothing like the smell and taste of homemade caramel corn. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pop 15 cups popcorn. Mix with 2 cups mixed salted nuts. Spread on lightly greased cookie sheets with edges. Mix 2 cups packed brown sugar, 1 cup real butter, 1/2 cup corn syrup, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat till boiling and bubbly, about 12 minutes or more. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring constantly as mixture maintains a boil and until it forms a soft ball when a small portion is dropped in cold water. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Stir until foamy. Pour over popcorn mixture and stir until well coated. Bake for 20 minutes. Stir and bake 20 more minutes. Remove. Spread on wax paper to cool.
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