101 Ways to Have More Fun (and why you should!)

There was no escaping the heat. It was just plain hot! Hot inside, hot outside. I was inside, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, trying to stay cool under the breeze of the ceiling and box fans.

The kids were outside. Running and jumping through the cool shower of the sprinkler. Their laughter rose louder and louder, their joy permeated through the drawn shades causing me to stop and listen.

I should be out there with them.

The thought was a brief one. Overpowered by the pictures of friend’s vacations, soap box opinions, inspirational memes, and requests for prayers in my view. Other people’s lives played out and captured in posts and squares. All the while my own life was happening right outside my window. Little moments were fluttering and flying by as quickly as the news and pictures came across my screen.

I should be out there with them.

Once more, I returned to my screens smiling at the happy faces of my friend’s kids and funny short videos from my favorite comedian. Then I read an unexpected update of a cancer battle and then the news of a friend’s illness in which the doctors could do no more. I felt like I was shocked awake. Life is so precious and short- a beautiful mix of joy and sorrow. I sighed. Tuning into my kids’ voices and laughter again.

I want to be out there with them.

With that, I put down my phone, closed my laptop, ran to put on my bathing suit, and joined the family fun outside. The looks on my children’s faces were of surprise and delight. I grabbed their hands and together, over and over, we ran through the sprinkler having more and more fun each time we went through. The heat and heaviness of the day dripped off into the coolness and joy of the moment.

Sometimes having more fun means getting off your rear end, moving away from the comfortable couch and chairs, and putting a little more effort into the mix. Sometimes having more fun means thinking about others more than yourself. It might mean planning ahead. It could mean making a beautiful mess and definitely could add more cleaning up to your to-do list.

BUT having more fun means fully living the life you’ve been given with more joy and delight. It means making memories that stick in hearts and minds and blossom into lasting interests and creativity. It means being present with the ones you love. Having fun is a gift of life.

Here are 101 Ways to Have More Fun with the kids in your life! Try some of these activities together. You might cringe at the mess, laugh at the fails, but you will not regret the time you spent and the memories made with your loved ones.

