Showing posts with label Projects for Kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Projects for Kids. Show all posts

Oct 23, 2013

Children Obey Your Parents in the Lord...

The Bible tells us that children who honor and obey their parents will be blessed and live long lives (Eph.6:1-3). Honoring and obeying parents is one very big way children can also honor and obey God. Unfortunately, our society isn't much into obeying or honoring anyone. So this is a lesson parents need to teach - and teach repeatedly. Here is one way to introduce your children to the concept.

Begin with the Bible & The Circle of Protection

Read Exodus 20:12, Colossians 3:20, and Ephesians 6:1-3, out loud, from your Bible. Talk about what it means to honor someone - how actions and words can either honor or disrespect. Give examples, including those that include tone of voice and body language.

In Shepherding Your Child's Heart (a book every Christian parent should read - more on that in a future post), Ted Tripp explains "the circle of protection," which is a helpful way for children to understand biblical promises about children obeying their parents. The child is within the "circle of protection" as long as she honors and obeys her parents - and therefore honors and obeys God. But as soon as the child is disrespectful or disobedient, she is outside that circle of protection and can expect the opposite of what Ephesians 6 promises.

To illustrate this, draw a large circle (at least 19 or 20 inches in diameter) with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway. Have your child stand it in, then use a hose or squirt gun to spray water around - but not on - your child. Say, "As long as you're in the circle of protection, you won't get wet." But as soon as your child steps outside the circle, give him a fun spray of water. Say, "Ah! You stepped outside the circle. What happens when you do that?"

The Keys to Obedience
There are actually several import parts of being obedient. Every child should understand that being obedient means:

* Doing what's asked of him immediately.
* Doing what's asked of him cheerfully.
* Doing what's asked of him completely.
* Doing what's asked of him without complaining.

Sometimes I also give my children of examples of how true obedience looks and can thwart bad things from happening to them. For example, when we watch The Sound of Music, I always point out how the littlest VonTrapp child is told to be quiet when they are hiding from the Nazis. She obeys perfectly. I ask, "What might the consequences have been if she'd disobeyed? Or complained? Or asked 'Why?'"

A good way to help your kids remember aspects of obedience is to make paper keys with each step listed on them. You'll find complete instructions for doing this at The Better Mom.

Who's In Charge?

It's very important for children to understand that obeying you is obeying God. It's also important for them to know you are in charge (and the disciplinarian) because God gives you that responsibility - and punishes you if you neglect it. (See also 1 Samuel 3:13.)

First, explain who's the boss: God. Then explain that God put Daddy in charge of your household. Mommy and the children need to obey him, because that's what God says, and we want to honor and obey God. Next in line is Mommy; the children must obey her, as well as Daddy.

Then you can either create a family mobile, showing everyone's position, or you can simply draw some circles on a piece of paper and have your children draw a cross (or some other symbol of God) in the circle at the top of the page; then a portrait of Daddy in the circle just below that; then a portrait of Mommy in the circle just below that. Finally, have circles for portraits of each child at the bottom of the page.

Your children also need to know they can make an appeal - as long as they do it respectfully. If your child wants to make an appeal, he must:

1. Obey immediately, cheerfully, and without complaint.
2. Ask respectfully if something else is acceptable.

For example, if I ask my child to go clean his room, he should say, "Okay, Mama" and head toward his room. On his way there, however, he could respectfully say, "Mama, I thought you said earlier that we were going to the park this afternoon. Can we do that before I clean my room?"

These activities are a great introduction to the concept of obedience, but you shouldn't talk to your children about this just once. Bring it up in daily or weekly conversation. Let your children see you submitting to your husband, and your husband submitting to God. Whenever you discipline your kids, remind them God commands you to correct their actions - and for their soul's sake's. Remind them that by disobeying you, they are disobeying God.

Our society delights in disobedience. Even influences as seemingly innocent as Disney fairy tales thrive on the notion of children disobeying their parents - and adults doing whatever they think best. But this is contrary to what God says is best for us. Remember:

"There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death."

Oct 9, 2013

18 Gifts Kids Can Make - and People Won't Mind Getting

"Every man shall give as he is able,
according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you."

Before you know it, Christmas will be here. Will your kids be giving gifts, or just getting them? I resolved years ago that my children would work to give gifts whenever possible - not just things they pick out in a store and I pay for, and not just things they save money to pay for, but homemade gifts that require time, effort, and thought to create. Because I want giving to come as naturally to them as possible.

But the trick is, to keep it stress free and do-able, you have to start NOW. And you need to consider your child's age; it's not reasonable to expect a 5 year old to make something for your entire extended clan, for example. He could, however, make something for his sister - and maybe his parents.

Here are a few of the ideas I've gathered for my children to choose from.

* Woven pot holders. Several years ago, my daughter received a pot holder making loom as a gift. Ever since, she's used it to make gifts for others. She can do this almost completely by herself (she's eight), though she does need help finishing off the edges.

* Handprint scarf. This is another easy project that requires no real sewing skill.

* These fleece scarves are also easy, especially if you use fabric glue.

* Ladybug pin cushion. This takes very minimal sewing skills and is a great gift for someone who sews or does needlework.

