Wednesday, December 26, 2007

family gift exchange

We spend much time over the holidays with extended family. We love seeing everyone and giving and getting gifts, eating, playing games and catching up. But in the midst of it all, we allow a little time for just the four of us to exchange gifts. We always encourage the kids to buy gifts for each other and they have always been good about that as well as getting each of us a present too. It does not have to be much, but our kids always do a great job of buying or making something that shows they really thought about that person. Whether it is a bar of chocolate, a photo from a special time, an NBA backpack or whatever, they put thought into what the recipient wants, likes and needs. We had a wonderful family gift exchange this year and we all really treasure the time for the four of us in the middle of all the holiday "chaos".

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Making Christmas cookies is always a fun way to spend some time together as a family before the hectic holiday busy-ness gets into full swing. Trying to make it a relaxed atmosphere where the actual cookie baking is the focus of the fun is a great approach. Maybe even turn on some Christmas music or sing some of your favorite carols together. If the kids are small, you could opt to make up the dough and even perhaps cut out the cookies and bake them before having the kids get on to decorating them. I use a great sugar cookie recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. It is a nice dough that rolls, cuts and cooks up great. Also from that book we love the butter frosting. Add a few icing writers and some sprinkles and you are set! Here are a few of the ones we have made up so far.




Saturday, December 15, 2007

hay ride

A couple of Christmases ago, our church youth group had a hayride. My husband had the trailer filled with hay at our house. He took our young kids along with my nephews and several neighborhood kids for a mini hayride around our neighborhood. The kids loved it. We got to go around and see all the neighbor's Christmas lights. The kids were singing Christmas carols to add to the festive feel of our outing. It was a great way to spend a holiday evening with the family.

Monday, December 10, 2007

s'mores

My young nephews came over for a sleep over last weekend. They had never made s'mores before. My wonderful neighbors let us use their outdoor fire pit so we could have our own little s'more making celebration. They were not available that night to help me, so another great neighbor came over and helped me get the fire going (he even cleaned it all up for us when we were done! Thanks, S!)

We gathered all the necessary supplies-graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows. We roasted our marshmallows to perfection, then placed them upon the chocolate, both which were then sandwiched between the graham crackers! MMMM-s'more, please! :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

decorating for the holidays

This can be a time of great family fun. We have always let our kids have a big say in the way the decorations are displayed for the holidays. Even from the time they were small we allowed them to help decorate the Christmas tree and put up decorations around the house. My husband always let our son come up on the roof with him to put up the lights-even before I thought he was ready! As the kids have gotten older, they have been very active in the decorating, often taking the lead in getting the jobs done. It is great now that they are big, because they know exactly what to do and are able to do it. This is an excellent way to spend time preparing together for the holidays.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Shopping

I took my nephews shopping so they could get gifts for everyone they needed. First, we sat down and made a list. This was so much easier than I thought. They had ready ideas for everyone. They were so cute-they just KNEW what everyone would LOVE! Some ideas we did go ahead and purchase and others we changed our minds when we looked at things in the store. Some gifts are not very "traditional"-like the deoderant and shaving cream for their teenage cousin. They just knew that GrandMom needed two bags of dark chocolate. And they knew they had seen a movie advertised that their 11 year old female cousin would LOVE-"it has a guy from High School Musical in it and it's about a horse!"
I have to say they had some pretty good ideas!

Friday, November 23, 2007

serving together

Yesterday my family was blessed to go downtown to help serve at a Thanksgiving feast for the poor and homeless. We did not get to do as much work as we would have liked, as there were more volunteers than work, but we were happy to have been able to go.

It is such a blessing to serve together as a family. It helps to instill values with the children, allows us to share what we are passionate about with our kids. It allows them to see how to serve other people and to get the focus off of themselves. It helps our kids to see how truly blessed they are. It helps prepare the next generation to eventually step up and be the next wave of people helping people.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

prayer walk

Last night my family-my husband and me, our kids, my mom and dad, my middle sister and my two nephews-went on a prayer walk. We have never done this as a family. We started at my parents house and prayed for the neighbors they live by, especially the little girl my nephews play with. Then we began the mile trek to our house. We had a nice walk on a lovely evening. We stopped at some dear friends' house to see if they would come out and pray with us. They were not home, so we stood in their driveway and prayed for their family and all the young families we know.

We continued our walk to our house. Here we prayed for our neighbors and ourselves to be good neighbors. We walked two blocks over to an older couple's house. Here we prayed for the elders of our church. Then we circled back around to another teenager's home. His parents/grandparents came out to pray with us. At this house our prayer was for the teens we know and their struggles. Then we finished our prayer walk by walking back to my parents house.

This is definitely a unique way to be of quiet service to your friends and neighbors and along the way teaching the kids by example.

Monday, November 12, 2007

going to the park

Often just the simple things make kids happy. Having mom and/or dad take a little time out of their busy-ness to just play with their kids makes for an enjoyable time for the whole family.

As fall is upon us, the weather is perhaps a little more favorable to some time spent at the park. Swings are often a hit with kids and adults alike. Since our kids are bigger, we often engage in a game of tag at the park, either on the playground (if no one else is around) or in some other area. Getting out together playing, laughing and getting some fresh air is good for the entire family.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

book store

I went with my sister and my six year old nephew to the book store a few days ago. This is a pleasant way to spend some time. I've often taken my kids to the bookstore as well. They have always loved it. It's great to be able to go and peruse the books and read a little and just spend some time together discovering great books. We almost always end up buying a few to take home.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Game Plan

I took my daughter to see The Game Plan. It turned out to be a pretty cute show. We both enjoyed the movie. There were not many objectionable words, and some would even say there were none. There was one bit about bathroom humor, but it was not over done. Overall the show was very cute, mild and fun. We enjoyed our time and left the theater happy with the movie. The little girl, Madison Pettis, was very cute and really had a great on screen personality. I've never seen "The Rock" in anything before. He did an allright job of playing the "new" dad. I also liked his rendition of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Renaissance Festival

The Texas Renaissance Festival season is upon us again. Each fall you can travel back to the Middle Ages and experience what life was like in the days of castles, knights and ladies. And for two weekdays each year, the festival is open for School Days. This is a wonderful learning experience for the kids, without all the more raucous behavior seen on the weekends. The festival is geared toward the kids and is filled with the sights and sounds of Medieval Times.




We attended yesterday for a wonderful day of jousting, sword play and merriment all straight out of the middle ages. As soon as we walked in the gate, we were met by the Sheriff of Nottingham. My nephew had on a FBI sweater and the Sheriff asked him if he would come help him with a "little problem" he was having-as he discreetly pointed out Robin Hood and his Merry men.



Top on our list were attending sword school and the jousting tournament. Both of these were highlights on all of our lists. As we went along we got to see artillery demonstrations, meet the court jester, talk with knights and visit the executioners block. One of our group even met William Shakespeare, who did some time traveling to be at the Ren Fair during King Henry VIII's heyday.



My nephews drew much attention from the folks from the middle ages dressed in their knight costumes . Many asked them how the Crusades were going. My youngest nephew was dressed in the same colors as the Spanish knight (who was defeated in the jousting tournament by the English knight.)




As the actors are all adept at staying in character, we had a great day learning about the Medieval Times just by "living" them for the day. We all left with wonderful memories of our day traveling back to the Middle Ages.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

cooking together

I like to cook as much as possible and I think it's great when my kids help me. I let my son start at about three years old, doing things like stirring and breaking spaghetti noodles. My six year old nephew helps me out a lot in the kitchen. He likes to do anything he can. Just yesterday I needed to stand at the stove to do a continuous stirring sauce, so he whipped the heavy cream we needed for a dessert all by himself until I could come give him a hand. He says that as soon as he is tall enough, he will be able to help me do everything in the kitchen.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Act It Out

When my kids were young, one of their favorite activities was acting out stories with which they were familiar. At times, when I tired of reading these favorite stories "just one more time", we would put a new spin on it by acting it out. We acted out many bible stories, movies and favorite books. Some of our favorites included David and Goliath, The Walls of Jericho and The Fox and the Hound. This is a great activity for young kids as it helps them to comprehend the story, it helps them to internalize it, and it helps them to communicate it back. These are all skills they will need later and will help them become better students and communicators.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

TGIF

Everyone is glad when Friday rolls around. With my son now in public school, we are even more glad to see it. This is the only day he does not have basketball (yet) and he gets out of school at the "normal" time. We have decided to make it a tradition to celebrate Friday by picking him up at school and heading to the local Sonic for a cold drink. We are all happy to relax for a few minutes and celebrate our time together.