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  1. Run through a sprinkler .
  2. Blow bubbles.
  3. Nature Sunprints
  4. Make popsicles.
  5. Design and make Coffee Filter Butterflies
  6. Go on a Mystery Ride (any destination works!)
  7. Paint Kindness Rocks.
  8. Fingerpaint
  9. Bake a treat together. My daughter loves this cookbook
  10. Have a dance party!
  11. Color with coloring books.
  12. Write and put on a skit.
  13. Design a mural with sidewalk chalk.
  14. Take a trip to Hawaii without never leaving your home.
  15. Go on a Nature Walk.
  16. Build a fort.
  17. Play the Scribbles and Lines game. Each person needs a piece of paper. Everyone draws a simple line or scribble on the paper. Switch papers with each other and turn the scribble into a masterpiece.
  18. Identify wildflowers. I LOVE these two books for identification. Audubon and Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide.
  19. Collect and press flowers. Please be sure you are not collecting rare or endangered species. Check this list here.
  20. Jumprope 
  21. Raise and Release Monarchs
  22. Have a hula hoop competition.
  23. Karaoke (find lyrics online or use a karaoke app)
  24. Have a Lego challenge.
  25. Make shadow hand puppets
  26. Play hide & seek
  27. Sew a mini treats, animals, and garden felt crafts.
  28. Play tag.
  29. Collect trash around your community and make art.
  30. Create a boat and watch it float.
  31. Play card games. We love Uno and Sushi Go
  32. Water gun war.
  33. Glow Stick toss (at night)
  34. Set up a Mud Kitchen and make Mud-cakes
  35. Play Red Light, Green Light
  36. Play Hopscotch
  37. Play I Spy
  38. Noah’s Ark Memory Game– The first person starts by saying, “Noah was boarding the ark, and he took…” The person then completes the sentence with something that begins with the letter “A,” such as “an aardvark.” The next person would then say, “Noah was boarding the ark, and he took an aardvark and ….” completing it with a word that begins with B. Continue going around until the entire alphabet has been completed. 
  39. Make Rainbow Bubble Snakes
  40. Play Simon Says
  41. Thumb Wrestle
  42. Floral Butterfly Wings
  43. Mad Libs 
  44. Take turns making up stories.
  45. Water balloons fight
  46. Make a fly paper airplanes. Fold’ N’ Fly has a ton of great ideas! (check out Wonder Wings launching later this year.)
  47. Nature Scavenger Hunt
  48. If you have a gas stove, make stovetop s’mores
  49. Animal Guessing Game
  50. Play dress up.
  51. Balloon Pop Painting
  52. Have a tea party.
  53. Do a science experiment. Or a STEAM project.
  54. Read books aloud. Here are a few of our favorites. 
  55. Write a story together.
  56. Work on a puzzle.
  57. Make Popsicle Sticks Bookmarks
  58. Play BINGO
  59. Wet Chalk Art
  60. Play with Ice Boats
  61. Write letters of gratitude to family, friends and community members. Need ideas? Check here.
  62. Make a collage with magazines.
  63. Number Hunt
  64. Go swimming.
  65. Have a watermelon spitting contest.
  66. Playdough bug fossils.
  67. Make lemonade.
  68. Have a lemonade stand.
  69. Go on a picnic.
  70. Make ice cream in a bag.
  71. Paper dolls
  72. Origami
  73. Learn to identify birds and their calls.
  74. Choreograph a dance.
  75. Make Star Crystals.
  76. Build rock towers.
  77. Paint pet rocks.
  78. Make and play with playdough.
  79. Create pictures with glue & sand, salt or instant coffee.
  80. Make sock puppets and put on a puppet show.
  81. Paint with shaving cream.
  82. Design peg dolls. Need inspiration? Summer Boredom Buster Board 
  83. Kool-Aid Scented Glue, Colored Window Clings
  84. Texture rubbings with crayons and charcoal – leaves, barks, even gravestones
  85. DIY Soap and Scrub Bars
  86. Charades
  87. ABC Scavenger Hunt There are different variations of how to do this,  from magnetic letter to paper plates. I like the paper plate option with the notches.
  88. Tissue Paper Flowers
  89. Create a fairy house.
  90. Frozen t-shirt game.
  91.  Twister
  92. Ice Age- freeze a bunch of small figures, coins, and animals in a block of ice and have kids excavate the items. 
  93. Create a sensory bin
  94. Do a random act of kindness or an act of service. 
  95. Turn a pool noodle into a racetrack. 
  96.  Paint with flowers and nature prints. 
  97. Suncatchers (see ideas on Summer Boredom Buster Pinterest Board)
  98. Create Nature Windchimes
  99. Make Friendship and paracord bracelets
  100. Create Fuse Bead Magnets
  101. Enjoy quiet time to rest! 


Goodbye, Chores!

Goodbye, chores!

Hello, personal responsibilities and acts of service!

In preparation for this upcoming school year, I’m FINALLY getting around to reading Laying Down the Rails- A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook by Sonya Shafer. This book and its habit-training companion, Laying Down the Rails for Children by Lanaya Gore, are full of ideas and activities, thoughts and suggestions for cultivating habits of good character. Both books are causing me to think about our home and habits- what we do, why we do it, and the importance of these things in our lives.

“Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.”

Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education

The books give reason and offer inspiration and encouragement for habit training. Over sixty habits are broken up into sections. It is suggested that parents learn how habits are formed, select one habit to focus and work on over several weeks, and be watchful each day to help children apply the concepts being learned.

Our family is starting with one of the “Decency and Propriety Habits” of cleanliness.

Cleanliness is being careful to keep clean to stay healthy and keep surroundings clean and orderly.

In thinking about how to go about keeping a clean and orderly house, chores always come to mind. Over the years, we’ve tried several different chore charts and systems with little success. With each new system, we usually got off to a great start, but quickly burned out with systems too elaborate to keep up with or not motivating enough to care about.

