Best bonding activity for families

Want a quick way to penetrate your kids' psyches that involves very little talking and a lot of doing? Build a bonfire together. It's so much fun and they'll remember it forever.

One note: Make sure you are feeling relaxed, because nothing kills a good bonfire better than a stressed-out parent who'd rather be watching the game or catching up on Twitter ... (Been there.)

About an hour or so before dark, go collect small sticks and branches. Gather them into a fire pit. (Since we live in a settled area, we use a cast iron fire pit w/ a screen ... not a hole dug into the ground.) Target has reasonable fire pits. There are fancy fire pits too.

Grab a lawn chair or two, and an old sleeping bag to use as a blanket.

Teach your children how to huddle the wood to create a natural chimney. Then light it up. Next, teach them how to gradually build up the fire so it throws heat and burns efficiently for you.

The kids will be mesmerized. Teach them how to honor the flame, the heat, and then to quiet down and enjoy it. (Sometimes we chat, sometimes we just listen to the sounds of "night" unfolding with the sparkle of the flame.) Every time we do a campfire it is easier and much more enjoyable. We now even look forward to the arrival of the bats at nightfall since we've gotten to know their behavior a bit.

Sit back. Try to hang out until after dark. Watch the fireflies (due any day now in DC), and gaze up at the magnificent sky. Lucky you if you live in the country: You'll wish upon many stars as you safely let the embers die off.

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