Weighty Issues

It seems as if everywhere we look these days, we will find talk of obesity and weight control. I think it is important to broach this subject with our children, whether they appear to have a weight problem or not. Because it is an issue that we are all constantly bombarded with, it is wise to discuss the healthy ways to take care of weight with our kids. Of course, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent obesity. For those who do need some help with their weight problem, it is a good idea to share with our children, especially as they reach those middle and teen years, all the methods folks use to control their weight-from bulimia to obesity surgery. We can then be the ones to share the healthy ways to approach this issue instead of letting the media have the last say on such a topic.

Thank you for reading this sponsored post.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Into the Fray

As you may or may not know, we have made a major transition in our family’s lifestyle this year. My son is going to public school and every day is still a heart ache for me in some ways. It is so hard for me to watch him walk into the doors of that "sacred place of learning". My heart is in my throat when I think about all that he must face there each day.

We have long been in the habit of reading the bible together as a family. We are still doing that, though it is rather tricky to get all of us together these days. But my husband and I have determined to send our son off with a word from the bible and a daily prayer of protection and guidance for him. We have been reading a bit of Proverbs to him each day before school. We all get up early and spend just a few minutes reading some of those words of wisdom to get him started on his day. Then we say a short prayer together.

For those who do not believe in the words of the bible, reading words of inspiration or motivation could provide a great start to your child’s day. Sharing stories of people who have succeeded or overcome or have been through hard times; reading quotes or poems or words of wisdom from any source you deem important. These words will be a tie between you and your child and will hopefully give them some thoughts and insights to hang onto as they daily enter the fray.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Joe Scruggs

Even though my kids are big, my family is looking forward to re-living the past next month. On November 8, we will head to a neighboring town to hear Joe Scruggs in concert. We saw him about ten years ago. He is a wonderful singer of children's songs and we loved his music for a long time (still do!) My big kids are willing to go in order to introduce their cousins to Joe's music. We have ten tickets and are planning on having a great time, though I know my kids will likely be the only teens in the house!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Watch Old Home Movies

Last night we found an old video tape of the kids that we had not even remembered about. It was from six years ago. They and their friends were putting on a talent show for all of us parents. It was such fun to see the kids so young and watching them perform. We had many good laughs and it brought back some fun memories. This is a great way to spend a relaxing family night.

Friday, September 21, 2007

make your own crayons

Everyone loves crayons. Have you ever made your own? We did this activity years ago when my kids were small. You simply gather all your old, broken crayons. (Or you can do what some crafty people do and buy new ones!) Remove the paper wrapper. You may choose to sort colors into particular groups, or be like my kids and put them all together to make "rainbow" crayons. You then place the crayons into a mold. This can be an old muffin tin, the new silicone shapes or cookie cutters lined with foil. Put them into a preheated 300 F degree oven. Cook 5-8 minutes. Remove and let cool completely, 30-60 minutes. The crayons should pop out of the mold, ready to color your world.

http://annajoandsuch.blogspot.com/2007/08/fun-crafts-with-wax.html

Monday, September 17, 2007

birthday history

This could be a fun way for your family to spend some time together and learn a little history at the same time. If you head over to Wikipedia and type in your birthday, you will get a list of all sorts of fun information. You can learn about events that have taken place on this date, you will find famous people with whom you share a birthday, as well as folks who have died on this date. You can learn about holidays and observances that occur on this date throughout the world. This is a fascinating little project that will entertain a wide range of ages.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

teachable moments

Tonight my husband had a wild idea. We normally do things together as a family on Tuesday nights. He decided that we would do a family activity that would involve a study of the Gospel of John. We read portions of John chapter one, describing Jesus as the light. Then, we all proceeded to tie blindfolds around our eyes. We then had our dinner with the blindfolds in tact. It was interesting, and everyone played along. We then discussed living in darkness as opposed to the light. This could be a great family activity to provoke discussion. And if you want to join in on the bible study, you can download it for free here .

Saturday, September 8, 2007

puzzles

Putting puzzles together as a family can be a fun and relaxing way to spend time together. It allows you to relax together, have fun, get through some frustrations, and provides a great sense of accomplishment when the puzzle is completed. We have often left puzzles out for weeks until they were put together.





One took us three months to finish! (It's holographic!)










One of our favorites, which is still together, is the spherical globe puzzle.





Puzzles provide lots of fun for the entire family. The difficulty of the puzzles can increase as the children grow. It is good for them to see your family work together on a project that may not be so easy, and to get the feeling of accomplishment when that last piece is put into place.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

PreSchool "Paintbrush"

Last weekend I caught the end of Donna's Day with Donna Erickson. I have not ever seen this show before, but I enjoyed what I saw. It seems to be filled with great ideas for families. One idea she shared was an easy way for young children to paint. She got a triangle shaped make up sponge and attached a clothespin to the "apex". Viola! A simple way for small hands to sponge paint! Less mess too!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sprayground

If you can find a sprayground in your area, this is a great way to beat the heat with the kids. There is one not too far from us, behind the zoo. We went up there this week after school had begun for most kids in this area, so we had it practically to ourselves. What a great way to cool off and have some fun. And it's FREE!!



Thursday, August 30, 2007

Furniture Shopping

Furniture shopping can be fun and when the kids are helping to pick out their own new furniture, it can turn into a family affair. The Furniture Domain has a great selection of whimsical kids furniture. My nephews would love the spider web decor. I personally love the full over twin loft bed set. It features a full size bed on top, with a twin sized trundle underneath. In between are drawers and a desktop area with pull out keyboard holder. They seem to have everything you need to make mom, dad and the kids happy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What is Your Blog Worth?

Do you or your kids maintain a blog? It can be fun to spend time together going over your blogs, giving input to topics to blog on, you can even find out how much your blogs are worth . I bet the kids would get a real kick out of that! Right now this blog is pretty much "worthless" in some folks eyes, but to me, it's priceless!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader is a great game for children. They find it fun, particularly when they get to be the leader. It is good for following and for large motor skills, and can be a great way to spend some time together with your little ones.

Today I learned about an internet Follow campaign going on. . It is good for all our blogs and thankfully, jerseygirl put up a link which made it easy for me to follow.

DO FOLLOW is good because it allows link love to be spread through the internet, making it good for your blog and mine. And we know that link love helps raise page rank. DO FOLLOW allows comments to be followed on Google-comment links now "count". This gives your readers incentive to comment by showing commenters you appreciate them.


It’s easy to turn off the NO FOLLOW with these instructions. And now I can join the "movement" (and get a cute badge too!) So now I can help spread link love!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Treasure Hunt Variation

Another variation we did on a treasure hunt was for my daughter's eighth birthday. I saw this idea in a magazine, but I've forgotten since then which one.

We bought spools of ribbon at a local craft store. We strung the ribbon over the entire back yard, one color for each different person. The string went up, over, down, around, through...til the whole yard was covered in masses of different ribbon colors. At the end of each piece of ribbon we had brown bags filled with treasures. We included books, pencils, stickers, and other small trinkets.





Each child was given the spool of his/her color of ribbon. They had to follow their ribbon's path, rolling it back up onto the spool as they went until they found their treasure bag.





We did this with ages 2-10 and each one loved it. We labeled each bag so we were sure each child got a bag with appropriate prizes for him/her.