* Bookmarks. Use felt (which can be purchased in rectangles singularly or in packs at craft stores or Wal-Mart) for an easy to sew project. (You could also use fabric glue.) Gather more ideas here, here, here, here, and here.

* If your child's sewing or embroidery is relatively neat, this cute Tic-Tac-Toe game is a great choice.

* Sachets are always a welcome gift for women. This one requires only minimal sewing skill. I'd probably pink the edges of the fabric with pinking shears. Again, you could substitute sewing for fabric glue.

* If your child can use a sewing machine - even if only minimally - this bandana quilt/tablecloth is a terrific and easy project.

* Or try this bandana tote bag.

* Christmas tree ornament. This simple felt and button design is so easy almost any child can do it. If you prefer, use fabric glue instead of stitches.

* Teach your child simple fingerknitting, and he or she could make a simple scarf for someone.

* Any drawing or painting is a great choice, too, especially if the child creates something just for the gift receiver - perhaps focusing on something that person loves. (You can dress it up a bit, if you like, by framing it with an inexpensive 8 x 10 or document frame.)

* Food gifts. If your child can measure, she can make gifts in a jar. Or if he can bake essentially on his own, baked goods wrapped nicely are a good gift.

* Soap balls.

* Swirly paint Christmas balls.

* Scrapbooks of a special event earlier in the year.

* Photo magnets.

* Felt key rings. Again, these can be as simple or complex as you like, and you may substitute fabric glue for stitching.

Sep 25, 2013

Tips for Taking Road Trips with Kids

I just returned from a family road trip. And while I was really worried about my kids making my husband so crazy we'd end up in an accident (our youngest cried all 9 1/2 hours home the last time we attempted a road trip) the traveling went quite smoothly. How did we accomplish this feat? Through a lot of planning! Here are my best tips:

* Make packing lists, plus a list of chores to accomplish before you leave. Start compiling it early, because there's little doubt you'll think of stuff you need to do or things you need to pack as weeks pass. Divide your lists by major categories. For example, have one page for clothes, another for toiletries, etc. Then be sure to check off chores/items packed as you do them.

* Prepare the kids. Have not just one but several talks with the kids so they know exactly what to expect. For example, I explained how long we'd be sitting in the car, what potty breaks would be like and how often we'd stop, and how their behavior would either make the trip fun or horrible. We had this talk beginning a week before we left, and we reminded the kids of key points just before leaving, each direction.

* Make the kids comfortable. Put them in really comfy clothes - nothing that binds when they sit (elastic waistbands are perfect), comfy socks with slip on shoes (so they can remove their shoes while in the car, if they want to), their pillow, their favorite teddy, etc. If a child's feet dangle, put a small piece of luggage or a box beneath them for support.

* Bring the potty seat or chair. If you have a child who is new to using the potty and is hesitant to go in
unfamiliar places, this is absolutely essential. Also, it helps to "practice" by frequently taking your child to public restrooms a month or so before the trip.

* Have a bag of activities for each child. Bring more than you think they will need.

I'm not big on games because pieces can fall and scatter, resulting in a mess - plus screaming, crying kids. Magnet games are okay, although some loss of magnets is probably inevitable. Some people like to give each child a cheap baking sheet to hold coloring books and magnet sets, but after a lot of thought, I decided against this. If we got into an accident, those baking sheets would result in serious injury - possibly even death. Instead, I chose a clipboard for each child, being careful to pick a type that had a more kid-friendly, less aggressive clamp.

I bought new coloring books (new things are vital, since they will hold your child's attention longer; plus they make the trip more fun) at the Dollar Tree, along with some activity and sticker books. Be careful to only choose activities your kids can do on their own; you don't want them frustrated or trying to get your help all the time. I also printed out age appropriate mazes, plus coloring and activity sheets that tied in with our trip. For example, we visited an aquarium, so I printed out free sea life coloring pages and mazes. Other ideas include coloring pages/games for states you'll pass through and landmarks you might see.

I also bought each child a new box of crayons - make them exactly the same! Plus dry erase crayons (far less likely to mark up the car than pens are) and dry erase boards from the Dollar Tree.

To hold crayons and keep them from rolling all over the place, some people use use suction containers like you'd find in a shower, but I was afraid they'd fall off the car windows, causing much yelling and crying. Instead, I chose cups I found in the office supply section of the Dollar Tree. Any short cup that fits into your child's car seat/booster seat/car cup holder would work fine. (Tall ones make it more difficult to get the crayons out and are more likely to tip over.)

Also from the Dollar Tree, I bought each child a cheap "Doodle Pro" type toy, plus blank notebooks. Variety is important!

Finally, I printed out free car bingo and license plate games for each child. Generally, to prevent quarreling, I think it's best to give each child exactly the same items. So even though our youngest couldn't really play the license plate game alone, I made sure he had one in case he felt left out. I also printed out a map of our route, so everyone could see how far we'd traveled and could mark off towns as we passed them. (I put ours in a plastic page protector so we could use dry erase crayons to mark it up, then erase the markings and use the same print out for the trip back.)

Some people like to give each child a binder with all these printables, but I thought it better to dole out games and printables as we went along. (My kids would try to do everything at once, if I gave them a binder. To make the activities last as long as the trip, it was vital for me to hang onto them and pass them out periodically.)

