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Finding Family Time in Unexpected Places

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Having fun in the supermarket

Dr. James E. Van Horn, professor of rural sociology at Penn State University, observed, “Spending time and doing things together with your children doesn’t just happen. Parents must design their life so that time will be available.”

A recent study by James P. Robinson, sociology professor at the University of Maryland, concluded that Americans actually have more time today than they had thirty years ago—but that today’s free time comes in smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day, as opposed to the larger blocks of time people had thirty years ago. And much of the time today’s families spend together takes place while waiting for appointments, traveling, or shopping; at a restaurant; or at the supermarket. These times are usually short, unplanned, and can be stressful, with bored, restless children.

Be prepared, and you can take advantage of these times to have some family fun—and avoid difficult and sometimes embarrassing situations.

Family fun in the car:

  • Develop an emergency bag of fun things to do in the car.
  • Read license plates.
  • Play twenty questions about one another’s fantasy trips.

Family fun at the supermarket:

  • Play the alphabet game: a – apple, b – banana, c – corn, etc.
  • Have older children find items that you have coupons for.
  • Have kids find the cheapest and the most expensive juices and figure the price difference.

Family fun while waiting for appointments:

  • Carry flash cards and quiz one another.
  • Pose questions pulled from a board or trivia game.
  • Pass a pad and pencil around and create a group story.

Family fun at restaurants:

  • Play connect-the-dots on the back of a paper placemat.
  • Play ”Concentration” by hiding a coin under sugar packets.
  • Have your children fold their paper placemats in thirds; have each draw an animal’s head, trunk, or feet. Connect them for some funny results!

By capturing opportunities, you’ll discover that you have more family fun time than ever.

Adapted with permission from James E. Van Horn, “Design Time Together,” Better Kid Care, The Pennsylvania State University,

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