Stuck at home? You can still plan a great weekend anyway

photo-283When people say they want to enjoy their weekends more, one of my first tips is to plan “anchor” events. These are 3-5 fun things that you will look forward to. Anticipation accounts for a major chunk of human happiness. When we anticipate a great dinner out on Saturday night, we experience some of the same pleasure that we will in the moment. Only it can last a lot longer! Of course, you don’t want to plan every minute, but I find that 3-5 things strikes a good balance between activity and downtime. It also leaves space for the have-to-dos that consume weekend time too (kid activities, chores, errands, etc.)

Unfortunately, some weekends don’t lend themselves well to normal anchor events. The kids are sick. You’re snowed in. But you can still have a good, memorable weekend. The key is to look at the broader definition of anchor events, which is anything that you, personally, are going to look forward to. These fit into three categories: With the kids, solo time, and couple time. Here are some ideas for each:

With the kids

  • An indoor picnic. My mom says that her mother used to pack up a picnic, hike them through the house, and end up in an unfinished area to rough it. If it’s tolerable weather, you could hit the backyard (or balcony, or apartment complex common area.)
  • Snow fun. Is there a nearby hill for sledding? A driveway? Can you make a snow fort, or have a snowball fight? Getting outside can be enjoyable even if it’s cold, and then you can come inside for hot chocolate. Fun grown-up hot chocolate tip: add vodka.
  • Sing in the rain. Similar to above. If you have a good rain jacket, it can be fun to go outside for a bit and stomp in puddles.
  • Family movie night. I’m not a big movie watcher myself, but not all kid movies are atrocious. Pick one you enjoy and load it up for Friday evening with popcorn.
  • A project. Good if you have preschool-aged or older children. You could build a complicated Lego kit that you’ve saved for such occasions. You can do a woodworking project (e.g. build a birdhouse) or write and illustrate a story. My 7-year-old had fun writing a 14-verse haiku poem recently. Something like that is challenging enough to make them think, but has enough structure not to be overwhelming. It can be satisfying for adults to actually create something that you see from start to finish, too.
  • Bake. A subset of the “project” category. Even little kids can help bake cookies or banana bread, and there’s a natural incentive to see the project through.
  • Interactive family meals. Some meals are more participatory than others. Maybe it’s decorate your own pizza, or make-your-own tacos, or fondue. Sundae bars can work as well.
  • A read aloud. Snuggle up and read a story you liked when you were a kid: The Little House books, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, etc. (I welcome suggestions of other good read aloud books).  
  • A Mario Kart championship. A lot of video games are actually kind of fun.

If you’ve got a partner:

If you’re co-parenting with someone, then each of you can give the other 2-3 concentrated hours off (maybe each of you gets one afternoon). If the roads are clear and you can escape, do it! Go to the gym, go sit in a coffee shop, go shopping, go meet a friend.

If you can’t leave, or if you’re parenting solo, then use nap time or a concentrated block of afternoon screen time (or the post bedtime slot, I suppose) to do one of these things:

  • Find a hobby. Do you craft? Scrapbook? Play the piano? (that works during TV time, not nap time, unless you have a really, really big house). You can get a lot done in a few hours.
  • Exercise. I am so glad we got the treadmill. Even if you don’t use it from April-November, it can get a lot of use in the other four months north of the Mason-Dixon line. There are also options like online exercise classes.
  • Read. A literary novel if you’re high brow. I personally go for People magazine, and my new favorite, Oxygen. It’s motivating me to take up weight-training once I get my 6-week postpartum clearance.
  • Create an in-home spa. Run a bubble bath, give yourself a pedicure, etc. Especially if you’re parenting solo on the weekend, don’t use nap time for chores. That’s depressing (unless you find cleaning fun — which I’m learning from some blogs and the whole Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up thing that some people do. But that’s a whole different can of worms).  

Adults only:

Just because you can’t get a babysitter doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Lots of couples do in home date nights. There are multiple variations on this. If you like to cook, you can cook a special meal together. If you prefer not to cook, you get something delivered. If you ate with the kids, have drinks. Turn on music and dance. If you like movies or a favorite show, you can plan to watch one. Put the kids down, and cook/eat/watch after. I’ve heard of some couples putting a slightly older child (like age 8 or 9) in charge as the “babysitter” to keep brothers and sisters from coming out of their rooms. Pay the kid a dollar or two as a special incentive.

Incidentally, sex makes another great nap-time activity. Or a good morning activity if the kids are watching cartoons.

