Photo via Decoholic.
Remember a time when technology brought people together? When the whole family would gather around the only TV in the house instead of spreading out to separate rooms and devices?
These days personal gadgets tend to isolate people in their own cyber world. But you don’t have to feel hopeless. There are ways for you to use technology to engage your family as a unit—a movie night, for example! Here are some ideas for making the most of this evening activity while keeping your kids engaged.
Step 1 – Create Anticipation
Set a date and talk it up ahead of time by mentioning a few key attractions. (Pizza from scratch, anyone? They don’t have to know it’s healthy!)
Start by just choosing one Friday night, and if that goes well, ask everyone if it should happen again next week. If the first run-through doesn’t get two thumbs up, think about what went wrong and how you could work around it then reintroduce the idea with necessary edits a few months down the road.
Start this Friday with our special Ratatouille Movie Night Menu…
Step 2 – Find a Role for Any Aged Child
Sneak in extended family time before the movie by asking for help with dinner. Use language like “If you wash the veggies, this pizza will be ready to eat even sooner!” to prompt their engagement without it seeming like a command. As you know, kids rarely want to help with a “chore,” so plan ahead for how each person can help based on their age, attitude, and abilities.
Little ones can watch you prep food while they snack or play in a highchair. Give them the fun tasks of dumping dough ingredients into the mixing bowl and sprinkling the cheese on top.
Elementary school-aged kids might have fun decorating their own personal pizzas into a smiley face: pepperoni eyes, a green pepper mouth and sprinkle cheese hair.
Older kids could try tossing the dough or they could cut toppings while they play DJ with their tablet. Listening to their music is sometimes a headache, but it’s such a great way to gain insight into their world and you may have the opportunity to start a good conversation with them.
By asking your preteen or teenager to DJ, you’re showing interest in them. This ownership might be exactly what they need to stick around for more than just munchies.
Here’s a simple pizza recipe you can all tackle together!
- Put a pizza stone in the oven then preheat it to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a mixing bowl, pour 1 cup of hot tap water, 1 packet of yeast and 1 Tbsp. honey. Let this sit for about five minutes.
- While that sits, sprinkle a little cornmeal over the surface of a pizza peel and prepare your toppings.
- When the yeast foams at the surface of the water in the mixing bowl, add a big pinch of salt and 1 Tbsp. of vegetable oil. Mix in two or three cups of white whole wheat flour slowly until the dough feels like it’s the right consistency.
- When the dough easily comes away from the sides of the bowl, empty it onto a clean countertop dusted with flour. Knead this for five to ten minutes until the ball of dough is smooth then toss it in the air (if you’re adventurous!) or roll it flat. Shape it as necessary on the pizza peel.
- Add toppings, then shuffle the pizza onto your pizza stone. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is browned. This gives you just enough time to wrangle everyone into the living room and get the movie ready!
Step 3 – Make the Room Extra Special by Going Extra Cozy
If you’re able to do a little primping of your home “theater” beforehand, seeing an inviting atmosphere as they walk by will pique everyone’s interest. Make sure your furniture is comfy—even if that means dragging a favorite reading chair into the room or, if it’s in the budget, getting some snug new pieces that are fun to lounge in.
The draw of the evening might be the food or film, but the environment you create around the TV is what will cause kids to linger until the final curtain drops. So, channel your inner kiddo to create super comfy blanket-fort-type nests all over the room and your furniture. Better yet—invite them to help!
Another key feature of the perfect movie-watching scene is the accessibility of food and drinks. Make sure your coffee table or side tables are conveniently located to minimize spills and that their height makes it easy for little ones to reach their next bite.
Step 4 – Prepare a Surprise!
Are they getting distracted while you do all the work on dinner or as the movie rolls?
Come up with a surprise ahead of time that will delight your kids, like a popcorn bar with lots of toppings or a special treat for dessert, and don’t mention it until attention starts to wane. It will pull them back in if their minds start to wander and the excitement of a plot twist might make them more eager to participate again in the future.
If all goes well, you could make movie night a weekly routine.
Establish some ground rules (like rating restrictions or not choosing the same movie more than once) then rotate through each family member, week after week letting someone new pick the film.
Don’t forget to join your family on the couch! The whole point is to spend time together. The dishes can wait.
Julia Marchand makes her home in rural New Hampshire and writes on family and decor topics for The Home Depot. To review some decor styles that might just be right for your own active family room, you can visit The Home Depot site here.