Sarah Bowman: A wise headmistress at my children's preschool recommended that the best thing we could do for our kids was to teach them about the world by exploring their own city.
I took the advice as an excuse to spend our weekends foraging -- if being housebound with small children was the alternative, setting out for an adventure in a new part of town was my weekend mantra! Little kids will go anywhere in their car seats, and elementary school-age kids are generally agreeable if the right playdate is invited along. It wasn't until the kids' social and sporting lives blossomed that luring them to do something new got tricky. If ever I found a moment to expand the family's cultural quota, the kids had their own ideas about how to spend a few moments of downtime! Not that the latest Hannah Montana flick could fairly compete with an outdoor performance of, say, A Midsummer Night's Dream, but I didn't stop trying. It killed me to be losing my kids to the pantheon of popular culture.
What's a culture-loving mom to do? Start her own website, of course. But, not until figuring out that all the things my kids loved -- music, movies, TV, and the Internet -- were the key to capturing their hearts (and, subsequently, minds). I started to introduce my little pop culture sponges to my favorite movies. Watching "ET: The Extra-Terrestrial" was a neat trip down memory lane for the grown-ups, and the kids might as well have been whisked away back to ET's home planet -- they were totally drawn into Spielberg's classic tale. Suddenly, it was a snap to get them to spend an hour peering through a local college's powerful telescope at the night sky. After watching "Bend it Like Beckham," we introduced the kids to Indian food and they discovered that naan was just like bread, and satay was not that different from a shish-kabob. They'd expanded their palate exponentially from pasta and chicken fingers, all because they were curious to see Keira Knightley's first film.
Our most successful adventures are all chronicled online to help other families solve this recurring weekend dilemma -- how to get your kids to stop watching TV and video games and to spend quality time exploring their world. Kids Off the Couch.com publishes a new adventure idea every week -- covering films and activities for kids from elementary school to high school. Because we invariably return home restored and reconnected after one of our outings, everyone in the family now looks forward to these mini-vacations. That is, when we can find the time!