The only things the children had ready access to in the back seat were a basket of books ("I Spy" and "Where's Waldo" types for my pre-reader and early reader books for our older child) and their teddies.

* Bring plenty of water and snacks. I kept the snacks in a box up front with me so I could dole them out. Try to avoid things that are too salty, or your kids will drink a ton and need to make near constant bathroom stops. I allow them to drink water only, since they are less likely to guzzle it. To encourage them to sip and not gulp, I also filled their travel mugs with ice, then added water. Because it took a bit for the ice to melt, they didn't drink their water all at once.

I also like to bring a few snacks I wouldn't normally let them eat. This keeps things fun and makes the snacks more of an "event" that passes the time.

Ideas for snacks include: Grapes, apples, berries, baby carrots, celery sticks, breakfast/protein bars, Annie's graham bunnies (less messy than ordinary graham crackers), raisins/yogurt covered raisins, dried cranberries/blueberries, dried apple rings, really any dried food (but be careful about giving the kids too much fiber), jerky, and trail mix. Before you leave, portion everything out into individual serving bags.

* Bring music everyone enjoys. Audiodramas or books on tape are also handy.

* And yes, a portable DVD player. Part of me hates using movies to occupy my kids, but it's not like we do this every day. We purchased a dual-screen portable DVD player just for this trip. (About $70 at our local Wal-Mart.) It was fantastic; each child had his or her own screen (which meant no complaining about not being able to see well) and headphones (giving Mom and Dad peace!).
do this every day. We purchased an RCA

If you have a DVR, or know someone who does, I highly recommend recording a handful of children's programming onto one disc. This allowed the kids to watch for several hours at a time without an adult having to change the disc (which we really couldn't do without stopping the vehicle).

* Expect messes. Yes, I recommend cleaning and organizing the car before you leave - and trying to stay organized as you go along. But don't stress if things get a bit chaotic. To help with messes, I recommend a box of baby wipes, plus plenty of hand sanitizer.

Happy traveling!

Sep 11, 2013

On the Banks of Plum Creek Activities

As regular readers know, my children and I are working our way through Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. Recently, we finished On the Banks of Plum Creek. And, if you know me, you know we had to some some activities to go along with the book. Here is a big list of ideas; try a few with your children!

* Create an On the Banks of Plum Creek lapbook from these free printables.

* Download and complete this simple, free On the Banks of Plum Creek book report sheet.

Build a sod house. (Just a mini one!)

* Plant some morning glories, black-eyed Susans, or blue flags. (They are very easy to grow!)
Morning glories.

* Learn a bit about badgers at the San Diego Zoo website.

* Check out free badger craft ideas, free printable coloring pages, and more.

* Learn about a butterfly's life cycle.

* Have fun with free butterfly coloring pages.

* Get up early to watch the sunrise.

* See an antique photo of some of the grasshoppers that plagued the prairie in the 1870s.

* Learn why grasshoppers swarm.

* Make horehound candy - or buy some!

* Make a button necklace.

* Make star-edged shelf paper.

* Fry up some fish! (Clean and debone the fish, then dredge in cornmeal. Heat oil in a heavy pan, preferably cast iron; once it sizzles when you flick a drop of water on it, add the fish. Cook until golden on both sides.)

* Play "Ring Around the Rosie" or "Pussy wants aCorner" or "Uncle John" or "Cat's Cradle."

* Can you guess what a velocipede is? Check out some photos of old velocipedes.

* Make your own jumping jack toy. There are lots of instructions for these on the Internet, but start by looking at Handmade Charlotte, Spoonful,  and Bookzoompa.

* Whip up some lemonade. (Here's my favorite lemonade recipe.)

* Throw a simple town or country party.

* Make vanity cakes.

* Make popcorn balls.

* Make a nine patch quilt - use the nine patch pattern to make a pillow or pot holder. Or use the more difficult bear track pattern, instead.

* Learn about ball lightening - the "balls of fire" that Ma battled. (Be sure to check out this video of real ball lightening.)

Check out the Entire Little House series of Posts:

Little House in the Big Woods Activities
Pancake Men (from Little House in the Big Woods)
Little House on the Prairie Activities
Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
On the Banks of Plum Creek Activities 
Little Town on the Prairie Activities
Activities for The First Four Years
These Happy Golden Years Activities 
Farmer Boy Activities

Jul 15, 2013

Little House on the Prairie Activities

This summer, my children and I are reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. They are not only entertaining, but quite educational, too. Here are some of the activities I planned to go along with Little House on the Prairie. (For activities for Little House in the Big Woods, click here.)

* Make a lapbook (or a book from stapled pieces of paper). You'll find some free printables for making a Little House on the Prairie lapbook here.

* Make a covered wagon. (Free wagon printable here or craft idea here. If you're feeling more adventuresome, try this playhouse style wagon.)

Little House on the Prairie offers an excellent opportunity to learn about cowboys and Indians (indigenous people of North America):

* Print out and use free cowboy lapbook printables.

* Make a horse from a cardboard box.

* Make a stick horse. (Here's one made from a sock.)

