Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with sinus and ear infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.  Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha. 🙂

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, trials, suffering, joy, salvation

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t get an ear infection before complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong? How?

 

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!  Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas. Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas? Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, Jesus, Hope, Salvation

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance. He did it for you, for me, for them. He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun. The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, sisters?  The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us. It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Christ, trials, suffering, hope, joy, peace

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen 🙂

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women

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Tales From the Backseat (and #TheLoft)

Last week we shared our insecurities, and boy were you all brave! This week at #TheLoft we’re lightening things up a little with our real life funny stories.

I’m not sure if the fact that my babies were going off to kindergarten caused me to pay more attention to their words lately or if they have just reached the funny stage of childhood – either way, kids really do say the darndest things and with four in our house, life can be a real hoot at times. 🙂

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On our way home from the park during the last week of summer, our princess was exceptionally and unintentionally funny.  Of course, at first she was just really whiny because the water in her bottle was gone and she was really, really, really thirsty.  So thirsty, that it sounded as if she might not survive….

Trying to console her, I said, “We’re only a few blocks away from the house. It’s not the end of the world.”

She grew quiet for a moment, then muttered to herself “It’s the end of the WORLD??!! …I have to tell S– (big brother)!” I dissolved into silent giggles in the front seat.

Not even two blocks later, she began whining again about something she wanted behind the backseat of the van. (It was the longest few blocks of our life, at that point.)  Her twin brother graciously offered to get it for her, unbuckled his seat belt, and stood up while I was driving!  I quickly pulled to the side of the road and gave him the you-must-have-your-seatbelt-on-or-you-might-die speech.

Moments later we finally pulled into our driveway and princess piped up cheerfully from the back seat, “It’s okay, Mom. He didn’t die.” I guess she was waiting for the driveway to see whether my claims about death were true or not. 🙂

Backseat Humor, twins, funny, kids are funny, kids say the darndest things

As I waited in line to pick up our children after their first day of school, I was anxious to hear how it went, especially for our kindergarten twins who were trying out separate classrooms.  After everyone piled into the van and buckled up, I asked each child how the day went. Our third-grade son was brief and very matter-of-fact, as usual.  On the other hand, Princess used all sorts of flowery language to describe her wonderful first day of school.

Then it was her twin brother Daydreamer’s turn.  The thing about Daydreamer is that he lives in his own little five-year-old world much of the time, so you never know what sort of response to expect from him.  I was pleasantly surprised by his answer when I asked how his first day of kindergarten went.

“I didn’t get in trouble.” He grinned at me, dimples showing.

“Good! I’m so happy to hear that,” I smiled back at him.

Then he said it again. My praise was a little less enthusiastic this time.

And again.

And a few minutes later, again.

I thought, Okay, son, I believed you the first time, but now methinks thou doth protest too much!   Thankfully, there were no notes from teacher in his folder. 🙂

And one last bedtime funny….

One evening after school as I tucked our princess into bed, she told me she was afraid of the shadows on her wall. Attempting to calm her fears, I showed her that most of the shadows were actually coming from her. I told her to wave her hand and the shadow waved back.  She reached for me quickly and said, “I know, but I just hate my shadow because it always copies me.” Then she crossed her arms in her signature pout. I tried not to snort as I stifled my laughter and explained that’s how shadows work! 🙂

I hope our tales from the backseat made you smile and brought some cheer to your day!  Don’t forget to share your stories in the link-up below (or in the comments if you don’t blog) – be sure to read the guidelines first, of course.

May your week be full of smiles and laughter!

Jen 🙂

 

 

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

 

#TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

We want to foster community and transparent conversation with one another, just like we’d do if we were meeting in real life. So we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic and that you mention The Loft in your post.


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic 🙂

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 5 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are:

Leah
Kathy
Arabah
Jen
Rebekah

 

 

Now it’s time to link up!

 

This Week’s Topic: “Something Funny” (Laughter is good medicine and after this week’s topic, we all need a belly laugh. Or as one co-host put it, we need to spit in our coffee. Tell us a funny story, share a funny quote, post a funny picture or video, crack a funny joke. Just be careful with that coffee because this is going to be good 🙂 )


Next Week’s Topic: “Fighter Verses” (What are some of your favorite, well worn scriptures? Which ones do you find yourself going back to again and again? Tell us what spiritual warfare looks like for you and how you use God’s Word to be victorious. We look forward to learning from each other!)