The key with all this is spending a little time planning. Wednesdays are good for weekend planning. That gives you enough time to make necessary arrangements (like ordering that Lego kit from Amazon, and getting Amazon Prime 2-day delivery!). It also means you can anticipate your fun to come. Of course, while some house-bound weekends can be anticipated — for instance, you can see a blizzard coming — others cannot. You don’t necessarily know that your kid will be sick and unable to go to anything. So it might help to have a generic plan in place that you can implement should the need arise. For instance:

Fri PM: Movie/game night
Sat AM: Project or outdoor time
Sat afternoon: Parent one’s solo time/nap-time/screen time activity
Sat PM: in-home date night
Sun AM: Project or outdoor time
Sun afternoon: Parent two’s solo time/nap-time/screen time activity
Sun PM: Fun family activity from above list.

What would you add to this list? Have you ever had a fun housebound weekend?

In other news: I’ll be doing a Twitter chat tomorrow (Thursday February 19th) at 12:30 p.m. eastern on writing routines, making time to write, and fiction vs. non-fiction. The hashtag is #CortlandtBoys – the title of my novel. You can read one interview (from Pick Any Two) with me about the novel here.  Please join me with questions and suggestions about how you make time to write!

Photo: What’s been keeping me housebound lately…

17 thoughts on “Stuck at home? You can still plan a great weekend anyway

  1. I definitely find weekends go better when we do this, but I often get busy and forget. It works fine in good weather, when we just end up spending our time outdoors but not so well when its cold and you really need something good to motivate to leave the house! Last weekend we did do a big Lego project on Sunday, that my 5 year old and I thought up Saturday night, and it made the frigid homebound day go much faster.

    1. @Katherine – “love” is relative. I’d prefer to run outside, but that’s not really an option in the ice and freezing weather. It may wind up as a dirty clothes rack from April through fall.

      1. I love my treadmill also! Outside is better but sometimes it snows (in Boston!), is cold, dark or I want to exercise during nap time while my husband is out.

  2. I am thinking more and more that we should get a treadmill… I just don’t want to spend the $2000. I think the inactivity is part of what drives me bonkers on weekends like that, which the treadmill would help with. And coming up with a plan, especially if the plan involves something more fun than doing my taxes. 🙂

    Out of curiosity, how old were your kids when they started playing video games? I started when I was 9, but that was only because that was the year Nintendo came out. I think they’ve been really helpful to me with hand eye coordination and 3D visualization, and I’ve love for my daughter to have the same experience.

    1. @OMDG – we bought ours new because I knew we would use it and use it a lot. Also, my husband is 6’3″ and wanted one that wouldn’t rattle with a larger runner, so that required certain specs. If it had just been for me, I wouldn’t have been as particular. Given what Katherine said in the previous comment about people using it to store dirty clothes, you might be able to get one off Craigslist, or asking friends if anyone has one they’re looking to unload.

      We got the Wii last Christmas when my oldest was 6.5. The then-4.5 year old tried to play some, but wasn’t that great on it. He’s gotten a lot better on it in the intervening year. I think there’s some measure of hand-eye coordination that gets a lot better right around then (in addition to the practice and trying to keep up with his older brother!) And yes, great practice for surgery or procedures!

  3. Love these ideas, thank you!

    Just a comment re: indoor picnic. In the craziness of December, I ended up blowing my 9 year old’s mind with a Christmas tree picnic. It was our first Christmas in a house with a full size tree and we were running around like fools that month. That night wasn’t special…just a frozen pizza between the 2 of us. I laid out a blanket, shut all the lights except the tree and we ate pizza. His comment? “Seriously, Mom, seriously? This is AWESOME.” It’s the little things and I think that it will be an annual occurrence for us at least until he’s a teen and its uncool.

  4. Games are great indoor activities to start doing with kids at a young age. Our teenagers still like to play card games, board games, and strategy games when it’s freezing cold outside. I think it’s because they started at a young age. Plus, it teaches them social skills.

  5. These are all great ideas! We sometimes have ‘floor picnics’ in our house when we can’t get out and my 3-year-old loves it. It breaks up the monotony and somehow cereal bars and raisins are more exciting sitting on a quilt on the kitchen floor than the table.

  6. My parents read Wizard of Oz books to me as a child…I think there a ton. Also Nancy Drew mysteries. A Series of Unfortunate Events is lots of fun and I think there are 13 short books. I also liked the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books when I was young, as well as the Mandy books. Oh! One of my favorite newer series is The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, which would be easy to read aloud and includes voices. So many good options! E-mail me for my goodreads page.

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