Tag Archives: Fun

On Ideas for Winter Fun

Those of us in the northern hemisphere find ourselves right in the middle of winter. In case the winter is getting to any members of our community, we thought perhaps this might be a good time to offer some ideas for winter family fun. Several years ago we gathered some ideas to that end, and shared them here: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/on-winter-fun-and-learning/. If you have not yet read that and gleaned from the fun activities therein, you may want to check it out!

Because we are constantly seeking additional resources for those in our community, several additional winter-fun related ideas have come to our attention, and will share them below. May they inspire your family to have a fun time (or many of them) together, regardless of the weather!

What fun things does your family do together during the winter?


Families with young children may enjoy creating these yarn-sewn snowflake-printed plates (first link). The second link suggests a way for families with older children to create a similar (but more complex) project on plain paper plates. https://iheartcraftythings.com/paper-plate-snowflake-yarn-art.html



Families with toddlers will find a variety of winter craft and activity ideas here:



Families will find seven fun winter-related activities (links for directions included) in this blog post. Author Mireille Mishriky also includes suggestions of related Bible stories if you want to tie in a family scripture discussion. https://www.mireillemishriky.com/indoor-family-activities-to-beat-the-winter-blues-with-biblical-references/


Recycle a few paper or styrofoam cups to make “snowmen” faces, then grab some sock balls (or fake snowballs) to play this indoor game! https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/12/snowman-slam-game-for-kids.html


Find fourteen different winter craft ideas here. We especially liked the sparkly snow paint recipe, and the egg carton penguins are adorable. “Snow” much fun!



If your winter is snowless, but you’d enjoy the fun of playing in snow, consider these ways to make “snow” to play with indoors:
Here’s a recipe with shaving cream and baking soda: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2015/02/foaming-snow-recipe.html

This one is made with hair conditioner and baking soda: http://mommasfunworld.blogspot.com/2013/01/fake-sensory-snow-that-feels-real.html

And here’s one made with cornstarch and lotion: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/11/snow-dough-recipe-for-play.html


If you have a lot of fresh snow, you may want to make this “snow candy” by boiling down maple syrup and pouring it on a pan of fresh snow! https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2018/01/snow-candy-for-kids.html (For a literary extension, you may want to do this after reading about it in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book “Little House in the Big Woods”.)


Paint some of the snow outside of your house with the help of a few varied koolaid packets, some water, and a handful of squirt bottles as described here: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/02/kool-aid-snow-paint.html


Recycled cups, parts of balloons, and a few cotton balls become super fun “snowball shooters” here: https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/12/snow-shooters.html


Here are a host of family-fun ideas that can be done outside in the snow. Our favorites include “pin the smile on the snowman” (using chocolate cookie “coal” for the smile pieces); hunting for brightly-colored ice cubes (frozen ahead of time and hidden around the yard); and using beach toys for tubing. Find these ideas and more here: https://www.parents.com/fun/activities/outdoor/snow-activities-kids/


On Family Fun Ideas for Summer

We in the northern hemisphere are right in the middle of summer. For many of us parents, this means that we have more time and/or a different schedule with our children. There are so many ways to spend that additional time! We have gathered some ideas that can be tucked away if and/or when you would like to offer your children an idea of something to do.

If you already have ideas and plans with your children, that is awesome! You will not need these ideas! If you would like to add to your list of “things we may want to do”, perhaps something here will be of help to you. Check them out as you have time and energy.

Either way, God bless you and your family as you enjoy the summer time together!


Here are the ideas that we found. What ideas do you have to share with the community? Please comment with your own fun family activities!


Before you get bogged down by too many ideas and the feeling that you must have every day scheduled for your children’s summer vacation, treat yourself (and your family, by applying your learnings) to this podcast. You will find that is an hour well invested: https://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hmhs/summertime_parenting

The title may make this seem as though it is just for “littles”, but the myriad of kitchen-ingredient doughs could be fun for any aged child! https://team-cartwright.com/taste-safe-sensory-play/


Here are fun ideas for your own backyard that will challenge your children to play and exercise: https://www.funlovingfamilies.com/diy-backyard-play-areas/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=280897172_7438592_258321


If your children are the crafty sort, you may want to take a look at these beautiful things that they can make with items found in nature: https://www.howweelearn.com/breathtaking-nature-crafts-for-kids/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=723694014_29094136_80903


Here’s a compilation of cool and clever ideas for summer fun! https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/72221/cool-activity-ideas-summer/


If you have a beach ball or two, you’re all set for these fun games: https://www.birthdaypartyideas4kids.com/beach-ball-games.html


From games to art, here’s a fabulous, screen-free collection of ideas of things kids can do: https://selfsufficientkids.com/screen-free-kids-activities/


Here are some gender-specific idea collections. (We recommend that you look through both, though, because children like to try all sorts of activies, and the fun is not gender-specific!) https://www.moritzfinedesigns.com/25-summer-activities-for-boys/ and https://www.moritzfinedesigns.com/25-summer-activities-for-girls/