 

Add Your Link Here:

 

 

Also sharing this post with: A Mama’s StoryCornerstone Confessions

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Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids

Winter wears long around this time of year for those of us who live in the Midwest.  Usually, our family enjoys the snow because it allows for lots of outdoor fun – sledding, building snow forts and snowmen, snowball fights, and other gross-motor, active fun.  However, with wind-chills well below zero lately, we’ve been cooped up indoors.  You can imagine the ensuing chaos created by four bored children (okay, three, the teen isn’t usually as rowdy as he used to be).  Our middle child in particular, all boy, struggles to release his pent-up energy in a way that does not harm others or damage items in the home.

What do you do when the kids are bursting with energy but can’t go outside? How can you keep them active indoors to keep cabin fever at bay?

We tried every fun, high-energy indoor activity I could remember that worked in years past, but with so many days spent inside, I soon ran out of ideas.  So, I turned to my friends and family on facebook.  They helped me compile a list for future reference and out of sympathy for you all, I decided to share it here. 😉

big list of energetic indoor fun, gross-motor activities for kids, bad weather, can't play outside

Snowball Fight – Yes, you can have a snowball fight indoors and burn a lot of energy doing so!  I learned this game from a birthday party we attended recently.  You will need a stack of white paper (newspaper will suffice if you don’t have white paper).  Crumple the paper into balls – the more you have, the more fun it will be.  Dump the paper snowballs into the middle of an open area and let the kids go wild! It’s even more fun if you create some obstacles to hide behind.

Bounce around – Several years ago when the twins were younger and I frequently babysat children in our home, we invested in a small bouncy house.  It’s been a lifesaver on several occasions when the weather kept us indoors.  Another less expensive option would be a small, indoor trampoline, or even an exercise ball.  If all else fails, you can always resort to letting the kids jump on your bed (I do!). Jumping uses a lot of muscles group, so it  burns off excess energy quicker.

Ball pit – When our youngest son was a baby, he needed some physical therapy.  One of the things his therapist did was to create a small ball-pit using a laundry basket filled with balls.  At first, he hated it, but eventually he grew to love it. Let the kids enjoy active fun by jumping into the pit, swimming in the balls, throwing balls, and so on. Frugal ideas for ball pits: laundry baskets, plastic totes, inflatable kiddie pools, or large cardboard boxes.

Indoor Skating – I’ve found two different ways to create indoor skates.  One is to tie wax paper around the bottom of your children’s feet and let them skate away.  The other is to use kleenex boxes (or other cartons) as skates – just insert feet into the opening. We only had one usable kleenex box, so I improvised with a juice pouch box. 😉

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Climb, climb, climb – Recently I was reminded that kids of all ages love to climb.  My husband brought a step-ladder indoors to do some repairs.  When he finished, our four-year-olds spent a good thirty minutes climbing up and down, up and down (with supervision, of course).  Other options – smaller kitchen step-stools,or a stool your kids might use in the bathroom, stairways, boxes, etc. What an easy, indoor energy-burning activity that uses items you most likely already have at home!

Activity Dice –  Create a large dice from cardboard or cardstock (the bigger the better in the eyes of children).  On each side of the dice, list a different activity to be performed.  Examples: do ten jumping jacks, flap your arms like a bird, twirl in circles until you’re dizzy, hop up and down, jump like a frog, crab-walk, do a somersault, etc.  If your child is old enough to find this activity boring, try making it into a competition – it’s a game changer.

Dance the wiggles away – We have Just Dance Kids’ version for the Wii that our younger children really love.  However, we also frequently dance to music on the radio or our oldest son’s ipod. 🙂  One of my friends suggested playing “freeze” by pausing the music and having everyone freeze in place. Another “freezing alternative is to turn the lights off and when they come back on, everyone has to freeze in place (while music continues to play, of course).

This song is perfect for freezing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7JoCCR4OsM

Or try this active song that was an immediate hit with our younger two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dXoiCMyyu4

Geronimo! – We love this classic.  Create a huge pile of pillows, blankets, beanbags, stuffed animals, etc., near a couch or the bottom of your stairway.  Jump away!  Our children have spent endless hours getting out extra energy this way when we’re stuck indoors.

Pillow Fight – Caution: if you have a child who tends to get aggressive, prepare for possible injuries.  It’s a good time to work on self-control. 🙂  Even our teen boy likes to pillow fight when the whole family is involved.  What better use of family time than to burn off some stored up energy?

