Outdoor Games and Adventures
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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.

  1. 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.
  2. Freeze Tag – Tagged people stand like frozen statues when they are tagged. Other runners can tag them and unfreeze them.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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).
  5. 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.

  1. 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
  2.  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
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4. 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. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.



Letting Go
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Saint Patrick’s Day is a celebration of a man who loved the Lord and experienced the transforming power of the gospel.  Kidnapped by pirates when he was only a teen, Patrick spent six years as a slave. While in captivity he became a Christian and was able to miraculously escape to his homeland. After he was ordained into the ministry he sensed God’s call to return to Hibernia (Ireland), the land of his captivity.

What if St. Patrick decided he would not forgive his enemies? What if he just wouldn’t let his past hurts go and instead harbored bitterness and anger? He would have missed the opportunity to bring the gospel to a nation who desperately needed Christ. Patrick’s life offers us a picture of forgiveness and redemption. God does amazing work through our willingness to forgive.

I love the picture above of the bulldog with a St. Pat’s hat on because it offers such a poignant contrast. Bulldogs are known for their stubbornness and unwillingness to let go of whatever they have in their mouths. Ironically, Patrick was stubborn for the gospel, because he was willing to let go of the past hurts. Are you a bulldog or are you like Patrick, willing to forgive and let go of anger and bitterness. Forgiveness means releasing the right to hold something over another person. It’s not becoming a doormat. You may need to still set boundaries, but forgiveness is letting go and placing your hurts and resentments into the hands of a loving God.

As moms, let’s live with forgiveness and experience the joy and freedom that comes when we let go of bitterness and resentment. Let’s teach our kids to do the same. May our homes be a beacon of light, love and the gospel message to a world that needs Christ’s love.

The BREASTPLATE of Saint Patrick

I bind myself today, –
To the power of God to guide me,
The might of God to uphold me,
The wisdom of God to teach me,
The eye of God to watch over me,
The ear of God to bear me,
The Word of God to speak for me,
The hand of God to protect me,
The way of God to lie before me,
The shield of God to shelter me,
The host of God to defend me

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height.


Creative Ways to Console a Crying Baby
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There’s no one perfect solution to soothe a crying baby, but there are a few creative ideas parents have used throughout the years that can help to console your precious one. Keep in mind that you know your baby better than anyone. As you get to know him or her you begin to understand their cries and learn what seems to work best. Try several of these methods to see which ones are effective for your baby.

Rocking. As anyone who has ever whiled away the hours on a porch swing knows, there is something calming about a gentle rocking motion. Consider standing with your baby in your arms and swaying back and forth, rocking in a rocking chair or glider, or placing the baby in a baby swing or Rock and Play.

Change of Venue. Putting your baby in the stroller and taking her for a walk may calm both you and her down. Another helpful idea is to put your baby in the car seat and take her for a ride. Perhaps a quiet, dark room or a different setting is all she needs to regain some composure.

A Snug Wrap. A swaddling wrap is a way of firmly wrapping a newborn, helping him feel more secure. Here’s one way to swaddle your baby: Spread a receiving or lightweight blanket on the floor. Fold one corner of the blanket down. Lay baby faceup on the blanket with her head just above the folded end. Pick up either the right or left side of the blanket and pull it over your baby to tuck it in snugly under her opposite side. Fold up the bottom of the blanket to cover her feet, then wrap the remaining side of the blanket around her, keeping her head and neck exposed. Do not wrap too tightly, and do not leave your baby in a swaddle wrap for more than eight hours in a row. You want to leave some room for the legs to move freely, to prevent any hip problems later down the line. I recommend a blanket called the Miracle Blanket, which is created especially for babies as a swaddling wrap.

Singing or Consistent Rhythm. Your baby was accustomed to the rhythm of your heartbeat while in the womb, and some newborns are soothed by a similarly consistent rhythm. Consider gently humming or singing a lullaby to soothe your fussy baby. I sang “Jesus Loves Me” and other simple Bible songs to calm my babies. Some parents have found the rhythm of the washing machine or dishwasher can help or using a sound machine.

Pacifier or Teething Ring. Some babies have a strong desire or natural reflex to suck. A pacifier may be the calming factor your child needs. Usually between three to eight months old, babies begin cutting teeth, which may increase irritability. Excessive drooling, biting, or even a mild temperature may be an indication that a tooth is surfacing.