Check out these fun science experiments! https://lemonlimeadventures.com/must-try-summer-science-activities-for-kids/


Turn your backyard into a play space – or a gameboard! Check out these fun ideas: https://www.diyncrafts.com/17772/home/35-ridiculously-fun-diy-backyard-games-borderline-genius


Giant painted “mural”, anyone? Waffle cone s’mores? Ice cube stacking? Here’s a large collection of  fun summer ideas! https://mothersniche.com/60-days-of-cheap-summer-fun/


For the artists among us (or those who are willing to inspire their children to explore art) there’s this: https://www.artbarblog.com/58-summer-art-camp-ideas/


These family fun ideas are all wet: https://whatmomslove.com/kids/best-outdoor-water-activities-to-keep-kids-cool-summer/



On Planning Ahead and Enjoying Christmas Vacation

“…and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

Is it just me, or is anyone else grated the wrong way by this line of this popular Christmas tune? When my children were younger, I always eagerly anticipated the days of Christmas break. Whether it was a year that the children were attending school or we were homeschooling, those days were precious and full of fun! Even then, I’d mentally change the lyrics whenever I heard this song to something more like, “and Mom and Dad can easily wait for school to start again…” and then I’d think about all the fun and relaxing things we’d do together over the break, while also feeling a little sad for kids and parents in households where the original lyrics stood as truth.

If your household is an “original lyrics” type household that wants to change your tune a bit, maybe some of the ideas in this post will help! We’ve gathered a variety of ideas of things you can do to prepare for the upcoming Christmas vacation, as well as suggestions of activities to do together during the break. Some of them are tried-and-true activities that were enjoyable and left happy memories in their wake. Others are new ideas that look like they would be fun to do. Look through the list for yourself, and see if any of these resonate with your family and the memories you would like to make together, then plan accordingly!

A word to the wise: do not plan to do all of these ideas this year. Even if you like them all, just don’t do that (see #5 below). Tuck some of them into your back pocket for upcoming years! Then relax, and enjoy your Christmas vacation together!

A few ideas for family fun on Christmas vacation:

  1. Before vacation begins, work together to create some gifts for neighbors. Deliver them on Christmas Eve.
  2. Also before vacation, bake cookies together and freeze them for when the Nativity Fast is over. They will still taste fresh, and you’ll have all the baking finished so you can enjoy the break (and the cookies)!
  3. Before you arrive at the break, plan your menu for the break time, or at least purchase and/or prepare (and freeze) food for that time, so you have minimal food prep during the break.
  4. If your clan enjoys cooking, before vacation plan a meal to make together during the break. Double check to be sure that you have all of the ingredients on hand.
  5. Less is more. Truly. Plan less to do during the vacation than you think is possible to stand, and allow yourselves time to lollygag, to invent, to play, to be BORED. (Out of boredom comes a surge of resourcefulness and creativity, but that’s a discussion for another time.) If your family’s school(ing) schedule is anything like ours was, your brains need this downtime desperately. Take it. (Remember, save some of these ideas for future years. Except this one. This one should happen every Christmas vacation.)
  6. Stock up on library books to read together (and individually) during the break. Block out time during the break to read!
  7. Consider spending one day of break as a movie marathon. (Successful movie marathons have included “Star Wars”, “Night at the Museum”, “Back to the Future”, or “National Treasure” movies, shown in sequence. With popcorn, of course!)
  8. Set up a tent in your living room and “camp out” (or camp IN?!?) for a day. (This idea is for us northern folks. Those of you further south can actually camp out if it’s warm enough!)
  9. Keep plenty of games and puzzles on hand to play and enjoy together.
  10. Get some fresh air. Play in a playground. Go hiking. Find a nearby park that you haven’t been to in a while (or ever), pack a snack (or a picnic, if it’s warm enough!), and spend a chunk of a day outdoors. Rinse and repeat if everyone enjoys it!
  11. Plan a day trip. What is near enough to your home that you can spend the day adventuring there, and still be home by bedtime? Vacation in that place for a day. Or spend a “heritage day” with a set of the grandparents, traveling around in their home stomping grounds and hearing their stories. Or look up all of the touristy things there are to do in your home area and spend a day playing tourist in your own town.
  12. With quite a bit of forethought, plan a traveling vacation together, but don’t tell the kids. It’s really fun to give them the gift of a promise to travel on Christmas Day, and then leave the next day to make memories together in another place! One year, our family was able to visit Canada in this way. Our kids’ final gift on Christmas day was a giant gift bag with wrapped gifts inside which included their passports, snacks, some “things to do in the car”, etc., before the final gift (at the bottom of the bag) which revealed where we were going. We enjoyed the days abroad together and had so much fun that we ended up extending our trip and staying an extra day!

As your family approaches this Christmas vacation, prepare to enjoy it! We hope that you will enjoy the whole process: the planning, the anticipation, and also the Christmas vacation itself. We hope that you will find yourself wishing, too, that it will be a gloriously long time “…‘till school will start again!”

Here are a few links that can add to the ideas we’ve shared above. What ideas do you have (tested or not) to share with others in the community? Please share them below!


