Keeping The Sabbath – Master Ideas List

   

We are helping our children memorize the Westminster Children’s Catechism. It is a series of questions that go through the main doctrines of the Christian faith, explaining them in a question and answer format. It helps the children to know exactly what it is they do believe and why. (It’s clarified a few things for us too!)

What has this got to do with the Sabbath? The following are questions 87 and 90 from the Westminster Catechism for Children:

Q. 87. What does the fourth commandment teach us?
A. To keep the Sabbath holy.

Q. 90. How should the Sabbath be spent?
A. In prayer and praise, in hearing and reading God’s Word, and in doing good to our fellow men.

Wow – these certainly challenged us. It’s difficult to recite catechism questions like these each morning knowing that you aren’t really acting them out. With 5 children 8 and under, Sunday is not always the rest day we would like. We had lots of good intentions but that was all they were. Therefore research and this article! I am hoping that these ideas assist you (and us) to turn Sunday into a day that truly honours and glorifies God, putting Him first in our lives.

Sabbath starts at sundown on Saturday and ends at sundown on Sunday. We have tried a few different approaches to Sabbath keeping and have found that when we designated the whole Sunday as our Sabbath or rest day, we always seemed to end up spending Sunday evening cleaning up and preparing for the following Monday. If we rested throughout the evening also, then I was left with an unorganised house and mountains of work to catch up on Monday morning. Starting Saturday evening means that;

  • we have the day on Saturday to prepare
  • a lovely evening meal and time together on Saturday night to look forward to
  • Sunday to attend church and put some of these ideas into place
  • Sunday evening to clean up and get organised for the rest of the week.

Plan! Celebrating the Sabbath well with a large family of young children requires planning and preparation. By the weekend we are tired and just want to crash, but when nothing is organised Sunday is frustrating, the kids get bored and ratty and we don’t get the rest we crave, never mind focus on God. When we plan fun and purposeful time that revolves around God and spend time interacting with the children, their love tanks are filled and they are then happy to spend time alone while we have a break. We end up thoroughly enjoying the family activities we plan and realise that the planning is well worth it.

Make lists! What do you have to prepare ahead to make this happen? When can it be done – don’t leave everything for Saturday afternoon. Lay out the clothes, right down to shoes, socks, tights, jackets and hair accessories. Pack the baby bag, collect the bibles and notebooks.

Clean the house. Spread the jobs throughout the week or have a whole family cleaning spree on Saturday morning. However you do it, make sure the house is clean and tidy before the Sabbath starts. It’s very difficult to show hospitality when the house is a mess.

Make Saturday evening a special meal with a beautifully set table. Make dessert and a meal that everyone will enjoy. Let the kids get out the candles.  It doesn’t have to be super fancy food, but with a little effort the table can look special and create an atmosphere that sets the Sabbath off on the right foot.

Show hospitality. Look out for those who would not usually be invited out or who are unable to return the favour. Connect with non-Christian friends – perhaps invite them to church and for a meal afterwards. Invite neighbours around. If you do not know them well, perhaps an afternoon tea will be a good place to start. We like to invite families over in the afternoon on Saturday for an early dinner so that the children can all get to bed at their normal bedtime and guests with their own children can be home at a reasonable time also. Lunch after church is fine at our house but going out doesn’t work so well for us because the littlies need to have naps.  Afternoon tea on a Sunday is also an easy option for us.

Prepare all meals ahead as much as possible, even breakfast. Choose meals that can be frozen during the week and reheated, or perhaps fill a slow cooker ready to turn on in the morning on Saturday or Sunday to be ready for the evening meal. Prepare salads and side dishes completely ahead if possible or at least do all the chopping, peeling, grating etc and toss them together when needed. Perhaps prepare a roast and leave it in the fridge so that it is ready to simply pop into the oven in the afternoon.

Go to church on Sunday. There will always be some reason why church is difficult. It interrupts little one’s sleep patterns, friends invite us to do other things, we are tired etc. etc. If church is optional our children get the message that other things are more important than God. Get there on time. (All right, we are not great at this because we still try to let both our babies have a nap before church but we will get better!)