Tuesday, August 14, 2007

treasure hunt

When my kids were small, I would do treasure hunts for them. There are several ways to put on a treasure hunt. A simple way is to hide whatever your treasure is and then draw a simple map for them to follow. If your kids are older, you can write out clues for them. The kids really enjoy the search and then finding the treasure is always great fun, whether it be a piece of candy, dessert, or a book to read together.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

bubbles

It seems like all kids love blowing and chasing after soap bubbles. I know that even as an adult, it is a pretty pleasant and relaxing past time. One fun family activity can be to make your own soap bubbles, then sit together blowing and chasing them to your hearts content. I like this recipe because it uses common, easy to find, and maybe even on hand, ingredients.

3 Cups water
1 Cup dishwashing soap
1/3 Cup corn syrup

Mix ingredients. You can make a bubble wand using any bendable wire. You can make "tiny bubbles" using a paper clip shaped and attached to a pencil. Or try giant bubbles using a clothes hanger bent into a wand shape.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

family fun runs

A great way to get active with your family is to sign up for a family fun run/walk. There are many going on throughout the year in all areas of the country. You can find a cause that you are passionate about to support, or just join any fun run you can find. Many races offer family discounts. Even the youngest in your family can often participate. Some races even have kids 1K races before the longer distances begin.

Spending time together getting ready for the race will assure lots of active, fun family time. Race day will be exciting and loads of fun. The kids will love it if they leave old mom and dad behind!

affordable insurance quotes for families

Buying insurance is a big decision in any family's life. And once you have kids, you realize the great importance of it. Discussing the needs of your family in case of accidental death is never a comfortable topic, but can mean so much to the family in case anything ever were to happen.

The people at Advantage Term Life Insurance know this can be difficult. Not only are emotions running high when looking for insurance, but these days, the money can be tight and insurance seems like another possibly unnecessary expenditure. Because they know how hard it can be, they offer insurance quotes online, offering you the advice and expertise to make the right choice for your family's needs.

It is simple. All you need to do is fill out the online form and begin comparing rates today. You can choose from whole life or term life policies.



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Friday, August 3, 2007

Watch the Hummers

I don't know if you have ever been blessed to watch hummingbirds in action. My grandpa has a couple of feeders by his windows and we love to get to sit and watch the antics of the hummers. If your family enjoys this, you might be interested in visiting the Hummer House.

I turned on PBS today to be delighted to learn about Dan Brown's Hummer Haven. Several decades ago, Brown began feeding hummingbirds. Now he has thousands that return each year. They return to the spot in which they were born, which is a main reason for the increased numbers of birds. The Brown's are ranked by Texas Parks and Wildlife as the top hummingbird feeders. The Brown's built the Hummer House for folks to come stay and watch the hummers and other wildlife on the property. Then, a bus tour asked to come and they built the observation room so that many folks can come gander at the hummers without bothering them. One of his regular visitors photographs these hovering birds. The still shots are absolutely amazing.

Monday, July 30, 2007

technorati claim

well, I've never made a Technorati Profile for my blogs before. if you don't know what that is, get one of your teens to explain it to you! :)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Take a Cruise

Having just returned from our first cruise (alone), we have decided that our next cruise will be with the kids. It will be a wonderful adventure for the family. There is much to do on board the ship, times where you can all be together and even time for the kids and parents to do some things on their own. There are things like swimming, classes, crafts, rock climbing and other sports (depending on availability), an arcade. Of course, with older kids, they will love the "freedom" to roam around, play, swim, make new friends, eat whenever they want, and still leave time to hang out with the family as well. And the shore excursions will provide some incredible family time as well. A cruise could make a wonderful family vacation.

Scuba Diving

While on our cruise, my husband and I took a discover scuba diving class. We decided that this would be a great idea for a family activity. Since our youngest is old enough to get certified, we are really wanting to pursue this and the kids are game. It is an amazing experience. The weightless feeling, the beauty of the underwater world, the relaxation provide such a great environment for a family to revel in God's beauty beneath the surface. This also makes a great family activity because everyone is able to do it together, and yet on your own. There is no competition and everyone can enjoy and benefit from this incredible adventure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Maternity Insurance

As a mother, I know how expensive it can be to have a baby. It can bring stress to an otherwise joyous time in a couple's life. In particular, to those who do not have Pregnancy Care insurance, this can bring many concerns about how to pay for the pregnancy and its related costs. I know these feelings personally. So when I heard about the Maternity Card, I had to share it here with you. This card offers relief from costs associated with pregnancy and provides savings on these outrageous expenses. You can call a consultant today and within 15 minutes, you could possibly be saving thousands of dollars off your pregnancy costs.

Thank you for reading this sponsored post.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jellystone Park Campground

There is one half an hour away from us. They offer tent camping, RV camping as well as a number of cabins. There is a large pool along with a water park. There is volleyball and basketball and ice cream socials. Fishing for patrons is free in the fishing pond, or walk the nature trails, or enjoy mini-golf. It seems this campground is a great family getaway.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Take a Poll

Did you know that a new feature on this blog is the ability to make polls? This could be a fun family activity. Ask the kids to come up with questions to ask other families. You can add answers from which others can choose. It could be fun for you to both come up with the polls as well as check out the results in a few days. Check out the new poll at the bottom of this page.

Monday, July 9, 2007

catching fireflies

Another absolute favorite summertime pasttime of the by gone days is the simple pleasure of catching fireflies.

Many of us today live in neighborhoods where it would be impossible to see a firefly even if they were around. But if you get the chance to go off somewhere, maybe camping or a family reunion "away" from town, be sure to take a jar or "bug catcher" for your kids to catch some of this "lightening".

A few years ago we went camping and my kids were thrilled to capture some of these little critters for an evening. We went down a secluded path in some trees within the campground. It was amazing to see the path lit up with the fireflies. The kids had to have a jar to bring some back to our camp spot.

*You may need insect repellent to complete this excursion*

Charades

Of course I can't leave Charades off the parlor games list! This is a game known by many people. Our family used to play this more when the kids were little, though it would be easier to play now that they are older and more capable of acting out the titles, as well as knowing more titles.

Charades is easy for any age to play and can be fun. Do watch for frustration from the younger players though, as they do no know many of the titles as others, and can also have a hard time acting out each word of the title (ours would more likely act out a scene from the movie.

In Charades, you can act out either a song, book title or movie title. You may only act, no words allowed. (some allow sounds, just establish this before the game) First, you need to establish what it is you are acting out, a song, book or movie. Use a hand symbol to show this. Next, hold up however many fingers to represent how many words are in the title. Finally, you do whatever it takes to get the other players to say the word you are looking for. You can do a "sounds like" word as well. If it helps, you can break your word into syllables as well.

Skate In

Do you remember the days of skating through the house?

Although I don't have a Hardwood Floor anywhere in my house, I've heard some folks who do have this type flooring say this is a sure fire trick to liven up a hot summer day or a snow-bound day.

Make sure your floor is relatively clutter free. Everyone dons a pair of socks. Then let the Skate Day begin. You get a semi-running start and then slide around on the floor. This may also help to pick up any dust that has collected, helping Mom out in the process! :)

Thank you for reading this sponsored post.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Make Lemonade

Summertime is the perfect time to make a batch of good old fashioned lemonade. I don't mean the artificially colored powdered drink mix from the grocery store. No, teach your kids how to make fresh squeezed, delicious, old-fashioned lemonde.

Squeeze enough lemons to get one cup of juice. Depending on the size of the lemons will determine how many lemons you need, I usually use about eight small ones. Add one cup of sugar and fill a container with enough water to make 2 quarts. Chill.

For special occasions you can add slices of lemon, strawberries or raspberries.

This makes a delicious summertime treat.

(and save the powdered drink mix for a lemonade stand!) :)

Monday, July 2, 2007

And Now I Would Like To Thank a Sponser

Last week, when I returned home from an out of town trip, the little girl across the street brought me my mail. She carried in a large box and I couldn't wait to see what it contained. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a box from PayPerPost.

