January: A Month of Connection

It’s almost January and I’m poor. As in, this month’s money was spent before it even arrived in my bank account. That kind of poor.

So, with January being somewhat cold and bleak, I’m turning it into something positive and calling it a month of connection. Essentially, this means I’m going to be connecting with my family doing things for free and leaving my bank card at home so I’m not tempted to delve into my overdraft.

I have enough diesel in the car to hopefully last me until February, but I’m planning on doing a lot more walking this month instead of relying on the car for short journeys. I’m emptying the freezer and the cupboards. I’m raiding the bookcase for books we’ve not yet read together and unused activity books. We have Christmas Lego to sit down and complete, endless science kits, a dusty and neglected bread maker I need to start using again – and a recipe for cinnamon buns for which I already have the ingredients.

January brings the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, which we plan to do this year now that we’ve got all the feeders in the garden.

RSPB – Big Garden Birdwatch

We plan to explore a local nature reserve that’s been on our list of places to go for well over a year. A local park is hosting a family stargazing event we hope to attend.

Mostly, I intend to spend as much quality time with my family as possible, counting our blessings and starting the year on a high.

Here’s a few ways we’re planning on connecting this month:

  • Go for a walk. It can be that simple. Step out of the front door and start walking, plan a route or go somewhere further afield you’ve been wanting to visit.

  • Pizza Night. Pizza costs pennies to make. Flour, water and yeast. That’s it. Raid the cupboards and the fridge for sausages, tinned pineapple, sweet corn, cheese, etc.

  • Go Stargazing. We have plans to blow up the inflatable mattress, chuck it on the patio on a clear night and drag all the duvets down from upstairs. We’ll dust the telescope down from having been sat on top of the wardrobe since this time last year and we’ll snuggle up outside with a few Sky at Night magazines we were given, and an endless supply of hot chocolate.

  • Join your local Parkrun. This is a new one for us. Have a look online for junior parkruns. Usually on a weekend morning, it’s a 2k run for children in local parks. (parkrun website)

  • Go for a bike ride. We have a Sustrans route less than 2 minutes from our house. Miles of traffic free cycle path right on our doorstep.

  • Film night. Get the children to pick a film and make some cheap snacks. Popcorn is so easy to make, or combine it with pizza night.

  • Go to the beach. We live a couple of hours away from our nearest beach, so a day trip needs planning in advance. Chuck the buckets and spades in the car the night before, pack up a picnic and go and spend the day collecting shells or hunting for crab shells. I might be in the minority, but I love the beach in winter.

  • Have a bonfire. Get the kids out for a walk and collect as many fallen branches and sticks as you can carry home. Get them to make ‘doughnuts’ out of newspaper, help them build a fire and then roast some marshmallows.

  • Try geocaching. Whilst most apps charge for unlimited access, you will still be able to view quite a few caches. Stay close to home or set out for the day.

  • Wash your car. Buckets of soapy water and kids go together like bread and butter. Give them each a bucket and sponge and let them get soaked. Hoover out the inside, check tyre pressure and refill the screenwash.

  • Give your kids a camera. This keeps my kids busy for HOURS. We have two old digital cameras so we charge them up and let the kids loose. Okay, so you have to delete 50 photos for every one that’s decent and in focus, but they love it. Print out a couple of the better ones and let them pin them up in their bedrooms.

  • Bake bread. Whether by hand or by machine, bread making is therapeutic and makes the house smell amazing. Flour and yeast are crazy cheap, and kids love getting their hands mucky.

  • Get out in the garden. Clear the leaves, jetwash the patio, plant bulbs. There are endless outdoor jobs to be done that kids would love to help with. Offer a reward of baking muffins once everything is done.

  • Invite friends over. As long as there’s coffee on offer, friends will be happy. Kick back for a few hours and enjoy being home for a change.

  • Check your community calendar. Many towns and cities host free events that can be fun. Allotment open days, church coffee mornings, markets, library Lego days, nature clubs – to name a few.

  • Watch the sunrise. If the kids are up early and you know it’s going to be a long day, watch the sunrise. Put your coats on over pyjamas and take a cup of tea outside while the kids have breakfast, or move the sofa around so they can see out of a window. Let them eat their cereal on the sofa or give them watercolours to paint the beautiful mix of colours seeping together.

  • Cook dinner together. Plan a meal together by looking through the cook books a few days before. Round up the ingredients and let the children take the lead.

  • Head to the woods. Pack up a bag with everything you need to spend from 10am to 4pm in the woods. Think a flask of soup, loaf of bread, hot coffee, a few books, some fruit, a pad of paper and some pens/paint, a scavenger hunt sheet, a bag for collecting things, homemade boats to race in the stream, binoculars and a bird spotting book…. the list is endless.

  • Break out the board games. I have a confession to make: I hate board games. My kids love them though, so this month I’ve committed to sitting down and playing with the boys (although I may try to sway them into playing card games or connect-4 instead!).

Here’s to a month of enjoying my family and reconnecting.

Oh, and the most important thing? My phone is going to be mostly turned off during the day.

It’s going to peaceful in more ways than one.

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