Baby Massage. Gently rub or massage your baby’s back or tummy. Your soft touch and gentle strokes may bring a sense of calming comfort.

Stimulation. Although one reason babies cry is from overstimulation, it can also be possible that your baby is bored and may need attention or stimuli. There are plenty of baby boredom busters on the market. Visit your local toy store or do a search for age appropriate and smart baby toys.

Gas Remedies. It is possible that your baby may need to be burped or needs to be fed in a more upright position to avoid gas pains. If your baby arches her back or draws up her knees in pain, she is likely to be suffering from gas. You may want to consider Little Remedies or Mylicon Infant Gas Relief, which are safe for newborns and available over the counter or online. Sometimes babies have an intolerance or allergy to certain foods. A simple change in your diet (if you are breast feeding) or in his formula may make a difference.

Colic. Mayo Clinic estimates that 5 to 25 percent of babies have a frustrating period of inconsolable and intense crying known as colic. Colic is typically defined as crying for more than three hours a day, three days a week, for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. Generally, the episodes show up in the late afternoon or evening. A colicky baby may be difficult or even impossible to console during these crying episodes.

In addition to trying the methods already mentioned in this chapter, it is important for you to try to stay as calm as possible if your baby is colicky. I know it is difficult to remain relaxed in the midst of incessant crying, but your baby can pick up on your stress and tension. Again, don’t hesitate to ask if you need to call a friend or see if your spouse can give you just a short break. Use the opportunity to take a quick nap, read, talk to another adult, take a shower, or simply step out of the house in order to regain your composure. If there is no one to call at the time, then you may need to lay your baby safely in her crib and step into another room for a while.

Take Care of Yourself. It can be unnerving to hear your baby constantly cry. If you have gone through the checklist of possible reasons your baby is crying and nothing seems to fit, then take a few measures so that you do not become overwhelmed. Sometimes, you may need to put your baby down and let her cry for a while, or you can put on some relaxing music to calm your spirit and help you not focus on the cries.

For more ways to bring calm and peace to your home, check out my book, Defuse, A Mom’s Survival Guide to More Love Less Anger – Click the image below.

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How Do I Know Why My Baby is Crying?
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You’ve prepared for almost nine months for an eagerly anticipated new member of your family. The nursery is decorated and stocked with baby clothes and diapers, and your family and friends are overjoyed. It’s all so wonderful! That is, until you come home from the hospital and your baby begins to cry and you can’t figure out how to console him. Welcome to motherhood! It’s not quite as easy and blissful as we anticipated. Isn’t it amazing how this precious new addition to the world, so tiny and sweet and innocent, has the power to fluster and frazzle us simply by crying?

Your little treasure from God is not deliberately trying to frustrate you, although it may feel that way sometimes. A crying baby is simply trying to communicate the only way he can. No matter how frustrating the crying may be, we need to remember that our baby’s intent is not spiteful, but rather based on need, comfort, and survival.

A mother’s response to her baby’s cries can reassure him and give him a sense of security. “Picking up and attending to your crying baby won’t spoil her. For the first few months, you are getting to know your baby and she is getting used to being in the world,” says pediatrician Maud Meates-Dennis. “By being responsive to her crying you are letting your baby know that she is loved and cared for and that will give her security.”

A newborn baby may cry for more than two hours on any given day. As you get to know your baby, you will begin to figure out why she is crying—perhaps she is hungry or tired or in need of a diaper change. It also helps to know some practical techniques to calm the crying and cope with the tears. Let’s begin by examining some of the reasons babies cry and then some creative ways to deal with it.

Babies must rely on someone else to provide for their basic needs of comfort, warmth, and food. Typically, when a baby cries, he is trying to communicate he has a specific need. As a new mom, you may be frustrated by your baby’s cries as you desperately try to figure out what could be upsetting your precious little one. Gradually, you will begin to recognize your baby’s patterns as you get to know his needs. Let’s examine some of the reasons a baby cries.