When I opened it, I remembered a post I had done for withcharacterkids.com . I was pleased to find in this box a really great diaper bag. This bag is VERY nice! My neice who was visiting at the time said "That doesn't look like a diaper bag. That is nice!"

I was also thrilled to receive a T shirt from PayPerPost.

Not only did I make money writing for the sponser, I was doubly repaid with the great gifts!

Thank you withcharacterkids and PayPerPost!




Saturday, June 30, 2007

Gossip

This is a group game where the more people the better. It can also be an effective game for helping children see the effects of words and gossip.

It is easy to play this game seated in a circle or a line. The leader makes up something to say, and whispers it into the ear of the person next to him/her. Each successive player repeats what they think they heard to the next player, each time whispering into their neighbor's ear. The last player states aloud what s/he thinks s/he heard. It is most often not exactly what the first player said, and at times not even close to what the leader said!

Crossed, Uncrossed

This has long been one of my favorite parlor/group games. All you need is a group of people and a pair of scissors. The leader begins by telling how s/he received the scissors-either crossed or uncrossed-and how s/he will pass the scissors-either crossed or uncrossed.

The object of receiving the scissors crossed or uncrossed is based on your leg position. If you received the scissors with your legs crossed, then that is how you received the scissors. If you pass them with your legs uncrossed, then you pass them uncrossed.

The more elaborate you make your actions with the scissors, the less likely it is the participants will figure out just what the crossing and uncrossing action is really all about. After awhile, then you may need to exaggerate your leg movements to help them catch on to what it is really all about.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Developmental Discovery System

If you and your mate are looking for hints to dealing with your child with Developmental Problems , you may be interested in what you can learn from this blog. Rodger Bailey and his wife Isabel Aguilar work with children who have developmental problems . They provide an international consulting system in English and Spanish to help their clients develop age appropriately. If you are looking for help in dealing with your delayed child, this blog may be full of useful information for you and your family.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

King Frog

This parlor game is lots of fun for younger kids. Each player chooses an animal to imitate. They must come up with a symbol to represent this animal. Each player must remember each symbol. One player is the King Frog. His symbol is to clap your hands together, then move the top one away as if jumping.

The game begins with everyone seated in a circle. The King Frog makes his sign. He immediately makes another sign following his. The player whose sign was made must immediately make his/her sign followed immediately by another player's sign. Play continues in this fashion.

If any player hesitates and/or misses his cue, the players proceeds to the end of the circle, and all other players move up one seat. The goal is to become the King Frog.

The Grapes of Spain

One of the parlor games my husband likes to pull, er, play with people is "The Grapes of Spain". All you need is a broom, or some other prop, and a group of people of various ages.

Sit the people around the room, a circle works well. Hold the broom. You can make whatever actions you want with the broom, the more elaborate, the more it throws people off. While holding the broom, and doing whatever actions you have chosen, recite this ditty:

"The grapes of Spain are very fine grapes, but the grapes of California are better."

You can put the accent and cadence where ever you want.

The key however is that you MUST say "now it's your turn" as you hand the broom to the next player. Their goal is to recite EXACTLY what you said and then hand the broom to the next player.

Most folks will leave off the "now it's your turn", which means they did not succeed in doing it properly. It really leaves them wondering what they did wrong. The fun comes in watching everyone try to get the broom movements, the accent and cadence of the phrase right, and neglecting to say "now it's your turn".

Try it with a group.

Listen to Your Kids' Music

If you have shared your classic music with your kids , your next family activity could be to listen to your kids music. Here you can look at today's unsigned chart with free music downloads. You can access all of today's hot, new independent bands and music. Join for free to access the over 600 MP3 downloads. Find upcoming gig dates, read blogs and reviews. You can find something for every music lover, from blues and jazz to alternative, urban and rock.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Parlor Games

Although many of us no longer have what we would call a "parlor", there are many games that would qualify as "parlor games". A number of these would be considered board games or table games. However, there are a few that need very little props other than people. My husband learned quite a few of these from his grandfather and loves to use them on unsuspecting folks. I will try list some of these in seperate posts.

North Cascades Environmental Learning Center

North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

Here is something for the whole family. It is the family camp experience with all the fun. Hiking, canoeing, exploring. See pristine mountain streams, meadows filled with wildflowers, forests, learn about Native American history.

The campus is located three hours northwest of Seattle on the north shore of Diablo Lake. Here you can view the beauty of the North Cascades mountains. Spend time learning together in the multimedia classrooms, the research library and the aquatic and terrestrial laboratories. Also experience the amphitheater, the outdoor learning shelters and trails.

The dining area features kid friendly menus along with a recycling and composting center. Family getaways are available for $195 per adult and $95 per child.

Fantasy Football

Are you a football fan? Do your kids enjoy it as much as you do? Why not start a family team for the fantasy football league? The kids will get a kick out of helping you draft your team. Then the excitement can build throughout your home as you watch your team hopefully win to compete for the grand prizes. If they don't make it, maybe you can root together as a family for the toilet bowl team! Draft begins August 18!

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Swimming

All kids love to cool off with a splash in the pool. Your family can cool off with a day at the pool. Most cities have a public pool that is open in the summer for all to enjoy. If your city does not, perhaps there is a private pool, YMCA or school pool that would be willing to let the town folks use it for a fee. Also, renting a pool for a sumemr time party is a favorite with almost all kids.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gone Fishing

Many young kids love to try new things. Fishing is one of those things that many kids think would be great to try. Even if you are not a fisherman, you can still give your kids a taste of this adventure. Many local communities offer fishing days. Many state parks also offer free fishing, perhaps with a little guidance as well. Or if you are up to the challenge, head out to your local lake or pond.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Innovative Tutoring

If you family is looking for tutoring, whether it is to catch a child up, keep him caught up, or to see him excel, Score Educational Centers offer an Innovative Tutor program. This program is hands on, with postive coaches who really work to motivate and encourage the child to progress and succeed. At Score, they know they have two customers-the parent and the child. At Score, each child progresses at his/her own pace. As each child moves ahead, the studies become more and more challenging. If you are looking for this kind of tutoring, check out Score. You can even watch a video on their website of what they offer.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Library

Going to the library is a great way to spend time together as a family. And summer is the perfect time to visit your local library. You can cool off in the library while picking out some great books to read together.

If your local library is like ours, you will find a huge assortment of children's and teens activities going on every day through the summer. You can participate in reading programs where the kids earn prizes. They may have movie days, craft days, and days celebrating well loved book characters.

Head to your library and find out all the activities they have to offer your family.

Before the Show

My kids often want to go to the movies. I am not much impressed with many, if any, movies that come out these days. Even though my kids are big, I still like to find out what is going on in the movie before we see it. This way I can determine if the movie is appropriate for our family as entertainment. Much of what is put out today as family friendly entertainment is not entertainment at all.

My favorite site to visit before deciding whether or not to see a movie is screenit.com . This site really gives a detailed review of what type things are done and said in the movie. You will find not only violent and sexual content listed here, but also profanity, imitative behavior and family topics to talk about. It is the most thorough review site I have found for pre-movie viewing.

Screenit has become a paid site, costing $25 a year. This allows you access to all movies as they are released. However, you can still join for free if you are willing to wait to read the reviews until after the show has already opened. This is the option I use, as we rarely see a movie when it opens. You still get all the same thorough reviews for movies and videos for free.

KB Toys Coupons

If you are looking for kid's toys, be sure to check out the KB Toys coupon codes . You can get free shipping on over 800 items, weekly savings specials, or gift with purchase deals. This is a great place to use online coupons to help save money when shopping for gifts for your child, friends or other family members.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Blog of the Day

Each day PayPerPost features a Blog of the Day. Yesterday, June 6, THIS blog was featured. I was thrilled (and shocked) to learn about this blog being spotlighted for the day. I just wanted to take a moment and thank everyone for visiting this blog. And thanks to PayPerPost for the props!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Free Floats at Sonic June 7

Thursday night, June 7 is FREE root beer floats at Sonic Drive Ins. Beginning at 8 pm and running until midnight, your family can make a Sonic run. And the root beer floats are FREE! What better way to spend an evening with the family. Everyone will love the tangy root beer and the sweet ice cream. And Mom and Dad will love the price!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

choosing summer camps

Summer camp is a great way for many kids to spend their extra free time over the break from school. For many this may include camps with church groups, sports and other hobbies. And for many kids, summer may be a time to brush up on academic skills as well.