* Create a foot print horse painting.

* Make a paper cowboy hat.

* Throw an Indian party for your kids. Eat traditional Native American food, play Indian games, learn a little indigenous sign language...

* Make an Indian headdress. Simply cut a piece of cardstock or construction paper into a rectangle long enough to fit around your child's head; staple or glue in place. Use craft feathers, or "feathers" made from colorful cardstock, to decorate the headdress.

* Cook up some easy Native American food, like fry bread and hominy.

* Play Native American dice or other Indian games, found here and here.

* Make a paper totem pole.

* Make a paper tepee.

* Learn about writing symbols the indigenous people used. And while you're at it, learn some Indian sign language.

* Make a tiny bow and "arrow."

* Learn about various tribes and do lots of fun activities in History Pockets Native Americans. (I highly recommend it!)

Check out the Entire Little House series of Posts:

Little House in the Big Woods Activities
Pancake Men (from Little House in the Big Woods)
Little House on the Prairie Activities
Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
On the Banks of Plum Creek Activities 
Little Town on the Prairie Activities
Activities for The First Four Years
These Happy Golden Years Activities 
Farmer Boy Activities

May 15, 2013

How to Bring Your Children to Christ - Plus a FREE Lesson Plan

"How to Bring Your Children to Christ is a book every parent should read..."

As a mother, there is nothing I desire more than for my children to know and serve God and be saved through Jesus Christ. Yet I see that:
  • 88% of children raised in Christian homes leave the church at the age of 18 - and don't return (SBC)
  • 64% of "decisions for Christ" are made before age 18. 77% are made before age 21 (Barna).
  • An estimated 4% of Gen Y are likely to be Christians in adulthood. 65% of their grandparents’ generation were Christians; 35% of their parents' generation were Christians. (Bridger Generation by Thom S. Rainer).
I've blogged before about some of my thoughts on why many children are falling away from God. But Ray Comfort, in his book How to Bring Your Children to Christ...& Keep Them There: Avoiding the Tragedy of False Conversion really gets at the heart of it: Many of our churches, our pastors, our youth leaders, and parents have stepped away from the biblical way of bringing people to Christ.

Comfort's premise is pretty simple. While no parent can do anything that will, with 100% certainty, bring her child to Christ, she can follow the principles laid out in the New Testament: Teach the 10 Commandments in such a way the person (in this case, your child) truly feels the tragedy of his or her sin. Then teach that person to dedicate himself to the Bible, prayer, and obeying God.

Comfort does a good job of laying out how you might do this with your child, explaining why it's important to discuss more difficult topics like Hell, and how to explain all of the 10 Commandments in a way that even young children can comprehend. He also offers plenty of ideas for the language you might use, and activities that will aid your "presentation." (My kids' favorite was when I "stole" money from their father's wallet to illustrate that even stealing something worth very little - a penny - is still stealing in God's sight. My daughter, especially, liked it when I took her favorite stuffed animal and loved it so much I neglected all else; this gave her a vivid example of loving one of God's gifts more than loving the Giver of gifts.)

How to Bring Your Children to Christ is a book every parent should read, even if she thinks her child is already saved. It not only helps to ensure your child really "gets it," but it also makes it easier for you to act as missionary in your home - and beyond.

I liked this book so well, in fact, I typed out a lesson plan to use with my 7 year old daughter. Her understanding of faith is very good, and she "asked Jesus into her heart" several years ago, but this is a lesson children should hear repeatedly throughout their life.

The lesson plan is based almost exclusively on Comfort's book, but I found it easier to have all the information in an easier-to-read-as-I-teach format. It also includes links to helpful, free, games and songs you can use to help your child memorize the 10 Commandments. You can download the lesson plan in Word format here.

May 6, 2013

Little House in the Big Woods Activities

As I mentioned last week, my children and I are reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. Not only is it a fun, entertaining read, but it's educational, too. Before we began the book, I made a list of potential activities. We didn't do them all, but you might enjoy doing some of all of these activities with your children. Have fun!

* Study animal tracks. I found a great little freebie about wildlife tracks in Wisconsin (the location of the action in The Little House in the Big Woods). My daughter colored and cut and paste this printable into her own little guide of the tracks Laura and Pa might have seen in the Big Woods. I also Googled "wildlife tracks" and "animal tracks" and the name of my state and found a free printable of local wildlife tracks. I whited out the names of the animals on one copy (and kept an in-tact copy as reference for myself) and my children tried to guess what animal made each type of print. Next time we go camping, they can't wait to see what animal tracks they can find.

* Sew a simple 9 patch quilt, like Laura's. For less experienced sewers, I'd make a single block and turn it into a potholder or a dollhouse quilt.

* Make a clove apple, like Ma's. Buy lots of cloves, then stick the pointed end into the apple. If you like, wrap a ribbon around the finished apple, so it can be hung. (Having a hard time picturing what this looks like? Look here.)

* Whip up some hasty pudding, like Grandma made.

* Make maple candy. This is easiest if you have fresh snow, but crushed ice works, too. Find instructions here.

* Go maple surgaring. If you're lucky enough to have sugar maple trees and the time of year is right.

* Make pancake men.

