Updated: Jan 9
Many people (not everyone) look at our family and see rainbows and unicorns when they see our four (gorgeous!) girls (I'm a bit partial). But handling a multiage level family is not always gumdrops and lollipops.
I had to learn, early on, that everyone will not always be happy. It was probably the birth of my second child which clued me in to this fact. You know the type; the child who comes out ready to be grown. Do you have a child like this? Maybe not. Let me explain:
This is the child who, at 8 months, would scream at the top of her lungs while she crawled backwards away from a toy. The child who decided to potty train herself at 16 months old! The one who would refuse to wear panties unless they matched her outfit...at 18 months old!
Her birth followed my passive submissive go-with-the-flow first child who wore whatever I asked until I told her she needed to start picking out her own clothes. By the time I was pregnant with child number three, I was stumped on what type of child I was going to birth. I was convinced I had two polar opposites.
Number three and number four, surprisingly, came out with two other types of personalities and my hubby and I were living in a household of four very different children spanning very different ages. The only thing which brought them all together was the fact that they were all girls.
Things got a bit difficult when we hit fourteen, eleven, eight, and three years. Doing family
activities were a juggling act of finding something to entertain all four age groups while participating in family time. While each household is different, we found outdoor activities were a great way we could all be together and have fun. Little one rode in a babywearing device for many years before her little legs could keep up with our hikes. Walking sticks were provided for younger kids, and older kids were our "navigators" or leaders of the trips. If we had an easy dog, one child would hold the leash.
Another activity we enjoy is cooking. What kid doesn't like cookies? Each member can be an integral part of the cookie making process followed by the consuming of these desirable foods. I, additionally, created a fun evening where each kid chose a part of a meal to cook. I cooked the meat while one took the starch, one the veggie, one the dessert, and one the appetizer. It was/is fun to have them research recipes of what they would like to create, go shopping for the supplies, and have me assist as they cooked them. One of my children (cough, #2) chose to make a vegetable she detests into something she found desirable. She was quite successful but decided it was too time-consuming to recreate.
For some activities, we have needed to add an extra feature in order to make sure everyone has had a great time. For example, we all enjoy going to the local track and running, having races, running stadiums, and walking. It gives the family great exercise while participating in an activity together. One of our children does not necessarily enjoy this outing; however, she enjoys stopping by the local coffee shop after our family exercise for a cup of coffee. So, we swing by the shop on our way home to celebrate our family fitness (and, essentially, drink all our calories back!).
When it comes to movies, we must be strategic, age appropriate, and inclusive at the same time. We do not believe in allowing our little ones to see age inappropriate movies in the name of family time. Our family still watches animated movies so that we can allow the little one(s) to be a part of movie night...and then we put them to bed and watch a "grown-up" movie for the bigs. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes the animated movie is all we watch, but other nights consist of two movies. There are tears and frustration when one or two children must go to bed without participating in the second movie, but we try to make it fun by allowing them to sleep together or to sleep in Mommy and Daddy's bed until our bedtime. These nights are time consuming but fun!
All in all, the important part of all of this is family time. For some families of multiple ages and stages, playing a family video game may be your groove while others prefer the out of doors scene. As long as you can make the activity age appropriate for each child, safe, and everyone has fun, you've got a win!
Here Are Some Examples of Activities to Do with Multiple Age Levels:
2. Biking (will require a pull behind buggie or child seat-everyone should have helmets!)
3. Read a book (Chapter Books and Audio Books are Great for Everyone-especially a long car trip)
4. Watch a multi-age appropriate movie
5. Make-Your-Own Pizza Night (requires different toppings- we even make the dough!)
6. Make -Your-Own-Popcorn Night (requires different toppings- sweet, spicy, and salty!)
7. Thrift Store Hunt (Every kid gets 5$ and a chance to purchase as few or many items as they want- vote on who found the best or most items!)
8. Pool Time Together
9. Go Camping
10. Make Dinner Together
11. Hot Drink Snack Time (Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea anyone?)
12. Bake Cookies/Cake/Bread
13. Build something together (a birdhouse, a chicken pen, a fairy house, a garden)
14. Go on a walk- make a contest of who finds the coolest piece of nature with everyone voting.
15. Play a Card/Board game (Uno, Life, Dominos)
16. Explore a New Restaurant and try each other's food (discuss and rate the food. Big kids can post a review on Yelp!)
17. Attend a sporting event together.
18. Serve a neighbor by cleaning their yard (little one can pick up sticks)
19. Serve the Homeless (little one can hand out water or draw pictures for recipients)
20. Make a movie together (use an app to let the older ones splice)
Now that you have some ideas, think about your own family dynamics, make a plan, and go make some memories! While you are at it, drop a line in the comments and let me know what other activities your family likes to participate in!