At Score Educational Centers, kids can raise their confidence level as well as their academic prowess in subjects from elemenatary reading and math to high school levels in these subjects.

My son has been feeling like he is a bit behind in his math skills as compared to his peers. Although I don't know if this is really true or just his perspective, a Summer Program like Score offers could help him feel more confident in his math abilities. Their hands on approach can address any issues a child may feel in his or her level of performance, helping him/her to achieve the greatest success possible in every subject area.

Let's Go To The Movies

Kids love to go to the theater. The experience is different than sitting at home watching a video. Summer time is a great time to go to the theater for a show. It is the perfect way to beat the heat in the middle of a hot day. Many theaters even offer kid friendly older movies at discount prices during the morning or afternoon show times.

Rockin' Out With Old Tunes

A really fun way to spend time with your kids is to introduce them to the music you listened to as a kid. This can be great with little kids or even those teenagers in your house. I have been pleasantly surprised to find my teenaged son liking some of the songs I liked as a teen. He particularly likes the music my husband listened to all those years ago.

Now with the new release of the police cd, you can let your kids hear the striking, unique sound that was The Police. Sting and gang are back on this new police cd.

There are some great songs on here from the Police's heyday. I really like the songs "Every Breath You Take", "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and even "Roxanne". But my favorite song by this band is "Don't Stand So Close To Me". I am really glad it's included in this new compilation.

Sharing your favorite "oldies" with your kids can be a lot of fun! And it is really great when these new songs are re-released onto a brand new CD! So break out the tunes and get ready to rock and roll!




Win a New York fly-away to see The Police live.





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Monday, June 4, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

I grew up going to Major League baseball games, and so have my kids. My dad has a season ticket package that he splits with some other guys. When there is an afternoon game, he likes to take one of the grandkids with him. This has gotten to be a good tradition with them.

But if your family is ready to take in a game, you don't need to be able to purchase season tickets. Throughout the season family nights are offered. You can often find discounts with leading products as well.

I've heard that Minor League games are much cheaper and just as fun, if not more!

Hit The Beach

Summer is upon us here in South Texas, even though it is still officially spring on the calendar. The sun is shining, the humidity is up and the kids are ready for a trip to the beach.

Going to the beach is fun for all ages. Pack a lunch and lots of sunscreen and sand toys and your family will be ready for a full day of sea and surf.

making summer plans

Making summer plans together as a family can be an important tool for keeping the family together. Kids often have ideas that they would love to see the family do together. This includes all ages of kids-from pre-schoolers to teens. And seeing the family act upon his/her suggestion is likely to make the day more enjoyable with the kids, especially the teenager. If s/he feels like her suggestion was worthwhile, and sees everyone enjoy their time together, you will likely have a happier, easier-to-get-along with teen, at least for this outing.

When planning for summer activities, often times it may be required to stay overnight in a hotel. Whether the plans include visiting relatives, sight-seeing or just visiting an amusement park, there will surely need to be some accomodations along the way.

When you travel with the family, it is most likely that you will be looking for Cheap Hotels. At HotelsReservation.com, you can find a wide variety of places to stay. Whether you are looking for a hotel or motel, a resort, or a vacation rental, you can find what you need all at one website. The rates are reasonable and competitive. They even offer discount rates on world wide destinations.

The site is easy to navigate and holds all the information you will need to plan your summer travels. If your family is looking for a nearby road trip, you can use the road trip planner provided by the web site. If you are looking for a cruise, they have information for you. If you are planning a family reunion, there is information concerning group bookings. Everything the traveling family might need is available all on one site.

So grab your family and start brainstorming your summer plans. And be sure to check out the website for all your travel accomodations!



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The Sirocco Restaurant in the Dome at State Tower in Bangkok

I don't think I'll be heading to the Sirocco anytime soon. Perhaps if you live in Bangkok, you will. If not, this is a great way for your family to dream together!

Show your kids the pictures -they are exquisite! The view looks breath taking and the menu sounds delicious. The atmosphere must be ultra-modern chic. It looks like a wonderful place to visit. It is highly recommended to make reservations, and be sure you are dressed properly for the occasion. This restaraunt has won awards and palates of critics and patrons alike.

So if you are heading out to McDonald's tonight, you can at least dream of an upscale restaraunt a world away!

Star Gazing

A few years ago, my son was into star gazing. We even got him a small powered telescope. He would often take it out to look at the moon, stars or planets. Once, there was a star gazing party at a local park. It was sponsered by the NASA astronomy club, but open to everyone. This was during the time when Mars was so close to the Earth. Folks of all sorts brought out their telescopes to let anyone and everyone get a look at the Red Planet (which looked yellow that night). It was so awesome. There were people there with homemade telescopes, super large telescopes, and some like us with small, cheap telescopes. But my son was so proud when a few folks would come by and look through his scope, as if he were as important as the next guy.

If your family is looking for a way to search the stars and fascinate in the wonders above us, now is a great time. With Father's Day fast approaching, a telescope is one of the best, and most unique gift ideas. Dad may really love this much more than another tie, and it will be the perfect way to spend more family time together throughout those lovely summer evenings.

With OpticsPlanet, you get a low price guarantee, and with orders over $29.95 you receive free UPS shipping. Customer service and a large selection of products make it easy to shop with OpticsPlanet.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

summer bible reading club

This summer our congregation is comitting to read through the Psalms and Proverbs over the course of 99 days-from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The reading schedule is very easy and is anywhere from one to three chapters per day. Although these are short readings, they are full of words to dwell on.

This is a great way to spend family time together. You can begin a daily or weekly family bible reading time together. If your kids are very small and don't sit still for long, you can do something like this in small doses, or read to them while they play (or put in a CD for them to hear it while they are playing.) This can become a tradition in your family, where you share together words of wisdom, drawing the family closer together and providing so much in the lives of both the adults and kids alike.

Ways to Help Others

Raising our kids' awareness of their place in this world is a life long pursuit. It is easier when we start when the kids are young. Helping the poor, the sick, those in need, these are ways to help teach kids about how to serve in their community. By drawing their attention to the needs of others and pointing out ways to help, we serve not only our community now, but the society of the future as well. Here is an idea going on right now, that would be easy to reach out with our kids:

This week many bloggers are pointing out the good that bloggers can do through their blogs. We can help raise money for folks in need, particularly those in the New Orleans area who are still not fully recovered from the devastation Hurricane Katrina rendered to that area. There are still supply and technology replacements that are needed by public schools. By donating , you can help these schools to purchase replacement items like computers.

Of course there are other needs that you can learn about here as well. For example, a teacher in New York is wanting to take a class field trip for underpriviledged students to a Broadway show. Or maybe you can help struggling students by donating to purchase books on tape.

There are many ways for us to help others in our "community", and as the world is getting smaller each day, our "community" is growing ever wider.

Help Public School Kids by Funding by Participating in a DonorsChoose Challenge

Teaching Teens About Loans

Teens are on the verge of making numerous life decisions, many of which they've never thought about. One of the best classes I took in High School was a consumer type class-I've forgotten what it was called. It dealt with checking accounts, financial questions, learning to get a loan , and many other real life issues that teens will be facing soon enough.

I don't know if schools teach this kind of thing these days. I do know that one of the homeschool math programs has a book addressing these very things.

The teen years is the perfect time to teach your teens about the day to day things adults must deal with and make decisions about. As you go about your day to day life as a consumer, be sure to talk with your children about what you are doing. If you are paying bills, talk about how you budget, what all the bills are, where you go to pay them, and other practical daily things we may take for granted.

