April 27, 2016
Hopefully you have enjoyed some of the outdoor activities I’ve posted for the last few weeks. This week I want to offer you one more simple and fun idea to create fond outdoor memories with your kids. I am also including a family devotional you can do together as you enjoy the great outdoors.
It may seem crazy, but I have found that kids of any age love bubbles. Yes, even teens enjoy mixing this homemade recipe and searching for unique objects they can use for creating bubbles of all sizes. Young kids love the opportunity to chase and pop the bubbles or have a parade of bubbles. Often it is the simple things that offer creative amusement, so enjoy a little family time creating and playing with bubbles. Here’s the formula:
5 cups water
¼ cup glycerin (available at pharmacies)
½ cup dishwashing liquid (Joy or Dawn)
Mix together in a large bowl and then divide it into smaller containers (plastic butter tubs and sour cream containers are perfect).
For your bubble makers you can use a paper towel tube, plastic strawberry basket, pipe cleaners formed in different shapes, serving spoons with wholes or straws. For bigger bubbles use large rings or form shapes using a wire coat hanger. For giant bubbles, pour the formula into a baby pool and make bubbles using a hula hoop. You can even stand in the center of the hoop and make the bubble rise around you as you lift the hoop up.
Family Fun Devotional
Read: Psalm 19:1-6
What do we learn about God as we observe His Handiwork in Creation?
Can you think of something specific in nature that especially turns your thoughts toward God and makes you want to praise Him?
Take a moment to pray and thank God for His marvelous creation that you can enjoy.
Choose a clear evening when you can go outside and observe the stars together. You may want to drive a little outside the city lights to be able to see them better. Check out a book from the library that will help you find the constellations and locate some of the planets. Bring along a telescope if you have one.
These ideas and much more can be found in Karol’s book: A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.
April 11, 2016
There’s nothing more memorable than spending time with your kids in situations filled with love, fun and laughter. Let’s be deliberate about creating some springtime memories with our kids. It’s the perfect time to make some outdoor plans. I hope you used some of our ideas from last week. Here are some more ideas to enjoy with your family:
Hiking and camping can offer a tremendous and fun opportunity for family bonding and friendships. Who can place a value on the togetherness that happens when you are forging a stream or hiking through the woods or climbing a small mountain as a family? One can never underestimate the conversations that take place sitting around a campfire or sharing a tent together. Even if your family is not the “camping type,” you can still consider a family hike or walk together. Honestly, our family has only been camping in tents out I the woods once, but we still count it as a great family memory. We have had many walks and hikes together that served as that wonderful outdoor experience for us.
- Keys to Happy Camping. There are certain ways to ensure a happy time while camping. The first is to have a flexible attitude. It’s essential to have the spirit of “We can do it!” Or “Let’s make the best of it” when challenges come our way. Proper planning with food and supplies makes things run much smoother. Keep it at your level of comfort; don’t try to be the extreme campers especially your first time. If you are new to camping it helps to go camping with another family that is more experienced. Always be prepared for rain no matter what the weatherman predicts. It is also a good idea to know the hazards of the area so that you put food away and steer clear of everything from bears to bees. Visit http://gorp.away.com/index.html. for a great website offering camping advice and info.
- Wonderful Walks. Walks offer wonderful opportunities for exploration even if you are in your own neighborhood or nearby fields or public parks. Saturdays and Sundays are good relaxed days to schedule an adventure. Bring the dogs along! Use this as an opportunity to observe, touch and feel nature. You may have something you want to collect on the journey, such as rocks or leaves or pine cones (bring a bag or shoe box along to carry your treasures). Try to collect a walking stick for each family member. Do a little research ahead of time to be on the look out for certain birds or plant life and bring along binoculars or a magnifying glass for further observation. You may want to bring along the camera as well.
- The Fire Pit. Several years ago we bought a simple fire pit for the back yard and set some chairs around it. Over the years the kids’ friends as well as our own family has enjoyed hanging out at the pit. Roasting marshmallows is always a great activity. The beauty of a fire pit is there is something so warm and inviting about a crackling fire. We have been known to sit for hours and talk. So whether you are at a campsite sitting around and open fire, or in your back yard with a fire pit, use these moments to create meaningful conversations. It’s also a wonderful atmosphere for family devotionals or to use some of your conversation starters from Chapter Nine.
Nature is an open classroom filled with wonder and discoveries waiting to be made. There are simple wonderful ideas you can do with your kids to make wonderful outdoor memories.
- Mud Pies. Bring out some old plastic bowls, containers (old whip cream or butter tubs are perfect), plastic measuring cups and plastic spoons to make your own mud pies. You may also want to use some baking flour to make it more interesting. Old clothes are a must for this messy but memorable activity. Allow the kids to scoop up mud from a rarely used place in your yard or garden. Mix in flour and water and stir. Pour into tubs and allow to dry in the sun just for fun. The joy is in the mixing, stirring, measuring and playing in the dirt!
