You may be wondering when you're going to do all these arts & crafts when you're running to soccer games, trying to get the laundry done, rushing to finish a project for your boss on time, and struggling to get a meal on the table every night.
Stop. Look. Listen. Where is your time going and are you in control? What do you REALLY want to be doing? How much of what you're doing is really necessary? What kind of outside activities are your children involved in? How many? How about yourself? Weigh the value of these things against the value of doing things together as a family.
Of course, basic household chores have to be done. But you can do them as a family; you can even turn them into celebrations and rituals. For example, pick one day a week when the kids make the dinner. You'll have to help them at first, but once they have mastered a few recipes, all of you will look forward to "kid's cook night."
The more you can organize the basic everyday chores, the more time you will have to play! My book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life, shows you lots of ways to help you get organized and create time to do the things you really want to do. Here are a few suggestions:
Encourage your kids to organize themselves and pitch in with household chores. Hold a family meeting to determine together who does what.
In many families, especially those with older children, everyone tends to go in different directions. That's fine up to a point, but there's real value in instituting regular family time -- no excuses, no exceptions. Insist on Sunday dinner together, for instance, or daily family breakfasts. Schedule hikes and other outings. Set aside weekly time for crafts.
Consider instituting a weekly Family Night and plan a whole month's activities in advance. One week it could be making a particular craft, another it could be playing board games or going out to play miniature golf. As you discover which crafts your family most enjoys, you may want to set aside even more time for those crafts.
Crafts can also be used to make your family routines more enjoyable. Here are a few ways crafts can help organize and enhance your life.
Use crafts to make convenient, attractive storage spaces. Having places to store things — hooks, cubbies, shelves, and cabinets — will encourage your kids (and you) to put things away and to stay organized.
Use crafts to make family mealtimes more special. Make or buy cloth napkins and make a napkin ring for each family member with his or her name on it. The cloth napkins add an air of importance to meals, and the napkins can be reused so you can cut down on your laundry. (If each person has their own napkin and napkin ring, a napkin can be used for more than one meal.)
Make some of your table linens and accessories, such as place mats, and use them regularly. Children enjoy seeing things they've made used by the rest of the family. Decorate the table with flowers or seasonal displays every so often. Don't forget candles. (I show you how to make them in Candle Making.)
Leave enough time in the morning to have breakfast together. (A place mat made by each child at his or her place at the table makes that more likely.) Use this time to set up the day, find out what's happening, and offer words of encouragement.
The evening meal can also be a time for the family to come together. Ask your kids, "What new thing did you learn today?" "What made you wonder today?" "What goal did you have and how close did you come to achieving it?" Discuss a news item. Make dinnertime fun by finding a puzzle or riddle for your children to solve. Say "No" to all early evening meetings or classes. And make it a rule not to accept phone calls during certain hours. Maintain a "No TV" rule until after dinner.
Let Sunday dinner be another time to incorporate crafts into your daily life. Dress up the table with a centerpiece of natural materials. Dress up for dinner. It may seem silly at first, but kids (especially younger ones) usually enjoy it. Create a party atmosphere. Put out special place mats and napkins. Let the kids make a festive dessert. Try out new recipes and repeat regular favorites. Ask every family member to share the best thing that happened all week. Invite someone over.
Make Sunday your one day of leisure. Stay home. Walk. Sing. Play games. Make it a rule that all homework has to be done before Sunday, so there's no frantic Sunday night cramming. Don't do household chores, either. Refresh the spirit.
Another opportunity to make crafts a part of everyday life is to incorporate them into family bath and bedtime rituals. Make your own bubble baths and potions. Add personalized decorations to linens, toothbrushes, and cups, using techniques in Sewing: Get It Together and Glass Painting. Make hampers for each person. Kids love things with their names on them and it encourages them to take care of their own things.
Spend time before bed making up stories that kids can later write or illustrate in handmade books or act out in plays.
Give your kids a half hour of uninterrupted attention every day. Use this time for touching, stroking, massaging tired shoulders, or holding each other. Take time to talk.