I needed a simplified system, one that was easy to keep up with and effective. We like simple charts. I started thinking about what might a chart look like and include for our household.

There are primarily two types of things I ask the kids to do around the house:

  • personal responsibilities– things like getting dressed, making beds, personal hygiene, and taking care of personal belongings and space. Things that benefit the individual person.
  • chores or jobs– Things like folding clothes, delivering them to the correct room, sweeping and vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms. Things that benefit others and the whole family.

From there, I made a personal responsibilities chart for each child to hang in their room. The other “chores/jobs” (things that needed to be done around the house), I hung on the side of the refrigerator and marked with a erasable marker with who is responsible to complete.

The plan is everyone is responsible, every day, for the things on their own chart and then we (as a family) will take an time in the morning or afternoon to do the other chart together. We’ll try it for a couple of weeks, revisit it, and adjust if necessary.

You may notice that instead of calling it “chores and jobs” on our chart, I’ve decided to call them “Acts of Service.” An acts of service is something one does to show love and care, respect, honor and value to others. When we clean and take care of our home and belongings, we are showing care, respect, honor, and value to God for his blessings and provision, and to each other.

Now let’s be honest….

Are acts of service still chores and jobs? Yes!

Does changing the language or the name make it magically different? No!

Will kids jump for joy and scurry off with a smile and a twirl when they see their name on the chart? Maybe. (most likely not)

It’s all in the presentation and explanation.

Whenever you are about to implement something new, I think it’s important to get your children involved in the process as much as possible. Make it fun! Take time to teach and explain. Allow your children to ask questions and offer suggestions. Come up with a plan together. Be ready to work hard and stick with it. Habit training is not easy. I think the mistake many people make (including myself, i.e. past chore systems) is doing too much, too fast, and not being consistent.

Please keep in mind, what works in one home, might not work in another. You need to find a system that works best for your family. This takes time, trial and errors, but I would encourage you to keep at it, keep trying, because the benefits of finding something that works will help prepare your children for life, as independent, responsible kids with a good work ethic. And that is a beautiful thing worth working for.

(Below are a few printable I’ve created that might be helpful if you are looking to start some habits of cleanliness in your home. I’m also in the process of creating a Pinterest board with ideas and activities to teach cleanliness. The link is below if you want to check it out and follow along. )


Our Favorite Books for 2 to 5-Year-Olds

Reading aloud is one of the best things you can do with your child. It promotes language development and early literacy skills. It enforces comprehension skills, builds vocabulary, and develops letter- sound recognition. When we aloud to children, we invite them to experience new things, encounter new places, and meet interesting people and intriguing characters. 

I’ve complied a list of our favorite books for 2 to 5-year-olds. Click on the book’s picture to find out more about each book. I participate in the Amazon Services Associates Program and make a very small commission for purchases made through the following links.

If you have older children, you may enjoy these recommendations. And if you would like more specific recommendations, I would love to help. Comment below or shoot me a message through my Facebook page at EMBRACE ENTHUSIASM.-


Ten Years Later- A Letter To Myself

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Dear Shanna,

I know this is overwhelming and scary. It seems like the hospital exercised poor judgement by allowing you to leave with a baby. Your baby! When those big, glass doors closed behind you, I know you were secretly hoping a nurse would come running after you and bring the two of you back to the “safety” of the maternity ward. But she didn’t come, did she? She sent you off with gentle reassurance and a complementary diaper bag stuffed with humongous maternity pads, a few teeny-tiny newborn diapers, the phone number for a lactation consultant, and a booklet called “A New Beginning.”

What an appropriate title! It feels like you’re starting life over. Any knowledge and educational degrees you’ve acquired over the last thirty years seem null and void. Things are very different than what you read in those books. Those books about what to expect when you are expecting and now you are expecting to have no idea what to expect.