Family wrestling – Nothing is more tempting to children than when Mom or Dad lay on the floor.  For some reason, our four kiddos love to sit on us, climb on us, bounce on us, and so forth. Family wrestling is also a good opportunity for Mom to sneak attack Dad’s feet (he can’t get away with four kids piled on top-ha!).  As with all active fun, it usually ends when someone cries. 😉

Spikeball – We created this game using punch-balloons leftover from a birthday party.  To begin, we spread out in the largest room in our home.  Then we “spike” the punch-balloons across the room at another person.  Each player receives points for hitting another player as long as it is not a face-shot (we had to ban those during a particularly crazy game).  It’s a mad frenzy trying to snatch up the punch-balloons and spike them at others while also trying not to get hit yourself.  You could also use a regular balloon, but punch-balloons are just a little heavier, bigger and bouncier, so they can travel farther.  Tip: it’s more fun and crazy if you have more than one balloon. Second tip: if you have a wide age range like we do, be sure the littles get their fair share of turns or you’ll endure much pouting.

Other balloon fun – Balloons are great for quick and easy active fun because you can play so many different games with them.  Play don’t let the balloon touch the ground, or blow the balloon across the floor.  You can even play an indoor version of hockey with a balloon and pool noodles (cut them in half for smaller players).  Play volleyball by hanging a string or a blanket between two chairs for a net.  Hang balloons from the ceiling or a doorway just out of reach and ask children to jump up and touch them. Put a balloon between the knees and race from one end of the room to the other without dropping the balloon. Tie a balloon to their feet and try to step on each other’s balloons. The options are endless!

Indoor Obstacle Course – This is an often-requested favorite at our house and with our children’s ministry at church, also.  First the kids help to create the obstacles using chairs, card tables, tunnels from a Playhut set, brooms for hurdles or limbo sticks, hula hoops to hop through, inflatable swimming rings in place of tires for an agility hop, etc.  Once everything is set up, they race through it over and over again! I can’t wait to try this winter-themed course that involves climbing a “snow mountain”: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/59532026298294418/

Sliding – If you have a slide you can bring indoors, you can entertain toddlers and preschoolers for quite some time. Since our kiddos have outgrown our slide, we turned our stairway into a giant slide (something I pinned a long time ago on pinterest).  The only thing you need is a few large, wide sections of strong cardboard.  If you use an appliance box, be on the lookout for staples that will need to be removed first!

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Nerf/Koosh Gun War – Two of our boys received Koosh ball guns for Christmas, and not long after I happened to find refill packs of balls on clearance at Walmart – score! 🙂  We also have a couple of Nerf dart guns and a disc shooter from years past.  Sometimes we sneak attack our oldest son or Dad, but usually we play all together.  Gather up the ammo and have fun chasing each other all over the house.  Note: it’s important to establish some ground rules first, such as do not shoot at the face and do not shoot at windows, etc.

Play Basketball – We also have been gifted a Little Tikes basketball hoop, as well as a classic Nerf hoop that hangs over the door.  One way to burn lots of energy is to play basketball free-for all.  Much like spikeball, there are few rules to this game other than to get a hold of a ball whenever you can and put it through the hoop.  If you like a more organized game, you can take turns shooting or see who can make a shot from the longest distance, etc.  No hoops in the house?  Improvise with a trash can or bucket and a small ball or even wadded up piece of paper.

Scary Hide-n-go-seek – A variation on the traditional game, this version is played in the dark, indoors and is another one of our most-requested indoor games.  We turn off all of the lights except one or two dim ones (for safety).  Something about hiding in the dark with the chance of being spooked really gets the adrenaline pumping.  Of course, if you have little ones who are scared of the dark, you’ll probably have to hide with them. And if you have a dog, chances are he or she might give away your hiding spot by sitting and staring near you.

Wii activity – In addition to our Just Dance Kids game, we also have Wii sports and a few other games that require activity.  You can often find gently used games at a greatly reduced price at places like Game Stop or on E-bay or Amazon.

Sword-fight – Our boys love to sword-fight with their light-sabers, but inevitably someone gets hurt and we have to quit.  So, I really, really love this pinterest idea for creating light-sabers from pool noodles cut in half.  Sometimes we make it a whole family activity and even the teen joins in with us! What a fun way to be active indoors!

