If I were to divide my 2020 parenting into three phases, it would look something like this: First, complete enthusiasm for all the craft ideas and educational workbooks. Second, a quick arrival of burnout on my part as my kids ran the show. Third, the current stage, when I more or less have a balance of activities planned and independent playtime.

One of the secrets that's really helped me hit a comfortable stride with my family time at home is co-viewing shows and movies. Bolstered by guidance from experts that "family screen time" is in a separate, more advantageous category than independent viewing, we've made a ritual of family television nights.

From fostering empathy to helping kids manage aggression, the positive effects of television seem to be even deeper when those shows are viewed along with a parent. In fact, a study that looked specifically at Sesame Street found that preschool-aged kids learned numbers and letters best when watching the show with a parent—and that was all I really needed to know to start streaming those classic episodes to enjoy along with my kids.

Max Original Sesame Street: The Power of We

Honestly, it's hard to say who in the family looks forward to this the most especially now that we've discovered all that HBO Max has to offer. Whether it's bridging the gap between the end of a big day and dinnertime with an episode of Dexter's Laboratory or planning a whole family movie night around a classic like Free Willy, I don't mind letting my kids be in charge of the selection since there really is no going wrong.

Another reason I love cuddling up on the couch with my kids so much? It's a welcome moment of stillness in our otherwise active days. And unlike those quick-burn crafts that take so long to set up and clean up, but only occupy my kids for a messy few minutes, sitting down for a show promises us a real opportunity to catch our breath.

Which, of course, isn't to say watching shows together is a quiet affair. In fact, we often start great conversations while the pause button is hit: From the catchy lessons imparted by Max Original Sesame Street: The Power of We to daydreaming while watching movies on HBO like We Bought a Zoo, co-viewing with HBO Max incorporates something fresh and exciting into our pretty routine lives.

Many of those conversations then go on to spark ideas for activities or crafts, which has helped revitalize my tired Pinterest searches for ways to pass the time. With co-viewing as a launch pad for more discovery and curiosity, the bonding time gets to continue after the credits roll. And, thankfully, I've usually had the chance to catch a second wind by then, too.

Go on and enjoy some family bonding and sign up for HBO Max today. New and returning subscribers can save over 20% when they prepay for the first 6 months of HBO Max this holiday season.

Offer valid from December 3, 2020 to January 15, 2021. Terms and conditions apply. For complete details, including eligibility restrictions and auto-renewal terms that apply after your discounted subscription period expires, visit hbomax.com.