* Make butter. No, it's probably not practical to churn it like Ma and Mary, but you can easily make it in a jar

* Make a corncob doll, like Laura had before she got Charlotte for Christmas.

* Listen to the songs on YouTube. Pa played lots of wonderful music, much of which you can find on YouTube. Look first for the song title plus "fiddle."

* Make a book of Big Woods animals. Look up the animals mentioned in the book. Print out pictures or have your child draw them.

* Make a needlebook, like Ma made as a gift. If your children sew or do any type of needlework, this is a simple project that is very useful. There are tons of tutorials online, but this one by Simple Homemade, this one by Acire Adventures, and this one by Johey are some of my favorites.

* Play this free Big Woods board game.

* Learn new words. Whenever you read aloud to children, stop and explain words you think they don't know. I usually ask, "What does that word mean?" Sometimes the children surprise me and actually know! For my 7 year old, I took this a step further and had her write down unfamiliar words, look them up in the dictionary, and then draw a picture of them.

* Make a book of your own. I don't like lapbooks, but my daughter often enjoys making books from paper stapled together. For Big Woods, her book included pages with her drawings of characters in the book, a little of her own writing, and free printables we found online here and here and here.

Check out the Entire Little House series of Posts:
Little House in the Big Woods Activities
Pancake Men (from Little House in the Big Woods)
Little House on the Prairie Activities
Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
On the Banks of Plum Creek Activities 
Little Town on the Prairie Activities
Activities for The First Four Years
These Happy Golden Years Activities 
Farmer Boy Activities


Apr 26, 2013

Pancake Men (from Little House in the Big Woods)

My children (4 and 7) and I are currently reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. If you're unfamiliar with the original Little House books, I can't recommend them enough. Both my children are enthralled, and I love them, too. As we read, we are doing little projects that go with the story - so when we read about Ma's pancake men, my children cried, "Please? Let's make some!" How could I say no? But even if you're not reading Little House in the Big Woods, this is a fun project to do with your kids. Here's how Wilder describes them:
"For breakfast there were pancakes, and Ma made a pancake man for each one of the children. Ma called each one in turn to bring her plate, and each could stand by the stove and watch, while with the spoonful of batter Ma put on the arms and the legs and the head. It was exciting to watch her turn the whole little man over, quickly and carefully, on a hot griddle."

To begin, make your favorite pancake batter. (I use this recipe.) Warm a skillet or griddle, greasing it first - just as with normal pancakes. Now pour the batter, making a fat little body first, then adding a head and limbs. Ma used a spoon to do this and so did I, but I will warn you to have a sense of humor about your little men. Some will look pretty silly. Some may not look like people at all. But that's all part of the fun; my kids have never laughed so much at the breakfast table.

If you have an old, clean squeeze bottle (that originally held, say, mustard or catsup), you can place the batter in that and probably have better control over your creation - be it a man, an animal, or some other object. But we wanted to do it just like Ma. It was a morning my kids won't soon forget!

Check out the Entire Little House series of Posts:

Little House in the Big Woods Activities
Pancake Men (from Little House in the Big Woods)
Little House on the Prairie Activities
Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party
On the Banks of Plum Creek Activities 
Little Town on the Prairie Activities
Activities for The First Four Years
These Happy Golden Years Activities 
Farmer Boy Activities

Mar 22, 2013

Easy, Christ-Centered Easter Ideas
I feel a bit behind on my Easter prep this year, but that doesn't mean I can't steer my kids toward the true meaning of Easter. Here are some of the easy ideas I'll be implementing:

(Not even feeling as ambitious as I am? Choose just ONE of these ideas to share with your kids this Easter season!)

* Read the Easter story from our favorite children's Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible. Although we read other picture books about Easter, none of them explain the meaning of the holiday anywhere near as well as this Bible storybook. (I think every Christian family with kids should have this book; it really gives children the big picture about what the Bible and Jesus are about. Many adults find it illuminating, too! If you want it in time for Easter, it's available as a Kindle download.)

* Make Resurrection Buns. Of all the empty-tomb style foods (cookies, cakes, etc.), this is by far the easiest to prepare. That makes it nice for moms, and also much easier for kids to focus on how the food relates to Jesus' resurrection. They also happen to taste great, and my kids never cease to be amazed by them.

Resurrection bun
* Do Resurrection Eggs. I haven't decided whether we will have the kids hunt for plastic eggs with symbols of the biblical Easter story in them or whether we'll do some printable craft resurrection eggs.

* Some sort of easy Easter craft. Because my kids love crafts. I will pick one of these, depending upon my mood: Easy popsicle stick crosses, watercolor crosses, paper plate tomb, life of Jesus cross, or handprint cross. I also really like this printable scene - like a nativity, but for Easter.

* Watch The Easter Story Keepers.

If you're feeling more ambitious than I am, please check out my previous Easter posts, as well as my Easter Pinterest board

Mar 11, 2013

Family Fun: Indoor Camping

There is no time of year my kids look forward to more than camping season. The sun, the campfires, tromping around's all soooooo good. But right now, it's cold and rainy - definitely not the type of weather we like to camp in. Still, I have a special day lined up: Indoor Camping Day.