Kid-Olympics or Ironkid Challenge – We did this once for our AWANA kids at church during the last Summer Olympics.  We used frisbees for a discus throw, pool noodles for a javelin, relay races, etc.  We even ordered plastic medals online, but you could easily create your own indoor version.  Why not have an awards ceremony, too?

Wipeout – I love this idea for energy-burning fun that came from a friend of mine.  Use couch cushions, etc. to create a course inspired by the tv show Wipeout!

Giant tent fort – While this activity doesn’t burn quite as much energy as some of the others, it still burns some and it takes a good amount of time to do.  Our kiddos recently spent the better part of a day creating this giant fort using a card table, a piano bench, kitchen chairs, plastic totes, a step-stool, and anything else they could find.  We left it up for days until they got tired of it.  Any activity that holds interest beyond a day is a winner in my opinion! 🙂

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Energy-burning Indoor Fun for Kids, giant tent fort, energy-burning indoor fun, active winter fun, gross-motor play

Treasure Hunt – This was another friend’s high-energy suggestion.  Create a treasure hunt where the clues involve some sort of physical activity such as jumping jacks, push-ups, and so forth.  Of course, you need a fun treasure, such as a special snack or maybe new coloring books.

Convert the garage -If you have a garage, consider moving your vehicles and opening up space for indoor bike-riding, roller-skating, skate-boarding, scootering, or even an old-fashioned game of foursquare (use chalk to draw the lines). I’ve also seen hanging ladders, ropes, and sets of rings available for purchse to hang from the ceiling (guess what’s on my wish list?!). If your children are very young or you have the inside space, you might consider bringing a tricycle or scooter indoors even.

Put on a Show – Our children, like most, enjoy performing for any willing audience.  Our shows usually consist of lots of break-dancing, twirling, and kung-fu-type stunts.  Set up a stage area and a seating area and settle in for lots of laughs. (Thanks to another one of my friends for reminding me of this!) While you laugh, they’ll be expending lots of extra energy.

Work the Maze – Create a laser-beam maze in a hallway or other narrow space using yarn or even crepe paper.  See who can get through without touching or breaking any of the lines. Instant indoor energy-burning fun that takes only minutes to create.

Armed with this list, I now feel prepared for the pending snowstorm heading our way (and any rainy days that might come our way this summer).

 Once you’ve drained off the extra energy, your children might settle down enough to attempt some of these fun indoor activities from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

Do you have more ideas for energetic, gross-motor indoor fun?  We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Jen 🙂

Related articles:

Our Big List of Favorite Games  (categorized by age)

Top Free Resources for Pre-K

Sharing with: The Mommy Club, Weekly Kids Co-op,Family Fun Friday,

* You may also find me at any of these lovely places.

 

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7 Creative Ways to Teach Scripture to Kids

We all know scripture memorization is important.  If only it were also easy!!   🙂  If memorizing Bible verses proves difficult for adults, then imagine how much more difficult it can be for our young children to learn scripture.  Over my years of mothering our four kiddos and working with children at church, I’ve learned that teachers of  preschoolers in particular need to be really creative.  Sometimes that’s a real struggle for me!  What works for adults doesn’t always work for kids, and even more, what works for one child may not work for another.

So, for all of the purposeful parents, the homeschooling mamas, the Sunday School teachers, the toddler nursery workers, the Children’s Church volunteers, the daycare providers, the AWANA teachers, for any person who desires to teach children scripture but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s what I’ve learned thus far that works:

7 Creative Ways to Teach Scripture to Kids

1. Check it – Be sure the verse is short enough.

For very young students even a single sentence might be too long.  If the verse you have chosen is lengthy even in a children’s bible version, condense it further.  For example, if “Be kind and compassionate to each other” is too much, shorten it to “Be kind to others” or for very young children: “Be kind.”

Equally important, be sure that that your children or students understand the words in the verse.  What good is memorizing a verse that holds no meaning for them? 🙂

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2. Act it – create motions to go along with the verse.

In general preschoolers tend to learn more when they are being active rather than passive. Even many elementary-age children prefer to learn through movement rather than seatwork.  So, especially for those little learners who always seem to have ants in their pants, this technique can work wonders.

