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Secrets of Stress-Free Family Time

Here's how to downshift from a busy day so you can relax and reconnect with the ones you love.

Do a Pet Project

"Our golden retriever, Ajax, waits patiently for us all day. After I take him to the curb to do his business, I sit in the living room with my kids and play monkey in the middle, tossing a ball around the room over his head. Sometimes he intercepts a fly ball, sometimes he'll chase it to the intended recipient, sometimes he'll fetch. It's always a source of much hilarity. No matter what kind of mood I'm in when I get home, playing with Ajax and my kids puts us all in an affectionate mood. His unconditional love is contagious." —Molly Gordy, 54, New York City; mom to Chloe, 19, and Sophie, 11

Move It, Move It!

"We dance around the living room to one of my older son's favorite tunes — 'Don't Worry, Be Happy,' or anything by Chuck Berry. While my husband and I dance on the rug, our older son likes to jump off the couch and do spins. The 2-year-old shimmies his hips and has a few jazz moves. Our evening dance party takes me right out of my world of work and clients and into the world of laughter and music with all of my boys." —Lisa Tener, 45, Saunderstown, RI; mom to Will, 8, and Luke, 2

Search and Enjoy

"I take my kids on a treasure hunt after dinner. On a piece of paper, I write numbers from 1 to 4. Next to each number I'll write an object and draw a simple picture of it. For example: 1 stone, 2 acorns, 3 leaves, 4 twigs. I then give each of my children a bag and we go around the neighborhood and try to collect all of the items in the quantities stated. After a busy day in front of my computer, being in nature with my kids soothes me and gets us all on the same page." —Shona Killoughery, 28, Huntington Beach, CA; mom to Eire, 5, and TC, 3

Listen and Learn

"After I walk the dog to clear my head of work stuff, I ask my kids about their day. Usually it only takes a little question from me, like, 'How's school?' or, 'What was the best part of your day?' for them to start sharing. I just sit back and pay attention. It's a great way for me to catch glimpses into their lives, and reminds me of the close relationship I had with my father when I was little." —Stacey Radin, 38, New York City; mom to Justin, 11, and Jordyn, 8

Play 20 Questions

"We hang out in the family room and play a good old-fashioned game of 20 Questions about something we see in the room. The bigger kids get superexcited and can't wait until it's their turn to pick an item. The babies are with us too, playing with toys that we put on the floor in front of them. Because you have to focus on what's immediately around you, your mind really can't wander and there are no distractions. With work, TV, e-mails, cell phones, and homework put aside, I find that I'm right there in the moment with all of my children enjoying quality time." —Tiffany Petrossi, 35, San Jose, CA; mom to Gabriella, 10, Liam, 7, and Aidan and Lily, both 1

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