Discuss notes taken, pictures drawn and important points from the morning sermon. Our children use pencils and clipboards to either draw or take notes during the sermon. It helps them to stay focussed during the service. Each family member takes a turn to share their notes or picture and explain something that they learnt or thought was important from the service during Sunday lunch.

Borrow bible or character based books, DVDs or videos from the church library each Sunday to use for quiet time later in the day.

Prepare a couple of Sunday school style activities or bible colouring pictures for the children to work on. Perhaps Dad could lead a family devotion while the children are colouring.

Choose scriptures to memorize for the following week and make posters to illustrate chosen verses. Put them on display throughout the week and read through them throughout the day or before meals until the children remember them. Older children can write out their scripture, parents can write verses out for younger children or choose them ahead of time and type up on the computer. Use old cards, wrapping paper, textas, glitter and the like for decorating. If posters are made on A4 paper or card, they can be slid into a presentation folder or laminated and made into a book and kept for review once memorised.

Work on Bible Lapbooks. Simple paper craft and activities relating to scriptures are mounted in manila folders. Key verses are written out and included (or printed for younger children) with the paper activities as memory joggers to illustrate the verses being studied. Ours match the family devotion readings from the previous week.

Play bible based board games. Choose a mixture of very simple games for littlies and some with more of a challenge for the older children. The best games are those that can be adapted to include all family members.

Bible charades. Participants choose a bible story or character to act out without speaking for others family members to identify.

Duplo bible charades. Family members use Duplo blocks to create representations of bible stories for others to identify. These can be still or animated.

Home- made bible trivial pursuit. The family is divided into teams of readers with non-readers. Readers choose a bible passage to read to their team, who then make up questions based on the passage. The passage is then read to the other teams once before the questions are asked. Points are awarded for correct answers.

Deliver a meal to a new mum, an elderly person,  someone who is sick or take biscuits (cookies) to a neighbour.

Learn a new hymn to sing through the week at family devotions or sing some you are already working on memorising.

Play the  bible on CD or praise and worship music throughout the day. It’s lovely to hear the children humming or singing words to Godly songs. What we listen to will stick in our head and how wonderful if the snippets that go around and around in our thoughts and the thoughts of our children throughout the day are Godly ones.

Read Godly material. Choose something that will bring you closer to God and centre your thoughts on Him; character based stories, great missionaries, and Godly bibliographies are but a few examples. Read aloud to the children while they colour bible pictures, do a craft, illustrate a verse or something related to the story.

Prepare family devotions, bible lapbooks lessons, character lessons or circle time for the week.

Visit a nursing home or retirement village and offer to read to the elderly or write letters for them.

Start a Sunday box filled with toys, books, activities and an ideas list only for use on Sundays.

Look through family photo albums or watch family home movies. Share anecdotes from your childhood and growing up times (e.g. How Mummy and Daddy met) or ask Grandparents to tell stories from the good old days. Scrapbook together. Record special family events and happenings, thoughts and achievements. Include favourite scriptures.

Act out bible stories, plays or mini musicals. Maybe take it on the road and perform at the local retirement home – they are very forgiving!

Make a care box for a missionary family. Spend some time writing letters, drawing pictures and taking photos to be included.

Make phone calls, write letters or emails to friends and loved ones, particularly those whom you haven’t been in contact with recently. Write thank you notes, birthday cards or simply “thinking of you” notes to people.

Make “blessing” baskets for people in the local community. You could choose emergency workers, hospital staff, school secretaries, or anyone else you would like to bless. Don’t forget to include a note of thank you, bible verse or perhaps a tract and an invitation to attend church.

Invite guests over for the following Sunday.

Make family goals, family mottos, family banners or family aims that will focus your family and assist you to pursue Godly excellence.

Put on a puppet show depicting a bible event or focussing on a spiritual truth or character quality.

Do some teddy teaching time. Use a special doll or teddy to act out proper manners at home, church, social etiquette situations or any other scenario where particular behaviours are polite and right. I have a collection of etiquette posters for a variety of situations that I have scanned into the computer, printed and cut into strips. Family teams lucky dip a strip and act out the right and wrong ways to handle given situations. Other teams try to guess which behaviour they are demonstrating and have to say what was right or wrong about the scenarios acted out.

Set personal and family goals for the upcoming year. Review previous goals. Look at all areas of life and evaluate where changes need to be made, what is going well, what needs work etc.