 For example, in our Cubbies class (preschool class for AWANA at church) we recently learned the verse “Children obey your parents in the Lord.”  The word “children” was portrayed by holding a hand out flat, palm down, and stair-stepping down, as in “stair-step children” (that’s the best I could think of, unfortunately – anyone have a better idea for children??).  Then for the phrase “obey your parents,” we pointed our finger straight out like a mommy telling a child what to do (picture Uncle Sam’s we-want-you pose – the kids really understood that gesture well, haha).   Finally, For “in the Lord” we simply pointed straight up into the air as if we were pointing to God in Heaven.

If you happen to know sign language, the easiest gestures would be actual signs, especially for words or phrases that will be repeated often, like God, Jesus, or Bible.   Sometimes my Cubbies are able to help me think of appropriate gestures, too.

Youtube example:

*One important note: do not try to attach a gesture to every single word in the verse.  Doing so will frustrate some children and will interrupt the natural flow of the verse.  You only need a gesture for each concept or phrase in the verse.  A second note: if the children look confused, then your chosen hand gesture or motion is not computing. Let it go and try something else.  🙂

3.  Play with it!

We usually repeat our memory verse a few times together before we get a little silly with it.  When the boys’ eyes begin to glaze over, I know we’ve repeated one too many times. 🙂   Once we can mostly say it together, I usually ask the children to stand up and push in their chairs so we can be more active.  We might crouch down and say the verse very, very quietly (gestures included) and then hop up and say it as loud as we can.  Sometimes we march around our table and say it, or we chant it to a rhythm, or we sing it, or clap it out, or use silly voices, and so on.  Songs in particular work very well at this age (Tip: you can use familiar tunes such as Farmer in the Dell, Old MacDonald, Three Blind Mice, etc. to put the words to if you don’t already know a song for the verse you are trying to teach).

Youtube example:

Once we used the suggested game for that week from our Cubbies book – let’s call it, “Lights on, lights off.”  When the lights were off, the kids were free to move around in whatever manner they desired: walking, creeping, running, hopping, crawling, etc.  When the lights came on, everyone had to freeze in place.  Once they understood the concept of the game, I used the “freeze” time to repeat our verse.  The same concept could be used with music rather than lights.

4. Repeat it – give each child to a chance to say it alone.

Once we have played around with the memory verse a little bit, most children will have at least part of the verse, if not the whole, in their minds.  At this point, I usually test my Cubbies a little while still trying to keep it fun.

For instance, if we’re chanting our verse to a beat, then in between each repetition, I’ll give a single student a chance to say it on his or her own.  Then the whole class says it together, followed by another individual, and so on.  Be sure to support those who need it so they don’t become embarrassed.

And we always, always celebrate, even if we are only partially successful at saying the verse!

5.  Draw it!

Some students prefer putting crayon to paper over reciting verses aloud.  Since my preschool Cubbies cannot read yet, I might ask them to draw a picture of their verse.  Of course, at their age I always have a few who choose to draw something totally unrelated, but for those who process information visually or spatially, drawing can really help to cement the concept of the verse in their minds.

6. Forget about references…for now.

Not that we shouldn’t attempt to teach the reference at all – I still do.  However, I just don’t stress about it anymore. At this age remembering a reference that doesn’t hold much meaning and is difficult to even pronounce can be really challenging and frustrating, especially for kids who might not be familiar with the books of the Bible. How many three-year-olds can actually pronounce books like Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, or Thessalonians?  Even if they can pronounce them, do they understand what those words followed by numbers mean?  If not, then they are learning words that make no sense to them, hold no meaning.

Very rarely will my own young children remember a reference beyond a week or two unless it is a verse that we hear or review frequently, such as John 3:16, or a verse put to song that includes the reference, like the “Be ye kind” song.  In Cubbies we have a new verse every week and limited time for teaching, so the likelihood of children retaining references decreases even further.

Thus, in my humble opinion, the priority should be the conceptual learning taking place: truths about God making us, God loving us, loving others, etc.  I still teach the references, but I don’t emphasize them as much as the body of the verse itself.  For young children, as long as a child remembers the main idea of the verse, I count it a win!

 However, if you are going to be working on a verse for an extended time, then by all means, include the reference.  Additionally, if your children or students are older and can understand the purpose of a reference, then the reference should most definitely be included! 🙂

7. Remember variety, different methods work with different children, so use a variety when possible.

Our preschool daughter loves to say her verses carefully along with hand gestures as if she is performing on stage.  On the other hand, her twin brother resists the hand gestures, but he love, love, LOVES anything repeated in a weird or sing-song voice. (True story – I once entertained him through an entire grocery shopping trip simply by repeating the same phrase over and over again in a robot voice.  Whatever works, right?!)

