What can parents do to draw their kids away from computers, video games and cell phones?
On the February 29 broadcast of NBC's Today Show, co-hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira suggested throwing an old-fashioned family night. You know, the kind where the entire family sits in the same room, watches the same movie, or reads together, or plays a game that involves interaction with real, live people.
Lauer and Vieira spoke with a panel of experts to give parents ideas on how to turn Friday nights into family nights. Most of the ideas were low-cost (likely to be much appreciated amid reports of an economic downturn) and all were centered on the family.
Peter Glassman, owner of “Books of Wonder,” highlighted reading as a family activity, suggesting families read such classics as The Wizard of Oz, The Little Prince and To Kill a Mockingbird. Glassman suggested younger family members might enjoy a few books on the same theme such as trucks or spunky girls. Another idea for families with older children was to create a family book club and for parents to introduce books to their children that a made a difference in their lives.
As for board games, Lisa Bain, executive editor of Parenting magazine, recommended games that involve strategy and learning. Her list included “Cranium Family Fun,” a game that involves acting out skits, drawing and molding items out of clay; “Duck, Duck Goose,” a “fast, funny card game”; and “Great Word Race,” a game in which players throw lettered dice and spell out at many words as they can. Bain also highlighted a new version of Pictionary in which clues are drawn on a plastic man and noted it would be good for teenagers. Vieira also suggested her favorite game, “Scattergories.”
For those families who are looking for extended family time, Travel+Leisure's senior editor Mark Orwoll suggested becoming a “tourist in your hometown”; renting a hotel room and visiting museums and other sites close to home. Orwoll also suggested families camp out in their back yards, noting that it doesn't cost a lot and families would be “away from the TV and computer.”
Even the rice-krispy treats recommended as family night snacks had an old-fashioned air about them. Nobody mentioned the horrid trans-fats possibly lurking in the sticky squares.
Surprisingly, only one person advocated “family night” as a “couch potato night.” Even so, Thelma Adams, the DVD critic of US Weekly, offered a slate of truly family-friendly films for families to enjoy together: Disney's Enchanted and The Little Mermaid, The Chronicles of Narnia (in preparation for the May 16 release of Prince Caspian), and for the younger kids, Three Pigs and a Baby. One suggested movie, Hogfather, is a British import
It's refreshing to see an effort to encourage families to spend quality time together in ways that don't have to cost an arm and a leg, but will still create lasting memories for all involved.