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Good-Life Activities for Your Family

Make time for the good life together.

Family Exercise and Outdoor Play

Introduce your child to a sport you love. Whether it’s yoga or ice skating, fishing or biking, almost no child is too young to be at least a small part of your favorite activity. “If it’s something the parent loves, the parent’s enthusiasm will make it fun,” says Cohen.

Go for family walks together. If you think your child will be bored with a simple walk, try Cox’s trick: storytelling walks. “We’d make up stories together -- for example, after the movie ‘Toy Story,’ we’d imagine what our sons’ toys would do while we were gone,” she says. “We’d make up elaborate scenarios about which one would get lost, which ones would help find him, and so on.”

Make up indoor versions of outdoor games. “Thank goodness we never destroyed anything, but we did do indoor soccer in the front hall,” Cox says.

Family Music, Games, and Comfort

Have regular jam sessions. One family periodically Evites their daughters’ friends for a Sunday-morning music fest. The parents come too, but they are under strict instructions that they must dance, sing, and act silly -- no audience members allowed. These parents are musicians, but you don’t have to be. Just cue up some reggae, zydeco or disco, hand out tambourines and maracas, and go to it!

Freeze dance. Just turn on your favorite music -- whether it’s the Grateful Dead, Beyonce, or some one-hit wonder, -- and dance. Then when you stop the music, everyone has to freeze. “It’s not a competition, nobody’s ‘out,’” says Cohen. “It’s just really fun to do together. It’s kind of a miracle drug.”

Make up your own TV endings. Watch five minutes of your favorite TV show, then turn off the TV and make up the ending. Act it out as a play with your kids’ dolls and stuffed animals.

Love your library. Regular trips to the library as a family, for story hour or just to pick out an exciting new story, can build great bonds over books. Ask your child to pick out a book he thinks you should read!

Create a comfort ritual for tough days. Cox knew a family who had what they called the “poor sweet baby” blanket. “It was this worn old blanket that they kept in a closet. When Dad didn’t get a promotion or a child got picked on at school, everyone in the family would wrap him in the blanket and stand together around him, saying things like ‘Oh, you poor sweet baby, we love you.’"

Time spent together can remedy a lot of problems, says Cohen. He recalls one family who was about to send their troubled daughter to him for counseling. She’d caused trouble at home and in school.

“Then… the father started walking the girl to school twice a week instead of putting her on the bus. A couple of weeks later they called and cancelled their appointment with me, because things were going great,” he says. “The dad was getting to spend time with the daughter and talk to her when they were both fresh and full of energy. It filled her up, made her school day different, and made coming home different. These little changes really do make a big difference.”

Reviewed on June 29, 2010

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