Posts tagged #fun with kids

Creativity without Chaos

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Have you ever had God lead you to a solution that is so simple you are almost embarrassed it took you years to figure out? That’s the case with this revelation!
For years I’ve been battling how to encourage my kids to be creative without having to clean up the ensuing chaos of craft supplies.

As a homeschooling mom, this is an issue that keeps coming up over and over as my kids have lots of time for art projects and coloring.

Moms of little ones may experience this too, or even moms of older kids during summer breaks. Well, one day as I was cleaning up a messy school room table… again…. I uttered a prayer, not even expecting an answer, “Lord, how do I keep encouraging my kids to be creative and not have the mess?!” and suddenly God downloaded a great solution into my mind!

The idea is two parts (plus a maintenance tip!):

1.     Simplify the supplies your kids have access to every day. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of books lately. One topic that comes up over and over is of how kids thrive with simplicity. They do well with less. We all do well with less. I’ve seen this theory completely prove itself in the area of art supplies. I love giving my kids fun items such as scraps of cool wrapping paper, ribbons, and all the typical pipe cleaners, googly eyes, stickers--you name it. However, I realized having these items available all the time is overwhelming. I decided to take everything out of the school room and put in only the basics:

●      A stack of white paper

●      A stack of construction paper

●      Crayons

●      Markers

●      Colored pencils

●      Scissors

●      Glue sticks

●      Just a few favorite coloring books

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(Some of the items I put in $1 pencil boxes I found, and then placed them in the drawer.) All of a sudden, the supplies looked cute and organized! When I was trying to give them everything, I was really giving them clutter. It was amazing to watch their interest in coloring be renewed. Instead of getting out odds and ends and leaving them on the table, they came, colored, and created… without clutter. They even knew how to clean up after themselves so much better because there were fewer categories of items to clean up! And because I put everything at their level, it was easier to hold them accountable to cleaning up. When it came time to sort the projects into their dividers it was also easier because the pages weren’t 3D! The kids didn’t need to shove odds and ends into their shelf. Such a bonus! So what did I do with the other supplies?

 2.     Carve out a time for them to be creative with other supplies. I sorted through the other items and kept the coolest things. I put them in a bin on my laundry room shelf and labeled it “Creative Galaxy” (there is a show that has this name and my kids have seen it a few times,  but basically it is just a catchy title so we named our time after it). About a week after my kids had their “art supply minimalism makeover”, I got out the bin. I pulled out items and laid them out on the table. “Alright guys, you can use whatever you want! Let’s just be creative!” I put on music and sat down for a half hour with my kids. We each created a project. I wrapped a piece of cardboard in a fun wrapping paper, wrote a Bible verse on it, and added a coffee filter flower. One of my sons made puppets, one a picture of a ninja using ribbons and wrapping paper, and another a 3D fire truck out of a gift bag.

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Afterwards, we shared our projects with each other and I took a picture of them. I told them that they could keep their creations for awhile, but that we would recycle them eventually, and just make a photo book of our Creative Galaxy time. Then we will have all of our projects in one place. I’ve realized that the process of being creative is often much more important to my kids than the result. When I recycle my kids’ coloring pages, they very rarely complain or question where the pages went. (Tip: You may want to be careful with this if you have a child whose love language is gifts. They can tend to see each of these pages as their possessions, and they feel hurt if we take them without asking. Training these kids in letting go of material possessions is an important skill to train them in… and it will probably be a long process! So far it seems like all of my kids have gifts as one of their highest love languages. :/ Perhaps that’s just a normal childhood thing… or maybe they get it from me. :) )

-Doing this about every other week seems right for us. You can adjust the frequency to find what works for you. But I’ve found this keeps the supplies fresh and exciting without being overwhelming for me to keep up in our schedule. On the weeks we don’t do this, I usually have a painting time for them.

-After a few “Creative Galaxy” Sessions, I noticed that some items in the bin were not being used or even contemplated by my kids, so I recycled or tossed those items.

To maintain our new system, I have set a weekly reminder to sort through the art divider with the kids. I needed this reminder to stay on top of the paperwork. It takes 10 minutes, and it is a good training exercise for us all.