Indoor camping can be fun for the whole family - or you can make it a kid-centered event. It works any time of year - even if it's snowing or raining. It's not expensive. It's easy to organize. (And if the weather is decent, you can certainly move the fun to the backyard.) Here are a few ideas:

* Set up a tent. We have a play tent designed for indoors, so we'll use that. If you don't have one, though, you could use a small outdoor tent, or you can just make a blanket fort.
* Don't forget the sleeping bags, if you have them - or make beds from pillows and blankets.

* Bring out the flashlights. If you do indoor camping during the day, shut the blinds and curtains for a while so the kids can explore with flashlights.

* Build a fire. This could be a real one in the fireplace, but we'll be making one from toilet paper tubes and tissue paper (like this or this).

* Sing "A Camping We Will Go."

* Do a nature scavenger hunt - indoors or outdoors.

* Make camp food. S'mores melt in the microwave, and hot dogs can be cooked on the stove. You might also consider these fun campfire cupcakes. (Or the cake version, here.)

* Head outdoors and collect leaves. Depending upon the age of your children, you can stop there, or you can identify the leaves, do leaf rubbings, study a little botany, add them to a nature journal...

* Do some shadow tracing, if the sun's out. Stand in a fun position and have a child trace your shadow with chalk.

* Learn to use a compass. You can even make one.

* Make a sundial.

* Become a "tracker." Make "animal tracks" and have the kids guess which animals they are supposed to have come from.

* Make simple friendship bracelets.

Dec 7, 2012

Making Salt Dough Ornaments

"It's easy!" they said. "It's fun!" they insisted. "Try it!" they encouraged.

Whether you're on Pinterest or just browsing in the Internet for fun Christmas ideas to do with the kids, chances are you've run across a website telling you making salt dough ornaments is a great family activity for December. Well, I'm here to tell you that every tutorial I read was WRONG.

My children (7 and 4) found the process mostly frustrating. In fact, my youngest gave up on it pretty quickly. But in the end, we were happy we stuck with it. So if you're thinking of making salt dough ornaments, please read this tutorial first! Unlike the others you may find, it is no-nonsense and gives you a heads up on the most difficult parts of the process.

What You Need:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup table salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
food coloring (optional)

Large mixing bowl and spoon
Baking sheets
Small rolling pin
Cookie cutters (optional but recommended)
Butter knife
Straw or similar stick-like object
Paints, markers, etc.

How to Do It:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2. In the mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the warm water, a little at a time, mixing well with a large spoon. Finish by kneading the dough with your hands until it's blended and pliable.

(Already, we are faltering. I follow the recipe exactly but the dough is very sticky. Never having made salt dough anything before, we proceed to roll out and cut the dough. But the dough sticks to the cutters and makes the gingerbread man look like he's made of spikes. We re-roll the dough and try again - and fail again. My 4 year old son gets mad and leaves the kitchen. Are we having fun yet?? TIP: The dough should not feel sticky. If it does, add flour, a little at a time, until the dough is still pliable, but not sticky. If the dough is dry and cracks, add water a little at a time. Also chill the dough for at least 15 minutes before rolling it out. Work in very small batches - just enough to use one cookie cutter at a time - and return the dough scraps to the fridge to chill again.)

You may now also add food coloring to the dough. 

(But let me warn you the colored dough will dye your hands, too. TIP: I recommend dividing the dough and adding just a tiny amount of food coloring to each piece. I used gel coloring - such as you'll find in the cake decorating section of a craft store; this made for nice, bold colors. You may also use liquid coloring, but you may need to add a bit of extra flour to prevent the dough from being sticky. The colors may also be more washed out.

While we wait for the dough to chill, the kids keep talking about eating the "yummy cookies" we are making. I explain that even though the process is similar to making cookies, these ornaments will be hard and taste awful. Still, I keep hearing, "I'm gonna eat a gingerbread man! I'm gonna eat an angel!")

4. (Once the dough is chilled, we try rolling out the dough again. But when we transfer the cut out ornament from the counter to the baking sheet, it stretches. "This is really hard, Mommy!" says my 7 year old. Next we try rolling dough as directed below. Definitely a better way to do it.)  

Take a small amount of dough and place it on a baking tray. Roll it out until it's about 1/8 in. thick; if it's thicker, it will take forever to dry. 

(TIP: Use a child-sized rolling pin - or, better yet, a Play Dough rolling pin. If you don't have either, a small, smooth jar will do.)

5. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes in the dough. It will still be tricky to get some shapes to come out "clean," so I recommend using simple shapes. Also, while pressing down on the cookie cutter, roll as much of the dough away from the outside of the cutter as possible. Use a butter knife to remove any bits of dough that cling to the outside of the cutter. Finally, lift the cutter. If necessary, use the butter knife to remove any stray bits of dough from the edges of the ornament.

(You would think that if your child can cut out cookie dough with cookie cutters, this project would be a breeze. Not so! And my 7 yr. old is frustrated she can't make these ornaments all by herself.)

You may also shape pieces by hand - and now is a good time to added pieces of colored dough as decoration.  

(I found this almost impossible because the heat from my hands made the dough super-sticky and very difficult to shape. Notice how stretched-out my red star is, to the right. Ah well; it makes it look more folksy...right?

