What a great discussion we had yesterday about what is on our “not to-do” list this holiday season.  If you are wanting to simplify this year, read through the over 50 comments on yesterday’s post here.  You will be encouraged!

The winner of yesterday’s drawing is Mara. I’ll email you directly, Mara, to get your address and send out your book.  Thank you to everyone who participated in our discussion and the drawing!

Today’s encouragement is a guest post by Jane Graham, a mom of three.  I love this idea! What about you? 

Let it be known: my husband is quite susceptible to cabin fever. During Christmas vacation when I could thrive for days tucked snugly into a blanket by the fire, he’d offer to shovel the driveway in sub-zero temps just to get a workout.

So one year, after heavy snowfall and near anarchy in our home, my husband instituted The Family Challenge.  We trotted off to a local business with our three young children and began teaching life skills (like counting money) under the guise of a fun evening out. The kids loved it, it was free, and it got us out of the house during a time of year when it’s all-too-easy for us Northerners to stay on the sofa.

Perhaps you’re wondering what a Family Challenge might look like for you. In a sentence, Family Challenges are pre-planned dates with our kids that are generally centered around games, riddles, projects, hunts, races, or silly contests.

You may choose to design a night that reflects a family interest or take the opportunity to try something new. It may be full of craziness or it may be more serious, such as working on an act of kindness for a neighbor.

What they are not, however, are evenings of togetherness without goals for family growth. Take, for example, a trip to your local hardware store to buy new bathroom fixtures. Necessary? Probably. Character-building? Probably not. Could the hardware store become a Family Challenge with some thought and intentionality? Sure! Here’s an idea:

1.     Give your children a copy of your budget before you leave and explain it truthfully.

2.     Detail your bathroom fixture needs and ask your kids to list what qualities they might find important.

3.     At the store, ask them to politely approach an employee to locate products or offer help. Assist your kids in asking appropriate questions.

4.     Have them report the pros and cons of each fixture to you.

5.     At home, employ their help in installing it. Younger children can prepare specific tools and hand them to daddy or mommy.

Are you getting the idea?

A Family Challenge isn’t glamorous or expensive, but it is a dedicated:

·      teaching opportunity

·      time to model life skills

·      moment of group effort

·      evening of intentionally engaging your children

·      time of child participation

·      stepping away from a task even if it’d be faster to do it yourself

·      time of seeking your kids’ opinions and viewpoints.

Over the years we have attempted everything from building marshmallow and toothpick towers to racing through downtown streets on a blocks-long scavenger hunt. We have also done more “serious” things like spearheading a neighborhood project to benefit others. Our kids soak up it up!

So how can you get started? Here are three things to consider today to begin to integrate Family Challenges into your home landscape:

1.     Next time you tackle a home project, get your entire family involved from start to finish. Ask yourself how your kids can help with planning, shopping, budgeting, gathering equipment and supplies, executing the work, or assisting a parent. Then ask yourself how you can make it fun and what you can teachyour kids in the process.

2.     Watch your local paper for interesting events in your city. Explore something new or visit a venue that will surprise your clan. Take close mental notes and then play a quiz bowl-type game when you get home. Allow the quiz winner to choose a special bedtime snack for the family to enjoy while each child writes a thank you note to the venue you visited.

3.     Clip a meaningful newspaper article to read together. Discuss how you feel after reading the story. Brainstorm a spin-off project that you can work on together.

Conversation Invitation:

What are some ideas you have for a Family Challenge in your city?

Jane Graham enjoys life in West Michigan with her husband and three children, where she is passionate about parenting creatively and intentionally. Formerly a classroom teacher, Jane now freelances at home and blogs at www.unofficialhomeschooler.com and www.girlmeetspaper.com. In her spare time you can find Jane eating Nutella, dreaming of tropical vacations, and tweeting @girlmeetspaper.

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