Round 2 of my Friday Favorites! I am taking a break from talking about food and clean eating and am talking about my true love: my family. I am a mom of three, all autumnal babies: a 5-year old daughter, and 3-year old son, and an 11-week old son as well. These tots–especially my oldest two–keep me plenty busy and plenty entertained. Like any other mom, regardless of how old our kids are, I am also kept pretty insane thanks to these cuties as well. They sure know how to push our buttons and fill our heart with love like no one else.
I am blessed with the world’s best career. I am a high school teacher. I may be on maternity leave for a few more weeks, but I know that it is like to be a working mom on a budget–both with our time and with our pocketbooks. I want to share with you some of the fun activities I do with my kids when the hours are short and the days or long. Most of these are free and allow me to share my interests and maybe a little fitness with my kids as well.
I am by no means reinventing the wheel here. We all know that kids love to ride bikes or go swimming or sled in the snow. As moms, we have other tricks up our sleeves that keep our families busy or healthy or, simply, prevent our house from getting too messy. My husband often wonders why I spend most summer days playing with the kids elsewhere. Less to clean!
Anyway, leave a comment with your favorite fun family activities so we have a growing list to tap into when needed. Here is what the Bus clan loves.
- Treasure hunts!
- My kids and I enjoy two different types of treasure hunts. When it is nice outside, regardless of the season, we will head out for a trek around the neighborhood with a list of “must-find” items and have a typical scavenger hunt. The kids will create a pictured list, almost like a Bingo board, and we see if we can get a full line before we return home. This fall, we had much luck finding cats and spider webs thanks to Halloween decorations. My son loves putting swings on his board since he knows there is a swing set three doors down. Have fun with this! Sometimes, I’ll load the kids in our red wagon or jogging stroller, with breakfast or a bowl of ice cream or something, and just get a scavenger hunt moving because we have been in the house too long.
- The second type of hunt, our real-deal treasure hunt, grew out of a funny story. One day, I was changing the sheets on my bed and had my comforter flung over the end of my bed. My kids crawled underneath and started calling it their “pirate cave.” Their obsession with Peter Pan Live! at the time may have been at fault–who knows! Well, within 5 minutes, a cave wasn’t enough. One of the kids said we should have a real treasure hunt. I thought about this for a minute and realized I could get a few quiet minutes if they had to stay in their cave while I prepped the treasure hunt. I filled two empty shoe boxes with some forgotten toys (You know what I mean, moms! Those Peppa Pig figurines they couldn’t do without a few months back that have spent more time under the couch lately?), hid it in the far reaches of the family room, and drew up a little map. I may have also arranged the kitchen chairs and couch cushions to create obstacles, but that is unnecessary! The kids, and I, had a blast, were up and moving, and have designed their own for me and my husband as well. I even used this as a get inside from the snow before you get frostbite! ploy this weekend with a map that led to hot chocolate.
- Playground obstacles & picnics
- This is the easiest of all my suggestions and the one that involves the most fitness for you. Next time you take your kids to the playground, make a little obstacle course or HIIT workout for yourself. Do pull-ups on the monkey bars and stair steppers and calf raises on the steps. Is there a bench? Tricep dips! I’ll also run laps around the equipment, do jumping jacks, or jump rope while my kids play. They often like to chase me or run alongside, which is great to get their little bodies moving. If your kids are anything like mine you will also get a decent arm workout pushing them on the swings for 15 straight minutes. Don’t let a work schedule get in the way of this fun activity, either. On nights my husband works late, I’ll eat dinner when he gets home and my kids often have dinner at the playground while I get a workout in. They love the picnic-aspect of it. We are lucky to have a playground a few lots from our home, but don’t let proximity stop you! On weekends or days in the summer when the temp is bound to get real hot real fast, we have breakfast playground picnics. I promise that you will enjoy these as much as the kids.
- Our bounce house
- A few birthdays ago, we enlisted the grandparents in getting our daughter a bounce house for her birthday. We went with a rather simple one, but the fun has not stopped. I will set this up in our front yard–another upper body workout in and of itself!–and before long neighbors are over and everyone is bouncing. My kids are staying healthy without even realizing it! I’ll join them once in a while or do another HIIT workout in the yard, but mostly like to sit in a lawn chair reading a good book and soaking up their giggles.
- Silly sports
- I dread the days my kids are actually a part of competitive sports. I fear the parent-politics of the sidelines and the imbalance between “in it to win it ALL” and “everyone gets a trophy.” For that reason, I embrace silly sports for my kids. What I mean is, I give them the equipment, take them to the field or court, and just have a blast. No rules, no score, just silliness. We are BIG fans of two of these in particular: soccer and tennis. I can get an amazing cardio workout in running from goal to goal, ball or no ball, while my kids try to shoot soccer balls passed one another. We are lucky, again, that their is a huge soccer field across from our development. We head there right after school before the practices begin and just have a blast. Tennis is fun, too, because my kids will occupy themselves for long stretches just trying to make it over the net. I can practice my serve (which is awful!) on a nearby court or even run the perimeter. You can almost always find an empty or free court at local rec centers. I sometimes think my kids’ favorite part of tennis is seeing who can pick up the most balls before it is time to head home.
- The library
- We love going to our local library. It brings back memories of going with my mom when I was a kid! Maybe that fueled my passion for reading and writing. Either way, this is a free and safe place to be regardless of the weather. Most local branches have kids clubs, story hours, arts and crafts, etc., that make them even more fun, but we often go first thing in the morning or right after school and simply explore. My kids love checking out kids movies as well. If your local library doesn’t seem very kid-friendly, check out a Barnes and Nobel near you. They host story hours as well and often have Lego and/or train tables–and Starbucks! One near by B&N has a Petsmart next door–even more free fun checking out the fish and animals!
- The zoo (my favorite!)
- We have had a membership at the Philadelphia Zoo since our 3-year old was born, and I am obsessed with it. We go countless times over the summer and whenever we have a day off from school during the fall, winter, and spring. Yes–even during a winter in the northeast. Not all of the animals remain in their habitats, but there is still plenty to see. Rainy days work well, too, because of all the indoor exhibits we often skip when the weather is nice. Plus, the zoo is often less crowded on not-so-great weather days. We get plenty of exercise moving from exhibit to exhibit and, since we know we will be back again, never mind if we don’t get to every animal each time. Having the membership also allows us to go at various times of day. Some animals are more active early in the day while different animals get moving in the afternoon. We know many of the animals names and learn more interesting facts from the zoo keepers every time we go. A membership is a great gift idea, too; that’s how we got ours!
So those are my “Friday Favorites” this week! Can you tell I am ready for the snow to be gone?! Please comment with fun outdoor or indoor activities that are family-friendly!