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 Of course, sometimes during AWANA, or even at home, the kids are so crazy and energetic that we fail to accomplish much in the way of scripture memorization.  And we don’t always make time for memory verses either, but when we do, I want to make sure that it’s time well-spent.

Whether you teach at church or in your own home, I hope you find these tips helpful!  I have yet to find any ways to address tactile (touch-based/sensory) learners who cannot read yet, so if any of you have ideas for me, I’d really love to hear them.

Blessings to you brave mamas and teachers of little ones,

Jen 🙂

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Top Ten Educational Websites for Kids

Our children don’t spend a lot of time on the computer, as a rule, but when they do, I like it to be as educational as possible.  Over the years, we’ve found some children’s websites that are great and some, well…not so great.  The educational content needs to be high, but so does the entertainment value (from a child’s perspective).

We really like websites that include a variety of options, such as material to read or listen to, games to play, printables, and videos.  We absolutely loooove websites that have all of the above in the form of free content! 🙂  Since we’re doing preschool at home this year with our four-year-old twins, I thought I would gather our favorite learning websites (in no particular order) all together in one spot.

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best educational websites for kids

  1. PBS Kids – http://pbskids.org/ – we love this website for a variety of reasons: the kids love the characters, parents love the educational value, lots of options to choose from (videos, games, online books etc.), appeals to a variety of ages, etc.  It’s also easy for children to navigate. Target Range – toddler through the lower elementary grades.
  2. Highlights Kids – http://www.highlightskids.com/ – great variety on this website as well, such as animated books, both factual and fictional texts, printables, crafts and science experiments, etc.  The content is very similar to what you would see in a Highlights magazine, such as hidden picture puzzles, articles on animals, stories about children, and so on.  Target Range – elementary grades, specifically children who can read on their own.
  3. Starfall – http://www.starfall.com/ – Starfall is so full of educational information that it’s hard to even know where to begin.  Although much of the content is free, some of the content is restricted to paid members.  There are printables, songs, books for beginning readers, letter recognition, color recognition, even sign language – really too much to list here.  Just go and check it out! 🙂 This site would be especially helpful for those who homeschool.  According to starfall.com, the targeted audience is toddler/preschool through 2nd grade, including content specific to special needs!
  4. Cool Math Games – http://www.coolmath-games.com/ – this site is a recent favorite of our second-grade math whiz. 😉  Many of the games included on this site utilize mathematic and scientific principles in a fun format.  Some of the games seem to focus more on teaching the child how to use the keypad and directional arrows.  However, most also involve critical thinking skills.  When I asked our son for his favorites on this site, he mentioned Fruits, Truck Loader 4, and Home Sheep Home 2.  Despite its name, the site also includes reading/spelling games, geography games, mazes, puzzles, and more.  In order to enjoy this site, your children will need the ability to manipulate the directional arrows and the mouse or touchpad (if on a laptop), unless you want to sit and help them. For that reason, I would say the targeted age range would be for older preschoolers through the elementary grades.
  5. Seussville – http://www.seussville.com/ – we just love Dr. Seuss in this home, so I had to include this favorite, as well.  This site isn’t as extensive as some of the others I have included, but you can still find good content here.  You’ll find most of it under the Games and Activities tab, including some excellent Seuss-themed printables for coloring, reading, crafting, counting, and adding.  One neat feature is being able to search by specific books or specific characters to find the related games and activities.  The one downfall to this website is that it seems to take longer to load than most when switching between activities and tabs. Target range – Pre-K through lower elementary grades.
  6. JumpStart – http://www.jumpstart.com/jumpstartmoms/ – The free content on this site requires a little more digging than others because there is also a paid membership option (similar to Starfall).  However, JumpStart offers tons of free printables (look under the worksheets tab and the activities tab), organized by grade.  Some of the online games, both educational and just-for-fun, are also free. The best thing about this site is the wide age range it caters to: toddler/preschool through sixth grade!
  7. Caravan Friends – http://caravanfriends.org/ – I featured this faith-based website in a post about teaching Missions, but it’s also a great site just for learning about other cultures, specifically those in Asia.  Cute characters help to engage children in learning about various regions on this visually appealing site.  Here you will find lesson plans, printables, videos, and more!  The stories and activities are available in the categories of  Preschool, 1st-4th grade, and 5th-6th grade.  Our children really enjoy reading stories about other cultures online as well as watching videos of children from this area. Target range – preschool through 6th grade.
  8. Nick Jr. – http://www.nickjr.com/kids/ –  Here you can expect to find videos of your children’s favorite Nick Jr. characters and a few games themed after them.  The Create tab has some online coloring pages, as well, although I found them difficult to use for younger children.  One thing that annoys me about this site is having to watch an advertisement before playing a game or watching a video.  If you have a child who really loves Nick Jr. then watching short ads might not bother you.  I especially like the Dora the Explorer game on this site because it also teaches Spanish vocabulary by allowing children to click on objects within the game and hear the Spanish equivalent.  Target range – toddler through preschool, and possibly up to first grade.
  9. Webkinz – http://www.webkinz.com/ – we found this site when our oldest son was given a Webkinz stuffed animal as a gift.  You can buy the stuffed animals at many stores, and they come with web codes to activate an online pet.  This opens up a whole world of pet-care, including creating and decorating a home for your pet, feeding and grooming your pet, and even training your pet.  You can also visit the arcade to earn Kinzcash in order to buy more online items for your pet.  I was very pleased to learn that Webkinz now offers free content that you can access without buying a stuffed animal.  Instead, you choose a free virtual animal, create your login, and play any of the content that is not restricted to members only.  Aside from the fun and learning that comes from caring for a virtual pet, the arcade offers a variety of educational games. Our oldest son had a whole collection of webkinz and enjoyed this site for many years!  Although a child of any age could use this site with parental help, it’s easier for children who can read to navigate on their own. Target range – all elementary ages and even pre-K with parental help.
  10. National Geographic Kids – http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/ – this site is relatively new to us, but our older boys love to learn facts about animals, places, and so forth.  Here you can find videos featuring animals and countries, games for the brain and some just for fun, craft ideas, recipes, and more.  Kids can even print out fact cards for animals or send animal-themed e-cards to friends.  This site would appeal mostly to those who can read on their own, although the videos might still interest younger ages.  Target range – all elementary ages.

