Quality Time: Family Night Fun With Teenagers

A guest post by Harry Vincent


When the kids are tiny they’re easy to please. When they grow up, things get much harder. Here are some fun ideas for a more mature family that doesn’t want to give up family time.


Cook a Large Meal Together

Cooking is usually something reserved for the parents, but teens should learn this valuable life skill sooner rather than later. If your teenager doesn’t have any real cooking skills, then family cooking can teach them everything they need to know (or at least the basics) while simultaneously giving you more family time. Everyone wins.

Start with simple things like cooking pasta or baking lasagna. Then, over several weeks, you can work up to more challenging cooking feats like baked goods and soufflés. If you’re feeling especially daring, brew some beer or some other alcohol at home (though they might feel that it’s unfair if they can’t drink anything).

fermented beverages that aren’t alcoholic is also an option and will teach them a lot about how their favorite store-bought foods are made (think pickles, sauerkraut and the ever-popular kombucha).


Have an Upgraded Movie Night

Instead of renting a DVD, start off by streaming a new movie from iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play. If you’re one of those families who still doesn’t have high speed Internet, look at these Time Warner Cable Internet Plans.

To kick things up a notch, take the party outside and throw the movie up on a big screen. You will need a projector for this. Is it an investment? Yup. Will it be fun? Are you kidding? You remember how much fun the drive in was when you were a kid? You can bring that experience home. Your kids will love it.


Choose Unusual Activities

When the usual stuff gets boring, and it eventually will, it’s time to kick things up a notch. A few ideas include:


Rock Climbing

Indoor rock climbing is becoming more popular and, if you’ve never tried it as a family before, you should take your kids. Maybe they’ve been with their friends, but there’s no reason why this can’t also be a family activity.

Is it unusual? Maybe. But, you will also build team and trust skills, spotting each other as you climb to the top.


Go-Kart Competitions

How many families do you actually see go-karting together. Not many. And, that’s precisely why you should try it. Go-karting is fun and you can kick things up a notch by racing against each other and keeping score.

The way you would likely have to do this is by racing for time. At least one family member would have to sit out each round and time the others. Rotate drivers so that everyone races the same number of times. At the end of the night, add up the times and the lowest total time gets a prize – maybe a free drink or a sundae or something else (and if you win, yes your kids should totally pay for it!).


Have a Sing-A-Long

It might sound cheesy, but it’s not if you put some time into it to make it special. First, you need the right setting. Dedicate a room in the house for family games. If you’re going to do family karaoke, you had better nail it or it’s going to be torture for everyone.

A lot of people like karaoke because it’s silly, you can goof off, and no one actually expects you to sing well. But, what would happen if you flipped this game on its ear, took singing lessons, and held a family competition?

That’s exactly what you should do.

Buy your family a good microphone from a company like Blue Microphones, and get a shock mount with a pop filter. Now, take some singing lessons as a family. Think of this as training for the competition.

When you feel you’re ready, pick songs and pit family members against each other. Everyone votes for their favorite singer. You could even get extended family in on the action if you needed impartial judges. It might be unusual, but at the end you will have accomplished two things: you will have learned a very good skill (singing) and you will have brought your family closer and shown your appreciation for their new talents.

And, that’s not strange. Matter of fact, that’s what family should be about – coming together.


Harry Vincent is a family therapist. He likes to share his insights on family living. His articles can be found mainly on lifestyle and family websites.

Raising Quirky Kids + The Boy Who Played With Fusion

Mark Bowers, author of 8 Keys to Raising the Quirky Child.
How to help a kid who doesn’t quite fit in.
Issues: The fine line between geeks, nerds, and the quirky and mild-autism or Asperger’s; identifying your child’s quirks; optimizing social skills; tracking your child’s development; managing challenges at home.

Tom Clynes, author of The Boy Who Played with Fusion.
Topic: Extreme science, extreme parenting, and how to make a star
Issues: The amazing story of Taylor Wilson, an American teenager who became the youngest personever to build a working nuclear fusion reactor; the equally amazing choices Taylor’s parents made to fully support his intellectual passions; the social challenges of being off-the-charts brilliant.