- Tree Bark Rubbings – You will need paper and several big crayons with the paper removed. Hold the paper against a tree and rub over the paper with the side of the crayon. Look for a variety of trees, so that you can get different features with each one. After everyone has had the chance to make several rubbings, bring them together and compare the different types of bark. You may choose to glue a few of them to a big piece of construction paper and make a collage.
- Have Sketchpad will Travel – Provide a sketchpad for each child, along with colored pencils or markers. Be sure to bring a blanket along as well. Take a walk outdoors to a place of natural beauty or interest. It may be a garden, or a beautiful tree or a little water fall. Put the blanket down on the ground so everyone can have a place to sit and observe. You may want to call attention to the variety of colors, light or shadows. Talk about how the colors change throughout the seasons, both in the leaves and ground and sky. You may want to point out angles and perspective to older kids. Allow the kids to create their masterpieces, and have an art exhibit or show displaying the pictures when you come home.
- Natural Art Productions – You will need gallon-sized zip lock bags, card board and glue for this project. Give each child a zip lock bag as you take a short walk or excursion outside. Encourage them to gather a variety of items to be used for their art. Pebbles, sand, leaves, acorns, are a few of the items to look for. You can complete this project at home or on the back porch. Ask the kids to close their eyes and imagine a picture they can create with the items they have gathered, then using the glue have them create the picture on the cardboard.
As we think about all the activities to enjoy outside, let’s not overlook the beauty of simply relaxing or resting outdoors. Bring out sleeping bags, an old quilt or blanket to a grassy area (free of ants) in your back yard or local park. You may want to choose a place in the shade of a tree if it is a hot day. Enjoy a simple lunch or dinner together (a sandwich, chips and drink will do).
After lunch (and maybe a little running and playing), tell the kids to lie on their backs and close their eyes. Ask them to be very still and simply use their ears to listen to the sounds of the outdoors. Encourage the kids to relax and enjoy the fresh air and sweet smells and sounds of nature. After a little time of no talking, just listening (hopefully) let the kids tell about the sounds they observed as they rested.
Nature often reminds us that we don’t always need to be running and doing. We can enjoy the beauty of creation by slowing down and taking it in through the simplicity of a porch swing or a quilt spread out on the grass. My hope is that we can enjoy not only the outdoor adventures and activities, but also the natural refreshment that God’s great creation brings to our soul.
These ideas and much more can be found in Karol’s book: A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.
April 5, 2016
Nature, like a kind and smiling mother, lends herself to our dreams and cherishes our fancies. Victor Hugo
Nature give us a wonderful playroom filled with beauty, adventures and discoveries for kids of all ages. As we step into spring, we step into a wonderful world of possibilities, I want to help you take full advantage of the great outdoors through creative games and activities. We all have different outdoor opportunities available to us. Some of you may have a fenced in back yard, while others live in the city, while others live with wide open space for miles (and the rest of us are jealous of you). You may even have a park somewhere in the vicinity that you can either walk to or take a short drive.
Consider the outdoor opportunities that are available to you and apply these game and activities to your situation. Many of the ideas you will find here will work well when you have a number of kids on your hands, so if the neighborhood kids show up at your house or if the cousins come over for a visit you will have creative fun on hand. Most importantly we can rejoice in God’s wonderful creation and thank Him for providing the perfect playground.
Terrific Tag Games. The thrill of the chase and the excitement and strategy of outrunning the person who is “it” makes tag games a thrill for kids of all ages. In a typical tag game, one person is designated as “it” and chases the others trying to tag them. If a player is tagged they become the new “it.” You can also play elimination tag, in which the tagged person is out of the game. The last person left without being tagged becomes the new it. You can choose “it” by drawing names out of a hat or by choosing a number between 1 – 30. The closest one is “it.” You can also draw straws (the short one is it) or you can pick candies (the one who gets the red one is “it”). Here are some variations to the typical tag game.
- Shadow Tag – Instead of tapping the runners, the person who is “it” simply steps in the persons shadow. For the best shadows play late afternoon.
- Freeze Tag – Tagged people stand like frozen statues when they are tagged. Other runners can tag them and unfreeze them.
- Chain Tag – Best with a large group, the first person tagged joins hands with “it” and they both begin to chase others. Each person tagged joins the chain. Only the two players on the outside of the chain can tag. Keep going until everyone is a part of the chain. The last one is the new “it.”
- Airplane Tag – Everyone on the ground is fair game to be tagged by “it.” The players are safe if they are above ground (like sitting on a swing, stepping on the ladder of a slide, or standing on steps).