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This is an additional idea that is a huge win for kids with the love language of gifts: “printables”! About once or twice a week, I will sit down at my computer and do an image search with each child. (Understandably for their protection, I definitely do this with them!) For example, Lincoln may have me search for a picture of a baby cheetah. He will find one he likes, and we print it out for him to color. I let each kid pick 3-5 pages (and they need to decide pretty quickly!). It is amazing how much they prefer this over coloring books. For some reason the process of them picking out exactly what they want feels like they are getting a present. It is one of their favorite parts of the week, and it buys me about 30 minutes of peace because they are so excited to color when they have these! Since starting this practice, I have recycled or donated most of our coloring books. Even when the books were of their favorite characters, the kids still didn’t use them very much. Two exceptions are the giant character coloring books,and the large Melissa and Doug themed books. Perhaps your kiddos are similar and you can purge these too!

At the end of the day, it really is simple: our God is a God of order and He is creative. We are made in His image, so we should foster each of these traits. For most people, there is probably a bent towards one side or another. I think it’s great to raise our kids in an environment in which each quality is valued. I hope this idea helps you strike some balance! 

Posted on November 14, 2018 and filed under Building Your Family.

25 Summer Fun Ideas that Cost Under $5

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For homeschooling moms, summer is thrilling because we get to loosen up a bit with our kids. For moms of other school-age children, summer is a great time to build memories with the extra gift of time. Regardless of your situation, I know all of us really want to enjoy this beautiful season!

The “Summer Bucket Lists” floating around are really fun… yet some of the ideas get a little elaborate or pricey for my budget. I want my kids to have a fun summer, but I don’t think we have to go broke to do it. I also don’t want to set the bar so high one season that I can’t live up to it in the subsequent years! My goal is to have intentional time with my kids, and here are some fun ideas we’ve discovered that are all very simple and inexpensive:

  1. Catch fireflies. The most exciting part of this is that you probably have to delay bedtime!
  2. Use your plastic Easter eggs, put glow sticks in them, and have a night egg hunt.
  3. Go to a new park or beach. My boys are in a season in which this easy option is thrilling!  
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4.              Make sidewalk chalk pictures. I love the ones that have your child lay down with the image to become part of the scene. (My kids are still getting the hang of this, but it’s still adorable!)

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5.              Have a picnic dinner at a new location.

6.              Camp in your backyard.

7.              Family fort sleepover in your living room!

8.              Buy popsicles and let your kids eat them in the bathtub.

9.              Make homemade ice cream, popsicles, or slushies.

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10.           Stargaze.

11.           Stay up late for a family movie night and make your own popcorn. Bonus if you can project it on the side of your house!

12.           Sprinkler play date.

13.           Give each child a $1 and see what they can find at a garage sale.

14.           Build bottle rockets with your recycling materials!

15.           Make your own bubble solution and wands. Pipe cleaners work well.

16.           Make shaving cream paint. Do this outside on a really hot day, so afterwards you can hose the kids off.

17.           Pajama ice cream run! Get cheap ice cream cones at the drive-thru.

18.           Bug hunt at a nature preserve or park. The dollar store has great kits with mini nets, containers, and magnifying glasses. (The large butterfly net was leftover from our butterfly hatching experiment.)

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19.           Go frog catching. You can buy nets at the dollar store, and use recycled buckets for storage containers.

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20.           Cloudwatch on an afternoon that isn’t stifling hot.

21.           Have your kids wash your cars. GIve them a little tip if they do a nice job!

22.           Help garden or pick weeds, and then make dirt cakes.

23.           Perform the Mentos/Diet Coke experiment.

24.           Use baking soda/dish soap/vinegar/food coloring to create a great science experiment. Simply put the baking soda, a little food coloring, and a squirt of dish soap in cups. Place the cups inside of a baking pan, and let your kids pour in vinegar. They will love the reaction!

25.           Wake up early to see the sunrise. Take granola bars with you or have crockpot oatmeal waiting for you when you get home.

Also, see what ideas your kids have! Give them parameters, such as it has to free, and the whole family needs to be able to do it, and see what their create minds imagine!

May you have wonderful times with your little ones this summer!!

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Posted on July 12, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Dating Your Child: Capturing the Moments

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Bella’s eyes were alight with the joy of knowing she was about to go on a date with Daddy! We picked out her dress, did her hair (curly hair lends itself as an activity in and of itself!) and got her all ready. She couldn’t have been happier, posing for the picture that we would have as a keepsake for years to come.

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Spending one on one time with the kids can be near impossible unless you plan ahead and have some intentionality. Mark and I decided early on in our girlies' lives that we wanted to have some concentrated time with each one of them.

I had always heard that once you entered into the world of having kids, you would blink and  their childhood would be over. I have found that to be so true! It’s hard to believe that our oldest, Addy, will be 13 in just a few months. All this to say, each opportunity to love and pour into our children is critical in their development and their lives.

