Families with Style: Make Memories Out of the Mundane!

Your kids are certainly the center of your world, but sometimes you have to make time to spend time together! After all, you're handling work and home; they're handling homework. So, we asked Liz Lange, our family style expert, to tell us about some of the daily activities that bring her family closer '- and we learned that making time for each other might be easier than you think. As Liz points out, when you make those everyday tasks a family thing, you can make memories out of the mundane!

Activity: Water Fights at the Car Wash Corral
Best way to sell it to the kids: Tell them they can get as messy as they want to '- and challenge them to a water fight while you all wash the car! Kids love any excuse to throw water and soapy suds at each other. Let them get messy doing something that's fun and feels a little bit forbidden. And it's always a relaxing, stress-reliever for parents to let their silly sides out. Remember, when your kids enter school '- even at very young ages '- they're under pressure to keep it all together, to behave, listen, be part of a group. At home they need a way to allow themselves to relax and reboot and let it out. At school, they have to go along with rules, and that can sap a lot of their energy. It's a great thing if they can let loose after school and on the weekends.
The plan: You won't need much '- a bucket, water, soap, brushes, old rags, access to a hose and clothes that can get messy. Just gather the gang at a designated time of day, dressed in the soon-to-be messy clothes. Lay out the rules (if there are any). Get the car as clean as you can during the soapy water fight. Serve everyone treats when the task is complete. The kids will think they're having fun (and really, they are!). Mom will get a clean car and one more item on her to-do list done.


Activity: Culinary Kid Cook-Off
Best way to sell it to the kids: Tell them they're the chefs tonight! If you're a mom, chances are it's up to you to get a meal prepared each night, so why not let the kids be part of it?
The plan: Children love to help out in the kitchen. Little tasks like measuring, pouring and stirring are fun. In my family, we all gather in the kitchen. I do the grownups-only work like cutting with knives. Before I divvy out the kids' chores, I make sure they're dressed in clothing that can get messy. You might want to make it more fun by getting aprons for everybody. You know how much kids love a special outfit!
Remember the little things: When you're cooking by yourself, you're at a waist-high counter. My kids used to pull over chairs and stools to stand on, and that always made me nervous. So now we work at the kitchen table, which is a kid-friendly height.
Be sure to break down the recipe. Assign each child a task, like pouring or stirring. Then let them switch off. Surprisingly, my kids fight '- in a positive way '- over who gets to do everything else! If you want, write down the steps of the recipe on a big piece of poster board before they get home from school. That way, the process also becomes a reading activity. If they're learning to read, they'll enjoy identifying words.
In my home, we make a lot of salad. Kids love the salad spinner! And mine do an excellent job of making dressing. They're great at using the measuring cups '- and that's educational too. Shaking and stirring is fun. Anything with sauce works '- they think it's great fun to pour the sauce over chicken. When we make pasta, they love pouring in the tomatoes and helping me stir it. They're crazy about using the handheld electric mixer when we bake.

And don't forget the joy of cleaning up the table. My kids love to spray the Windex to clean the glass. And I always let them load the dishwasher. You can see why all of these "fun" activities are great for mom!

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