Need some ideas of things to give to your neighbors? Check these out:




Here are some ideas for cookie recipes, in case you want to try any new ones:





Need a family cooking night idea? What about this:




Want to have some creativity boosters for the down time you’re planning at home? Print a folder of these before break, and place them where they can be discovered: https://artfulparent.com/16-printable-art-activities-for-kids/



Why it’s great to leave down time in your Christmas break:




Fresh new books you may want to read during Christmas break, recommended by the American Library Association: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists/ncb


Movie marathon ideas:

(This article is old, but the ideas still stand!) http://www.essentialkids.com.au/entertainment/movies/best-themed-movie-marathon-ideas-for-kids-20140717-3c2tb


Indoor camping ideas for your Christmas camp-in can be found here: https://mommypoppins.com/kids/down-time-have-a-living-room-camp-out


Need ideas of new family games to play during vacation? Here are a few: http://redtri.com/new-card-and-board-games/


On Ideas for Summer Family Fun

In the northern hemisphere, it’s summer time! For many families, this means a break from our usual school year schedule. We want to provide our children with plenty of time to regroup and rest after the intensity of their studies, because they have worked very hard. We want them to learn to have some unstructured time – and perhaps even a little taste of boredom – to give them the opportunity to invent and play their own games. But we also want them to continue learning, although perhaps in a different way than they are learning during the school year. And in the midst of all of of that, we want to make fun memories together as a family.

To these ends, here is a small gathering of fun activities, learning opportunities, and ways to make this summer a little more fun. Try one or all of them, if you are so inclined! Tuck your favorite ideas into your back pocket if you’ve already got a good handle on your summer. It could be that one or more of them will come in handy at the last minute!

Regardless of how we spend the summer, may we enjoy the change in schedule and savor the additional time to be together!

Summer is already partly spent, so you may already have a routine that works for your family. But if not, or if you want to switch things up a bit, here’s a clever way to do something fun together each day of the week during summer vacation: http://citrusandstripes.com/summer-break-schedule/


Need ideas for preschoolers? How about some of these? https://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2014/05/50-summer-activities-for-3-year-olds.html#_a5y_p=1729695


This page offers 30 educational, creative, and budget-friendly (not to mention fun) ideas of summer-y things to do with kids! https://prettyprovidence.com/summer-activities/


Got water balloons? Here’s a post that offers a pile of ways to use them (besides the usual!): http://www.agirlandagluegun.com/2013/07/water-balloon-summer-fun-roundup.html


Hot day? No problem, if you have a few squirt guns and a couple of recycled plastic cups!



If your summer is hotter than usual, this may help: here are 25 water games to play with kids! https://itsalwaysautumn.com/water-games.html


Here are a fun list of unplugged activities for tweens!



Want to actually enjoy crafting with your kids? Check out these awesome ideas:



This article lists 100 (!) inexpensive ideas to do with kids during the summer:



Here are some ideas of ways to help your children learn more from the Scriptures this summer! Although the blogger is not Orthodox, many of these ideas can be used to help Orthodox kids (and parents) grow together in the Faith! https://thepurposefulmom.com/2016/06/summer-bible-study-plans-ideas-kids.html

When everyone just needs to go outside for a while, consider one of these fun activities:



Road trips with lego fans just got a lot more fun! Check out these suggested ideas that can be pulled together quickly before your trip: https://mamainthenow.com/lego-road-trip-activities/


Here’s a great list of fun summer activities for teens: https://mykidstime.com/things-to-do/50-fun-activities-for-teens-to-do-in-the-summer/


On Winter Fun and Learning

It is winter in the northern hemisphere. At least for some of us, that means it is very cold outside! In an effort to lift our chilled spirits, we have done some research and found a few websites that we hope will be helpful to the community. Keep reading to find some links that offer ideas for winter fun with the family and others that will help us to learn more about snowy weather. We also are including a few ideas of ways that snow can challenge us spiritually (beyond the inevitable plea, “Lord, help me survive being cooped up with all of these family members!”). May this winter be a memorable one, as we parents embrace the season and help our family to enjoy our time together; to continue to learn about the world in which we live; and to further our growth in the Kingdom of Heaven!


Opportunities for winter learning: Learn how snowflakes form. With younger children, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M48RfaWcWA. With older children, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOfkukhb1Os.


Opportunities for winter learning: There are so many winter/snow/ice-related science experiments at these websites! Pick one or more and explore it together! http://lemonlimeadventures.com/must-try-winter-science-experiments-for-kids/ (Many of these do not require actual snow.)

https://igamemom.com/fun-snow-science-for-kids/ (These require snow.)

https://igamemom.com/winter-science-activities-for-kids/ (200 winter science activities for those of us whose children really love science!)


Opportunities for winter learning: Inflate a plastic zipper bag “snowman face” using only snow/finely chopped ice and alka seltzer tablets! https://sciencekiddo.com/snow-science/ offers directions, and also explains why it inflates, so you can guide the discussion of “why does it do that?”


