Computers can become the opposite of family-friendly equipment if they distance children from parents and substitute inactive game play for healthful physical activity. At the same time, however, the difference between good activities and bad can depend on what you and your family accomplish with your computer. Planned and implemented with an eye to promoting family togetherness, computer-based activities can strengthen your involvement in each others' lives.
Researching and filling out the family tree can be an adventure for adults and children alike. Tracing ancestors' journeys to U.S. shores through famous landing points such as Ellis Island, or looking up great-grandparents in census records can provide "wow" moments for the whole family. You can foster children's relationships with grandparents by suggesting they interview Grandma and Grandpa about their lives as children and use the computer to write stories about their findings. As your archive of pictures, data and narratives grows, you can formulate a history in a word-processing program and track genealogical data in a specialized application.
Scheduling meals helps simplify grocery shopping and cuts wasted spending on unnecessary items. From the grocery list to the family menu, you can track ingredients, build shopping lists, pre-plan recipes by the week or month and find ways to include children in food selection and preparation. If your household includes members with special dietary needs because of medical conditions, you can add computerized tracking of food units and even build a log of blood-sugar or blood-pressure readings.
Shared, synchronized digital calendars can help assure family attendance at everyone's big events and give parents a chance to put concerts, recitals, plays and games on their schedule. If you keep up-to-date calendars synched on all your digital devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as PCs, you let technology play a role in bringing family members closer. Getting children involved in helping resolve scheduling conflicts can help build their sense of responsibility and family involvement.
Playing video games can benefit every member of the family. Youngsters can heighten hand-eye coordination and bolster reaction time, building physical skills. Tweens and young teens may find more common communication ground with parents when they join in shared game play and entertainment activities. To engage youngsters, find age-appropriate games that present interesting challenges. You can use sports games as a way to share a favorite interest, for example, and teach the rules as well as reinforce the importance of following them. Action games can provide a home-based, family-friendly alternative to the local video arcade.
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