When I think back to my childhood, my most cherished memories are the days spent outside playing, the laughter with my siblings and parents, and the moments of fun with my family. I don’t remember the times we went out to eat or went to the movies. I now have three kids of my own and I’m learning that while hugs and kisses and movie time cuddles are important, my kids need us to wrestle, physically play, and laugh with them.

It is easy as an adult to focus on the things we see as important and necessary: our daily work, church, rest, cleaning the house, and generally being a responsible adult. What is the priority in your life? Have you taken a moment to consider the 4 most important priorities in your life? Do your schedule and energy reflect those 4 things?

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” -Psalm 118:24

The bible tells us over and over to rejoice! Have fun; enjoy the gifts you have been given. When we consider this in the space of a family- why is it important to have FUN together as a family? When we spend quality time with our children and spouse there are many benefits(1):

  • Builds self-esteem
  • Strengthens family bonds
  • Develops positive behaviors in children
  • Encourages communication
  • Teaches children how to be a good friend to others
  • Builds a strong family identity
  • Fosters creativity

Beyond that, having fun and laughing has powerful health benefits! Laughter can relax the body, boost the immune system, protect the heart, burn calories, improve mood, and may even help you live longer! “Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being”. “Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment”. (2)

Covid-19 has uniquely positioned families to spend more time together. What we do with that time matters! As a mother of young children, I completely understand that the thought of spontaneous playtime can often mean a mess to clean up. I encourage you, as a parent, to let go of that expectation once in a while and enjoy laughter and even messiness with your children. It is not only beneficial to their health but to yours as well.

Thankfully, most of us have time off this weekend with the 4th of July (Independence Day) holiday. To help you get started I have created a list of fun things you can do with your kids (even your teenagers!) this week. Remember that your plans don’t need to be perfect- you simply need to be available and ready to set a joyful example.

13 FUN activities to do together:

  • Backyard Olympics: get out that Jenga, lawn dice, crochet, basketball, soccer ball, hula hoops or corn hole.
  • Red-white-blue snacks: Enjoy baking? There are so many fun themed snack recipes online. I tried my hand at one this week (recipe and photos below). It was easy, cheap, and my kids could practically do it themselves.
  • Water balloon fight: My favorite thing to surprise my kids with is a water fight. A big bucket of water balloons or I greet them outside with a super soaker. They especially enjoy teaming up against my husband and I. We once had a water fight where my husband and I stayed inside and enjoyed spraying our children through the windows or pouring buckets of water out the windows from upstairs when they least expected it. It was a team effort and they were determined to get us back. We laughed so much that evening.
  • Picnic
  • Campfire
  • Smores: You can even buy colorful marshmallows for a little extra fun! Don’t have a campfire- grab a cab of ethanol gel chafing fuel for an easy tabletop roast.
  • Catch fireflies
  • Glow in the dark dance party
  • Sparklers
  • Camping (campground or backyard)
  • Rent a boat/ go to the lake
  • Bike ride
  • Make ice cream

Happy 4th of July! I hope you enjoy your free time and have FUN!

Recipe: Jell-O Firecrackers (3)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Blue Jell-O Gelatin (like 3 oz package Berry Blue)
  • 1 Red Jell-O Gelatin (like 3 oz package Cherry)
  • 1 envelope Unflavored Gelatin (like Knox)
  • 1 1/3 cups boiling Water
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • Maraschino Cherries, with stems, drained
  • OPTIONAL: replace milk and sugar with sweetened condensed milk (see below)

DIRECTIONS

  • If you can find tall shot glasses they will work best, but any clear glass will do. I used 2-ounce plastic party cups.
  • Place blue gelatin in a bowl and add 2/3 cup boiling water.
  • Stir well until dissolved and allow to cool.
  • Fill each cup 1/3 full of blue and place in refrigerator.
  • Add 1/3 cup of milk to another bowl and sprinkle unflavored gelatin over top.
  • Heat remaining 2/3 cup of milk to a boil.
  • Remove from heat and stir in sugar to dissolve.
  • Add heated milk to gelatin/milk mixture and stir until blended.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Gently fill all cups the next 1/3 of the way with white mixture and return to refrigerator.
  • Place red gelatin in a bowl and add 2/3 cup boiling water.
  • Stir well until dissolved and allow to cool.
  • Place a cherry on top of each glass and add about 1/4″ of red gelatin to each.
  • Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes.
  • Pull from refrigerator and try to adjust to get stems to point upward.
  • Fill each cup the rest of the way with red and place in refrigerator.

Helpful recipe notes: Using less water then the package calls for creates a firmer and faster setting jello with more flavor. Instead of mixing 2/3 cup boiling water in the jello, I mixed 1/2 cup boiling and added 1/3 cold after the jello was dissolved (to make the jello cool faster). Note: I struggled getting the cherry to stand up straight, but it still tastes great!

Optional: In place of milk and sugar you can use 6-8 oz sweetened condensed milk. (add gelatin to 1/2 of the room temperature condensed milk, stir to dissolve, then mix 1/3 cup boiling water and remaining condensed milk and stir into gelatin mixture)

This blog post was written by Sarah Heimbruch- owner of Blue Ivy Photography and the blog Loving Life with Intention. Sarah’s mission is to spread hope and joy through the sharing of stories both in written word and visual imagery. Images by Blue Ivy Photography. You can see more of her work at www.blueivyphoto.com

Sources:
1 https://www.parentingni.org/blog/time-together-importance/
2 https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm
3 https://cincyshopper.com/4th-of-july-firecracker-jell-o-cups/