You may also supposedly roll or cut out a shape and have your child press his or her hand into the dough - but ours didn't turn out. Once the dough baked, it was impossible to make out most of the hand print.)

You can also use stamps for a subtle look.

Or add decorative holes, glitter, or ornaments like glass jewels. Other types of decoration should wait until after the dough is dry.

4. Use a straw or some other stick-like object to create a hole at the top of each ornament. This is where a ribbon or other hanger will go. The hole will shrink slightly when the ornament bakes. 

(Finally! A job that's easy for the kids!)

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until completely dry but not brown.  (This amount of baking time will burn the ornaments. In fact, I started checking the ornaments after 40 minutes, and some still browned. TIP: Start checking the ornaments for doneness after 10 or 15 minutes.)

If you have more trays than you can fit in the oven, place the extra trays in the fridge until ready to bake.

6. Remove trays from the oven and allow the ornaments to cool 1 or 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

7. Once the ornaments are completely cool, you may decorate them, if desired, with paints or markers. (TIP: I recommend making the ornaments one day and painting them the next. This allows recoup time after the more difficult process of cutting and baking the ornaments; my 4 year old even got excited about the project again!) You may even decoupage them.  

(Most tutorials say to expect "faded out" colors, but we used Crayola Washable Kids' Paint and our colors were nice and bright. TIP: Cover the work area with a cheap plastic tablecloth, such as you'd find at The Dollar Tree. It's best to stick to simple paintings that require only a couple of colors. Remind children to paint the main color of the ornament first, then allow it to dry before adding another color. For example, if you're painting a candy cane, paint the whole thing white, let the paint dry, then add the red bands. The good news is, the ornaments dry quickly.)

In the end, we were happy with our ornaments. Any frustrations we felt the day we cut out and baked them faded as we had fun painting them - and I was pleased the kids were able to make something to give away as Christmas gifts.

Nov 21, 2012

Growing Kids with Gratitude

Sadly, one common trait in our society is ingratitude. We may say we are thankful for what we have, but very often the next sentence is, "But I need more." So how can Proverbs 31 Women help their children avoid this trap and instead "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thes. 5:18)? Here are a few ideas.

* Play the Gratitude Game. Start by saying, "The best thing about _____ is..." and have your kids fill in the rest of the sentence. The great thing about this game is that it can be played anywhere (in the doctor's waiting room, in the car, at the kitchen table...) and you can never run out of possibilities. You can ask about everything from God to grandparents to marbles to dirt...the possibilities are endless.

* Keep a gratitude journal. If your children can draw or write, they are ready for this one. Buy them each a notebook and have them decorate it as they wish. Make sure to get a notebook for yourself, too; modeling gratitude is just as important as teaching it in other ways. Then, at a specified time every day, everyone sits down and colors a picture of or writes about something they are grateful for.

* Make a habit of writing thank you notes. For children who can't yet write, make a special phone call to say thanks instead.

* Play a Physical Gratitude Game. You'll find it here.

* Read about - or do Internet research on - those who are less fortunate. Don't limit yourself to the United States - or to the present.

* Keep a Gratitude Jar. Set a large plastic or glass jar in a prominent family area. Have the children decorate it, if you like. Keep Post-It notes or a small pad of paper and a pencil right next to it. Every day, or every week, write what you're grateful for. (For little kids who can't write, Mom or Dad can write for them, but the child must compose the note.) It's especially nice if these notes are about others in the family. For example: "I'm thankful John helped me learn to tie my shoes." Now pick a specified time to sit down as a family and read through the notes.

* Keep a gift list. Instead of having your kids make a Christmas wish list, have them make a list of what they will give to others.

* Count your blessings. After prayer at dinnertime, have each family member name at least two things they are thankful for that day.

* Create a Gratitude Book. Give your children a camera and have them photograph things they are thankful for. Have the photos developed, then have the kids make a Gratitude Book. This can be a notebook they paste the photos into, with a few words about each, or it could simply be a photo album.

* Make sure gratitude is a part of every prayer.

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Nov 14, 2012

Activities to Go with Popular Christmas Books

Every year after Thanksgiving, I bring out our family collection of Christmas books. It includes many re-tellings of the biblical account of Jesus' birth, plus a number of secular Christmas classics. But this year, inspired by the folks over at The Crafty Crow, I wanted to do something different: For each Christmas book, I wanted at least one activity that tied into the book that I could do with my children.

What follows is the result of hours of work scouring the web for ideas or finding examples of what I already had in mind. Often there are more ideas for each book than most of us will want to tackle. The idea was to offer you a range of ideas so you could choose one or more for your own family. I haven't included every book in our Christmas book collection (maybe I will add them later), but have focused on those that are most popular. Have fun!

Secular/Mainstream Books

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens:

* Make a gift basket and deliver it to someone in need.

* Print out and make a Christmas Carol diorama and carriage.

* Make Christmas pudding (or try the recipe here).

* Sew an old fashioned sleeping hat, like Scrooge's.

* Roast a goose for dinner.

* Dress Victorian: Long skirts and blouses for the girls (with hair up on the head) and long pants and dress shirts for boys. Make top hats for the boys and simple mob caps for the girls (or see the versions here and here).

