Kristie Carlson, a mother of two children in Pleasanton, regularly volunteers with her daughters, Vintage Hills fifth-graders Brooke and Sammi, at the Valley Humane Society. They decided to volunteer because they love animals and wanted to help those that do not have homes. Not only are they spending time together, but they enjoy providing a benefit to the community while doing so.
The Carlson family also goes on road trips together for several days at a time.
"You really get to know your kids and they learn a lot about you, too," Kristie Carlson said, when they talk in the car for hours with no outside distractions.
They make sure to find interesting places outdoors along the way to explore, she added.
The Carlsons also take horseback riding lessons together and play lots of board games. Kristie Carlson hopes these activities will help to reinforce the family's strong bond and that Sammi and Brooke will want to continue them as they get older. She also thinks doing things together will help her girls understand that she and their dad are always there to love, support and listen to them.
Sammi and Brooke said they enjoy these activities with their mom -- they are entertaining, plus laughing together a lot creates memories and brings them closer. This strong relationship with their parents reminds them that they are incredibly fortunate to have a family that cares. Lastly, Brooke and Sammi have learned, "You always need your family no matter how old you are."
Houses of worship offer ways for parents to connect with their children, participating in their family's cultural and religious traditions together and helping to create a sense of belonging. The Jewish Chabad in Pleasanton sponsors Loaves of Love, where mothers and daughters learn to bake Jewish challah bread, while being taught its religious significance. Many churches sponsor family hikes through local scenic areas, such as the Pleasanton Ridge, Lake Del Valle and the Sunol Wilderness.
Augustin Bernal Park, on the west side of town, offers 237 acres of open space where families can hike, bike and go horseback riding together, as well as engage in geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt played by adventure seekers with GPS devices.
The basic idea is to locate hidden containers called geocaches, which contain tiny, inexpensive treasures such as keychains and marbles. There are many hidden along the trails of the Augustin Bernal Park.
"Geocaching is a great way to explore areas as a family activity," said Andrea Bloom, who enjoys the activity with her children and friends. "You can do it wherever you are, and it adds an element of excitement for the whole family to discover the cache together."
Another mother of three said it's not about the treasures, it's about spending the time together. "That is the treasure," she said.
Downtown Pleasanton also offers activities for the whole family. Sharaku Paintertainment on the second floor at 205 Main St. has special Family Fun Days where parents and children can paint on canvasses together. Studio 7 Arts at 400 Main St. welcomes children for art activities at its Meet the Artist mornings.
Downtown Yoga is another venue on Main Street for families to participate in a joint activity as children are welcome into adult classes, to relax together in a health-promoting environment and have fun while doing so.
"I really like having parents and children in class together," said instructor Praveena Chinthaluri. "It fills the studio with a wonderful, positive energy."
Family activities benefit both parents and children. Everyone gets to spend time together as the children grow up, and at the same time, it establishes a trusting and loving foundation for the young that can last a lifetime. It also creates traditions that children will someday repeat with their own offspring while sharing memories of their parents.
As children grow older their lives often revolve around doing things with friends, but family activities are a great way to show children that their close relatives are a constant in the world around them that changes so quickly.
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