I know you dream of easier days and nights full of quiet, continuous sleep and feel guilty about wishing the days away. I know it seems like time is ticking slowly by and it feels like you are stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a time warp and he keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. Except in your time warp, the day revolves around a baby- Baby cries, pick up baby, soothe baby, check diaper, change diaper, feed baby (for like hours), baby sleeps, you should sleep, baby cries and repeat. Repeat over and over again, every 3 hours or on demand, for what seems like every future day.  I know you wonder if you will live life at some sort of a predictable, “normal” rhythm EVER again.

I know it feels like you have completely lost yourself and wonder if you will ever find yourself again. I know you’re anxious, hesitant and constantly questioning yourself as you weed through a tremendous amount of information and opinions and try to make a variety of good decisions on behalf of your sweet baby. Very kindhearted people with good intentions offer you advice but since you are so overtired, oversensitive, and overwhelmed you cannot appreciate their wisdom. Or maybe more than that, some of their advice makes you feel like you are doing it all wrong or even worse, it’s a reminder that you are not enough. And even though you are surrounded by people, I know you feel very alone.

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Ten years later, I can tell you the hospital did not make a mistake. It may have been a rocky start at home adjusting to everything new but no mistake was made. God picked you to be your baby’s mother. He knows you can do it, gives you everything you need, and you can rest in that. Hold onto that truth and embrace it during the long days and nights. Repeat it constantly to yourself and especially when the hospital sends you home two more times, with two more babies.

Your life has started over but in a new and beautiful way. Those degrees you acquired in school will be used again but the type of degree you are working on now does not come from schoolwork but lifework. This is a never ending study in unconditional love. It requires time, patience, mistakes, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice and it changes everything. Through the lens of love, relationships and the world will look different. You will begin to understand the sacrifices your mom made for you and what it means to be loved by Jesus in a way that brings you to tears almost every time you think of it. And as far as the what to expect, you will never know what to expect because each day, each baby, brings new challenges and blessings. It’s a constant practice trying to be content and present in the very moment. Oh, and just when you think you have something figured out, it all will change. So, expect the unexpected and expect love.

The days will get easier, you will get more sleep and sleep is awesome. Easier is relative though. In some ways it will be easier and in others ways more difficult. The cliche is true! Time goes by quickly, much more quickly than you ever thought it could. One day, instead of wishing the days away, you’ll wish they would stay. (Maybe the trade off for sleep is fast moving time?) Your life will find a predictable rhythm again but every season will have a different rhythm. And you’ll love the changing rhythms because you do not like boring, and motherhood is far from boring.

About the anxiety and sad feelings, it was a good decision talking with the doctor. What you see as an extra burden now, God will heal through medicine and faith and use this in ways to empathize with other moms and others dealing anxiety and depression. You will always have the threat of doubts and fears but you will persevere and overcome them with confidence in His strength. You will need to work on your “perfectionist” tendencies though and embrace the imperfections and the mistakes because those will make you better not worse.

BTW, you are not enough. At least, not enough on your own. You need Jesus and community more than ever before. Let down the walls. Let others in. Ask for help. Don’t try to do life alone. One of the greatest communities you will find will be in a MOPS group. You’ll find friends, faith, and freedom there. MOPS will encourage and equip you to be the best mother, woman, and leader you can be. It will help you find purpose and give you opportunities to practice confidence in the next things that God is calling you to do.

Make time for family and friends. Embrace your church family and the women in it. Their lives and experiences, their stories shared with you, are gifts. Gifts worth more than any amount of money can ever buy. You will see the importance of their words when you are not so overtired and overwhelmed, and you will come to crave being taken care of by them, tucked under their wings, and covered by their prayers. Your heart will swell a thousand times over when your babies are welcomed into these communities and loved by your friends too because we are better together.

Shanna, you are doing a good job even when you think you are not. Take one moment at a time. Remember, the challenging moments are more valuable because they are richer in experience and make you stronger. And even though it’s good now, the best is yet to come. Motherhood is an amazing, special gift.

