By Kristina Schnack Kotlus, Contributing Writer
This is the prime time of year for resolving to change some- thing about yourself. We resolve to eat healthier, exercise more, dress better—we look at ourselves in the mirror and
decide to address what we don’t like. However, by February most of us are shoveling down conversation hearts with a ferocity that would scare oﬀ even the most pumped-up ﬁtness trainer. This year, why not resolve to work on yourself with your family? Having more fun as a family doesn’t mean you have to give up on your goals. In fact, you can alter yourself while having fun with your loved ones.
Want to work on your physical attributes? Head over to First Lady Michelle Obama’s website www.LetsMove.gov and learn how you can work on health and ﬁtness goals together. The site includes great ideas for outdoor games, ﬁtness as a family, and keeping everybody motivated.
Use one of your holiday gift cards for a new soccer ball and kick it around the backyard. Take Fido on a walk at least once a week as a family. Also, Lake Ridge Park and Bull Run Mountain are just a few of the local choices for beautiful trails, and the Prince William County Park Authority even oﬀers parent/child sports classes. If you’re like my husband and avoid the cold at all costs, explore some indoor activities. Forego an adults-only gym membership for a ﬁtness center the kids can enjoy too, and start oﬀ with setting a swimming date once a week for the whole family.
Perhaps you want to cook healthier or with more skill. This is a great resolution for your family! Children’s cookbooks are a wonderful way to start for budding chefs of all ages because the recipes are simple, the directions are thorough and there are typically numerous pictures to help you interpret the steps. Our family is particularly fond of the Williams-Sonoma “Kids in the Kitchen” series, but any children’s cookbook that appeals to you will do. Start small, and as you increase in conﬁdence and skill, you’ll be amazed at what you and your children are able to create. In our home, each child is given a night of the week to choose and prepare supper, which develops measuring, ﬁne motor and listening skills, as well as ensuring they eat what’s on the table.
If your family’s “fun quotient” has been lacking the last year, maybe the pursuit of family time in and of itself would be a worthwhile resolution. For many of us, we can be so busy with “stuﬀ for the kids” that we don’t actually spend any time as a family. If it’s a familiar scene to you that one parent takes a child to soccer while another parent is at scouts, which they dash out of in order to pick up the third kid at ballet, this might be just the resolution for you. Resolve to pick a night of the week, whether it’s a set night or one you select each week based on the schedule, and stay at home. Play a board game, work on a project, eat dinner at the table and just have fun as a family. Growing up, our neighbors taught us this “family home evening” concept. It has so much value when you just enjoy your time together as a family. For this resolution to work best, plan to leave the television and cell phones oﬀ most of the time.
For those of you who are black-belt level parents and have already mastered activity, domestic skills, and family togetherness, another fantastic family resolution can be to help others. Prince William County just surpassed Fairfax as the wealthiest county in Virginia, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who could use a hand. ACTS in Dumfries has volunteer projects that families can do together. In the warehouse for its food pantry, even the youngest children can help scoop rice from the hundred-pound bags into smaller containers for distribution. Preschoolers can match labels and shelve green beans and corn in the correct location, and older children can help carry boxes to the correct locations.
Retirement homes are also always happy to have volunteer visitors. Many residents do not have family that comes to talk. Someone dropping by with a homemade card or to sit and visit for a little while is a welcome treat. I started taking my oldest son to visit a retirement home with me when he was just a few months old. I was desperately lonely as a new mom and needed to get out of the house. The residents at the center were so excited to have “their baby” come visit each week and would sing him songs and tell him stories while he slept. It was a great ﬁt. Just remember to call and register your family before going. Some volunteer positions, such as in nursing homes or skilled care facilities, may require a background check and a tuberculosis test, so be sure to verify that you meet any requirements.
Kristina Schnack Kotlus and her husband reside in Woodbridge with their three children. She is a born and raised Prince William native and the owner of PwcMoms.com, a resource for parents in the Prince William County area.