Frosty the Snowman by Annie North Bedford

(Or other snowman-themed books):

* Learn some snowman jokes.

* Build a snowman online (designed for beginning readers).

* Play snowman stacker online, or the Snowman Salvage game.

* Make donut snowmen

* Drink Frosty! Serve hot cocoa with whipped cream covering the entire top. Add chocolate chips to form a mouth, a candy corn for a nose, and two chocolate chips for eyes.

* Make a simple snowman scarf. (Use fabric glue instead of embroidery floss for a no-sew version.)


Gift of the Magi by O. Henry:

* Make some wassail (or try this recipe).

* Decorate a hair comb. Some ideas here and here.

* Think about what you could sacrifice in order to give someone else something they will really like. Now do it!

Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett 

(Many of these ideas would work for the classic Gingerbread Boy story, too.):

* Print and make masks of characters from the book.

* Make a Gingerbread Baby gingerbread house – or a pretend one. There’s even a virtual way to do it.

* Color some Gingerbread Baby pages.

* Print out and paste together your own gingerbread baby.

* Make a gingerbread baby paper chain.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss:

* Cook up some Who Pudding.

* Print and color a Grinch mask.

* Play Seussville, a free online game.

* Print and color Grinch doorknob hangers.

* Make Grinch Pills as a fun Christmas gift; this version uses an Altoid box; this one, a jar.

* Make Grinch cookies. These simple green crinkle cookies work, or how about these spiral cookies?  My favorites, though, are these green cookies with a heart in the center.

* Make a healthy Grinch kiwi snack.

* Turn guacamole into the Grinch and serve with chips or veggies.

A Merry Little Christmas by Mary Engelbreit:

* Make a doily angel.

* Make a handprint wreath.

* Make a paper snowflake.

* Do a nutcracker toilet paper roll craft - or use this one, designed for a Pringles can.

* Do the Wonder Pets (preschool) Nutcracker activity book.

* Make a Mouse King crown (or try this one). 

* Make a printable Nutcracker stage and characters - not free, but adorable!

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg:

* Spend the day in your pjs and have hot cocoa "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars" and candy with nougat centers "as white as snow."

* Play “The Conductor Says” (instead of Simon Says).

* Play Polar Bowling: Spray paint 10 two-liter soda bottles white. With a black Sharpie, draw a polar bear or snowman face on each. Paint a cheap ball from the Dollar Tree white. Now bowl!

* Make and eat a graham cracker train snack.

* Make a bell necklace by stringing “jingle bells” onto a string.  (Find bells here.)

* Make elf hats.
* Do a Mad-Libs version of the poem.

* Make a handprint Santa.

* Make sugarplums.

* Make a 3-D reindeer head to mount on the wall.

See also, St. Nicholas, below.

Christian Books

* Decide what you can do for those in need – then do it!

* Decorate a jar and begin saving money to give to the poor.

* Print and play with a free printable King Wenceslas.

* Learn all the lyrics to this old song.

The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg (or any book that compares the candy cane to Christ's story):

* Make a “candy cane” snack from apples or from other fruit

* Make chocolate dipped candy canes to give as gifts. Attach a condensed version of the legend of the candy cane with a free printable like this or this.

* Make a paper stocking.

* Buy an inexpensive felt stocking and decorate it with fabric glue, felt cutouts, ribbons, etc.

* Make a no sew felt stocking with fabric glue.

* Make stockings to hold utensils for Christmas or the month of December.

* Make and eat crispy cheese stars.

* Make and eat star-shaped sandwiches.

* Drink hot cocoa!

* Make a Christmas star garland.

* Make a star Christmas tree topper like this or this or this.

See also, The Pine Tree Parable, below.

St. Nicholas by Julie Stiegmemeyer

(or any book about the real St. Nicholas or Santa Claus):

* Create a handprint Santa.

* Make and eat Santa crackers.

* Make simple Santa hat cupcakes.

* Make Santa cups.

* Host a treasure hunt to look for St. Nicholas’ gold coins.

* Print and use a nativity advent calendar.

* Print a 3D nativity scene (or use this one or this one).

* Make a crèche (manger scene). Another good one is found here.

* Create a paper plate angel - or this one - or a doily angel.

* Make angel cookies.

* Make an angel cake.

* Create a toilet paper roll angel.

* Make a handprint angel.

The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs:

* Make edible “Christmas trees" - from fruit, brownies, vegetables, and more.

* Make a “Charlie Brown” style Christmas tree from a branch.

* Create and eat a healthy vegetable and cheese Christmas tree snack.

* Donate a gift to a charity for children.

* Plant a Christmas tree for next year.

See also, The Legend of the Christmas Tree, above.

The Three Trees by Elena Pasquali:

* Make a 3-D illustration of a treasure chest - or turn a shoe box into a treasure chest.

* Make a walnut shell ship - or use a single cup from an egg carton instead of the nut shell.

* Create a handprint ship.

* Turn a milk carton into a ship - see here also. (Or use coffee sleeves as the basis of the ship.)

* Make a paper boat.

* Make a cross from two popsicle sticks.

See also, "Nativity books," above.

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