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Resolve to spend time together

Now that summer is a distant memory, you may be discovering that family time gets squeezed out of your daily routine due to the numerous activities and demands of the new back-to-school season. I'm the first to admit that family togetherness isn't always easy to maintain in our on-the-go, schedule-filled lives. But every day can provide numerous opportunities to spend meaningful time with our kids. And the more time we spend together, the more we can help our children feel connected, guided and grounded. Educators report that kids who have solid family time are more creative, more socially adept and able to do better in school.

One way to be intentional about spending more time together is to strive to stick to basic resolutions your family believes are important. To get you started, I've come up with five basic challenges:

1. Resolve to get involved in your kids' school life

2. Resolve to eat dinner together

3. Resolve to exercise together

4. Resolve to make play a part of every day

5. Resolve to set aside downtime

Each week I'll share with you a variety of activities you can do with your kids to help you achieve your goals. So let's get started:

Resolve to get involved in your children's school life: An exciting environment at home complements what your children are learning in school. Be open to learning opportunities that tie in with the comings and goings of everyday life.

Spell it out: Encourage your kids to practice the alphabet everywhere they go. Print the dinner menu in large letters on an index card and prop it up on the dinner table at mealtime. Name and count all of the letters in the names of your family. While waiting in line, trace letters or words with your finger on your children's backs and have them guess what you've written.

Families count: Turn everyday items into simple games. At breakfast, count the number of times the name of the cereal appears on the box. Or get a deck of cards and make your own addition or subtraction game.

Plan a pizza picnic: Get the school year off to a great start with a simple, informal gathering at a park or home to meet and get better acquainted with your children's friends and their parents.

The Family Resource Center: Designate an area in your home and create a "Family Information Center." Post a calendar with athletic schedules, class trips, school meetings and other notes. Be sure to pencil in regular family time on the calendar, too.

Write Donna with your questions and ideas at Donna's latest book, "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families," is available in bookstores nationwide. © Donna Erickson; Dist. by King Features Syndicate