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Family Fun House

Enjoying playtime together is one of the best ways for families to stay connected. Try these ideas.

Raising kids is serious business. But research has found that families that know how to laugh and play together are often healthier, happier, and closer. In her book, Traits of a Healthy Family (Winston), researcher Dolores Curran notes that enjoying leisure time—particularly fun activities—is one of the best ways for families to stay connected with each other. Try these ideas to build a legacy of laughter in your family:

1. Keep a funny file. Whenever you run across a newspaper cartoon that hits close to home, paste it into a scrapbook. In our family, browsing the "cartoons" book always brings new laughs about diets, flashy pajamas, fishing, and yard sales.

2. Never outgrow the dress-up box. You know that young children can find hours of fun in a dress-up box. But don't ditch the duds once your kids get older. One night my preteen daughter donned a pair of ugly glasses (complete with a taped nose bar) and a rumpled wig to "model" a hand-me-down dress she disliked. She found a hilarious way to make her point and the despised dress went in the giveaway bag.

3. Ham it up. Noticing my 12-year-old son struggling to type, I sat beside him and pretended I was the tinny-voiced, elderly typing teacher I had in school. My crazy monologue about timed typing tests got him laughing—and feeling better about his progress. Let go of any self-consciousness (and dignity!) and play Baryshnikov when your preschooler starts prancing around the living room, or Julia Child when your teenager is making a snack. Your kids will love seeing you let loose a little.

4. Collect code words. Give funny moments a title or catchphrase so you can bring back the memory in an instant. Just the words "TP streamers" brings chuckles at our house as we recount the night our then 18-month-old daughter climbed out of her crib, toddled into the bathroom, and emerged dragging a lengthening streamer of toilet paper through the house.

5. Recall your most embarrassing moments. Our kids love to hear Dad talk about the time he cast his fishing line and accidentally let go of the pole, which promptly sank in the middle of the lake. Sharing your goof ups can help your kids see the humor in their own inevitable mishaps.

6. Reverse roles. One night at dinner, my husband and I became the "children," exaggerating atrocious table manners and typical mealtime complaints. Our children got the point about table manners better through laughter than through a week of nagging. Let your kids pretend to be you once in a while. You'll get incredible insights into how they view your role.

7. Encourage humorous imagination. We've made up new captions for crazy pictures in books, magazines, or newspapers. We've also made our own silly greeting cards out of re-captioned pictures, done Bible Charades (Abraham and Sarah was a stitch!), and told add-on stories that usually start, "Once upon a time there was a desperate mother who. … "

8. Find laughter projects. One summer I had to present a skit for a get-acquainted picnic for our church choir. My kids helped me come up with "Ten Rules for Choir Members." The audience roared as my daughter (illustrating the rule to dress modestly) sauntered in wearing a flashy skirt and feather boa, then fluttered her eyelashes as she volunteered to do the solo. Laughter projects can be as simple as making up a silly welcome home song for dad or as involved as creating a funny video greeting to send to faraway relatives.

Fall 2002, Vol. 15, No. 1, Page 10

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