Many of these websites also have links to downloadable apps for those with mobile devices.  If you’d like ideas for board and card games your children might enjoy, be sure to read Our Big List of Favorite Games.  I hope you enjoy exploring some of these sites with your children!

What are your favorite educational websites for children?

Jen 🙂

If you have toddlers or preschoolers at home, you might also enjoy this list of free resources!

 

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9 Ways to Sneak in Veggies

What mom wouldn’t like her children to eat more of those healthy, vitamin-bearing vegetables? If only it was easy to get kids to like vegetables in the first place!

When our firstborn was a baby (13 years ago now), I thought I did everything I could to encourage veggie-loving in his diet.  When he started baby food, I fed him vegetables first, not fruit.  When he disliked a veggie, I would sneak it between bites of fruit or sometimes even mix the two.  He ate many vegetables in mushy baby food form, but when it was time for finger foods, he balked. Alas, veggie-loving just does not come naturally to him, nor does it for many children.

With the birth of our second child, I determined to work even harder to create a love (okay, at least a tolerance)  for veggies.  And then the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, decided to bless us with a strong-willed, picky eater. 🙂  However, I learned much from dealing with his picky eating phase, a phase that felt like an eternity!  By the time our twins came along, I had a much better idea of how to get those all-important vegetables in.

So, today on Mama Mondays, I offer you this list of 9 ways to sneak in those dreaded veggies!

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  1. Start from the very beginning.

    I’m talking from within the womb!  Researchers claim that babies begin to develop tastes for foods before they are even born.  Taste buds develop around 21 weeks, at which point baby receives a flavoring of what mama eats via the amniotic fluid. So, if you want your child to grow up loving vegetables, start eating more of them yourself. Not only will this make for a healthier pregnancy, but you’ll also be more likely to feed your children foods that you already frequently consume when they get to the finger food stage. Too late for this tip?  It’s never too late to start leading by example in the area of vegetable consumption!

  2. Offer veggies first!

    We’re all familiar with the fact that most children will eat the things they like most first and save the least favorite for last.  Even adults do it. 🙂 If your children fill up on foods they like, getting them to eat those remaining vegetables will be even more difficult.  On the other hand, if you offer the veggies first when they’re still hungry, they’ll be more likely to at least try a few bites.

