Family fun lists, and leaving the house

photo-261One source of frustration at my house lately has been motivating the kids to do much. When we bring them somewhere (the Adventure Aquarium — see the jellyfish picture — or skiing, or swimming at the Y) they inevitably have a great time. But getting them out the door is painful. The 5-year-old in particular complains bitterly about it. There is something particularly not-fun about hauling a crying kid out to the car to go to the pool knowing full well that he will be crying later because he doesn’t want to leave.

Anyway, I’ve been inspired by Wandering Scientist’s annual Family Fun List. Each member of her family contributes a few items to this list, and they try to do roughly one adventure a month. Entries range from camping to going to Legoland to buying ice cream from an ice cream truck.

I asked my kids last night for suggestions for our family fun list. I don’t particularly want to be the only one coming up with weekend activities, and I figured that if they took ownership of some entries, that might inspire less whining when we decide to do something.

Yes, many potential activities did wind up on there. The 3-year-old wanted to go to the Please Touch Museum as Princess Sofia again (as we did for Halloween). She wanted to go skiing (she went last weekend and got into it). The 7-year-old wanted to go to a professional soccer game and to be in a parade, both of which could be interesting to pull off.

But a lot of the activities, from the 5-year-old in particular, involved staying at home. He wanted to play darts as a family. He wanted to do a family build-with-Legos night, and a family movie night. Indeed, the only potential leave-the-house activity he mentioned was playing games in the pool as a family, but I think he meant the backyard pool in summer, not the YMCA pool in winter.

So I’ve just got a major homebody on my hands. To be fair, he can’t read or get on the internet, so it’s not like he’s going to do some research and find a train museum (which he’d probably really like, too) an hour away and suggest we do that. He does like things like going out for donuts or pizza, or going to amusement parks. But his first suggestions, and plenty from the other kids too (like playing Mario Kart on the Wii together, or eating popcorn while watching Ice Age 3) could be done in our living room or basement.

I think there’s a good balance to be struck here. Leaving the house for a few hours a day on weekends and holidays gives the day structure. We do need some physical activity too. But I’m trying to be better about telling the 5-year-old, in particular, about activities ahead of time, so he can get his head around them. I’m also trying to assure him that he’ll get his downtime. You can play with Legos for 2 hours this morning. Then we’ll go to the aquarium, then you can come home and play Legos again and then watch a movie. There will be time for all those things.

Do you make family fun lists? Do you have some family members who like to leave the house more than others?  

14 thoughts on “Family fun lists, and leaving the house

  1. I didn’t think my kids were old enough to meaningfully contribute to a family fun list, but maybe I should try and see what I get (they are 3 and 5). I know my 5 year old needs some down time— a low-stimulus period either by himself or just with one of us. If its nice out, that down time can be climbing or scootering in an uncrowded park, but in the winter, it usually involves coloring, puzzles or legos. We do try to build that into each day. It helps that I totally get it—I need low stimulus time myself, and will often sit with him and read while he does his activity. Also helps that the little one still naps (though on busy days, its often a stroller nap)—it reminds us of the need for rest.
    He likes going out, but can also sometimes be hard to convince to actually leave the house. Its definitely exhausting, especially when you are going somewhere specifically for his enjoyment—often after HE asked to go earlier in the day!

    1. @Ana – I think Wandering Scientist’s kids are 7 and 5, so the 5-year-old is within the realm of possibility. The 3-year-old may or may not have much to contribute that’s new but it’s good to hear what activities the family is doing that are hits. For instance, my 3-year-old wanted to put on the list “have a family pasta dinner.” She said this while we were having dinner … and eating pasta. She also wanted to watch Blaze as a family, Blaze being the TV show she’d been watching while I was making dinner. There’s no real forward looking at this point, or sense of specialness, but her mentioning of skiing and the Please Touch Museum confirmed that she did like both when they happened.

      But yeah, the fighting and arguing with a kid over something he/she wanted to do can feel soul crushing. You just have to laugh at the ridiculousness, I guess, because otherwise you’d cry.