Opportunities for winter learning: looking for wintry books to read together? (As always, we recommend that you read these before sharing them with your children, so that you can screen them according to what will be helpful to your family.)

Here are some snow-themed picture books: http://paulaspreschoolandkindergarten.blogspot.com/2017/01/12-awesome-books-about-snow.html

Here you’ll find a few wintry chapter book suggestions: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/winter-chapter-books/


Opportunities for winter games: these sites offer ideas of snowy games to play outdoors: https://www.familyeducation.com/fun/outdoor-activities/top-10-wintertime-neighborhood-games




Opportunities for winter games: If the weather is too cold or there’s too much precipitation to play outside, consider trying one (or five) of these fun indoor activities. https://www.momooze.com/indoor-activities-winter/


Opportunities for winter games: Create your own indoor snowballs to use for snowball fights or other indoor snowball games.
Wads of white tissue paper make great indoor “snowballs.”

Grab fuzzy white yarn, golf practice balls, and a crochet hook to wrap some realistic “snowballs.” (see http://www.sewcando.com/2014/12/tutorial-time-make-indoor-snowball.html)

Create pompom “snowballs” from thick white yarn: http://aparentingproduction.com/2016/01/craft-for-kids-diy-indoor-snowballs.html

Once you have a stash of indoor snowballs, use them to play some fun games. Here are a few suggestions: https://confidencemeetsparenting.com/indoor-snowball-activities/


Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: Find a huge variety here: http://www.kidactivities.net/category/Seasonal-Winter-ArtsCrafts.aspx


Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: Create your own squishable, buildable “snow” to play with indoors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZbjrYcNpPs


Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: If you don’t have snow, or just want to decorate with a snowy flair, here are templates for pretty paper snowflakes cut from folded paper: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/how-to-make-paper-snowflakes/



Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: Create some sock snowmen for decoration or for play: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/no-sew-sock-snowman-craft/

Or build this ping-pong-ball “snowman” that doubles as a nightlight: http://www.willowday.net/2017/12/snowman-nightlight-ornament/


Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: Remember “pet rocks?” Here’s a wintry take on that: create your own “pet snowball” as suggested here: http://thepurplepug.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-snow-bro-tute-pet-snowballs.html


Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: Finger paint some snowmen using your thumb and a smaller finger. When the paint is dry, draw on the facial features, stick arms, hats, etc. Challenge your family with these questions: How many of funny snowmen can you create? 


Opportunities for winter arts/crafts: Invite friends over for a snowman party just for fun, using some of the food and craft ideas here: https://happyhooligans.ca/25-snowman-crafts-activities-treats/


Opportunities for wintertime faith-expansion:

This blogger invites parents to make a snowflake cross to remind them to find Christ in the midst of the “snow storms” of life, especially in the context of parenting!



Opportunities for wintertime faith-expansion: If wintertime gets you down, ponder these words from St. Ambrose of Optina: “In nature we see that there are not always pleasant springs and fruitful summers, and sometimes autumn is rainy and winter cold and snowy, and there is flooding and wind and storms, and moreover the crops fail and there are famine, troubles, sicknesses and many other misfortunes. All of this is beneficial so that man might learn through prudence, patience and humility. For the most part, in times of plenty he forgets himself, but in times of various sorrows he becomes more attentive to his salvation.” Choose to allow the wintry struggles to remind your soul to be more attentive.


Opportunities for wintertime faith-expansion: Talk together as a family about this verse: “Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). How white IS snow? Most often, it appears to be super white, especially when the sun shines on it. However, in reality, the snow consists of translucent ice crystals, all reflecting the light. Since they reflect all of the light (every color in the light spectrum), they appear to be white. If we live lives of repentance and virtue, as Christians should, our hearts will be clean and our consciences clear. Then we will reflect the Light of Christ, radiating His purity to all. (Read the science behind snow’s “whiteness” here: https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/atmospheric/question524.htm) Talk together about how to live in such a way that Christ can be reflected more fully in your family’s life.


Back-Pocket Ideas for Creative Children

Most families in North America currently have children on break from school. Because of this, we thought it appropriate to share some of the ideas we have found which parents can use to offer creative outlets for their children. The purpose of this blog post is to share ideas which we parents can keep “in our back pocket” in case there is a stretch of empty time when it would be a good idea for our children to be given some creative outlet. Consider the links shared here as starting points: some of them may be right up your child(ren)’s alley, while others may just be enough to spark their own creative ideas.

We recommend that you read through some of the ideas we offer and jot notes about the ideas you think your child(ren) will enjoy on a 3×5 card. You can literally keep it in your back pocket or magnetically fastened to the fridge for when you need ideas! Alternatively, you can scan the links and bookmark the ones you want to show to your children when they need creative activity ideas. You do what works best for your family!

Here are a few “back pocket” ideas to stir creativity that we found (in the order in which we found them). What additional ideas do you have to share with the community?