- Hat Tag – You will need an old hat for this one. The person who is “it” must tag the person wearing the hat. The person being chased may toss the hat to another person, if “it” gets too close. If the person with the hat is tagged then they become the new “it.”
Fun and Easy Ball Games. If you have kids in your home it is a good idea to have a good supply of balls as well. Here are a variety of games to consider.
- Circle Ball – Circle up (or if you have enough create two circles) and pass the ball around the circle. Start with tossing it to the player on the right. Once the ball has gone around once you can vary the way you pass it: bounce it once, pass between the legs or behind the back. If you have two circles they can compete to see who gets the ball around the circle the fastest. Ages 3 – 8
- Soccer Circle Ball – Circle up again only this time the ball is on the ground and players kick it back and forth, keeping it within the circle. The game can be light and simple for young ones, but can be challenging for older kids as the pace picks up. Ages 4 – 10
- Racket-less Tennis – You will need a tennis ball and some chalk for this game. No net is needed, just a flat surface either on a driveway, playground or wide sidewalk. Use the chalk to draw a rectangle about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. Draw a line down the middle which serves as the net. The first person serves the ball by simply bouncing it once and hitting it with the palm of his hand. The ball must land in the opponent’s court. The ball is volleyed back and forth until one of the players misses the ball, or doesn’t get it across the line, or hits it out of bounds. Players only score when they are the servers. Play to 11 points, but the winner must win by two points so if the score is 10 – 11 then play continues until someone has a 2 point lead. Ages 7 – 15.
Races and Relays. Your most important job in hosting a race is determining the course. Where are the start and finish lines, and is it a clear safe path? Choose teams randomly (don’t ever have kids or captains pick their teams, as feelings always get hurt). I believe it works best to draw colors (colored strips of paper or material) out of a bag to form teams. You can even divide by hair color, eye color, birthdays, or alphabetically. Then even up the teams before you begin.
- Back to Back Race – Set up two goal posts or chairs about 25 feet from your starting line. You will need about ten feet between the two teams. The players on each team stand back to back, linking elbows and running in this position (sideways). Each couplet runs to their goal post, circles it and then returns to tag the next couplet on their team. Team to finish first is the winning team.
- Bunny Hop Relay – Mark two lines on the ground at least 15 feet from each other for the start and turn-around lines. Divide kids into two teams, lined up single file behind the starting line. At the word “GO” the first player on each team hops like a bunny to the turn around line and continues back to the starting line. After she crosses the finish line, the next player in line goes. The first team with all of it’s bunnies down and back is the winner. Ages 3 – 8. This race can be varied for older kids to be a Kangaroo hop. A little different type of hop is required. This time the kangaroos stand with both feet together and keep both feet together as they land and add a little more spring to their stride. With this rely the turn-around line should be about 30 feet from the start. Ages 8 – 12.
- Sack Races – You will need either a burlap sack or pillowcase of each player (or you could make it a relay and provide one for each team). Play only on the grass or soft surface such as sand at the beach. There will be loads of laughter and fun as players try to hop across the finish line in their sacks with a few stumbles along the way. Mark the start and finish line with a stick or rope making the course around 30 feet. You may want to run this race several times and watch the kids get better and better. Ages 7 – 12.
- Tunnel Ball – Begin by marking a start and finish line about 30 feet apart. This is best played on a large flat surface and you will need one ball for each team. Players for both teams line up in single file lines behind the starting line and spread their legs out. On the word “Go” the player at the front of each line rolls the ball through the tunnel of legs on his team. Players are free to help the ball stay in the tunnel. As the last person receives the ball, she runs to the front of the line with the ball and sends it down the tunnel again. Slowly each line will progress forward. The first team to make it entirely across the finish line wins. Ages 6 – 12.
Just Plain Fun Games. There are some outdoor games that are simple and fun. You will find that most ages enjoy the following.
- 1. The King’s Treasure – Draw a large circle with chalk (or you can use shoes to form a circle in the grass). Kids circle up with one person in the center. You will need a bag of coins, bean bag or something that is easy to grab to serve as the king’s treasure. The king in the middle stands over the treasure to guard it. Everyone on the circle slowly tries to sneak up and grab the treasure without being tagged. They are safe if they are back outside the circle. If they are tagged, they must sit on the outer circle. The first one to get the treasure is the next king. (ages 5 – 13)
- Obstacle course – An obstacle course can be set up in a number of different creative ways in your own yard. You will need to make sure it is age appropriate and safe. Some of my favorite items to use for an obstacle course are a box, a jump rope, a chair, a ball and a basket. For starters consider having the kids crawl through the box, then they must jump three times with the rope, sit on the chair, and toss the ball in the basket. You can make a simple course for young ones and a more difficult and longer course for the older kids. Items to add the obstacle course include: a hula hoop, plastic slides, mini exercise tramp, sprinklers (if it is hot), and fabric tunnel. Ages 3 and up.