  3. Slice, dice, or even puree!

    This might be obvious to some of you, but it wasn’t to me thirteen years ago.  The smaller the veggies are, the less offensive they are to sensitive palates.  My all-time favorite, couldn’t-live-without-it kitchen tool is my food chopper.  If I place a nice helping of normal sized broccoli in front of my youngest son, he’ll immediately turn up his nose.  However, if I chop that broccoli to bits, he’s more willing to eat it – especially if it is combined with another food or a sauce.  I know some moms who add pureed butternut squash and other veggies to the famous toddler favorite, Mac’n’cheese. The possibilities are endless when you dice and then ….disguise.

  4. Disguise those veggies.

    I looooove casseroles/slow-cooker meals for many reasons: only one dirty pan, time to do other chores while food is baking, etc.  But my biggest reason for serving up lots and lots of casseroles is because it allows me to sneak in a lot of vegetables that my children wouldn’t eat alone.  I add petite diced tomatoes, finely diced onions and mushrooms, and sometimes even bell peppers to spaghetti sauce and chili.  I add California blend (diced, of course) to our chicken divan.  If we have scalloped potatoes, you bet I’ll be hiding some veggies in there. Shepherd’s pie, homemade potpie, even fried rice – all of these dishes are veggie-friendly!  You can even hide veggies within other veggies.  How, you ask? If I gave my 7-year-old purple cabbage to eat, I’m sure he would run the other way.  But he eats it in a salad, along with pieces of fresh radish and spinach.  Twice baked potatoes, anyone?  Stuffed bell peppers?

  5. Substitute veggies for other starches.

    In addition to hiding veggies, I’ve recently learned how to substitute vegetables for pasta and potatoes.  The spaghetti I mentioned above?  Instead of pasta, use strings of baked spaghetti squash.  The shepherd’s pie?  Instead of potatoes, used mashed cauliflower.  For chili broth, I use low-sodium V8 juice (and then I add even more veggies).

  6. Add cheese, sauce, or dip.

    Although this method can easily turn healthy veggies into big calorie veggies, when used in moderation, it’s an effective technique.  We have a son who loooves condiments of all kinds, so I’ve learned to offer a small amount with his fresh vegetables. Low-fat cheese works well with cooked vegetables.

  7. Offer a variety.

    As I mentioned in How to Make Food Fun, research supports that offering a variety can lead children to eat more of a single food group than they realize, especially if the variety is colorful.  For example, if you offer bell peppers, offer multiple colors of bell peppers.  If you’re offering broccoli, why not offer California blend instead. A variety of vegetables gives children choices, as well, and we all know they love the power of choice! 🙂9 Ways to Sneak in Veggies, how to get kids to eat their vegetables, want my child to eat veggies, sneaking vegetables into kids' food, my picky eater won't eat vegetables

  8. Try, try, and try again…and then some more.

    As a rookie mom, I had no idea how many times young children need to try a food before deciding whether they like it or not.  But when our picky eater came along, I learned that children may need to try a food 10-15 times before making up their minds about it.  It makes sense really! One day Johnny loves peas, and the next day he’ll have nothing to do with them.  Often, we give up too soon on new foods and assume that they just don’t like them.  Even if your child has repeatedly demonstrated dislike for a particular vegetable, tastes can change over time.  It never hurts to pull a rejected veggie out after a few months and try it again!

  9. Find the Why behind the “No.”

    Sometimes there is a reason behind a child’s refusal of a food other than a dislike for the taste.  I saw this clearly when our twins began to eat finger foods.  Our daughter began to refuse banana, a fruit she previously loved mashed up.  At first, I was baffled. One day I saw her try to pick up a piece of banana and she made the most disgusted face ever.  It wasn’t the taste of the banana, but the sticky texture she was objecting to. I happily fed them to her from a spoon until she learned to use a spoon herself.  Consider physical reasons for refusal as well, whether it be a texture issue (I still cannot eat beans unless they are pureed) or a possible food allergy.

There you have it: Nine ways to sneak in more veggies.  One last helpful hint – you can even use these tips on husbands – true story! 🙂

If you have a clever way to sneak in veggies, pretty please share with us in the comments!

Jen 🙂

If you found this article helpful, you might also enjoy:

6 Principles for Picky Eaters

How to Make Food Fun

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