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As your child gets older and starts school, odds are she'll become increasingly wrapped up in sports, dance lessons, after school activities, and time with friends. But you can still find ways to have fun with your big kid – without spending a fortune on lessons or equipment. Check out these ideas.
Let your child be in charge of dinner – with you as her helpful assistant. She gets to decide what to make. Some suggestions: English muffin pizzas, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, pudding or gelatin for dessert.
She can be the "head cook" and even draw up some fancy menus. She may especially enjoy doing this activity with a friend.
Rest for the weary
You know those nights when you're beyond exhausted, and you just wish someone would put you to bed for a change? Here's your chance! Tell your child that you need a special helper to put you to bed early – and ask if he'd like to do the honors.
He can pick out your pajamas, make sure you brush your teeth and wash your face, read you a book, tuck you in, give you a kiss, and turn out the light. It's a safe bet that you'll hear some delighted giggles from the other side of your closed door! (Of course, this assumes your partner or another responsible adult has agreed to take on the nighttime duties for your child.)
Wait for a dark and dreary day. If your child has a case of the doldrums, all the better! Propose a camping trip – in your family room. Make a "tent" with sheets and blankets draped over chairs.
If you have sleeping bags, dig them out – or just create some bedrolls with blankets and pillows. Tell stories and sing songs around an imaginary fire. And when the lights go out, shine a flashlight through a colander to make a beautiful galaxy appear on the ceiling of your tent.
Kid's choice day
Let your child be in charge of the schedule for the day. She can make the important decisions about what to eat, what show to watch, and what activities to do. Give this day a special name so that she can plan it, as in, "On my next Ali Day, I want to ride bikes, wash the dog, and eat spaghetti." (Helpful hint: To avoid making things harder for your child's teacher, don't do this on a school day!)
Send your child on a treasure hunt, right in your own house. It takes a little preparation, but the excitement is worth it! Give him a note that says something like, "Look in the flour canister." Or make it a bit trickier by writing a clue he has to solve, such as "Look for the white powder that we use for baking." (If your child's not yet a proficient reader, simplify your notes, help him read them, or draw pictures instead.)
In the flour canister, leave another note telling him where to look next, such as in the refrigerator or under the welcome mat. Let the hunt include a few more hiding places, and put a prize in the very last one (like under his pillow).
The prize can be very small – a piece of candy or a pad of paper, for example. As in all true treasure hunts, the real joy is in the search.