Back-to-School Healthy Snacks and Superfoods

Where did the summer go? In the frenzy to get the kids ready for the new school year, we’re going to spend an absurd amount of money on clothes and supplies. But we often forget about healthy snacks and lunches. Here are some of our favorites.

kuli kuli morengaKuli Kuli
Move over, kale, there’s another superfood in town, and it’s called moringa. What, you’ve never heard of it? Well, you will soon, because moringa (leaves of the moringa oleifera tree, which grows in South Asia and West Africa) may very well be the world’s most nutritious green. Moringa has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and it may cure or prevent as many as 300 diseases. But it also packs a serious nutritional wallop. According to the good folks at Kuli Kuli (the Oakland, Caliornia-based importer), gram for gram, moringa has twice the protein of yogurt, 4x the vitamin A of carrots, 3x the potassium of bananas, 4x the calcium of milk, and 7x the vitamin C of oranges. Kuli Kuli has moringa as a powder, as a tea, or mixed with other ingredients into delicious, gluten-free, high-fiber, filling-and-satisfying vegan bars. https://www.kulikulifoods.com/

crispy fruit freeze dried Crispy Fruit freeze-dried fruit (Crispy Green)
Snack foods don’t get a lot simpler than this. Each bag of Crispy Fruit contains exactly one ingredient: tangerine, apple, Asian pear, banana, cantaloupe, mango, or pineapple. That’s it. The fruit itself tastes exactly like what it’s supposed to, is pleasantly crunchy, and kind of melts in your mouth. Your kids will love it—and so will you. Plus, it’s easy to pack and doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Buy it at Amazon and other retailers or at http://www.crispygreen.com/

mamma chiaMamma Chia
Mamma Chia has a wide range of, you guessed it, chia-based products that are gluten free, nutritionally dense, mostly vegan (some products contain a little bit of honey or milk), and non-GMO. Best of all, every one of the products we tried was really, really good. The granola clusters are great by themselves or sprinkled onto something else (yogurt, for example). If you’re new to chia, it’ll take you a few seconds to get used to the texture of the squeeze pouches and energy drinks. Available at many grocery stores or at http://www.mammachia.com/

chine chia organicsShine Organics
Shine has four nutrition-packed superfood pouches, each with a self-explanatory purpose: calm, elevate, purify, and revive. The ingredients are certified organic, gluten free, vegan, and kosher, and the chia seeds are milled so you’re less likely to get them stuck between your teeth. The pouches themselves are BPA-free. Shine pouches are technically for adults, but kids can certainly eat them, although they taste so good that you won’t want to share. Available at Target. http://shineorganics.com/

element rice cakesElement rice cakes (Element Snacks)
Being a gluten-, dairy-, and sugar-free household, we eat a lot of rice cakes. Unfortunately, aside from not having much taste, rice cakes also tend to fall apart, which means that the dog gets more of it than he deserves. Element rice (and corn) cakes have solved both of those problems by coating thin hard-to-crumble wafers in a layer of deliciousness: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, strawberries and cream, and sweet vanilla and orange. They’re free of gluten, GMO, preservatives, and corn syrup, and contain only 5 grams of sugar and 80 calories. Available at select retailers or http://www.elementsnacks.com/

juicy juice Juicy Juice
100% fruit juice, in moderation, is great. But kids sometimes drink too much of it. Juicy Juice comes in 12 mouth-watering, no-sugar-added flavors and are available in 4.25-ounce boxes (the equivalent of ½ cup of fruit), which makes them great for lunches. At retailers everywhere or http://juicyjuice.com/

Let’s All Cheer for Team Spirit

A and Z
Photo credit: Steve Baker/Flickr

Photo credit: Steve Baker/Flickr

Two, four, six, eight
Who do we appreciate?
The [opponents’ team name] !!


Anyone who’s played, or coached, or just watched youth sports has heard that cheer. The idea behind it is a good one: the winning team is thanking the opponents they just beat for having playing hard and done their best.

It’s also a subtle reminder to winning teams that how you win can be as important as whether you win. Insulting or humiliating your opponents simply isn’t acceptable, and neither is cheating or playing dirty. Being on a team that plays with integrity makes players feel good about themselves, helps bring them together, and builds team spirit.

That last part, building team spirit, is easier said than done.

A and ZWhen kids are very young, one of the primary goals of youth sports is to make whatever they’re involved in so much fun that they want to come back and do it again next year. Sure, people talk about winning, and the majority of coaches and parents support that goal by emphasizing sportsmanship, skill building, self-improvement, and teamwork. One of my favorite things about my daughters’ swim team is the emphasis on best times. There have been a number of instances when she’d ask me right after a race what place she’d come in, and I’ve had no idea. But I could always tell her whether she’d made a new best time.
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Mythical Childhood Characters: Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Truth

Spoiler alert: Santa and the Tooth Fairy are not real.  However, millions of children the world over take delight in believing such things.  When is the right time to align their beliefs with the truth?  Such is a tough question for moms and dads who are joyful about seeing their children excited yet feel guilty about fibbing to their kids, especially while teaching them that telling lies is bad.

When is the right time to tell them and how should you break the news?

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