If you are buying a house, buying a car, or getting a loan, these are opportune times to let your kids in on what all is involved. Before you and they know it, they will be facing many of these very same decisions. Having a knowledge base from which to pull when facing these decisions can help them to make better choices in these situations.

If teens can learn early about young people rushing to buy homes , how to compare loans online , and understanding mortgages , they will be so much better prepared to face these things as young adults.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Let the Kids Cook

We have not done this in a long while, but when my kids were a bit younger, we would give them a night to be in charge of dinner. They came up with the menu, helped with the shopping and were in charge of cooking. Of course, we were available to supervise and help where needed, but for the most part, the kids did all the prep work. This can be a great adventure and learning tool for the kids. It can be an enjoyable meal for the whole family. Not only is this a fun way to spend time together, it is a great learning experience for the kids.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Idol

Many kids are really into American Idol. Many families are fond of the show as well. If your kids are into it, this is a good way to spend family time together. It can be a fun way to get your kids' perspective on the TV show and society in general. It can open doors for discussion of all sorts.

Tonight is a good chance to view this season's final episode of American Idol together. A winner should be chosen tonight as well as having the final 12 contestants reunited. It will most likely be the funnest segment of the season.

Monday, May 21, 2007

bookcrossing

Some time ago I was introduced to Bookcrossing . This is a really fun activity that you can do as a family from time to time. It is almost like a scavenger hunt for books.

If you log into Bookcrossing.com, you can find out how to become a bookcrosser. It is simple. You log in a book you want to release into the "wild". You print out a label for it, apply it to the book, then release the book. Who knows where the book will go. The idea is that another reader will find it, and log it in to the site, read it and eventually re-release it, allowing the book to travel to another place. Also just as fun is the hope that one day you will find a traveling book.

I have logged in several books and released them (you can view my bookshelf ). I have only had a couple "found". The best luck I have had is in actually handing the books to other readers, asking them to log the book in, read it and someday release it. Other successful releases for me have been taking them to an "official crossing zone". This is a box that stays set up at a local community college where books are rotated frequently.

It is fun, and a little sneaky feeling to leave a book laying around, just conspicuously enough to hope another reader will find it.

credit cards

My kids have always been interested in credit cards, as are many kids. It seems to them that it is a magic card that can be used to get anything you want. They do not see that there is real money involved, and this could potentially lead them into trouble when they get out on their own.

When your teen is out shopping with you, or begins to show an interest in shopping, this is a perfect time to talk with him/her about credit cards and their place in your life. You may want to share personal success and/or failure stories with them. Be sure and tell them how important it is to conduct a credit card comparison when the time comes for them to apply for one, and not to just blindly accept the first one they get in the mail.

Talk to them about the interest rates that credit cards carry. Let them know about how much that adds to the monthly balance. Have them check into 0% credit cards. Teach them about balance transfers . Let them see you pay off your credit card debts each month. If you do not, let them know about how this carries over to the next month.

Because it is so easy to get a card these days, it is imperative to honestly dicuss this issue with your teen and help him/her to make healthy credit card decisions. Using a credit card guide can help you know what questions to address with your kids. Brushing up on information before you discuss it with your adolescent could aid in your passing on information to help him/her make healthy financial decisions.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

berry picking

It has been strawberry season around here recently. We are blessed to live not too far from a really great family farm. They have really grown and changed over the last ten years, but my favorite thing is when strawberry season comes around! At this farm you can go in and pick your own strawberries. They are very reasonably priced and it is a great adventure for city kids to go out and pick their own berries. Amd the taste! Nothing is sweeter!

Look around your area for a place that will let you come and pick berries in season. This is a great lead in to another family activitiy-cooking together. Jellies, cobblers, pies, cakes-lots you can do with those fresh berries!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Music Fest

One night, my husband was gone til late, and I was tired. Of course, the kids wanted to do something. They came up with an idea on their own (great!). They decided (and agreed!) that they would get their instruments and play all the songs they knew from memory. They allowed each other some time to go over music, then put it away. I was a wonderful audience-I laid on the couch and enjoyed all the wonderful music! This works well for big kids, but if your kids are little, you can still have a music fest they will love.

Simply allow them to put on a show for you (or join in with them) using what ever "instruments" they can find or create.

If no one in your family seems inclinded to play an instrument, put on some great music and dance around to it. Another option I used to let my kids do (when still small enough) was to pile the couch cusions on the floor and jump on them while listening to music. It's like jumping on the couch without really jumping on the couch!

Your family can find its own way to make beautiful music together.

Shopping for Kids' Favorite Characters

If you are in the market for a gift for a kid or a mom-to-be, you gotta see the baby products, infant and toddler products, even the kids and teens products available at withcharacterkids.com. They have a huge assortment of items that carry kids' favorite characters.

You can find kids' bedding and room decor featuring characters like Dora, Superman, Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Spongebob, and many more. You can find kids and teen decor and furniture featuring High School Musical, Flower Pods and Ozone.

Are you looking for the perfect gift for the parents to be? You can choose from a wide assortment of bags and other baby necessities. Check out the Eddie Bauer backpack bag, or the Carter's Easy Access Bag . This bag has a sleek, stylish look for busy parents today. It is made of water-resistant, suede-like material, with a magnetic front closure. It includes an insulated bottle holder, a changing pad, and a “dirty duds” pouch for easy toting of soiled clothes. You can even have the bag personalized for a few dollars more.

Being a parent today means you are on the go more than ever. With items like these, it can make toting baby and all of his/her necessities a little easier.




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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Scavenger Hunt

We have done scavenger hunts mostly while traveling. If we are ever somewhere where there is some down time or we need something to do, we can usually brainstorm a scavenger hunt to fit our situation. When the kids were younger, we would even do them around the house.

While we were camping last week, my husband went for more ice so me and the kids came up with a scavenger hunt to pass the time. We made a list of about ten items that we thought we could find, but too easily. As my kids are older, we all went our seperate ways, each armed with a list and a baggie to collect our items. It was great fun to see even the teenager get in on the hunt. We allowed thirty minutes for the hunt, then met back at our camp site to compare our findings.

You can create a scavenger hunt to fit just about any locale you find yourself in. Even if you are stuck in an airport, or waiting in a doctor's office. You don't necessarily have to make your list items that you can tangibly collect. You could look for items in your surrounding (for example, someone in a green shirt, a comic from a magazine, a seeing eye dog, etc) or you could make it for items that might be in your purse or bag. Be creative. This is always a fun way to pass some time together.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Make Ice Cream in a Baggie

This is a fun project we did last weekend. It was easy and had a great payoff!

You really can make ice cream using a few ingredients and a couple of plastic zip baggies.

Start by mixing 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cream, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a zip lock quart sized baggie. Seal it well. In a gallon sized baggie, place 2-4 cups of ice and a cup or so of rock salt. Place the quart baggie inside the gallon baggie and seal well. Squish and sqeeze the ingredients for about 15 minutes until you have thick, creamy ice cream. It is a good idea to use a towel around the baggie as it gets very cold, actually cold enough to damage the skin.

This is a great activity and can even be used as a science lesson.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

drugs

There are so many important things to share with our kids. It seems as if family nights are a great opportunity to do so. You can talk with them while doing other activites, or you can hold a family meeting designed for specific conversations. Both ways work at times, and both are probably needed at various intervals in your family's life.

One of the biggest concerns many parents have is drugs and drug usage by their children, especially as they near the teen and college years. This can be a big topic to cover, and seems best done so in many small conversations, as well as in a family meeting setting.

The discussion can range from drug usage to drug rehab and everything in between. Sometimes it is important for kids to know that outside help is available if they or their friends get into serious trouble. There are toll free hotlines that are geared to helping folks find solutions.

If you and your family are already in need of drug rehab treatment, some of the best options are the drug free rehab centers. The toll free hotlines can be a great resource.

