Tag Archives: Fun

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?

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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/

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

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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

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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/

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

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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/

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

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

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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/

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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/

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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!):

https://orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/savoring-summer-time-with-our-children/

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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

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“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:

http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation/takethesummerchallenge

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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/

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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/

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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:

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Happy reading, everyone!