Dating your kids is one more opportunity to invest in their sweet little lives. It seems like it would take a lot of work and often I fall back on that excuse but it can be so easy! In the end, the time we are giving to each child alone speaks more to their hearts than we can possibly know.

Here are 4 tips to consider when dating your kids:

1. Plan ahead. I’m not sure about you, but if I don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen. Life happens at much too fast a pace and before you know it another week has passed by. Also, by having it on the calendar, it’s something your kids can look forward to as well.  

2. Take a survey. Ask your kiddos for ideas on what sounds like a fun date to them. Choose an activity or outing they would enjoy. Every child is different and fun for one of your kids might not be fun to another. As a quick side note...I’m sure some of their ideas involve activities that would break the bank, so give them some guidance as they start brainstorming.

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3. GIve them your undivided attention. BUSTED...picking up the phone is a habit! Put your phone down and don’t use it unless it’s an emergency. Your kiddos are extremely aware if you are fully present with them or not. Enter into whatever activity or conversation that might happen; you don’t want to miss a thing!

4. Have fun! Spending time one on one doesn’t always have to be a “teaching” moment. Don’t plan on having a serious conversation for the date; if you do, they might not look forward to their time away with you. Instead, if the opportunity lends itself naturally, than walk ahead in it. There always seems to be moments to teach kids important truths and lessons. However, spending time on a date with your child is limited so be intentional about having fun!

For you, they are simple moments to remember and cherish for a lifetime. For your kids, they are profound moments that will help shape not only their relationship with you but also their own sense of value! And on top of all of that, it’ll be so much fun!

Posted on April 19, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Five Ideas For Family Fun That Are (Almost) Free And Totally Epic

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Do you ever feel like your family is in a washing machine? Sometimes it feels like we’re just constantly churning....school, lessons, homework, cleaning, laundry, work, dinner, repeat 5 times. Tackle a project, go to church, pack lunches and wash school clothes. Then start over. Our weeks lately haven’t had a lot of time left over for “fun.”

Naturally, that leads to all kinds of mom-guilt when I let it. Childhood is flying by, and I want so much for them to look back and remember it fondly.

As warmer weather approaches, I am starting to crave an unplugged childhood for my kids. I know they don’t need elaborate vacations, or expensive stuff, or a schedule jam-packed with activities to make happy memories. But maybe they do need an outrageous dose of crazy with Mom & Dad once in awhile—something that will stand out when they think back on growing up.

Here are five ideas we’ve done, and will do again, that are epic fun for kids. Yes, some of these are wildly over-the-top ideas that may very well break your sanity. Others are simple to do, but will put a huge smile on your kids’ faces. All of them are about saying “who cares?” and getting messy while your kids are still young enough to want to.

1. Couch Nest Movie Night

This is a regular go-to activity from my friend Holly. Take two sofas and put them together, facing each other, to create one giant bed couch. Then take every pillow and blanket from around the house that you can gather and turn it into a massive nest. Hop into pajamas, fill up the popcorn and pile the family into the nest for a movie night. Then leave it that way for a day or two. It will be so fun to watch your kids turn it into a habitat for play, fort-building and pretending they are birds learning to fly. Yes, your house will feel like a complete wreck, but the fun is worth it.

2. Foster Kittens

If your kids are anything like mine, they’re obsessed with animals. My 8-year-old daughter wants to be an animal rescuer when she grows up, and we even save the bugs that wander into our house. Though she’d love it, adopting a menagerie of permanent pets is not something I can commit to. Still, I want to indulge her love of God’s creatures and allow our kids the experience of nurturing and loving them sacrificially.  Last fall, we fostered a litter of 5-week old kittens. Yes, it broke our hearts to give them up for adoption afterward, but the joy in our home was palpable while they were here! And it was worth it knowing that we saved these precious babies from being euthanized, and we gave them love and socialization and the readiness to become lifelong companions. (And ironically, I was the most heartbroken of all at the end of it. The kids were a little sad, but mostly they were just excited for the next batch of kittens to arrive!) Of all my suggestions, this one will probably get the most immediate “no way!” but really, if I can do something like this, then anyone can! Your kids will NEVER forget it. To get started, we just filled out a foster application with a local animal shelter.