- Sheep and Wolf – This is a variation of the familiar Hide and Seek game only the hiders and seekers end up changing roles. You will need to choose one person to be the Wolf while all the rest are sheep. Determine a central home base (a tree stump, fountain, porch step). Remember safety is the first rule of business so make sure you establish boundaries and places that are off limits. At first the wolf hides while all the sheep close their eyes until the wolf lets out a howl. The sheep all begin to search for the wolf. When a player spots the wolf he yells, “I see a wolf!” The wolf then chases the sheep trying to tag them before the sheep reaches home base. It a sheep is caught, he or she becomes the next wolf. If everyone makes it to home base safely, then the wolf continues for another round. Ages 5 – 12.
- Red Light Green Light – One person stands about 20 or 30 feet away from the starting line with their back turned to the group. The person then shouts “Green Light!” which is the signal for everyone to begin moving forward. When he says “Red Light” everyone is supposed to freeze in position. The person who is “it” turns around immediately to catch anyone who is still moving. If he sees any movement he calls those people by name and sends them back to the starting line. The person who is able to tap it first without being detected wins and gets to be the next “it.” Ages 5 – 10.
- Follow the Leader – Choose one leader who will direct the rest of the group with their words and example. Walk like a monkey to the mail box, act like you are swimming across the yard, hop on one foot to the tree, are a few possibilities. As the adult, you may want to be the first leader. Keep the kid’s ages and abilities in mind, and remember to maintain safety at all times. Ages 5 and up.
We will add some more fun adventures for you next week. These ideas can be found in Karol’s book: A Positive Plan for Creating More Fun, Less Whining.
March 14, 2016
Often parents ask me how they can build more love and less anger into their family life. Certainly every mom wants to see her family get along in a cheerful and loving way, but we’re all human, and more often than not, arguing and anger are the norm. So what can we do as moms to increase the love and reduce the tension? Here are a few encouraging ideas:
Encourage Conversation: Understanding and kindness tend to be the by-products of listening and sharing our thoughts with one another. Sadly, in today’s culture we have myriad distractions which keep us from experiencing rich conversations with family members. As moms, we must be deliberate in finding focused face to face time with our families. Studies now show the benefits of conversation around the family dinner table, from everything to improved test scores to adherence to family values. Between soccer practice and piano lessons, we must take on the responsibility to carve out some family conversation time at the dinner table (or breakfast table).
Encourage Eye Contact: When you love someone, you look in their eyes and really see them. Our kids must grow to understand the importance of truly seeing the people in their family. It begins in the home, as we look into the eyes of our own kids when we talk with them, and as we require them to look back at us. Teach your kids that eye contact is a sign of respect and encourage eye contact at the dinner table. Compliment your kids when you notice that they are maintaining good eye contact and also teach your kids the importance of putting down their phones in order to pay attention to people. Eye Spy is a great game to play after dinner or on a road trip. Perhaps you remember how to play – one person says, “I spy something red.” Then the others must ask questions to figure out what it is. A simple game that encourages engagement and attentiveness.
Encourage Loving Words: Our words have a powerful effect on others. Words can be cutting and painful, but they can also be respectful and life-giving. We must teach our kids to use their words in a positive way, building up others rather than tearing them down. The words “I love you,” are often neglected because we assume everyone in the family knows that we love them. As moms, let’s determine that we are going to speak these three words more often, and then let’s encourage our family members to do the same. We build love in our homes by speaking love. Other loving words are:
May I help you?
How do you feel?
I admire you for…
Ask your kids to help you add to this loving word list. You may want to make a poster of your family’s list and keep it in a prominent place as a reminder to speak love into others.
Encourage Forgiveness: Possibly the most important words besides “I Love you,” are “Will you forgive me?” A loving home is a forgiving home. Let’s admit it, as moms there are times when we need to say, “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” We need to be askers of forgiveness as well as givers of forgiveness. We must teach our kids to let go of grudges or they will become bitter and angry as they grow. Forgiveness is best taught in the classroom of the home. When we forgive others, we are not saying it is okay for you to hurt me, rather we are releasing the right to hold something over another person. Sometimes we must set wise boundaries as we forgive others.
It goes without saying that the lessons of love and forgiveness begin with our own example. Our kids need to see love in action as they observe it in our lives both with family members and people outside the home. Never underestimate the power of your own example in teaching life lessons in the home. The love and forgiveness you demonstrate in your home and to your family will be passed down for generations to come. I want to leave a loving legacy – how about you?
Join me next week as we talk about helping our kids be compassionate to those outside our home.