Lazy Afternoons

J Jordan
February 3, 2011

Let's be honest: having kids can be fun, but it can also be exhausting. Whether you have one child or a brood, it seems you're always running to and from practice, games, rehearsals, recitals and more. Toss in your own needs -- errands, workouts, the grocery -- and the regular work day, and it's no wonder why we're exhausted by the weekend. Any time off seems devoted to household chores, school projects, and volunteering

Yet, even in the busiest household there are those evenings and weekends when the planets align and somehow everything has already been accomplished. If you're like most parents we know, you spend that free time suspiciously wondering what you've forgotten or missed; surely there is something that needs your attention; you just can't remember what it is. That feeling is known as anxiety, and it's no good for you or your family! The best remedy for it? Try a lazy afternoon.Trust us -- a few hours spent doing next to nothing can recharge you and prepare you for whatever else (planned or otherwise) that comes your way.

Reading is a great, quiet activity that can work for everyone. Pick out a good book that is appropriate for all ages -- think Charlotte's Web -- and have each person read a chapter to the rest of the group. Or, pick out books on the same theme, read on your own and report back. If that's too much effort, then have everyone read whatever they like -- books, magazines, haikus, even the back of a cereal box (which might tie in with a well-deserved snack) -- just so long as everyone is occupied and, more importantly in some cases, quiet. 

And speaking of snacks, lazy afternoons mean not having to put too much work into food. Our favorite meal plan for such a day is to "pack" an indoor picnic, spread a blanket on the floor and eat it there, just like a picnic but without the ants! And peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches, apples and carrot sticks are the perfect, carefree fare. If even that is too much effort, there's no sin in ordering a pizza and letting someone else do the work. To be truly lazy, one family we know doesn't always even bother with plates -- they eat straight from the box! Then, of course, they use the box for arts and crafts projects, but that's another article. 

Once the hunger has been tamed, the crowd might feel a little more lively. Some families we know enjoy charades or a kid-friendly version of the game "Celebrities." Depending on the size of the abode, a game of hide-and-seek is never out of the question; and, if you live in less space, take turns hiding an object, which is a lot easier than trying to cram yourself into the one coat closet in your apartment.

And, while the TV may be turned off, that doesn't mean you have to live without the radio. We know we said before to turn off and tune out, but music is a great way for everyone to relax, and it can be incorporated into the reading, resting, and relaxation. Pick a channel or a genre and let the music do the rest. On the other hand, music is also a great way to get everyone moving without being too active. Engaging in some light yoga or gentle stretching can be fun and help everyone feel like they haven't been too lazy. Taking turns playing favorite songs can also be a good, everybody-wins game that requires little effort.

The reality is that with little kids there really is no such thing as a truly lazy afternoon, just moments of less chaos. Unless everyone is asleep, the only way to keep an afternoon lazy-esque is to give everyone a task that will occupy their attention for at least ten minutes at a time. Activities such as coloring and playdough are good and not especially messy. Puzzles can also be effective in this manner, but beware those seeming less complicated than they really are -- those with more than 25-50 pieces, depending on the age range, can be a lot more trouble than they're worth. That said, nothing can be more fun and, actually, rather relaxing, than the whole family sitting around a 500-piece and turning it into something.

Truth be told, the lazy afternoon is like a sudden spring shower: it's unexpected and it doesn't last very long. Trying to plan one or optimize the enjoyment of one can be difficult and disappointing.  In this respect, it's best to seize the moment just as you discover it -- or, better yet, don't seize it at all. Instead, just keep browsing through that catalog, finish that crossword puzzle or put the finishing touches on that peanut butter sandwich. And, you know...relax!

From the Parents

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