This mom has gathered art ideas from some of her fellow crafty blogging moms and uses them for “art camp at home.” Check out her list of links to 58 project ideas here: http://www.artbarblog.com/58-summer-art-camp-ideas/


Find drawing lessons here: http://artprojectsforkids.org/category/view-by-theme/drawing-tutorials/


Here is a week’s worth of fun art activities for your own homemade art camp: http://www.schoolingamonkey.com/diy-art-summer-camp/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes


Share an art-related book with your children and respond with a fun art activity. Need ideas? Check out “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” “Let’s Play,” “Mix it Up,” “I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More,” and “The Day the Crayons Quit,” among others. Find a nice list of books and ideas of how to respond artistically here: http://buggyandbuddy.com/activities-based-childrens-books/


Some of these classic summer craft ideas for kids may remind you of your own childhood! http://handsonaswegrow.com/30-summer-crafts-kids-easy/


These art lessons are listed with a suggested age/grade level, in case that would be helpful to you. You don’t need to be an art teacher to find some great projects at your children’s level at this site: https://kinderart.com/art-lessons-by-grade/


Find art styles from different cultures here: http://www.teachkidsart.net/tag/multicultural-art/


Encourage your children’s creativity with this activity: https://www.thebestideasforkids.com/complete-animals-kids-craft-activity/


Do you have a crafter on your hands? Crayola.com offers more than 1600 craft ideas, searchable by age-appropriateness or by category/theme. You can find them here: http://www.crayola.com/crafts/


If you have legos or similar plastic bricks on hand, consider setting up your own “alphabet” so you and your child(ren) can create coded messages for each other. See http://frugalfun4boys.com/2017/06/14/lego-secret-codes/ to read more.


If you read our blog post about working together to raise funds to help meet a need (https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2017/07/05/on-finding-a-way-to-help-even-on-a-limited-budget/), you may have thought of this idea already, but here goes: Consider turning your children’s bountiful creativity (after they have tried their hand at many of these ideas) into an art show or silent auction. Send invitations to friends, family, neighbors, church family, whoever your children know that would enjoy seeing their art (and perhaps purchasing it). On the night of the show/auction, offer the pieces for sale for a donation to the charitable cause for which you are raising funds. Work together before the event to make food to share at the event, and enjoy watching your children interact with their guests while it happens!

On an Intentional Summer Plan

The school year is wrapping up in North America. For many of us with school-aged children, this means our schedules will change because there is no school or we take a break from homeschooling. This is a good time for us to think ahead a bit, so that we are prepared for this change. This season with its different schedule offers us a great opportunity to further nurture our children’s faith, grow their love for family and neighbors, and even sneak in a little learning (shhh!) along the way. We don’t want to pass that up, do we?!?

It is most likely that all of us have great intentions for summer. Unfortunately, intentions alone do not reach goals. Making those intentions bear fruit requires planning and commitment. So, in order to best take advantage of this chance we’re being given, let us make a plan and commit to act on it! Our plan does not have to be grandiose: even a simple plan will help us head in the intended direction and will be very successful if we carry it out.

So, the question is this: what is our goal for this summer? Do we want to nurture our children’s faith? Do we want to help them better love others, building our family relationships and strengthening their friendships outside of the family? Do we want them to keep learning? It is very likely that we would like all of these things to happen! To keep it simple, let us select one area to commit to nurturing this summer. (Of course, we can select as many summer goals as we wish, but it would be better for us to select one and do it well than to try to attain all of them and find ourselves meeting none of them or quitting because we are overwhelmed!)

Once we have selected our intended goal for the summer, let us take a little time to consider how we can make it happen. We should brainstorm specific goals for that area that we are committed to improving, talk with our spouse (and our spiritual father, depending on what the goal is!) about it, research ideas of ways our family can make it happen, etc. Then, let us schedule steps in that direction, and write them into the family’s summer plans. These steps can be specific activities that will help us reach this goal or a simple checkup reminders along the way that are placed in our schedule to keep the goal fresh in our minds throughout the summer. The most important step of this process of attaining our family’s summer goal is this: we must do these things that we’ve planned that will help us reach our goal! At the end of the summer, our family should take a little time – even just a few minutes – to talk about the goal and how we succeeded in pursuing/attaining it this summer. We can review the things we did and learned, and then talk about how to continue applying the learning while still growing in this area as the next school year begins.

Each of us knows what our family needs, and in what ways we all need to grow this summer. It falls to us parents to make a plan and pursue it with our children. May God grant us wisdom, creativity, commitment, growth, and great joy as we press on together as a family to meet our family’s summer goal!

What is your goal for your family this summer? Share it below, and read on for links that you may find helpful as you make your plans!


