Reflecting on what makes a family fun after your precious son has created a blood bath attempting to knock out his front teeth can be chalked down as one of life’s little challenges.  Luckily, I am, at the time, trawling through the many images I have captured of the wonderful times we have had as a family, which wipes out feeling that life is, especially at that particular moment, overwhelming, time-pressured and not always fun. 

Being a photographer who frequents free family-friendly events, I see families everywhere being together.  There is no one-model family; there is a variety of packages – different sizes, shapes, ethnicities, cultures and persuasions.  Sometimes I look at a group of people laughing together in a park, museum or at the weekend market and wonder if they are related.  I look for similarities in their faces, ask what makes them laugh, why they are laughing and wonder if my own family could have, or be having, that much fun.

No matter what the make-up, the very thing these families all have in common is togetherness.  And, all are trying to make the most of the limited time they have together; which can be tough with today’s pulls and pushes on us.

Time is precious, whether you live in the city, town or country.  The pressure to earn, the pressure to succeed, to be everything to everyone – it can be relentless and often without mercy. And, it can take its toll on how much time and energy we spend with our families.  While I don’t have a magic wand to create time for family fun, these are some of the elements that help my family have fun together.

Everyone decides on the fun: talk to each member of your family so everyone knows what is expected of them, we agree on an age appropriate activity and agree when it will happen. I find there is greater buy-in from my kids if I work on a no surprises approach, ie: this afternoon we are going out in the car (there can be a surprise as to where), could you have some time playing in your room/with toys/reading – gives you the time to plan and to have some time to yourself so you then have energy to spend on your family.

Funding the fun: sort out how much you want to spend.  Fun time with family does not equate to spending a fortune – my kids love doing things with us, their parents, no matter what – painting, sweeping leaves, gardening, walking, going to the market or museum.  The fun is in being together and enjoying each other’s company.

Keeping a list for a rainy day: when you have time, make a list with your family on activities they would like to do during the weekends/holidays/term-time.  Put the list away and bring it out when you are struggling for ideas.

Quality is better than quality: I decided to not beat myself up being the entertainment squad for hours on end; honestly, I don’t have the patience.  Instead, we plan bursts of time-limited fun together, which the kids love.  Remember when you were a kid the really good times you enjoyed with your family weren’t always hours or days long, but moments – make them good ones.

If making time is a chore, it will be a chore:  Yay it’s the weekend! Can sometimes translate into ‘groan you are now the entertainment committee and have to come up with some original idea’.  A positive attitude goes a long way.  Even if I am having an ‘XYZ’ day, my kids can make me laugh and I am grateful for their ability (without them knowing it).  Having some rough and tumble play with them makes them laugh, they feel close to me and their giggling is infectious.

No one is perfect the best intentions are often not fulfilled and there can be disappointment all around.  Luckily these times are in the minority for my family.  I find that regrouping/taking time out/counting to ten/keeping my expectations in check/asking everyone what they want to do instead can help.

Carpe diem: even if it is raining cats and dogs, getting out and about, no matter what the weather, can be fun and exhilarating.  We often find ourselves taking our wet selves, after a walk, into the museum to de-robe and have some different fun.  Fun to me means happiness, laughter, exploring new avenues and experiences.

Rewards: a café warm-up can be a wonderful way to end an adventure and a great incentive to keep together with the family.

I am lucky, we live in the vibrant capital city and there is always something to do.  My family gets to experience a plethora of events and activities that are happening around Wellington on a weekly basis; whether you want to pay for entertainment, make your own or choose one of the free events on offer.

There are heaps of places to get inspiration for family fun – searching the internet for activities in your particular town/city, reading the community papers or local notice boards, local libraries and community facilities, churches, other parents/friends/family, websites.

Yes, it can be an effort to make the time, be together and enjoy each other’s company, but the dividends pay off with good memories, satisfied customers within your family and often a good night’s sleep for all after a fun time together.  And, taking the time to have fun together can create all those good things that mean family – love, trust, honesty, respect, encouragement, appreciation, support and acceptance.  All I can say is that the effort for fun family time is worth it!

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Rachel Binning is a full-time jack-of-all-trades who has an extensive background within the health sector. She now wholeheartedly agrees with ex US President, Bill Clinton that “the toughest job in the world isn’t being a president. It’s being a parent”. Rachel juggles being a mum of two active boys with her business, Bella Photography, volunteer work for many and varied organisations that support families, and contributes weekly to community newspapers throughout Wellington.

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