Start a character based praise system. Prepare a bunch of strips of paper and some kind of holder for the strips for each person in the family (such as a large envelope or paper plate halves stapled together.) Take a few minutes regularly throughout the week to note down positive character traits displayed by the children (e.g. Abigail showed compassion when she cared for Peta while she was sick) and post the strip into that child’s holder. Strips are drawn out and read in front of the family at lunch on Sunday. A character chart is useful to help identify character traits that are less obvious and more easily missed.

Use playdough or salt dough to construct something from the bible

Work on a Family service project or Volunteer at a relief organization.

Focus on one family member for the week and write down all the things we love about them in a giant card to be kept afterwards.

Object lessons. There are many books full of ideas for children’s sermons and object lessons.

Download sermons on the iPod to listen to during the week, burn onto CD for children to listen to in their rooms during room time

Hold a family meeting. What’s going well, not working, things we want to plan, needs being me or not being met. Be careful with the format and what can and should be shared. This is not a gripe session – children should be taught to go to a person who has offended them, not bring it up in family meetings.

Visit neighbours or invite them over

Make a book of rememberance recording how God has blessed you and worked in your life. Start a family memorial – a display of small objects that remind the family of answered prayers.

Decorate special boxes or containers for missionary funds or tithes

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Chores and responsibility

Every child who is old enough to participate in even the smallest way has chores in our family. We view chores as a way of fostering an “others centered” attitude, rather than a “self-centred” one. Chores are seen as a way for children to be involved and invested in our family and to understand that we work together to serve and help each other because we are Pascoes and we are blessed to have the family that God has given us.

We also assign chores to develop personal responsibility which we value as an important character trait. What parent does not want to raise a responsible child? Chores are one way to foster this and it is for this reason that we refer to them as responsibilities. Children are asked “Do you have the freedom to come to the breakfast table” or “Are your responsibilities complete?” to keep the awareness on the character that we are developing.

 The children are not paid for the chores that they do, they are simply an act of service that helps our family and are completed because we all work together. Children tend to value what they spend their time on and we want them to invest in this family and value being a part of it. They also do not receive pocket-money. Now, I can hear you all exclaiming that they need to learn to manage their money and how to be good stewards and how will they do that if they don’t get paid?

                                                  (Yes, she is using a dirty floor cleaning cloth; but it’s the thought that counts!) 

It is our opinion that children will value and manage their money responsibly when they have earned it themselves through labour. They need to understand that if they want something they need to work for it and that there is a direct correlation between the amount of work they do, the amount of money they earn and the amount of “stuff” they can then buy. A child who has cleaned windows, vacuumed out cars and pulled weeds to earn enough money for the latest Lego set, will in turn place a high value on that Lego set. They will also then have some idea how much work goes into purchasing the items that they already own or are given and will have a greater respect for their property and the property of others. Money that is earned is shared into 4 money boxes titled tithing, wealthing, saving and spending. 10% for tithing, 10% for wealthing, 10%for saving and the rest in spending or whichever one they choose.

When a bucket of weeds equals $1.00 and the doll they long for costs $30.00, a child who has worked to earn their money will be doing quick addition sums in their head as they place a value on that doll. Hmmm, that doll equals thirty buckets of weeds; perhaps I’ll be content with the 3 dolls I already own. Wise money management!!

Jobs to earn money are always available and are given what we feel is a reasonable rate of pay. Enough so that they can feasibly save up for an item, but not so much that the effort required is negligible. At the moment, the jobs that are available for earning money are collecting snails from the garden, weeding and washing and vacuuming out the car. I accidentally overpriced the snails at 10 cents each the first time, thinking that the children would have to really spend time hunting them down and it would be quite an effort to gather a large amount. In only 20 minutes, the three eldest collected enough snails to cost me $15.70!! Ouch! Snails were subsequently re-priced the following day.

Below are some ideas of the kind of responsibilities (chores) that children may be assigned, remembering that these are the day-to-day acts of family service that do not have a monetary value attached to them. When you are assigning chores, there must be a training process for children to be able to successfully complete their tasks to an acceptable standard. More on that another day.