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surfing the net, getting free stuf

If your family is like many others in this day and age, all the kids want to do is surf the 'Net. So why not incorporate something they really want to do with your family night activities. I am sure they would be thrilled and would be able to show you a thing or two in the process!

One really great site is The Free Site . They have a special page for free stuff for families. This could be a fun way for the family to spend some time together and maybe even benefit in the process!

My thanks go out to Sapheyerblu for pointing me to this free stuff for families site!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

bird watching with bird binoculars

A great spring time family activity is bird watching. As more and more birds are out enjoying the warm weather, so are many families. I have noticed several cardinals, mocking birds, even a few robins.

As we were camping over the weekend, we noticed many bird viewing areas and bird blinds. It would have been perfect if we would have had a pair of bird binoculars with us.

There is a bird park near our house as well. With a good pair of binoculars, we would be able to enjoy all that park has to offer. Choosing the right pair of binoculars is important to serious bird watchers. There are many to choose from. You can get a good pair for just under $300. There are even more affordable compact binoculars for $80. These excellent quality binoculars will really enhance your bird watching ability, making colors brighter and your view sharper.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

camping

You may not think that camping is worth it for just one night. Last year for my daughter's birthday, we did camp out for just one night. It turned out to be fine. We rented a screened shelter at a state park. We ate simple foods like frito pie and sandwiches, and yes of course, s'mores. It is fairly affordable if you camp this way and less work than setting up a tent. You can then enjoy the park for the better part of the day. Nature trails, hiking, cycling, boating, fishing, star gazing at night. Whatever way you can find to spend time relaxing with your family is going to make it a great campout! (And don't forget the s'mores!)

Dating

Families with older children in the teen years or just entering their teen years, may find family night a good time to sit down with these young adults and talk about dating.

If your children have not started dating yet, it is the perfect time to share with your child, and allow your child to share with you, just what the expectations and anticipations are. You can use this time to share your values and desires for your child. Your child can let you in on what s/he is looking forward to in dating.

If your child has already begun dating, it is still good to keep the lines of communication open in this area. One area very important to consider with today's teens is the area of online dating services. Most of us did not grow up with that as a concern. But in today's world, it is a common scene.

Be sure and let your children know what you expect of them and the advantages and disadvantages of meeting potential dates in various places, including internet sites. This could be an important way to share family night with your kids.



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Nature Walk

Taking a nature walk as a family is a wonderful outdoor activity. Doing a walk in the evening allows everyone to hike a little easier, as the air is cooler. With the late spring sunlight lasting a little longer, this makes a great family activity.

You may not think you have any hiking or nature trails in your area, but check for local, state and nearby national parks. They usually have some type of hiking or nature trail. If you cannot find a nature trail, try to find a park or some public place you can take a walk. This can be by a stream, or ditch, beach, a path or any other natural surrounding. Just be sure you are not trespassing.

Focus on the natural surroundings around you. Feel the breeze, the temperature differences in the light and shadows, look and listen for animals. Notice the different types of plants.

Nature walks are a geat way for families with children of all ages to spend time together.

paintball

Paint Ball can be a great family night activity. Although I have never played paintball, I know that my family would love it. My husband has taken some kids from church, and they do get into it! They wear their camouflage clothing and really use all the tactics they can muster to sneak up on each other. It sounds like a game that families with older children and teens could really have a great time playing together.

If your family gets really into paint ball, there is a great online store to get all your paint ball gear. They have everything your family will need for a great game of paintball. Everything from paintball guns, paintball masks, paintball markers and tanks, all of your paintball supplies at one stop shopping. You can find all the top selling guns, including the Spyder Pilot ACS, the Tippmann A-5, Tippmann 98 Custom and the Smart Parts Ion. They have competitive prices and FREE UPS shipping on orders over $200.

If your family wants to play paintball, you gotta head to the Ultimate Paintball shop.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hearts

Hearts is a card game for families with older children. It involves playing to catch tricks, but to catch no hearts or the queen of spades. The variation that makes this game even more tricky, is that if you can catch ALL of the hearts AND the queen of spades, you win that hand. In this game you are trying to avoid points. In hands where one player catches all the heart as well as the queen of spades, everyone else gets points and s/he gets none.

You can find rules to Hearts online .

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Free Ice Cream At Ben and Jerry's

Tonight is Ben & Jerry's night! Today, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Stores are offering a single serve of their ice cream for free. They will happily accept donations of course! Nothing better for a family night treat than ice cream, and free cones make it all the more sweet! Maybe we'll see you there!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Merry Widow

Merry Widow is a variation on spades, played with three people. This game is ideal for families with three people or when other family members are gone. In this game you deal out four hands, the first hand being the widow's partner's hand. This hand is untouched to begin with. The player to the right of the dealer has first choice to either keep the hand s/he was dealt, or trade it for the open hand. Each player gets the chance to do this regardless if the hand has already been traded. Scoring is also done a little differently than traditional spades. You must catch three tricks to break even. Other than that, play proceeds as in a regular game of spades.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Spades

We taught our youngest to play spades this past year. It is a good card game, but does require four people to play. There are many variations on this game, though many people play some variation of this card game. Rules can be found online . It is good for families with older children, who can listen to the rules, which can be a little confusing when first learning. It does take some patience while the kids are learning, but it's a great way to spend a family night. When traveling it's easy to strike up a game anytime you have to wait. And when the kids go off to college, it's a great card game to get up with friends, often a little more safe than those college poker games!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Uno

Uno is a great all around family card game. It is available at almost any store. It is simple to learn and play. Many people can play this game, so it is suitable for small, medium or large families.

The directions are enclosed in the box. You simply follow the number or color or word directions on the cards. Even the youngest members of the family can play with a bit of help.

This game does allow for many variations on the basic game. This can add more fun and allows the game to never get boring. Be prepared when playing with other people, that they may or may not follow the traditional rules or may use one of the variations.

Uno is a great family night card game.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Go Fish

Go Fish is one of the first card games we taught our kids. If your kids are still small, this is a great first card game to play together. The rules are fairly simple and it helps them learn the concepts of pairs and like groups.

Deal everyone seven cards. Each player takes a turn asking any other player for a card that matches any card in his/her hand. If you get the requested card, you get to keep asking, either for that card or any other that matches something in the hand. Once you do not get the requested card the person from whom you requested it says "go fish". The requester then draws one card from the stack of cards left in the middle. If he/she draws the requested card, the turn continues. If not, then the next player follows the same pattern.

Once you get all four of a like card (all four 5's, or all four Kings) you have completed a book. As there are no more cards in this book, you then lay all four down together. Once all cards have been played out, count up your books. The player with the most books wins.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Card Games

Our family has always enjoyed playing different card games together. When the kids were small we would play games like "Go Fish" or "Crazy Eights". Even young children can learn these games. And they love to feel big playing big kid games.

There are so many card games that can be learned as the kids get older as well. I have even taught my kids different variations on Solitaire. That way, when family night is over, they can still have fun playing cards, even if no one else is available to play.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Putt Putt

We took the family to Putt Putt at the kid's request. It is good to accomodate the kids' request when feasible, as it ensures they will have an enjoyable experience. We played a round of golf. We all had a good time putting around. Then we went indoors to the fun house where the kids had a good time sending Mom down a dark hall that has a point that "explodes" when it detects your motion. They said the highlight of the night was Mom letting out a scream! :)

After looking in the funhouse mirrors and at the optical illusions, we cashed in some previously won coupons for game tokens. The kids each bought 20 tokens for $3. We spent the rest of the time watching them play games and win tickets. Afterwards, the tickets were used to "buy" handfuls of candy.

You can check your local Putt Putt for daily specials.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

When Traveling

Sometimes when traveling, family nights may seem unnecessary because you are all together during the travel time. But sometimes, just spending a little while hanging out can help furthur build the bonds of family. It may be an organinzed game of cards, or enjoying a TV program together, or talking about the lastest sports, maybe even playing a car game while in transit. These things help keep the family bonded, and help pass the time, while traveling. One of the best things you can remember to do together as a family while traveling together-laugh!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Important Decisions

Family nights can include things other than just fun and games. Sometimes mom and dad have important decisions to make that involve family plans, but do not necessarily involve the younger members.

