This blog post is written in collaboration with very.co.uk
Every winter I feel my mood begin to shift. It’s really hard to do the school run in the dark, through roaring winds and biting cold rain. It’s hard to be doing so much more laundry, everything is covered in damp and mud and it’s so easy to fall into a funk and really start to feel down. One of the most important things I think for maintaining a positive attitude and good mental health over the winter is making a conscious effort to spend time together as a family, so I suggest to you – the cosy family date night!
You’re probably familiar with the concept of a date night, where you and your significant other spend some quality time together. But what about a family date night? Isn’t spending quality time together as a whole family just as important? And in the winter that can be hard to do, with picnics at the park and wonderful outdoor activities banished by the weather and the darkness, with limited choices for what to do on weekends and in evenings. So I propose we all set aside a bit of time to do something together in the evening indoors.
Get comfy and warm
First thing’s first, get comfortable. This is not a dress up date night – this is a loungewear and pyjamas date night. The aim is to spend quality, happy time together. I love a brand new pair of women’s pyjamas, something warm, cosy and utterly adorable of course. Loungewear also works if you want something warm and comfortable but still a bit stylish – love a lounge co-ord set. But most of all I have to admit I’m an absolute sucker for matching pyjamas and seeing my husband and son together always makes me smile, so this is a winning combination! I absolutely adore these matching Disney pyjamas for everyone. The goal is happy and comfortable.
Here’s Ben and William snuggling up ready to watch a movie, wearing the Mickey Mouse Matching Family Christmas Pyjamas from Very, and the blanket is a Deyongs Fleece called Christmas Hey Ho Sherpa Throw. I even love the name.
Make sure you stay warm and get those fleece blankets out as well, so everyone can snuggle up and keep warm and either some fluffy warm socks or slippers. If you have a particularly cold house, you can even bring out the hot water bottles for the sofa – they don’t just have to be for the bedroom!
Movies and popcorn
The classic cosy family date night to me would be everyone snuggled up together on the sofa, watching a movie and eating popcorn, or your favourite snack of choice. I love sweet popcorn, my husband loves salty, and William will eat absolutely anything. Other options include doing your own version of pick and mix, with different sweets, or some decadent chocolate as a treat. If you’re trying to be healthy (go you!) then you could do a fruit platter, with perhaps some crackers or breadsticks, a bit of cheese and hummus as a dip.
Something fun to do with movie choices is to make a list of movies you want to watch together, and write them in a circle on a piece of paper. You can then spin something (like a pen, pencil or a bottle) and it lands on your home-made movie board. That makes movie choice a bit more fun and a bit of a game. Other options include taking it in turns to choose, so everyone gets their choice each week, although you still have to take into account the suitability of the movie depending on the age of your child. Having traditions to rewatch favourite movies in the winter can also bring a family together – you could have a traditional list of Christmas movies that you watch in December, culminating with a family movie on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day – mine would be Home Alone! Let me know what yours would be in the comments.
And don’t forget a cosy hot chocolate for everyone in your favourite mugs, or perhaps even an adult tipple if you fancy it – my tip is to add a cream based liqueur to hot chocolate for the adults!
I am a total board game geek, so this is a big one for me. Playing board games together can be loads of fun. It can bring out your competitive streak and you can have a little prize for the winner – even something as silly as a plastic trophy that is handed around the family members each week. A lot of board games can also be played co-operatively, which encourages the whole family to work together to overcome an obstacle. This can encourage communication and bonding whilst also being super fun. You do want to have a surface like a dining table or a coffee table, but you can also use a folding table, or play on the floor if it’s comfortable. Remember to bring cushions and blankets, and you could even light a few candles to keep that warm and cosy atmosphere.
If your children are really young and aren’t yet able to play a board game, have them pair up with mum or dad or an older sibling to create teams and then you can read any text and ask them to make simple decisions with you. I found William loved board games from as young as three years old. For me it’s important to find games that parents don’t find boring as well, a lot of the younger learning games, let’s face it, aren’t that exciting, but there are board games out there that are truly fun for all age ranges.
My top three recommendations for children around the 3-8 age bracket (with some help from mum and dad on the younger end) would be:
- Dragomino – This is a very simple game to play but has enough strategy for adults to enjoy it too. You use tiles to play dominos by matching terrain. If you match the correct terrain, you get an egg, which may (or may not) hatch into dragon. Count your dragons when the tiles run out to win! There’s no reading and the very simple visual matching can be enjoyed by all ages.
- Outfoxed – This is a co-operative game where you work together to find out who stole the pie! It’s a visual memory game where you have to remember clues, but because you work together, it’s ideal for the younger age range.
- Carcassonne Junior – Carcassonne is a simple strategy game that’s one of the most well known board games in the world. The junior version is a good starter point for ages 4-5 onwards, and will act as a simple tutorial to help them get into the full game when they’re older. This is another visual tile based game where you place your pieces to create a network of roads, and a good introduction to deeper strategy games.
For older children who can read and match destination names, add this one to the list!
- Ticket to Ride (either Europe or London) – Ticket to ride requires you to be able to read the place names on cards, and then decide strategically which routes you plan to take by placing down matching cards and trains. The strategy is simple, but this is one of my favourite board games! I recommend Europe for a fully fleshed 30 minute game. It introduces a few fun and simple mechanics that add more strategy to the game than the original American version, and also has the added bonus for British players of being closer to home. The London game is a much shorter game (10-15 minutes, vs 30-45 minutes on the main game) and is based around the London Underground. It’s ideal for kids who find the main game a bit long, or for travel as it’s small and compact!
Do a fun project together
My final suggestion for that cosy winter date night in is just to work together on a project of some kind. This could be any sort of arts and crafts project, what about choosing photos for a family scrapbook, working on a joint art project, singing or even writing a song together, doing jigsaw puzzles or my absolute favourite as resident geek, building something fun like lego.
At the moment William, Ben and I are working through the Lego Minecraft series, as William is obsessed with Minecraft – but the best part of Lego is there are so many sets available, and you’re bound to be able to find one that is fun for your family to create together. This is a fun tie-in for us because Ben and William also play Minecraft together. I’m a gamer, but not a big fan of Minecraft personally, so I’m not that excited about joining them for a game, plus that’s their thing they have together – but building Lego? I’m up for that, we all are!
Now Lego might not be your thing, but I’d urge you to think about something that the whole family will find relaxing and fun. Got a fun idea? Share it in the comments!