Being a single parent can be challenging on a number of different levels. From juggling your own daily schedule around theirs to accommodating unexpected sick days or school closures, it can be hard enough to just keep up with the basics as a single parent. Many times fun time gets lost in the shuffle of just trying to keep your kids fed, clothed, sheltered and on track in school. Making sure to carve out fun time with your kids, however, is crucial not just for them, but for you. “Recreational deprivation” as it is sometimes called has been linked to obesity, declining creativity and even criminality. Here are 4 ways to create some fun family time as a single parent.

1. Make Mealtimes Fun

Being a single parent is often twice the work of having a co-parent, and it’s easy to fall into certain habits to make life easier like picking up prepared food on the way home or ordering a pizza or takeout. Eating is something you have to do every day, however, so instead of letting mealtimes fall into a rut, turn them into an adventure. Instead of ordering pizza, buy ingredients for your kids to make their own mini-pizzas. Instead of getting takeout and taking it home to eat in front of the TV, take it to a park or other outdoor venue and have a picnic.

2. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Most adults know what it means to listen to children’s music ad nauseum in the car or know every line of a children’s movie or TV show. As children grow up, however, it can be easier to take them to fun centers like Boondocks which as go-kart racing, arcade games, bowling, and laser tag in Utah. As a parent, it’s important to sometimes step out of your own comfort zone to engage in activities your kids enjoy with them, even if you don’t particularly care for them. Who knows, you might find yourself having far more fun than you thought you would.

3. Look for Freebies

Raising kids is expensive under any circumstances, but it can be particularly tough financially for single parents. Be on the lookout for free events or fun things you can do with your kids at minimal cost. While your kids may want $100 tickets to go see the latest pop group, they might benefit more from spending a day with you at a museum or public park. Even if you can’t find a free event, you can often cut down significantly on costs by eating before you go or not buying a t-shirt or other souvenirs at the event. Try and teach your kids to savor the event itself, rather than needing to spend a lot of money in order to have fun.

4. Go Old School

Long before there were video games, cell phones and tablets, there were board games, card games and even chess and checkers. Sometimes, you may be too exhausted to go out, so why not try putting on your jammies and pulling out a board game for a fun night of non-electronic entertainment. Like learning to have fun on a budget, you can also teach your kids that you can even have fun without electronics.

Sometimes carving out fun time with your kids may mean that other things that might seem more important might get put on a back burner. Going to the park with your kids might mean that dishes might not get done or their favorite clothes might not get laundered. In the long run, however, your kids are probably going to have far better memories of spending a great day with you than of sitting at home playing video games while you cleaned house. They will only be young once, don’t get so caught up in the business of taking care of them that you completely miss out on the time they have right now to just have fun.

By Lizzie Weakley

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her three-year-old husky, Snowball.

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