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3Project Week

Call me the meanest mom ever, but last year for Spring Break I ordered 6 cubic yards of mulch, had it dumped in our driveway, and gave my three kids shovels. (Of course I shoveled too.) They LOVED it. It was chilly and rainy and my oldest (a 10-year-old boy) had never been so hardworking or happy. The younger ones played in the pile and dug tunnels and helped as well as they could. I put snacks and kleenex on the front porch and locked us all out of the house from 9 AM-1 PM. The job was done in three days, the yard looked amazing, and my kids had never felt such a sense of accomplishment. This was the first time I realized that hard physical work is GOOD for them! So this year for Spring Break we’re tearing down our decrepit old deck. My kids can’t wait. Is there a grown up project you can think of that you can involve your kids in? Their response just might surprise you!

4Rice Bathtub

If you ask my kids what their all-time favorite fun thing we’ve done at our house is, they might answer “rice in the bathtub.” We’ve done it a few times. I have a large soaking tub in my bathroom, and we will get huge bags of rice from a wholesale store and fill the tub with it. (Word to the wise, close the drain first). We then let the kids hop in with their toys, and play to their hearts’ content. We leave it up for several days. The clean up is horrible! But again, it’s great fun so it’s worth it. If you can’t give up your bathtub, we have also done rice in a giant plastic bin or a kiddy pool. You can use beans too. It’s like a preschool sensory bin but fully immersive. Because, what preschooler doesn’t want to just climb into that table anyway?

5. Frog Swamp

This is another one from my friend Holly. I *strongly dislike* mud, nature, swamps, and all manner of related earthy things that teem with smells and bugs. For her, it is her happy place. Over the years of her dragging our kids (and me) down to one pond after another, I have learned how good these places are for kids, and for the soul. You have to just turn off the disgusted part of your brain, go in knowing you’re going to get dirty, and embrace it. And once you’re knee deep in the pond, covered in slime and past the point of no return, you will love it. And you’ll know your kids are making memories they’ll never forget. Bring some jars with holes in the lids and long fishing nets, and see what you can find! Early March is great because, even though it’s still cold in most places, the pond Holly drug me to last week was filled with huge tadpoles already. Go online to find a nature preserve close to you and head out. Bonus for my fellow non-outdoor-girls, this time of year the bugs are still sleeping!

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Posted on March 8, 2017 and filed under Building Your Family.

Pajama run tradition: Creating Memories that last a lifetime

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As the girls are snuggled up in their beds, almost fast asleep, Mark and I run through the house yelling, “Pajama run, pajama run, pajama run!” The girls burst out of their rooms jumping up and down, squealing and wondering what next adventure we are going to embark on! As we all pile into the car with their pajamas still on, there is a barrage of questions and oodles of laughter. Not until we start driving do we reveal where we are taking them!

The pajama run tradition started in our home about 7 years ago. I had a dear friend pass her tradition on to our family and it has truly been one of our favorite activities to date!

As the kids have gotten older and then our little made her debut, we had to customize how it worked for us. There is no right or wrong, but whatever works best for your sweet family. In fact, some of the customizing and creativity we had to implement to make it work for our family actually made for some of the more fun and memorable outings.

Here are 6 tips and ideas to make it work and keep it easy:

1. Pick the place and enjoy. There are so many options. Taking them to get ice cream, to the movies, giving them each a dollar to spend at the dollar section at Target, going to see Christmas lights with hot chocolate, or to pick out Christmas ornaments, taking a trip to the park (yes they can still play in their jammies) or ice-skating, even going to the library or bookstore to pick out a new book...the list is endless!

2. Big or small…it’s the memory that counts. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and you don’t even have to spend any if you don’t want to. Don’t plan something big every time and remember to keep it simple. The most important thing is creating a memory and spending time with them.

3. Set expectations. On your first pajama run explain to the kiddos what you are doing and what they can expect so they know it will always be a surprise and it won’t ever be the same activity twice in a row. Clear expectations are important, especially for kids!

4. Keep it a surprise. Even if they begin to ask for them or want to know when the next one will be, it’s okay. The key though is for it to be a surprise. Catch them off guard. Half of the fun is that they don’t when know it’s coming!

5. Plan carefully. Don’t plan it the night before something important; that way you know they can get the rest they need the next day. To all you mamas who hold tightly to sleep schedules (I was one too) one night past the little’s bedtime will be ok!

6. Be creative and be flexible. When Bella was a young toddler we would sometimes hire a babysitter for longer excursions and just take the older two. As they got older they all had different bedtimes so we had to adjust accordingly. One idea we tried was setting up the older two in one of their rooms and letting them watch a show on the iPad. Another idea was having them get ready for bed and putting them in their rooms to read for awhile. Then we just quickly surprise them with the pajama run.