Perhaps one family night, after the fun is over and the kids are in bed, mom and dad can spend a bit of time in finding the information they need to make some of these important decisions.

Getting the info for things like life insurance and mortagages is never fun, but if you can spend time together finding the fit that is right for your family, it just may make the job a little easier and more pleasant.

Financial One offers a place for one stop shopping for life insurance, annuities and mortgages . You simply fill out the short form and they will get back with you with quotes from over 140 companies. This means they will do all the shopping for you, leaving you with more time to spend with your family.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Theater

A great family night out is attending a performance at a local theater together. You can often find performances at middle schools, high schools, colleges and local theater groups. Right now, many schools are putting on their spring shows.

Going to the theater is a great experience for everyone. It is fun, and is different than watching a movie. There are many great shows, from old classics to musicals, to practically unheard of stories.

The theater is a place where magic can come alive. Take your family out to a play and see the magic for yourself.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Looking at Old Pictures

Looking at old pictures together can make for a unique family night experience. Everyone loves to look at old photos. These can bring back such fond family memories. You can share stories with the kids that they may have forgotten, or maybe even ones they haven't heard before. Tell them about your wedding, about when they were born, or about a favorite vacation.

Get out even older pictures, of grandparents and great-grandparents and strengthen the extended family bonds. Share your memories of these older folks, from whom you have gained much. See if there are any family resembleances.

You could even expound on this idea to put together a family photo album or scrap book. Kids love pictures, and it is a great way to build the family bond together.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Trivia Games

One of my favorites growing up, and even today, is trivia games. Not that I am good at it, but it is fun to play, remember, and learn some things as you go. Trivia games can bring just those concepts to family night as well.

There are many trivia games to choose from these days. You can get anything from general knowledge, to TV or movies, to Disney, or even Star Wars.

Trivia games are good for having fun together and learning new things. When including younger children, it is a good idea to have teams, so that the younger ones won't lose just for the fact they have less experience in this world and less time to have learned these things.

One of the best trivia games we have found for playing with all ages in is a new one we got at Christmas. It is the Game of Knowledge , which features certain questions for ages 10-16, while the older folks answer a completely different question. This helps level the playing field, so all have a chance to answer things they know about and have experienced.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cranium

If your family enjoys board games, one of the best around our house is Cranium. This game will get you thinking about things you have learned in the past. This game will allow you to use different venues to answer the questions. If you are a great drawer, but not a great trivia buff, you can still have a chance in a game like Cranium. You will be asked to stretch yourself in some areas, and excel in others. This game is the ultimate combination of trivia, Pictionary, Charades and sculpting. It is great fun for the whole family.

The folks at Cranium have been sure not to leave out family members who may be too young for the Cranium game. They have developed Cranium Cadoo for the younger set. This is also a really great game for families of younger children. It incorporates the same things that Cranium does, but on a younger level so the kiddos have a chance too!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Make Your Very Own Digital Slide Show

It may sometimes be tough to get pre-teens and teens excited about family night, but here is a great new opportunity to get your kids excited about your next family night activity.

There is a new website that allows you to create your very own personalized, digital slide show . It allows you to choose pictures that you have downloaded to your PC to create your own slide show. They provide the video player along with the wizard to make it simple to use.

You can even add music to your slide show ! They provide quite an array of music which already has the rights available to use legally on your slide show. You can add music from many different genres and eras. You can choose holiday music, children’s music, Americana, Rock/Pop, and much more. They have songs from the ‘40’s to the ‘80’s.

Once you have your video ready, you can email it to friends and you can embed the finished video into your blog or MySpace!

You and your family must check out fliptrack for you next family night activity. This one the big kids will love!!


Monday, February 19, 2007

Yahtzee

Yahtzee is a fun dice game that the whole family can enjoy. It is very simple to learn and is a game of chance, which is good when you are playing with varied age levels. It may be a little difficult for the youngest in your family to learn what special rolls are, such as a full house or a straight, but with a little practice and patient explanation, they will soon learn just what it takes to win these special rolls. Yahtzee can provide hours of family night fun for all!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Parcheesi

Parcheesi is apparantly a very old game, supposedly originating in India in 500 BC. But this has long been one of our family's favorite games. It was the first game after Candy Land that our kids learned to play. We could easily spend hours when the kids were little playing this game. It is not too complicated to learn. Though it can get time consuming, it is a good game for all ages to play together. The youngest players may need help with counting their moves, or with remembering when it is their turn! But Parcheesi is so simple to learn that I think kids younger than eight can learn it even though that is the recommended age by the manufacturer.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Apples to Apples

Games are always a great way to celebrate family night. We have played many games over the years, but just recently got a new one that I'd like to share. The game Apples to Apples is a very simple card/matching game. Each card has an item (an event, an object, a person, etc) written on it. Each player gets 5-7 of these cards (depending on how your family chooses to play.) Another set of cards has adjectives written on them. The "judge" for the round turns up an adjective card and each of the other players turns in a card which best matches. It can be an obvious match or a more sublte match. The judge reveals the answers and everyone then has a chance to persuade the judge why his/her answer is best. This can be fun! The judge then decides and awards the adjective card to the winner. Play passes around with each person taking a turn to be judge.

It doesn't take long to learn this game and can be a bushel of fun!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Family Meetings

Have you got things you'd like to discuss with your family? Family night is a great time to call a family meeting. You can discuss anything from family rules and changes to next week's dinner menu. Family meetings are an especially good time to talk about things that need changing in the family. If you are having difficulties with rules or another person, this is a great opportunity to air those grievances. This is a time when emotions are not running so high and others can help mediate the problem at hand, offering solutions at the same time.

Family meetings are also a great time for the kids to bring up requests for rule changes. It is best if the child has given their idea some thought and approach the situation with calmness and maturity (same goes for parents!) :) This is a good time for parents to give real attention to what the child is requesting, as well as having emotions under control.

Family meetings can be a good time to dole out chores, plan menus and take care of scheduling issues for the upcoming days. These are things that help a family run smoothly but can often get taken care of "on the run". By planning ahead, the family can get a littel relief in the midst of the storm of everyday life.

Family meetings can be a great help to families. Using family night to hold family meetings from time to time can be a true benefit to everyone in the family.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

letterboxing

There is a modern day treasure hunt that families can participate in. In this treasure hunt, you are searching for hidden goods, but the treasure is a stamp that has been previously hidden. You can log onto letterboxing.org for the clues as to where many letterboxes have been hidden. It is surprising how many secret treasures have been hidden throughout the U.S. Many are in local or state parks. Perhaps even one near you! So log onto the site, grab the clues, get a stamper, ink and note pad for your family and begin your modern day treasure hunt!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Video Game Night

The main goal of family night is to draw the family together and have them do something together that everyone can enjoy. Of course, with teens in the house, one option that comes up repeatedly is video games. There are many video games that can be played on game systems as well as those online, for those who do not own a game system.

There are many sites that offer online games. Many are oriented to children and/or teens. These could be made into a family video game tournament. Kids would get a kick out of seeing mom and dad play video games (beating mom and dad!), and mom and dad would get a kick out of remembering the good old days when they played early versions of video games.

One thing to be careful of when getting invovled in online games is making sure you do not visit sites that call for fees for joining (unless of course it would be worth it for your family.) But more importantly, there are many sites like this that are gambling sites. They are located outside the US. You can play one on one or even in tournaments. But sites like these do not allow anyone under eighteen to be a member, so it really would defeat the purpose of family night, unless your kids like to watch you play online games.

When choosing video games to play together as a family, it seems most conducive to choose games that span a wide age range and would provide interaction between all family members.

If you find your teen getting involved in online gambling, it might be time to pull the plug on family night video games-especially those found online.