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50 Ways to Engage Kids

Photo Credit: Jahir Martinez on

"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty."  This anonymous quote (sexist wording and all) caught our eye and caused us to reflect on fun times with our kids.  As wonderful as children are, they add expense to any family budget.  Kids need love and attention; they thrive when you engage with them.  Fortunately engaging  doesn't have to break the budget.  Engaging also creates screen-free time, lifelong values and memories.  We'll close with a list of 50 of our favorite ways to engage kids that cost little to nothing and are all screen-free.

TOM:  Engaging with kids is putting them front and center.  With little ones I got down on the floor where I could see the world from their point of view.  As they grew older I joined them in active, creative play, engaging their imagination.  Effective icebreakers involve vulnerability and laughter.  That is why they are so effective.  The same is true when engaging with kids in collaborative, non-competitive play -- vulnerability and  laughter are key.

We loved playing Sardine Tag, which was most fun after dark or when extended family or friends were over.  Packed into a closet, under a bed or behind a shower curtain like sardines is fun, but careful -- laughter can give the hiding spot away.  Dark is both fun and scary.  Older kids remember the monster under the bed and were naturally inclined to buddy-up with younger ones.  Creativity, giggling and teamwork built confidence, even in the dark, and made this a family favorite for years.

MF:  Zip Bong, Fish Bowl and the Dictionary Game are still family favorites when the kids are home for the holidays.  They are fun for all ages.  Zip Bong is pure silliness.  Play it too long and your sides will ache from laughing.  Fish Bowl relies on teamwork, creativity and fast thinking.  The Dictionary Game (or Fictionary) requires conniving skill and a poker face.  (Check out Grandma's attic for an old fashioned unabridged dictionary.)

This style of engagement and creative play challenges me to step out of my comfort zone.  Silly play, charades and games requiring spontaneous creativity are about as uncomfortable for me as a cocktail party.  But when I let my guard down it sends the message that stretching and being vulnerable is OK.  It is leading by example and trusting the kids will laugh with me and not at me.  If I can do something 'stupid' in charades, the kids are more likely to share with me something 'stupid', they did the night before.  I would do almost anything for our kids and engaging with them is an ongoing journey and gift.

For more fun and inexpensive ways to engage kids of all ages click here.  Comment on fun ways you have found to engage with kids and let us laugh with you!
Photo Credit:  Caroline Hernandez on


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