Get Serious About Fun!

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Have fun with your children while you can – they grow up fast!  Create happy memories by doing chores together, learning a new skill or just being together.  You’ll be amazed how long those happy moments can last.

Have fun with your children while you can – they grow up fast!  Create happy memories by doing chores together, learning a new skill or just being together.  You’ll be amazed how long those happy moments can last.

“Enjoy yourself.  It’s later than you think!” says an old song from the ’50s.  Our children grow up too quickly.  When they are small, we sit on the floor, play patty cake and sing baby songs.  As they get older, we help with homework, drive them to after-school activities and watch school plays.  We get serious and forget to have fun.  But fun is healthy for children and adults.  It creates a joyful friendly connection with our children and happy memories.  It also decreases stress and the need for discipline.

“The more fun we have with our kids, the less they will misbehave,” says Fred G. Grosman in Spoiled Rotten: Today’s Children and How to Change Them (Villard.  Grosman calls having fun “a disciplinary style that works.”

A local police officer told me that he and his wife signed up for a parenting class “because even though I am a good disciplinarian, our 12-year-old daughter was getting too rebellious and taking her younger brother along with her.”

His first week’s homework for the class was to do something fun (not TV) for 20 minutes every day with each child.  He thought it was weird, but did it faithfully for a week.  They played games, went for walks, had a soda, made pizza, even did chores together.  “I couldn’t imagine what it would do, but when we went back to class I had to admit I felt like a good parent and there was a major improvement in their attitudes.”

Make Work Play

It is more fun doing chores with a child.  My best conversations with my mother were while cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.  In her article, “Memories That Matter,” Diane Chambers, author of Solo Parenting: Raising Strong and Happy Families (Fairview Press), says, “Right at this very moment you are creating memories for your kids, whether good or bad.  I am amazed when my 17-year-old daughter brings up memories that I didn’t even realize mattered until now.  She’ll say, ‘Remember when we used to go to the one-dollar car wash and have to do it real fast because we only had two minutes and you only had one dollar?’  Then she smiles and says, ‘That was fun, huh?’… Your kids’ good memories will be of the times when you were smiling and laughing with them.”  Sharing jobs you have to do is a way of creating fun.

My friend Jim owns a laundromat.  To earn their allowance, once a month his two daughters, Liz and Jessica, ages 9 and 11, spend a Saturday morning in his office writing checks to pay bills.  He signs and mails them.  His wife thinks he should be embarrassed by the childish handwriting, but he grins, “They’re glad to get their money, and the girls and I have fun doing it.”

Learning Together

Learning a new skill together builds camaraderie and confidence.  When their two boys started school, another friend, Kathy, told her husband, Howard, “You need to get some kind of hobby you can do with the boys.”  Howard and the boys loved cars, so they decided to restore an old Volkswagen.  They spent many of happy hours pouring over manuals and rummaging in wrecking yards getting greasy but learning together.  Another friend says she had her best birthday ever when her son taught her how to rollerblade.

Join your children in an activity they want to try.  What if you and your child took the dog to obedience class, made a vegetable garden, learned to paint with watercolors, prepared a French dinner or tried a windsurfing lesson?  It might be fun.  Check out your local parks and recreation department for ideas.  Exercise is more fun with a buddy, too.  A regular walk feels good and provides opportunities for a conversation about the day.  At my gym there is a mother and her 13-year- old son who lift weights together a couple of afternoons a week.  They always seem to be laughing and chatting.

Help Others Together

Helping others is satisfying and fun.  Parents and children can provide foster care for animal shelter kitties too young to adopt.  If you love garage sales or thrift store shopping, make a project out of buying inexpensive children’s coats in good condition to donate to the school fall coat drive.  Other ideas include working in the garden at your church once a month or providing foster care for animals at the local shelter.

Adults and children are happier and healthier with fun in their lives.  Fun doesn’t mean silly and mindless.  It is doing things together that feel good to both of you, enjoying your child like you would a friend.  Fun is smiling and laughing with your child while doing things you would normally do, such as chores, exercising, helping others and learning.

Having fun with children provides an opportunity for good conversation, creates good memories and makes you feel like a good parent.  So get out there and enjoy yourself.  It’s later than you think.

Eleanor Wolfe is a freelance writer and mother.

Find the Fun

Looking for inspiration when it comes to fun?  Dig in to The Five Minute Parent: Fun & Fast Activities for You and Your Little Ones (Bayou) by Deborah Shelton, an active member of the Association for Play Therapy.  Inside you’ll find all kinds of cool ways to bring more laughter to you and your little ones, from art adventures and wacky experiments to games and sports of all kinds.  As author Shelton puts it, don’t wait for the weekend!

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