The beginning of a new year is a good time to sit back and consider what goals you want to make as a family — simple, doable steps can bring big overall changes for your whole family.
Below, we asked experts in our area to provide some of their best tips to inspire families day by day.
As a family, discuss and then write out a list of goals for 2015. You might choose a goal for each category where your family would like to do better like fitness, health, organization and finances.
Make movie night more active: watch an adventure flick like “The Croods” and act out what’s happening on the screen while it plays.
Pick one part of your child’s room to clean up together, like the closet, desk or drawer, suggests Muffy Kaesberg, co-owner and founder of Greater Cleveland’s Organizing 4 U. Organize so that each item has a place.
Brainstorm a meal for each day of the week, proposes Maggie Neola, RD, LD, healthy eating specialist at Whole Foods Market Cedar Center in University Heights. This way you shop once for a week. Hint from Neola: Prep all the ingredients today, such as chopping vegetables. Store them in the fridge or freezer until needed. Heat up a bag of frozen vegetables to go with dinner. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh.
Create a money jar for each of your kids, explains Suzanne Gradisher, JD, CPA, MBA, assistant professor of business law at the University of Akron. Encourage your children to add to their jar so they can watch their money grow.
Have a food theme for certain days of the week to make dinner a breeze. Hint from Neola: Say hello (or should we say “hola”?) to Taco Tuesdays. Use a crockpot to cook a pork loin roast. Shred and serve on tacos with whole back beans and shredded cheese. Not a taco fan? Mix shredded pork with barbecue sauce and serve on whole grain sandwich buns.
Play a family game of kickball or tag, or take the dog for a walk together. Keeping fitness fun is key to getting kids to keep exercising, believes Beth Rowell, mother of two, fitness trainer and owner of SpinChagrin.
Take a few moments before starting homework and have each family member write down five items they are thankful for. “I feel that when we are grateful for what we have in our lives, we draw positive energy toward us,” says Jodie Rodriguez, a National Board Certified teacher, reading specialist and administrator. “As children mature, they can draw pictures of things they are grateful for and then will eventually do their own writing.”
Check into setting up an education savings account for your kids. See if this will make sense with your current budget.
Go grocery shopping together and let each child pick out one new-to-them fruit or vegetable to use in your dinner.
Create fitness dice. Using two foam dice from the craft store: On one, write different exercises for each square like sit ups; and on the other, fill with numbers. From Rowell: Take turns rolling the dice — do the exercise you roll for the number of times on the dice.
Start a 15-minute family clean-up program. Choose a room, set a timer for 15 minutes — once it goes off you’re done (until the next day!). From Kaesberg: Find a good time like right before dinner — before bed can interfere with bedtime. You can use the same idea for homework.
It’s a new year, so make sure you have all your family’s wellness appointments in order — this includes the parents. Keeping yourself healthy is just as important. Schedule any health and dental appointments you may have missed last year.
Create a filing system for your financial documents. You can choose an online system or use an accordian-style folder. “Once your year-end statement arrives keep this one and shred all others,” Gradisher says.
Go to your local library together and let each child pick out a new book. Or, go find a new cookbook and decide on new recipes to try in the coming week.
Try out a fitness class together with your kids. From Rowell: This is a great way for both parent and child to get a workout and participate in something together.
Forget the movies! Choose one new activity to do as a family and get out and explore together. Check activities at your local park district for group hikes, snowshoeing and more.
Game Day! This doesn’t mean just watching football on the TV, but have the family break out the board and card games. Family members can challenge each other in this one-day tournament. Hint: You can make up your games and supply ribbons or prizes.
Feeling a little stressed? Schedule time for weekly mediation. Take 15 minutes to breathe, visualize and even do some physical stretching such as yoga poses. Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In the morning, place three to four boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker along with a jar of pasta sauce. Cook on low for the day. Serve over whole grain pasta for a quick, healthy meal. Note: If this happens to be your kids’ favorite meal, talk to them about creating a family cookbook.
Check in on your child’s money jar. Let your kids know that once it’s full, you’ll take them to the bank to create their own account, recommends Gradisher.
Update your sleep schedule. Do you find that you are going to bed at different times during the week? You can improve your sleep by ensuring that you have a consistent sleep schedule, according to the Cleveland Clinic Health Hub. To help you sleep, Michelle Drerup, sleep disorder specialist, says to practice relaxation techniques and develop them as a skill during the day when you feel good and are already calm, rather than trying to do them for the first time at bedtime.
Set up obstacle courses outside and in your house. See who makes it through fastest. Tweak the course and then go through again. Hint from Rowell: Let your kids invite friends over to play along.
Go outside! Grab a sled, go ice skating or even play in the snow. Hint: Looking for place to sled in town? See page XX in this issue.
Even though the holidays are over, your house might still be feeling full. Clean out the toy room or closets of items that aren’t being used, then donate to a local cause. Hint: Planet Aid, a non-profit national organization, collects and recycles used clothes and shoes. Find a donation bin in your area at planetaid.org.
Review your monthly bills. Look for places you can trim your expenses. Gradisher notes that families can often find a place to cut.
Get your family’s winter gear in order. Have a separate container for gloves, scarves, etc. “Keep like things together,” Kaesberg says. Store containers near the door to make them easy to find whether kids are coming or going.
Hold a family dance off. Let your kids pick the music and take turns doing crazy dances for 30 seconds each.
Hide your smart devices and have a family reading or art night. Each family member can select a story and have a read outloud. Or, break out the crayons, markers and craft supplies to create stories on the pages. Hint: Create your own puppet show. Make the characters by gluing cutouts on popsicle sticks. Draw the background on paper and then place in a shoebox by cutting out one of the sides. You can change your show’s background to fit your story.
How’s your child’s money jar doing? You might spur their savings by offering to match any amount they have once a month.
Review your goals to see how you’ve done during the month and brainstorm how to reach your goals in the next month.