With Love,

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Circles of People, Circles of Prayer

 

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It was Thursday night. It had been a long, good week but I was tired. On top of our usual routine busyness, there had been a MOPS meeting to prepare for and a Sisterhood message to finish. I had just finished making dinner and I was craving some moments to myself. To my kids delight, I let them eat their dinner on trays in front of the TV. The sound of Miles from Tomorrowland and quiet kids gave me some peaceful moments to take a deep breath and strategize my next steps. I could only manage to think one step ahead and doing the dishes seemed like the next logical thing to do.

I stood at the kitchen sink and sighed over the mountain of dishes. The dishes were not going to get done by staring and sighing so I began to scrub and circle the dishes clean. The warm, soapy water became a salve to my weariness. And as I scrubbed, I became overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, I began to weep. This was a different “overwhelmed” than I have become accustomed to. Not the overwhelmed by busyness or by my to-do list or by expectations, but overwhelmed with deep gratitude for my life and the people in it.

Right there in my kitchen, in the quietness of my heart, memories came back to me so clearly I felt as if they were present time. One by one they came. I could smell things, feel things, and see details of things I had forgotten. I was with people who have long gone to be with Jesus.

I was a little girl standing in the church kitchen, looking up into the faces of a circle of kind, older women. The women were smiling, chatting over their work of cleaning up the communion cups. They welcomed me in their space and allowed me to eat the leftover communion crackers. I felt accepted and safe.

I was a little girl sitting in an oversized metal folding chair among a circle of other folding chairs placed around the small living room of my childhood home. Each chair was filled by a Godly man or woman. Some held hymnals and others large, beautifully tabbed Bibles in their laps. Their songs of praise beautiful. Their prayers powerful. I felt accepted and safe. 

I was a preteen kneeling on the rug in my parent’s friends living room, not quite happy that all my other friends were out at the movies and I was at a Bible study. Regardless of my inside-ungrateful-attitudes-struggles, I was still still in the circle and I listened to God’s word be discussed and life struggles shared. I felt accepted and safe.  

I was reminded of the countless times my parents had us hold hands around the kitchen table. This happened with whoever was joining us for dinner, when we needed the Lords’s guidance, or when we were praying for someone who needed prayer. I felt accepted and safe.

Circles of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe. 

These were the people my parents chose to surround me with. Faithful, Jesus-loving, people who seeked God with all their heart. These were people who let me sit at their feet, invited me into their discussions, welcomed me to participate, let me ask my questions, and loved me through my attitudes and seasons of growing up.

They were not perfect people. They struggled with life. They went through trials. Some of them lost their way. But these are the people who God used to shape my life. These are the people whose stories and testimonies shaped how I saw God and Jesus. These are the people who have prayed circles in and around my life.  Prayers I am just starting to see answers to. These are the people who I wept to God in gratitude and thanksgiving over.

Somehow, the dishes seemed to get done quicker than I thought. I lingered in the memories as long as I could. I didn’t want to leave. But the call of “Mommmm!!!!” brought me to my next task. I wiped the tears from my eyes and heading into the living room to fulfill some random request. The feeling of overwhelming gratitude remained.

I want my children to have what I had. I want to leave a legacy like my parents have left for me. I want my children to grow up in circles of Godly men and women. To be able to sit at Jesus-loving people’s feet, invited into conversations about faith, feel safe enough to ask questions, sing songs of praises and embrace their part and purpose of the Kingdom of God. I want my children in circles of imperfect people who know they need Jesus, where powerful prayers are prayed, where life struggles are prayed through, where testimonies of God’s faithfulness are declared.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Where they feel accepted and safe. 

As I write this, I am overwhelmed and weep again. This time for the people currently in our life. Our faithful parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Our Godly friends. Our intergenerational church family whom I love so much. People who have graciously given us room to grow in our faith and have come alongside us, encouraging us in our parenting and leadership, and loving us unconditionally. People who have welcomed our kids at their tables, fed them, watched over them, given them smiles and a hugs, invited them into prayer circles and to join them in singing songs of praise. Imperfect, Godly men and women, who know they need Jesus, who pray circles around them and encourage them with their words.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe.