Do you love your family? So many of us immediately answer with an emphatic YES!, but fail to always act like it or know how to show it. Family date nights are important for reaffirming to your family how much your relationships matter, and help build stronger family bonds. Especially during busy and hectic times, between baseball practices, music lessons, and homework, it is so vital for parents to take the lead and institute family time together.
Building Strong Families
Research has shown that strong families are built on foundations of several different constructs, including:
- Open communication
- Atmosphere of encouragement and appreciation
- Religious roots
- Ability to adapt to changes and face challenges
- Time together
These constructs don’t simply come together because we all live under the same roof or share the same last name. Strong, healthy families are built when attention is paid to all of these important areas, and family date nights are fun ways to accomplish this.
Fun, Easy, Family Date Night Ideas
Family date nights can (and should) begin when children are young, and they don’t have to be extravagant or expensive. Set aside at least one night each month for family date nights, but once a week is even better.
We’ve heard it before that eating together as a family is vitally important to building strong families, but use this twist for a family date night. Imagine that your family owns its own restaurant – would it be an Italian diner, specialize in Asian cuisine, or an old fashioned cafe? Create a menu together as a family, and give the kids the tasks of decorating the dining room to reflect the restaurant style. Shop together for the ingredients, cook the food together, don’t forget to throw on some music that matches your theme, and enjoy your meal (and just as in a family restaurant – everyone helps with cleanup!)
Put together a treasure hunt where the entire family has to work together to solve clues and locate the treasure, which could be anything from a new DVD to watch together, a board game, or a family photo album. Your clues can lead family members around the house or through an entire park, depending on ages and patience levels, and could even incorporate GPS coordinates for those tweens and teens. Working together to solve problems is an extremely valuable family tool, and treasure hunts are fun ways to practice group problem solving skills.
Picture Perfect Family
Grab a digital camera and head to some of your favorite family locations for group pictures. If time permits, have each child choose a location that is special to him or her – maybe for your son it is the ballpark where he saw his first baseball game with the family, or for your daughter it is where you always used to go as a family for picnics. Use a timer setting or find an obliging stranger to take a family photo, but also take extra candid shots of the family at the location. If your town has a photo booth have everyone cram inside for some goofy and classic group shots. Then head to the drugstore or take the rest of your digital photos home to print, and then work on a family scrapbook together.
Game Show Challenge
As a family choose a game show to use as a model and create your own family version. This one might take some more planning during weekly dinners together, but the final, fun result will be a great night of family fun. Some fun ones to consider are:
- Family Feud (versions sold in stores so you don’t have to develop your own questions) – just add a host and come up with a fun prize.
- Survivor – develop fun challenges like puzzle solving, 3-legged races, and obstacle courses.
- Amazing Race – Set up a course of challenges for either individuals or teams to complete. These could even be silly tasks like matching Tupperware lids to containers, sorting a huge stack of mismatched socks, or searching through a toy box for a small trinket.
One of the best ways to work together as a family is to try something new. There are two ways you can approach this family date night.
Have each family member take turns introducing the rest of the family to something new that he or she really enjoys. In our family that might be our son taking us mountain biking at a local trail where only he has been, or my daughter teaching us how to run a dog agility course. Letting the kids teach the rest of the family something new emphasizes individuality but promotes family time and learning more about each other.
Do something completely new as a family that you all have been curious about trying. This might be fishing for the first time, taking a martial arts class, or going to a play. Be sure to end the activity talking about what each family member liked and didn’t like about the activity.
The most important thing about family date nights are to start them with a positive attitude and keep trying, even if one is a flop. Your family is worth the effort and your children will appreciate the time and energy you put into the adventures, even if it doesn’t show for another 15 years!