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I have teamed up with The National Milk Life Campaign’s Back-to-School program to bring you this week’s series on keeping your family healthy. Visit the other posts here and here.
My family is my world and it can be a challenge sometimes to get them to have a healthy and balanced life, especially with picky kids. As moms, we all want our children to be balanced physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And we need that for ourselves and our spouses too! Life can become busy and overwhelming sometimes and it isn’t easy to maintain this balance. By working some things into our crazy schedules that allow us to spend time as a family and contribute to a healthy lifestyle, it’s become easier to achieve our goals. Here are some of the ways that we are doing that.
1. FAMILY DINNER
My family growing up always made eating dinner together a priority, especially on Sundays. I remember gathering around the table on those days and getting that time to talk about our week with my siblings and parents, to laugh and joke around, and even to talk about things that were more serious. It was invaluable to developing relationships with my family and becoming stronger together. Every kid wants a chance to share and family dinner was the time to do that. My parents both worked so we didn’t always get time on weekdays but I remember sitting down after dance class and talking to my Mom while she heated up my food. Even that small amount of time meant the world to me.
Now, in my own family, we do what we can to eat dinner together. Unfortunately, my husband works until later in the evening so we don’t always get to sit down with him. However, there have been nights that the kids insisted on waiting to eat until he got home because they loved being around him so much. Some nights, they are in their jammies and ready for bed when he comes home but we still sit with him at the table while he eats. Our boys usually beg for a bite of his food (even though they have eaten) and regale him with the things we did that day. To be honest, it can be hard on me sometimes because by that point in the day, I’m ready for the kids to be in bed. But it’s been important to develop those relationships as a family and to be together. I know it means a lot to my husband who really enjoys every little bit of time he gets with them.
Studies show that kids who eat dinner with their family at least four times a week do better in school, are less likely to do drugs, are more social with their peers, are less likely to have depression, and are all around healthier kids. Dinners don’t have to be elaborate affairs. Some nights, I cook up what we call the “Tuesday Night Special” which is nothing more than grilled cheese sandwiches and canned tomato soup that I mix up with milk instead of water (the milk makes it creamier and provides nine essential nutrients, including high-quality protein!!). We’ve even had fishsticks and macaroni and cheese, and on really busy days, we’ve sat down with bowls of cereal. As long as we are sitting down together, our kids are getting that ever important time together as a family.
If you’re schedules don’t allow for it, find another way to be together. Have breakfast each morning together or even sit down over a simple afternoon snack. Find what works for your family and just do it!
2. READING TIME
As soon as we had our first baby, I started reading to him. My husband used to tease me because it seemed so silly to read a book to a four month old. But reading was always important to me, and I wanted to establish a habit of reading with my kids. Now that they are 6 and 3, we still make time to read every day. It’s generally at night, before bedtime, but I used to read to them before their naps too. Some days we read one book and others we read three. The books have changed over the years, from simple picture books to stories now full of silly pictures and rhymes. They even select informational books some nights (we have poured over anatomy, bugs and insects, and astronomy). Whatever it is, the books often bring up topics that open up other discussions. This gives us as parents important opportunities to teach them. Last week, we read a book that talked about kindness and our six-year-old was especially curious about ways that we could be kind to others. Whatever it may be, I know that those will be memories we will all keep forever.
3. PLAY, PLAY, PLAY!
Our boys are very active, especially our oldest. Physical activity and play has been key to relating to them and having fun as a family. Some nights, we play tickle monster or hide and seek in the house. When my husband mows the lawn each week, the boys love going outside with him and riding their bikes in the driveway. They love having races so we’ll set up little courses and time them, measuring their growth and improvement.
In the warmer months, we all enjoy getting outside and playing baseball. Our oldest started playing last year and it’s now become a family pastime. Our toddler even gets in the action and loves batting and playing catch. We also started playing tennis together. On weekends or Monday nights, we would drive to the nearest tennis courts and play for an hour. They love it!
Finding time to play together gives us all a chance to loosen up and laugh. I know that when I start playing with them, any stress I’m feeling settles and I’m able to relax and have fun, even if it’s just for five minutes. Whatever activity it may be, get out and have fun!
4. CREATE TOGETHER
This one is especially important in our family because music is a huge part of who we are. Our family owns a music store, my husband teaches guitar on the side, and I teach piano and voice lessons. Our kids are getting old enough now that they have started dabbling in learning how to sing and play some instruments. But we also love singing along to songs on the radio, having dance parties in our family room, and just being goofy. Even if music isn’t one of your talents, you can still have fun with it. It’s a great way to spend time together and have fun!
In addition to music, spend some time creating something together. We love grabbing our paints and spending the afternoon whipping up a “masterpiece”. My kids have helped me make cookies in the kitchen, on projects for the blog, putting together puzzles, and making presents for family members. We even love sitting down and mashing up some fun with play-doh. It’s really fun to watch my kids create things and see how their minds work. They see things that I don’t! Plus, it gives us more time to talk and giggle.
5. FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT
Several years ago, before we had kids, we began something we call “Ring Fest”. Each October, we watch all three “Lord of the Rings” movies, spreading them out throughout the month. We incorporate food, props, outfits, and even the music into our evenings. It’s become a fun tradition that our kids look forward to every year. Each of them has the chance to wear “the one ring” and hold one of the swords from my husband’s collection. I can see it becoming a fun activity for them to invite friends to when they are older and a great way to spend time together as a family.
But even when we aren’t doing “Ring Fest”, we enjoy watching movies together as a family. I remember doing the same thing with my family growing up. Every Friday, we’d head over to the movie store and grab the newest release or a family favorite, pop some popcorn, and snack on our favorite chocolate. Even still today, we will sit down and watch movies as a family on Sundays. The fun thing about movie nights is that they don’t have to be well planned. Just grab a family favorite and throw some popcorn in the microwave!
If you want to add some extra fun, you can create invitations or movie posters to hang up in your home (you can find templates here). This is a really good idea if you have older kids because it gives them some notice. For the little kids, getting an invitation makes them feel special and adds to the anticipation. Whip up some treats, fill your glasses with chocolate milk, and enjoy that special time together!
No matter what you choose to do together as a family, keep it as simple or elaborate as you want. In our family, some things are well planned but, more often than not, it’s something that we do spontaneously. The important thing is that we are together, and that time we spend will help establish life-long healthy habits. Find something that works for your family and try it out. You will be amazed at the difference it makes to your family’s health and well-being!
You can find more ways to create healthy habits in your day with the help of Milk on their website. Be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for even more ideas and inspiration!
Two more of you will have the chance to win free milk for a month. To enter, leave a comment sharing how you provide a healthy lifestyle for your family. Entries will close on Wednesday, November 4.