Obviously all the chores listed below in a younger age category can be given to an older child, although I haven’t repeated the same ideas in each older age group. These ideas are just a start; you will be able to think of others that suit your unique family situation. You may also need to introduce certain chores at a later age or could introduce more difficult chores at an earlier age, depending on your children.

Responsibility (Chore) Area

1-2 yr olds

bedroom/play areas help Mum pack away toys after play, beginning with play pen
bed (once in big bed) PJ’s under pillow, pull up sheets & doona with help
dressing  
dirty Clothes put dirty clothes into hamper
washed laundry pass wet clothes to adult to hangPut pegs away when taking washing off line
folding find matching socks, deliver simple items (eg bibs to kitchen drawer)
food preparation share given items between plates
setting/clearing table put out placemats, coasters, cutlery, unbreakable cups and dishesClear own dishes, push chair in
dishes empty cutlery from dishwasherdry unbreakable dishes (towel system)
rubbish put rubbish into bin on request (not without permission)
bathrooms put out fresh towels & face washer
toilets nappy in bin
floors pick up for person sweeping/mopping & replace items afterwards
outdoor/garden tidy outdoor toys
deliveries deliver given items to their place (e.g. bib to dirty clothes basket)
misc open curtains

Responsibility (Chore) Area

2-5yr olds

bedroom/play areas pack away own toys/equipment after play, tidy own bedroom
bed make bed & strip bed sheets (take to laundry)
dressing get dressed into clothes chosen by Mum
dirty Clothes take all dirty clothes baskets to laundry & empty, sorting dirty clothes into light and dark loads
washed laundry peg items onto clothes horse & bring in dry washing from clothes horse
folding learn to fold all washing, starting with simple items such as t/towels and face washers. Put away own folding
food preparation kitchen helper (e.g. measure ingredients, stir mixture, wash salad veg, peel veg etc.)fill water glasses
setting/clearing table set table with crockery, clear all table items, wipe table, place mats, scrape plates, stack dishwashersweep under table after meals, wipe backs of chairs, spray & wipe kitchen cupboard doors, splash backs
dishes wash unbreakable & sturdy dishesdry all dishes (bar sharp items etc.) unpack dishwasher (barring large breakable items)
rubbish empty rubbish bins from bedrooms and bathrooms
bathrooms wipe bathroom sinks/benches/bathreplace towels
toilets replace toilet roll, restock spare rolls, spray and wipe toilet seat and button
floors dust bust small areas, moving on to sweeping & vacuuming floors
outdoor/garden water pots & garden plantspull weeds (supervised)
deliveries empty delivery basket daily
misc feed pets, wash and refill drinking waterspray and wipe door knobs, light switches, fingermarks off walls

Responsibility (Chore) Area

5-7+ yr olds plus

bedroom/play areas tidy assigned areas/rooms of the house
bed strip & re-make bed
dressing choose own clothes as directed by parent (e.g. put on round the house shirt & shorts)
dirty Clothes load washing machine (check pockets)
washed laundry hang out and bring in full load of washing
folding fold and put away all kinds of washing
food preparation full meal & snack prep under supervision (barring hot areas)independently bake a cake, put bread on in a bread maker etc
setting/clearing table sweep/vacuum/mop meal areas
dishes wash and dry all dishes (bar sharp knives etc.)
rubbish take kitchen rubbish out & replace bin bags
bathrooms full bathroom and shower clean
toilets full toilet clean
floors sweep/vacuum/mop floors (divide house into zones)
outdoor/garden sweep sandpit spills, patiorake leaves, yard work, water larger areas
deliveries  
misc clean up after animals wash pet bowlsclean windows, mirrors, TV & computer screens

Mel Hayde’s Book “Terrific Toddlers” at  US Book Depository has some information about introducing chores with toddlers and the excellent book is “What Every Child Should Know Along The Way” at  Amazon or Growing Families Australia is another great resource.

Terrific Toddlers: Tantrum Free Two's-Almost!: Tantrum Free Two's-Almost!

Workboxes – homeschooling multiple ages

With many children in the family, juggling different levels of homeschooling can at times be a challenge. One of my long-term goals is for each child to become a completely independent learner, to be able to educate themselves in any way necessary to equip them for their future careers and life. Once each child is an independent reader, this becomes much easier and it is therefore the children in the 4 to 6-ish bracket that receive the most one-on-one parent directed teaching as they learn their basic phonics, reading and mathematic skills. As they progress through the next couple of years or so and become proficient readers, they begin to work more and more independently.

Workboxes are one method of encouraging independence and organising several different learners at different stages. They can take different forms; some families have a system of drawers whereby the child starts at the top drawer, completes the set task in it, moves on to the drawer below and so on until their daily responsibilities are completed. This allows them to see their progress and gives even non-readers a very clear indicator of what they are to do next. There is no wandering around collecting or organising supplies as everything necessary for the activity is in the drawer (other than a caddy or pencil-case of stationary items that is collected with the first drawer work.)

This kind of system is great for all children and is particularly helpful for those who like to know what is coming next, those who tend to argue or complain about what they do or do not have to do for the day and those who waste a lot of time finding books and supplies instead of working. Everything is black and white and dictated by the drawers. You are not finished until the last drawer is done. They can even include music practice, computer time, chores or any other kind of task a child is responsible for in a day.

I love the idea of workboxes set out in this way but didn’t want to have to swap out activities on a nightly basis. While the year one child for example does reading and phonics every day, they do not do exactly the same activity so the drawer system would require me swapping out the phonics drawer every night. The same applies for maths which is a daily activity, however the form that it takes changes daily.

Miss 3 1/2 year old’s cupboard – 1 workbox and 1 tray per day.

Miss 6 year old’s shelf – 1 workbox per day.

In the end I took the basic idea of the workbox (that is every piece of equipment necessary and every activity needing to be completed throughout the day is in the box) and tweaked it to fit our family. Our workboxes are simply a plastic crate containing every activity that must be completed throughout the day for each child within the one box (or in some cases a box and a tray for each day.) There is a box for each day of the week, apart from Wednesdays when our eldest son attends a homeschooling co-op and the girls have a more relaxed day of craft and cooking etc.

I set them up at the beginning of the term and only need to change them when content such as reading books need to be updated, rather than on a daily or weekly basis.

For those of you who are interested, here is what’s in the boxes.

Miss 3 1/2:

Monday: counting workjob, starter styles (Pre-number at the moment) and peg board. (She is learning the alphabet letter names and sounds but we do them everyday so they sit separately on the top shelf, rather than in any one box.)

Tuesday: Letterland phonics, counting workjob, puzzle and colouring in.

Thursday: Montessori style tong activity, book, counting workjob, pattern blocks and puzzle cards.

Friday: counting workjob, Montessori style spooning activity, diary writing and puzzles.

Miss 6’s work boxes:

Monday: Reading, 3 letter words spelling book, addition workjob, phonics & spelling starter styles and Montessori sight words picture match.

Tuesday: reading, handwriting, Montessori sight words picture match, phonics digraphs, number starter styles and subtraction workjob.

Thursday: Diary writing, Montessori sight words picture match, number starter styles, reading and geoboard activities.

Friday: Reading, calculations starter styles, Montessori sight words picture match, sight words activity book and base 10 activities.

Master 8 yr old’s school work is not in workboxes. He has his own desk with drawers and keeps his school book sorted into those. He does do some hands on work; however the morning session (which is when we use the workboxes) is when he does his book work. He has a weekly schedule to follow which tells him which subject to do on what day and  he works through this in order; a kind of “workbox on paper.”

He uses a mixture of Saxon Maths and Maths-U-See, Mystery of History, Exploring Creation, copywork, lapbook activities, Color the Classics and English for the Thoughtful Child.

We all have circle time together, with the focus on bible reading, character training, scripture memorization, catechism and prayer. I spend time with Miss 3 1/2 while Master 8 and Miss 6 work independently, then one-on-one with Miss 6 while the others work independently and finally time with Master 8 while both girls finish off their activities and head outside.

This is what is working for us at the moment, although as life changes and new challenges appear (such as the twins dropping their morning nap sometime soon!), everything changes again. But that’s life with little ones!

Travelling with young children – plane trips

Earlier this year we took a plane trip with 5 children aged 8 and under. While our children are generally well behaved, it was not without some trepidation that we embarked on this experience, particularly when we thought about the long hours with TWO 15 month old toddlers to keep entertained.

We also had 5 days at a conference once at our destination and although there was one session per day of children’s activities planned, we had potentially a lot of time throughout the remainder of the day when we would have to keep the children quietly entertained. What to pack?? Here is our survival list, both for the plane trip itself and for quiet times throughout the day.

1. Snacks

Any parent of young children knows that you never leave home for any length of time without snacks and this was no exception. We bought an assortment of dry snacks and treats that wouldn’t make a mess and shared them out between little ziplock bags. Each bag was labeled with the child’s name and when it was for; one for the plane ride over, one to come home and one for each day of the conference. They included yoghurt coated sultanas, mini pretzels, dried banana, several varieties of cereal, tiny teddy biscuits and a lollipop per bag and as we rarely buy this kind of food they were a real treat.

2. Books

  

A couple of new books (new to the kids anyway) and a few favourites that were suitable for all ages. At one point we looked over and the big burly gentleman that had the dubious pleasure of sharing a row with us was reading one of the books to our 3 ½ year old! Not sure how that came about but it was very cute.

3. Sticker books

Another quiet and absorbing activity and as we were catering for a variety of ages perfect for us. The three older children all love to do stickers, particularly the girls.

4. Drawing equipment

     

Magic markers (they change colour when you draw over the top with the colour change pen) were new to the children and so had novelty factor. A mini whiteboard and eraser is good for even the littlies under supervision and a general supply of gluing, cutting and drawing equipment was useful for when other children wanted to join in.

5. Activity books

Dot to dots, mazes, colour-by-number and other simple puzzles keep the older two busy and number 3 enjoys simply colouring in the pictures.

6. Water painting books

These are brilliant. A small brush and a little water is all that is required and the pictures change colour in front of their eyes. The children especially loved these, although they completed them very quickly and they were fairly pricy considering the small amount of time they occupied. I had a lot of trouble locating any in the shops and ended up buying this set on ebay for around $5 per book including postage.

7. Toddler toys

       

 

I find toddlers the hardest to cater for. They have the shortest attention span and are easily bored with the toys they have already used at home, plus commercial activities often tend to be large and bulky. I have found with my own children that a selection like the ones above of new activities with equipment I can gather from around the house is even better that trying to pack their usual toys and holds their interest longer because they are new. I also capitalized on current interests such as putting on hats, brushing their own hair, Velcro, posting objects etc Obviously, behaviour training is very important and teaching toddlers to sit and concentrate at home during highchair time, mat time, playpen time and other structured elements in your routine pays off in situations like this. If a toddler is not taught to sit still and focus on an activity and to stay where Mum and Dad put them, then a plane ride is not going to be a pleasant experience at all.

8. Playdough

I didn’t get this out on the plane but it was a nice afternoon quiet time activity and was easily shared with new friends.

9. Lacing and sewing activities

    

I purchased the Filo lacing and lacing cards from Skillbuilders, an occupational therapy business. They are excellent for fine motor control but do require more effort. I use these in my homeschooling activities but find that the children would not generally choose to use them just for fun. They were well used on the trip though simply because they were new.

10. Toy cars

Again, good for all ages and compact for travel. We were allocated one item of carry on luggage and one suitcase per person (including the twins), plus a baby bag, a portacot and a twin stroller and we used every single bit of it. The eldest child dragged two carry on suitcases on wheels, the girls had one each plus a jacket and hubby and I had the rest between us plus 2 babies. Moving about was not an easy affair but we did get excellent service as the air hostesses took one look at us and instantly we had pity factor. Especially when we first arrived and hubby went to park the car after dropping us and the luggage off at the entrance. I was asked in horror(?) if I was travelling alone with the children as the bags were carried through and we received one on one attention to get through the queue.

11. Wikki Stix

These are wax coated bendable sticks (also known in Australia as Bendaroos) that will stick to themselves and almost any smooth surface. The children can make models, spell out words, make pictures and put them to a variety of other uses due to their open ended nature. They are clean, quiet, small and easily portable so brilliant for travel. I did read on one parenting forum though that they are poisonous if ingested so without knowing if this is true or not, I am very cautious with the twins not to let them get a hold of them.

Two more activities that we didn’t take this time, but have used for travel activities in the past are:

12. A roll of alfoil.

Yep, that’s it! You’d be amazed at what kids can do with a roll of alfoil; it makes an excellent sculpting material. I trawled the net and found a bunch of pictures and included these as springboards for ideas and they went from there.

13. A packet of pipe cleaners.

Again, I found heaps of pipe cleaner creations on the web, printed them out as ideas and the kids created to their heart’s content.

In the end, we only used half of the activities that we took, but we made it there and back in fairly good humour and the people around us didn’t have much to complain about!

Check out this post and this one for more related travel activities for toddlers and children.

 

 

Keeping the Sabbath – Duplo Bible charades

We have been spending some time lately helping the children to memorize the Ten Commandments using this children’s 10 commandments video clip. At the same time, we are discussing each commandment and how it applies to our lives and specifically, what each one requires of us. We have also focused on how the law acts as a mirror to show us both how God requires us to live and also our absolute inability to keep the law perfectly – therefore our need for the saviour that God provided through Jesus.

 

One of the areas we are working on ourselves as parents is keeping the Sabbath. We find it particularly difficult to make this a rest day and time of focus on God when we have many little ones to get to church, keep fed, dressed and entertained for the day. I will be writing more about this over the next little while, however today I wanted to share one family activity that we have started on Sunday afternoons that caters for all ages, has been thoroughly enjoyed and keeps the focus on God – Duplo bible charades.

 

Duplo bible charades is an absolute winner in our house. Everyone uses the bricks to build a scene depicting a bible event, story or verse. The scene can be still or require animation. Once everyone is ready, we take turns presenting the scene for others to guess. Little ones team up with adults or build their own if they want to.

We are starting to branch out into the more obscure stories now and attempting to make them more difficult to guess. It’s lots of fun and a nice family relationship building activity.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which stories are represented in the photos – bearing in mind that the children had no trouble at all working them out!

The 10 times rule

Our children all have them. They drive us crazy, but they’re not a big deal. The children in our family provide us with several of these little annoyances on a regular basis.

What am I talking about you ask? Leaving shoes in the middle of the doorway, forgetting to flush the toilet, leaving the back door open, forgetting to turn bedroom lights out when they leave, leaving bandaid wrappers on the bathroom bench, leaving hats on the floor under the hat rack, taking dirty dishes to the kitchen and leaving them on the bench right above the dishwasher but not in it. I could go on and on. And I know that you have a list too. Take a moment to come up with one little thing that the children in your house do that drives you batty. Now, the answer to your problem;

Ta daaa…. The 10 Times Rule. A nifty little solution (care of Meredith and Patrice– thank you) that will abolish these little bad habits in no time, with very little effort on your behalf. How does it work? Very simply. Gather the children together. Point out the offending habit. Inform them that from that moment on, anyone who persists in that bad habit will be repeating the offending action correctly 10 times.

This is what it looks like:

Child A leaves the back door open as they run out and jump on the trampoline. Child A is informed that they have not completed the task correctly (i.e. shut the door behind them) so will need to re-do the task 10 times in the correct manner. They are then required to run to the trampoline and come back to open and shut the back door (quietly) 10 times before they are free to continue on with their play. The door must be opened and shut properly and quietly and the trampoline touched each time or it does not count.

No need for a lecture, no raised voices, nothing other than supervising and counting that the 10 times has actually been done is required from Mum.  It’s kind of fun for the child the first time, but then it gets old really quickly. Family members will very soon be yelling out “10 times rule” to remind a child to shut the door because they do not want their playmate to be taken away for the time it takes to re-do it. In the same way, the child who is actually guilty of forgetting will soon start to remember as their play is held up once more. Most of these problems occur in the first place because the children are intent on getting to something they want to do, so being held up to repeat something they didn’t want to do in the first place is a great incentive not to forget the next time.

One more example; the children persist in placing dirty dishes on the bench, rather than in the dishwasher. All children are warned about the 10 times rule applying to this behaviour. Child B forgets and leaves their dirty dish on the bench. They are then required to place their dish in the dishwasher, remove the dish and take it back to the table, take it back to the dishwasher and place it in and so on, until they have repeated the task 10 times. It works and I love it!