Hunger. The most common reason a baby cries is because she needs to be fed. If it has been more than three hours since she last ate, she may be hungry again. Most newborns eat every few hours (unfortunately around the clock), with the exception of the first day or two after birth, when some babies feed very little. Some babies may get so upset when they are hungry that by the time they begin feeding, they gulp air with the milk—which causes them to spit up or cry even louder. Try to gently calm your baby before feeding her, and if your baby begins to gulp, take a short break. Take time to burp your baby during and after each feeding. Your baby may need to be burped between meals as well.

Diaper Change. Some babies become especially upset when their diapers are soiled or wet, while other babies seem perfectly content even when they have a full diaper. Check your baby’s diaper often to make sure it is dry. Also, check the tabs to make sure the diaper fits properly and the tabs are not irritating her skin.

Need to Be Comfortable. Babies often cry if they are too hot or too cold. Touch your baby’s stomach to feel if she is too hot or too cold (feeling hands or feet is not a good guide, as they usually feel slightly colder). Add a layer of clothing or take one away accordingly. Your baby may feel more secure or comfortable bundled in a swaddle wrap, which is explained in the next section.

Tiredness. A tired baby can be a fussy baby. If you notice your baby losing interest in people or toys, rubbing her eyes, yawning, or decreasing activity, she may need a nap. If you respond early to your baby’s cues of tiredness, you may avoid a major outburst of tears.
Newborns need up to sixteen hours (or more) of rest each day, so make sure your baby is getting the sleep she needs. Sometimes your baby may be overstimulated due to a busy day or lots of people around, so you will need to take her to a quiet, dark place away from the stimulation in order to get some rest.

Need to Be Held. Many babies need an extra dose of cuddling and reassurance that you are there. Newborns especially need close physical contact for comfort, whereas older babies may be reassured by seeing or hearing their parents nearby. The Mayo Clinic reports, “Babies who are held or carried during most of their waking hours are less fussy than those left in a crib or infant seat.”2 You may find a baby sling helpful, allowing you to keep your baby close while freeing up your hands. A gentle massage or light pats on the back also reassure your baby through your touch.

Overstimulation. Too much activity, too many people, too much noise may be too much for a baby. If you notice your baby shutting her eyes or turning her head and crying, she may be trying to shut out all the stimuli around her. This would be a good time for a change in scenery, perhaps moving to a dark, quiet room or, if the weather is nice, it may be good to head outdoors for some peace and quiet and fresh air. A calmer environment and maybe even some gentle “white noise” like a ceiling fan could help your baby calm down.

Pain or Illness. If you have checked the above motivations and your baby is still crying, you may want to explore the possibility that she is in pain or ill. A baby who is sick or in pain often cries in a different tone than her normal cry. It could be sudden and shrill or higher pitched.
Check your baby’s temperature and do a full examination of her body to make sure there are no rashes or obvious problems. Make sure her clothes are not too tight or pinching her. If your baby is at least three months old, you might also want to run a clean finger along her gum line to see if her gums are swollen or if you can feel a tooth coming through. If so, you can offer her a refrigerated (not frozen) teething ring or obtain your pediatrician’s permission to use an over-the-counter oral anesthetic, such as Oragel.
Some babies have a reaction to certain kinds of formula. If you are breastfeeding, your baby may be reacting to spicy or gas-producing foods you ate. Some babies are sensitive to caffeine as well. If you think certain foods may be causing your breastfeeding baby to be fussy, then avoid those foods for several days and see if you notice any difference. Remember, no one knows your baby like you do, and if you sense that something is wrong physically, do not hesitate to call the pediatrician.

Need to Suck on Something. Many babies find it comforting or soothing to suck on something, whether it is a clean finger or your pacifier. First, make sure that your baby is not hungry, since newborns most often need to have their sucking instinct satisfied with the nutrition of breastmilk or formula, rather than the nonnutritive sucking of a pacifier. Once you have ensured that the baby is not hungry, then offer her a pacifier, teething ring, or a clean finger to suck on until she calms down.

Time of Day. Sometimes there are simply times of the day that a baby may become fussy. One of my daughters typically had a crying spell in the early evening, which made dinner preparation a tad bit of a challenge, yet this routine only lasted a short while.

Next week we will examine ways to calm and soothe a newborn’s cry.

For my insights on Life Lessons Learned from a Newborn, click here.

This is an excerpt from Defuse, A Mom’s Survival Guide to More Love Less Anger

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