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Our latest pajama run, as you can see, was grabbing some hot chocolate from Starbucks and driving around with Christmas music in the background searching out the best Christmas lights to be found! And of course if you see a Christmas light display you love, get out and capture the moment with your sweet ones!

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Again, there is no wrong way to do it, just plan a fun adventure and know you are creating memories that will last a lifetime!

 

 

Posted on December 21, 2016 and filed under Building Your Family.

Photo Nativity: A Keepsake Nativity Using Photos of Your Kids

Looking for a fun activity to do with your children over Christmas break? A great gift for the grandparents? Here's an idea you can do with your family that will inspire your kids to think more deeply about the very first Christmas and the reason we celebrate. I'm not exactly creative when it comes to doing crafts so when my 8 year old daughter came home from 3rd grade last month with an assignment to make a "Homemade Nativity," I was stumped.


After procrastinating a couple of weeks, I began to get serious about coming up with ideas with her. Shoebox stable? Clay animals? Popsicle stick wise men? Hhm… And then I had it…. Inspiration! With a few props and a digital camera, my two children could be the animals, and the wise men, and even Mary and Joseph!  Yours can too!

Here's how we did it.

First, we decided on which characters we wanted to portray. We chose Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, angels, and animals. Next we looked around our house for ordinary items to use as props for creating our characters. (Click HERE to read more about the items we used).

As the girls changed from one costume to the next, I took pictures. They posed for each picture in a way they felt demonstrated what that person must have been doing and feeling as they met Jesus for the first time.

We photographed one character at a time against a blank wall. This made it easier to keep the size  of the characters consistent -- although you may want to play around a little with taking some pictures closer or further away depending on the size you'd like for them to appear in the display.

Next I uploaded the images to a one-hour processing center. Then after we picked up the pictures, my daughter used stick glue to paste them onto poster board and cut them out. The poster board backing made the images sturdier for her to glue magnets on the backs.

After completing the people, we arranged them on a magnetic memo board we have (you could use your refrigerator) along with a few embellishments -- like wings for the angels, a star, and a sign that read, "Behold the King!"

This turned out as a great school project as well as a fun keepsake we will enjoy year after year. If you decide to try it this year, drop us a note or upload a picture to let us know how it goes. For even more fun, try involving cousins and other extended family while you are all together this year!
 

Posted on December 10, 2016 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Kisses and hugs: showing affection every day

Do you show affection to your children every day (even several times a day)? And do they do the same to you? It may be a little kiss on the cheek before they jump out of the car or a hug the first moment you see them in the morning; the point is to show physical affection toward them every day.

 

If you have gotten out of the habit or have let the hugs fall by the wayside, start back up. Hugs are important! I am deeply convinced of this. Sometimes as our children get a bit older, they may act “too grown up” to give Mom or Dad a hug, especially in front of someone else. But remember to be tender with your children. It is almost impossible for a child’s heart to stray from you if you show each other appropriate physical affection every day. 

If you are in a pattern of being tender with your children, you will be able to tell immediately if things are not quite right. Sometimes when they are in their teens, you might notice a hug that lingers a little longer than usual, and you will know that they need encouraging. Other times you might feel a tightness in the shoulders of a child who is upset or the quick breaths of the child about to cry. The tender moments you share throughout the day keep you in tune with your loved ones. When the habit of tenderness is broken, it's much easier to drift apart—in any of our relationships.

Appropriate physical touch between fathers and children is also important though it may be shown in different ways, like chasing, wrestling between dads and kids, or even contact sports.

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Don't forget to verbally express your love on a regular basis, too! If this sounds hard or if you've gotten out of the habit, you can always call across the house, and say to your thirteen-year-old son, "Hey, Sam! Did anyone tell you that they love you today?" Then wait and you will probably hear, "No, Mom." Then you call out, "Well, I love you!" And then you will likely hear, "Thanks, Mom. I love you, too!" Children or teens who do not regularly receive affection or other expressions of love may become exasperated without even realizing why.*

Teach your children that kindness, thoughtfulness and tenderness are highly valued and a source of great encouragement to you and the rest of the family. Encourage them to share a hug and an "I love you" with one another as well as with their parents. This simple training will also go a long way in minimizing sibling rivalry. 

*To learn more about how parents unintentionally exasperate their children, including a helpful "quiz," see the chapter entitled, Managing a Child in Entrusted with a Child's Heart. 

Posted on June 1, 2016 and filed under Building Your Family.