Family Date Night: It Is Possible
It is possible to stay connected, but you must be purposeful
By Julie A. Lyssy
In today’s world it seems more difficult than ever to find family time. Mom and dad are busy, the kids are over-involved and time seems fleeting. But studies have shown that families that spend time together and do things as a unit are typically better connected and healthier. So as another summer comes to an end and the busy fall season lies just on the horizon, don’t fret, there are ways to overcome the oncoming stress and the realities that pull families in all kinds of directions.
Sure school will soon begin and the family calendar will quickly fill with a seemingly endless myriad of activities for each member of the household. But with a concerted effort you can make family time happen. Remember, it’s essential to nurture the relationships within your family. It’s one of the secrets to raising well-balanced kids.
For many, eating dinner around the family table every evening just isn’t feasible anymore. But there are other ways to get the same results. You simply need to find new ways to make interactivity and communication integral to everyone in your family. No need to pressure yourself to do it every day, but like most things, you must make the time to accomplish those activities that you deem important.
Start simple, schedule a regular ‘family date night’ on everyone’s calendar. Maybe once a week, every other week or even once a month. The point is to carve out some time to be together.
What this actually looks like will be different for every family but we have taken a few great family date night activity ideas and outlined how you can try them out. Whether it’s getting back to nature and enjoying the outdoors, digging into some arts and crafts activities, or creating a farm-to-table meal experience, here are some ways you can unite the family – if just for a while.
The Mansfield area abounds with outdoor opportunities for families. There are 14 parks here that offer a wide range of space and recreational possibilities. You can explore on your own or sign up for a more formal event.
Julian Feild Park is a great place to start. Mansfield’s oldest park features picnic tables, grills, benches, a serenity garden and offers a Texas Smart Scape demonstration garden. The garden provides a great opportunity to learn more about conservation and sustainability.
“We recently opened a new playground at Feild Park primarily for children ages two to five years old,” says Coco Garcia, Mansfield Activities Center (MAC) supervisor, she’s an expert on what the Mansfield parks system has to offer.
If your family is up for something a little more active, try kayaking at Britton Park near Joe Pool Lake. Now through October, the MAC is offering a new program to introduce the sport. You and your family can explore Joe Pool Lake in two-person kayaks. Don’t worry you’ll receive plenty of instruction on proper techniques and safety. This 90-minute session’s dates and times vary so contact the MAC to sign up for a time that fits your schedule.
“Oliver Nature Park offers the boardwalk, tree house, Rocky Ford and natural amphitheater to give people great places to discover,” says Garcia.
Scott Young, director of parks and recreation, adds, “For families, we are bringing back our Friday Night Hikes in October. They start at dusk and the park in the twilight is an amazing experience.”
Oliver Park offers two other options that incorporate nature and technology. The iNaturalist project is a community project to document all the different organisms found in the park. Participants take pictures of plants, animals, bugs and flowers and submit them to the project via their website, and develop astute observation skills along the way.
Treasure hunters might enjoy geocaching and there are multiple caches hidden in Oliver Park. Just download the app to your mobile device and start your adventure. It’s a great activity that teaches basic orienteering, deductive reasoning and team work. Perfect for getting the family together.
If it’s too hot out or you're looking for some indoor activities, there are options for that, too. You can show your kids your classic roller skating moves at Skatium in Arlington or perfect your flip at Urban Air Trampoline Park. Either is sure to create laughs and memories on your family date night.
Arts & Crafts
From music to art and just about everything in between can be found in Mansfield. For example, Mansfield’s newest concert venue, The LOT, offers free musical performances throughout the year. Here’s a chance to be together with your family and enjoy music – maybe even expose your kids to something they haven’t heard before.
Painting is another potentially great family activity. It can allow for the expression of creativity while providing another skill set and furthering the understanding of art. A Canvas Social offers two-hour workshops allowing you to create a masterpiece under the guidance of a class facilitator that provides step-by-step instructions for achieving your version of the sample painting.
Maybe some in your family would be interested in painting and wood working. Board and Brush Creative Studios can provide opportunities here. You’ll learn to use tools, work with wood and create beautiful pieces of art.
“We design our projects to be error proof to allow people to go home with a good piece at the end of the class,” says Amy Evans, owner of Board and Brush Creative Studio in Mansfield. “For us, this is all about people leaving having learned new skills while having fun in the process.”
And for something really unusual, consider the Mind Maze Escape Room. This fun and unique place allows families to work together to navigate a maze of clues, puzzles and tasks to be released from an escape room. Three different room scenarios challenge your problem-solving and team play skills.
Of course there are many, many more indoor and outdoor opportunities for families to come together and bond. But consider starting with these and then find some of your own.
Make Food Fun
Though sitting down together for dinner every night may not be feasible for many families, pick a day of the week or month to create your own family’s farm-to-table experiment. Head to the Mansfield Farmer’s Market bright and early one Saturday morning – with the family in tow - to pick out fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. Get there early for the best selection.
Here you and your family can meet the farmers who grow the food. They are more than happy to tell you about their growing process, what type of fruit or vegetable you are buying, nutritional benefits, preparation ideas and answer any other questions you have about the food. There are all kinds of vendors selling honey, flowers, crafts and jarred goods like jams, jelly and pickles. They, too, will tell you about their processes and products at length if you wish to learn more.
Now head home with the cornucopia of selections. Get the whole family involved in collectively picking out recipes and cooking together in the kitchen. This will probably entail prep tasks, timing what order the dishes should be made, identifying different types of cooking utensils and how to use them properly and, of course, taste testing.
And don’t miss the all-important table environment. It’s a natural opportunity to instill table etiquette and manners. Review things like how to properly set a table, from which side to serve and pick up plates, basic table manners like how to scoop soup away from you in the bowl and other details.
By the end of this activity you will have covered nutrition, awareness of where food really comes from, cooking skills, logistics, using the right tool for the right job and social skills.
Keep It Simple
Feeling overwhelmed? Then simply order a pizza and play a board game, cards or charades. It’s a simple way to unite the family and add down time to your schedule.
The most important part of family date night, no matter what type of activity your family chooses, is interaction and connectivity. It keeps everyone grounded and instills a sense of fun, unity and security at home. Over time, these feelings build confidence to embrace challenges and flourish no matter how far one roams from the family home.