      1. Thanks for the shout out! Yes, my kids are 7 and 5- but this is also the 3rd year we’ve done this exercise, so our first time around, my youngest was 3. You can click back through the links in my post to see what she suggested the first time around. She had a couple, but that year it wasn’t strictly 3 each like it is now. If the kids are stuck, we do give them ideas, but we also try to go with their suggestions- hence the ice cream trucks and candy shops in our current list. My kids tend to like to be out and being social- particularly the older one. But we do get some “at home” activities, too. For instance, the first item we did on our list this year was to build a LEGO town in our living room. (We have a lot of LEGO! It took hours. You can see pictures of our town over at my “Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining” tumblr: http://crappythingsimade.tumblr.com/post/107252751326/streets-for-lego-town-shortly-after-i-posted) The town is still up in our living room….

        1. I’m sure my 5 year old could think of things, just not sure I’d want to do them 😉 He did want to go ice skating after reading a book about it, which is why I put it on my list.
          My 3 year old is very very present-oriented, everything in the past is “yesterday” and I can only understand about 50% of his copious constant speech at this juncture so it’ll be interesting. I’m sure it’ll involve candy.

          1. @Ana – I think you might be surprised at what they come up with. My 2yo wanted to “eat sandwich outside” which I interpreted to mean “picnic on the deck” which turned out to be pretty fun and low-key 🙂

            Plus, you could call it brainstorming (the Sesame Street word of the day from one of the recent episodes) and then you don’t HAVE to choose all of the suggestions!

  2. I love this idea of family fun lists and definitely want to make one! My 4-yo sounds like your 5yo. I’m wondering if mine is a homebody, or if maybe it’s the age? Before, I could take my son lots of places, but when he discovered legos at 3/4–forget it. We just returned from a family vacation at a beach in South Carolina–and while too cold to go in the water, it was beautiful (for us northerners) with mid-60s weather. A few days it was like pulling teeth to leave the house, but once we did–it was great (e.g., bike rides, sand castles, playground, etc.) We had an auditory fun list of things we wanted to do during the vacation, but maybe writing it out with direct input from my son (with pictures as he can’t read yet) might be helpful.

    1. @EB – we went through this with the beach this summer too. The kids didn’t want to leave the house to go to the beach (which was the whole point we were at the beach). Of course, once they were there and building castles and splashing, getting them back home was often equally difficult. I do think the list could help though — “why don’t we pick something from the list to do today?” might ward off the tendency to sit in the dark watching cartoons when it’s sunny and 65 degrees out.

  3. I think I am a lot like your 5-year-old: I need advance notice of things I’ll be doing, even if they are fun, and I like to know that I’ll have time to myself to recharge afterwards. 🙂

    1. @Laura – truth is, I’m that way myself! I don’t really like surprises. At all. I’m a planner, but I guess as a kid it’s hard to make your own plans as you have very little control over your life.

  4. We’re doing a lot of traveling this year in one month stints and now that we’re on our 2nd one the 3.5yo has gotten better at contributing ideas. They often involve the park (visit 20 different parks is one goal – we are in NYC so it might even be possible as we’ve done 3 in 2 days), or finding construction trucks, and my favourite is when she wants to see something new. We planted the idea of a ‘new adventure’ last trip and it’s working well on this trip. She doesn’t know what she would like to see on NYC, but she understands that a new adventure is likely something she will enjoy.

  5. As a homebody myself, I can definitely confirm that I do WAY better with leaving the house if I am informed of plans ahead of time. Spur of the moment trips really really do not sit well with me, and I have to work hard to muster enthusiasm for them!

  6. Me. I’m the one who likes to leave the house and DO something. My husband, who is an introvert and spends most of his work days interacting with people, really needs unscheduled downtime. Our kid is somewhere in between – and she’s now 14 and has her own fun list, which does not usually involve her parents.

    At the same time, my husband does not like vacations where we go somewhere and just sit – like the beach. If we travel, he wants to DO something. All day. Without stopping. I want to do something, too, and then stop at about 4:00 and sit still for a while before dinner.

    Sigh.

  7. I have three sons (18, 15, 15 – yes, fraternal twins). One of my twins to this day likes advance notice of pretty much everything. It’s just his nature. Hubs and I have learned over the years to just incorporate this into our planning. I can’t say the apple falls too far from the tree, because I am a planner by nature and tend not to be too spontaneous (unless I plan it ;—) ).

  8. When my 5yo starts resisting outside activities is when I know we need to dial it back. She’s social, but also loves her time at home.

    In contrast, hubby would stay home all the time if we didn’t drag him on adventures 🙂

    I got a bit overzealous on our Summer Fun List and we only did about half of the things, which made me feel like kind of a failure even though I was happy with what we did. So I’m holding back on more lists, and maybe we’ll plan one thing per month or something instead.

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