Can’t afford that pricey vacation to Disney World with the children or grandchildren?
If you’re a baby boomer like me, as a kid, you probably spent a lot of time at home eating family dinners, playing board games, and watching “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “Wonderful World of Disney” every Sunday night.
But have you noticed that today’s exhausted families seem to be constantly on the run dashing from one destination to another?
Turns out our parents may have been on to something back in the day. Sure, it’s fun and exciting to go new places and create memories. But simply hanging around the house enjoying familiar activities also has its benefits.
In fact, this new study points out that leisure time spent at home may actually be a more effective way to foster true, long-lasting happiness.
“When the brain is focused on processing new information—such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location—less ‘brain power’ is available to focus on the family relationships,” lead author Karen K. Melton, PhD., assistant professor of child and family studies, said in a press release.
In other words, a quiet evening spent together participating in familiar activities inside the home – while reducing distractions such as cell phones – makes it easier to reap the emotional benefits of quality time together.
There’s another benefit too.
Family members can feel free to “express stress and conflict as well as pleasure during leisure time” if they’re at home, Melton added. This necessary and natural process of blowing off steam that can lead to solving family issues is something that probably won’t happen in public places where people are watching.
Although many experts recommend eating together and discourage watching TV, Melton said there is not a one-size-fits-all schedule for leisure activities that guarantees happiness.
“For some families, quality togetherness is having dinner together or playing games; for others, it may be hobbies, videos or TV, music,” she said. “At the end of the day, what matters is that we are social beings who crave a sense of belonging and connectivity.”
This idea also fits into studies that show children do well with regular, predictable, and consistent routines at home.
That’s good news both for parents and grandparents limited on time and resources.
If you’re a grandparent like me, that means when the grandchildren come to visit, you don’t have to feel the need to run out and do something new and exciting every day. Quit trying so hard, slow down, and enjoy simple activities at home with the children.
Want a few ideas of activities you can try out with your children or grandchildren at your house? Here are a few suggestions:
- Read a favorite book and have your child or grandchild add his own twist for a unique ending.
- Have some old-fashioned fun in the backyard. My grandchildren love to play “Eat it or Wear It” with various foods. Want something tamer and less gross? Try good ol’ Freeze Tag, Kick the Can, or Red Light Green Light. They’ll love it! Make an obstacle course. Or pick up a piece of rain gutter at the hardware store, add water and a soap “boat” and voila! You have a race track.
- Grandma and Grandpa, show the kids some of your groovy moves during the disco era. Dim the lights and give each child a flashlight to turn on and off for that full disco effect. Break out your old Bee Gee, ABBA, and KC and the Sunshine Band albums. Or younger parents, share your favorite dance moves like the Sprinkler, The Macarena, or the Robot with MC Hammer or New Kids on the Block playing in the background. Or choreograph a dance routine to your kids’ current favorite songs.
- Ready for some quiet time? Lie on a blanket outside and do some star gazing. Do a puzzle together. Make a shoe box dollhouse using cardboard, matchboxes, toilet paper rolls, and scrapbook paper (I spent countless hours doing this as a kid!). Remember string art and play dough? They still work like magic!
- Kids love to perform. Hold a family karaoke night. Give out “awards” for the silliest performance, best duo, most dramatic voice, or best outfit. Make a “runway” out of folded blankets, play some music, and have a fashion show with exaggerated catwalks and poses. Try a comedy show complete with corny kids jokes, a puppet show based on the children’s favorite story, or a magic show displaying their favorite card tricks.
Save money and take the time to veg out at home. In the long run, your children or grandchildren may be happier!
Images courtesy of digital art and graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.