We also have developed an extra consequence for behaviours such as leaving bandaid wrappers on the bathroom sink. Children who do this are considered to have immediately volunteered to clean the entire bathroom sink. The bathroom gets cleaned, bandaid wrappers are no longer left lying about and everybody is happy. Well… I’m happy anyway and the children are learning responsibility for their actions 🙂

Preparing for a new baby

Having now prepared 3 toddlers for the birth of a sibling and about to do it all again with 2 more, I thought it was time for a quick review of some of the ways to do this so that the whole family greets the newest arrival with joy and enthusiasm. I have tried all of these ideas myself and the transition that occurs when a new baby joins our family has generally been fairly smooth.

The hardest so far were the twins who were 9 weeks premature and stayed in hospital for 7 weeks. That put a bit of a spanner in the works, however we still tried to keep everything as smooth as possible and have not seen the jealousy that some families experience. The rough road with the twins stemmed more from me being away for home on a daily basis than any negative feelings over the babies themselves and the children were so glad to finally have their babies (and Mum) at home with them. They have in fact been heard to complain that we should have had triplets as there are not enough babies to go around.

My “how to” includes:

  • Put routines in place well in advance to give you time to work through the kinks before bub arrives. Think about feed times (how many and when they may occur) and plan around these. You may have around 5 feeds when toddlers are awake to begin with, so plan good independent activities for these times that they are well used to doing without your help or interaction. If you can’t mop the floor or cook dinner in peace now, with a well occupied toddler, then there is no way you will be able to breastfeed in peace later!
  • Involve siblings in choosing a gift from them to the new baby and have the baby “buy” one for them in return. When the children came in to the hospital for their first visit we always have a small gift waiting for them in the baby’s cot. Gifts are exchanged after time with Mum and meeting their new baby.
  • Plan for their first meeting with the new baby to be a time when there are no other visitors around to compete with Mum and Dad’s attention. Try and time it so Mum is not feeding or holding the baby so that she can greet children with a big cuddle and kiss before introducing the baby.

  • Have children visit regularly if you will be staying in hospital for any length of time and take a pack or box of toys, activities and small snacks to the room. The novelty of looking at a sleeping bundle wears off very quickly! Mine still remember that we let them have mini tiny teddy packs when the third was born. It was a highlight for them! Poor treat deprived children! 
  • While the twins were in hospital, the children all drew pictures and wrote about their new babies. I scanned and shrunk these on to one A4 page and laminated them. They were stuck up on the end of each of the twin’s isolettes. Every time the older children came in to visit they could see their special work on display.

  • Ask friends and family to be mindful of not bypassing older children for the baby during visits. They can fuss over them being a big brother or sister now as well. That said, of course this will happen to some extent regardless, just be a little aware and try to make them feel special too. Children also need to be taught to be happy for their sibling when they receive something special. This is your first opportunity to begin teaching this attitude. There is no need to have a gift for the older children every time the baby receives one, but there is something to be said for keeping that side of things a little low key.
  • Get all changes to bedrooms, big beds, car seats etc. made well ahead. Closer to the time, talk about where the baby will sleep, where they will go in the car, their room, that you will be away for a little while, who will look after the children and any other arrangements you can think of. Do not tell children they will have a brother or sister to play with – there will be no playing for a very long time!
  • Practice being gentle with teddies, pets, dolls, teddies and other babies and talk about delicate bodies, being easily hurt, not touching faces etc. This is especially important for the toddler in the family.

  • Read books about caring for babies but be wary of the kind that promote the idea that there will be jealous feelings, Mummy and Daddy will be too busy for them now and other negative themes.
  • Borrow/buy/make a baby change mat, mini bath, little bed or any other baby related stuff you can think of, with all the accessories like spare facecloths, nappies, cotton wool, empty paste container etc for children to use with their special teddies and dolls. They may enjoy making them out of boxes and cut up fabric and other bits and bobs close to the time that bub is due. Even young boys at this age will often be surprisingly into this for a little while before reverting right back to their car loving selves. When you are busy bathing or with some other baby chore they might like to copy and work right alongside you with their own “baby.”
  • Have lots of really positive conversations about how wonderful it is that they will be a big brother/sister, how lucky they are to have a new sibling coming, how much the baby will love having them as a big brother/sister etc.
  • Pray. This is a wonderful time in a family and babies are a gift and blessing from God. Teach your older children this attitude right from the beginning.