Our favorite find as we prepared for this post? This list of Orthodox things for kids to do over summer! Find a variety of suggested ideas that can work across many goals, here: http://www.theorthodoxchildrenspress.com/uncategorized/30-orthodox-things-to-do-this-summer/


Our own personal mindset can make or break our work towards the family goal for the summer. Let’s choose to SAVOR this time with our kids, as suggested in this blog post (which also offers some ideas of ways to meet our family’s goal!):



A great way to help nurture our children’s faith is to make it possible for them to attend Church camp. Check out this list to find one in your area if you have not already done so, and then send them to camp! http://orthodoxscouter.blogspot.com/2017/05/how-to-find-orthodox-summer-camps-for.html


“How can we continue on our journey with Christ during the summer months?  Try implementing some of the ideas below and use them for inspiration in finding additional ways to keep your family close to Christ!” Read those ideas here:



One way we can work towards strengthening the relationships in our family by nurturing fun memories is through playing together. Check out the recommendations we offered in this blog if you need some fresh ideas: https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/go-out-and-play-ideas-for-summertime-outdoor-fun/


This blog post is geared towards home schooling parents, but the concept is applicable to everyone, especially if our family summer goal is to better love our neighbors. It offers some ideas of ways to help our children learn how to think beyond themselves and our family and to find ways to bless other people. Read more here: http://thecharactercorner.com/teaching-our-kids-to-be-a-blessing-to-others/


One of the best things we can do with/for our children over summer to help them to keep learning is to read with them! Need ideas? Here are a few suggestions:

Picture books offer art AND a story line. Consider challenging yourselves to read as many of the best picture books as you can, this summer! Here’s the Caldecott list* (the Caldecott Medal is offered by the American Library Association to the “best picture book” written each year): http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecotthonors/caldecottmedal


Historical fiction offers insights into times gone by. Here are one person’s top 45 historical fiction books for middle-years kids: http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/historical-fiction-books-for-kids/


For fantastic stories, look no farther than the Newbery Medal list. The American Library Association awards the John Newbery Medal to the “best chapter book” written each year. Find new favorites (and/or revisit old ones) from this list*: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberyhonors/newberymedal


*In both of these cases, be sure to check out the honor books as well: some years there are many, many amazing books written/illustrated. The “honor” books listed are equally fantastic as the “winners!”


Go Out and Play! Ideas for Summertime Outdoor Fun

It is almost summertime! Families with school-aged children enjoy taking a break from the school routine. However, sometimes even just thinking about summertime feels overwhelming for parents. If you can relate to that, don’t worry! We are here to help! Here are some fun ideas we found that may help you and your children to get outside and enjoy the summer together! We will highlight a few favorites on the links that offer multiple ideas.

When you have a few minutes, visit these sites and scroll through their offerings. Make a list of ideas you like or copy/paste the links into a document for future reference. Or, make a “Summer Fun” jar. To do so, cut strips of paper before you begin looking at all the ideas below. As you look through all these great ideas, take a moment to write each activity that you like on its own strip of paper. When the strip has an idea on it, fold it up and put it in a jar marked “Summer Fun.” When you or your kids need a idea for something to do during the summer, pull out one strip and there you go! (Visit http://sassysites.blogspot.com/2011/07/oh-what-do-you-do-in-summertime.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+SassySites+(Sassy+Sites!) for more ideas of ways to present these ideas to your family.)
Here are a few great idea-finding spots:

Find 50 links for fun activities for both outdoors and inside at this webpage: http://www.iheartnaptime.net/50-of-the-best-kids-summer-fun-activities/. Some favorite ideas found here include directions for making a summer reading teepee, building your own kiddie car wash for bikes (or just kids!), making your own ladder golf game, and ice excavating.

This page lists inexpensive ideas for summer fun: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/29-dollar-store-finds-that-will-keep-your-kids-busy-all-summ. Favorites include directions for a pool noodle sprinkler, kickball croquet, backyard (or beach) Olympics, busy bag ideas for indoor days, and a shower-curtain-liner giant dry-erase sheet!

Whether or not you have a boy, check out the fantastic ideas on this page: http://www.readingconfetti.com/2013/06/50-summer-activities-boys-will-love.html! We especially liked the clothespin catapults, the mini ice boats, and the printable playground scavenger hunt (for visiting new playgrounds)!

Many simple ideas for entertaining children are found at this page: http://teachingmama.org/simple-and-fun-summer-activities-for-kids/. Our blogger remembers “painting” the sidewalk (and the house!) with water when she was a kid – so simple, but it was fun to do! The soap boats are also a clever idea, and kids would have a blast with the pool noodle “water wall,” among other great ideas.

Although this blog was written by a teacher for the last day of school, it contains a variety of fun indoor activities/challenges that kids would enjoy doing at home, as well. http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/our-last-day-in-pictures.html

Here are a bunch of clever outdoor game ideas: http://www.agirlandagluegun.com/2014/05/outdoor-games-to-play-in-summmmmer.html. We especially liked the splash-the-ping-pong-balls-off-of-the-golf-tees challenge, the put-on-a-frozen-tshirt race, the squirt-gun powered matchbox car racing, and the car-wash-sponge-on-a-paint-stick balloon boppers. What fun!

Find directions to create an obstacle course featuring pool noodles for your backyard, here: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2012/05/pool-noodle-backyard-obstacle-course.html

For particularly curious and/or science minded kids, http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/50127/fun-science-activities offers ideas from creating a marble run (to learn laws of physics) to building a paper bridge (and testing its strength with penny weights) to experimenting with the chemistry that happens in your kitchen!

Find a pile of minute-to-win-it challenges for people of a variety of ages to try, at http://lets-get-together.com/2014/05/16/family-reunion-minute-to-win-it/.

Hot day? Need some fun ways to cool off with a group of children? Check out these watery games! http://thestir.cafemom.com/big_kid/156164/8_awesome_water_games_for. Ideas include using water balloons instead of balls to toss around on a parachute (or a sheet) and playing “Dry, Dry, Wet” (“Duck, Duck, Goose” with a wet sponge). Find

more really fun water games (ie batting practice with water balloons) here: http://www.tipjunkie.com/post/water-games/!

Plan an outdoor movie night a la http://www.thesitsgirls.com/diy/how-to-host-a-backyard-movie-night/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+thesitsgirls/dIsr+(The+SITS+Girls). Invite the neighbor kids or JOY Club, and have a fun evening together!

Challenge your family to see how many of these 50 “old fashioned” games you can play over the course of the summer! http://www.nannyjobs.org/blog/50-old-fashioned-games-kids-can-play/ The rules are right here for hopscotch, Red Rover, I Spy, HORSE, and so many more!!!

Still need ideas? Check out http://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/the-ultimate-summer-bucket-list-for-bored-kids?sub=2339847_1322475#.ipoVbVrwr, http://workathomemoms.about.com/od/kidsactivitiesfamilyfun/a/ideas-for-kids.htm, or https://www.care.com/a/101-fun-things-to-do-with-kids-this-summer-1305030150!

Note: in case you missed it, here’s another post we once offered, featuring more ideas of things to do with your children in the summertime: https://www.facebook.com/notes/orthodox-christian-parenting/savoring-summer-time-with-our-children/10152169287589702


Here are a few specific activities that sound like fun:

Make sponge “balls,” moisten them, and have a throwing-and-soaking party! http://www.marthastewart.com/265636/sponge-ball

Cut a slice of a pool noodle, cap one end with a balloon, and end up with a pom-pom shooter!!! Great for outdoors OR inside! http://frogsandsnailsandpuppydogtail.com/superhero-pool-noodle-pom-pom-shooter/

Have a family game night with candy “medal” prizes: https://littlehouseonthecircle.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/family-game-night-and-some-free-printables/

Make a yard-sized Yahtzee game with a bucket full of super cool (and supersized!) wooden dice as per these instructions, then play the game on a giant scale in your backyard: http://www.momtastic.com/diy/502461-diy-yard-yahtzee/

Print copies of this photo-based outdoor scavenger hunt, gather several groups of children, and send them out to see what they can spot!  http://creativehomemakers.blogspot.com/2010/07/camping-scavenger-hunt-for-kids.html

Make paper rockets with straws: http://www.whimsy-love.com/2012/06/summer-diary-day-15-paper-rockets.html

Should you be stuck with some rainy days this summer, check out these web sites to keep them learning  and having fun: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/48-summer-websites-kids-teachers-keith-ferrell


On Family Read-Alouds

*Note: these notes/blogs are usually written in third person. This one, however, is personal in nature and therefore is written as a conversation with you, the reader. May the book suggestions bring you and your family at least as much joy as they have brought to mine!


Welcome to my backyard. Have a seat on my bench, and let me read you a story… Oops, maybe I should clear it off first!?! It is covered in dear friends: favorite books that our family has read aloud and loved. Some of them we’ve read more than once. Most of them have been read (and re-read) by my kids after we read them aloud to the family. I’ll tell you what: let me introduce you to them as I move them!


First, I’d like you to meet some of our family’s favorite picture books. From before my children were born, and throughout their childhood, I have read to them with great frequency. Even though both of my kids are teens now, they still enjoy hearing a great story. Once in a while, we even *still* read picture books together. Here is a sampling of our favorites:


It is great fun to learn about other cultures through their stories. I am especially drawn to folktales from those other cultures, so my kids have heard hundreds of folktales. Here are just a few examples of ones we have enjoyed:


Our family loves to laugh. We like the clever use of words in silly poetry. Here are a few of the books we’ve giggled over again and again. Some of them we still quote on a regular basis!


We have always read stories from the scriptures with our children. Books like these have been helpful to bring the stories to the kids’ level, telling them in ways the children were able to understand. Now that the children are teens, we daily read the Epistle and the Gospel as well as a saint’s story from a spiral-bound calendar from http://livesofthesaintscalendar.com/. Here are a sampling of Bible story books we read together when the children were younger:


We have read many Orthodox Christian books together along the way. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, we tend to lend these books out when we finish them… So, favored tomes such as “Facing East” and “The Scent of Holiness” are gracing other homes at the moment and could not be included in this photo. But we do currently have part of our great Orthodox read-aloud material still at home. Here are a few examples:


Probably the best loved of all the “friends” in that first picture are the chapter books. These have been read, re-read, and discussed from the time when our children were little through the present. These are stories, yes, but they also become springboards to discussion. Chapter books provide opportunities to delve into the lives of others and point out what they’ve done right and wrong, without judging another person. They offer the chance to strengthen our children’s faith as together we read about, discuss, and thereby learn from the characters and what happens to them in these books. (And apparently we are not alone! Listen to this podcast about how quality literature led an atheist into the Faith: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/recollectingglory/interview_with_holly_ordway!) Many of the friends pictured here are just one part of a series, all of which we have inhaled and lingered over. Have we loved them? Look at their book covers and decide for yourself:


Aaah! Now we can see the bench!  Have a seat (pardon the sap drops from our pine tree)! I’d like to read you a story.


Which one should we read first?

Below are recommendations of individual books in each category. Which ones have you not yet read? Maybe you can get further ideas here:


Picture books are fun to read aloud, regardless of age. Adults enjoy them as much as kids do. Picture books are short and sweet, but they touch on themes from cause and effect to being yourself to “let’s just do something fun!” Pink and Say is a tender story of how true friends treat each other, regardless of their cultural background. Tacky the Penguin, Chrysanthemum, and A Porcupine Named Fluffy are examples of picture books about being the best you that you can be; even if your very NAME is different from others. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day allows the reader to see how to (or not to?) handle what you do when things go wrong. Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? reassures children of their parents’ love and protection. Guess How Much I Love You? gives parents and children the opportunity to try to outlove each other. The myriad of “just for fun” books simply provide an opportunity for parents and kids to be together and laugh. Reading picture books aloud strengthens vocabulary and allows children to hear language; but best of all, it provides time for family bonding.


Folktales have been used by people of all cultures from the earliest times to explain things, teach history, and/or teach lessons. Folktales provide families with a delightful way to learn via story. For example, The Mitten is based on a Ukrainian folktale with the lesson that there’s always room for one more… maybe. Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is one of a myriad of African/Caribbean stories about Anansi the spider-man and how he always tries to trick people (but does he succeed?!?). A great folk tale will teach the reader about the culture from which the tale comes while also entertaining the reader. Best of all, though, is the fact that folktales always teach a lesson of some sort!


Children’s poetry gives kids the opportunity to listen to and play with language. It also offers fun ways to learn things that kids need to learn. For example: Chicken Soup With Rice offers silly verses for each month of the year. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom includes the letters of the alphabet playing themselves, as main characters in the poem. Where the Sidewalk Ends is a goofy gathering of poetry that is so typical of Shel Silverstein; poems that border on ridiculous, full of clever wording and unsuspected endings. As a whole, cleverly written children’s poetry will expand the listeners’ vocabulary, help them to use their minds to anticipate forthcoming rhymes, and it will often make both the reader and the listeners laugh!


There are many Bible story books available to read aloud. For example, The Little Girls Bible Storybook for Mothers & Daughters (or the one for fathers & daughters; or the little boys’ Bible storybooks for each parent to share with their son) are a sweet way for individual parents to read and discuss Bible stories with their children. Find many other Bible story books at http://www.christianbook.com/page/bibles/childrens-bibles/bibles-storybooks. You could also read some Bible stories together online at  http://theminiark.com/. Or let me read a Bible story to you: listen to this week’s Gospel re-telling or reading, voiced by the author of this week’s note/blog, at http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/letusattend.


The list of wonderful Orthodox Christian children’s books available to be read aloud keeps growing. Chief among them are stories about the saints. For example, Sweet Song, the Story of St. Romanos the Melodist is a beautiful picture book about the saint whose sweet voice was a gift from God one Christmas Eve. Many beautifully illustrated books about more recent saints such as St. Nectarios, St. John Maximovitch, Elder Paisios, and St. Seraphim of Sarov can be found at http://www.stnectariospress.com/st-nectarios-press-publications/. Other wonderful Orthodox read-alouds include the brand new From God To You: the Icon’s Journey to Your Heart, a wonderful read-aloud that helps Orthodox Christians of many different ages to learn about icons. Chapter books that make great Faith-enhancing read-alouds for Orthodox families include Basil’s Search for Miracles, the story of a middle school boy who finds his way to the Church through a series of articles he writes about miracles, for his parochial school’s newspaper. There are many wonderful Orthodox Christian books that families can read aloud together, and the list keeps growing, as Orthodox authors share their talents for God’s glory!


Great chapter books to read aloud as a family include The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Hobbit; and The Book of Three. Each of these books is but the first in a series, features characters on journeys, and has deep spiritual parallels. (Interestingly enough, the authors: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Lloyd Alexander were all friends!) Another chapter book to read aloud is Many Waters, a story in which modern-day twin boys are sent back through time to Noah’s family. Chapter books that exhibit great love among family members include The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Boxcar Children, and Sarah Plain and Tall, to name a few. There are far too many great read-aloud chapter books to list here: these are only a suggested starting place for the family who has not yet read them aloud yet!


As the Nativity season approaches, Orthodox families may want to consider reading aloud books that will help them to prepare for the Nativity. Here are a few Advent/Nativity books that can be helpful to that end:


Happy reading, everyone!