Frugal Family Fun

I’d already begun this post before all the craziness of the last couple weeks happened, so keep that in mind as you read. However, I thought it might be of help to those of you who don’t quite know what to do with your little kids at home.

Right now, my kiddos are really young (2 1/2 and 6 months), and it’s challenging to just get out of the house some days. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy family activities and outings. However, this one-income family is on a budget, so we’re not dropping a ton of money on entertainment.

The biggest challenges for us right now are finding activities that we will ALL enjoy, and working around nap schedules. Because, let’s face it, when the toddler is cranky, nobody is having fun, lol. Both girls are under the age of three, so bonus points for activities that are outside, where they can be as loud as they want, and be free to move and play.

Many people seem to be under the impression that we always have to do BIG things to make memories with our children. Sure they’ll enjoy that trip to Disney, but they also love playing games, coloring, and going to the park with us. And I believe it’s the little, every day ways we play with our children that make the most lasting impressions.

$3 Target find. The Dollar Store usually has some, too.

Some things I do with my toddler (and infant) during the week are…

  1. Go to the library.
  2. Read.
  3. Color, paint, or craft.
  4. Blow bubbles. We love the no-spill Fubbles container we picked up at Walmart last year.
  5. Build/create, using blocks, blankets, playdough, etc.
  6. Go for a walk.
  7. Go to the park.
  8. Play make-believe, using stuff you have around the house: plastic food, blocks, pots/pans, clothes, etc.
  9. Play games/puzzles. We only have two games right now, Think Roll Fun and a Frozen II Matching game, but my toddler will pull them out pretty often; and thanks to my mom, we have a TON of puzzles.
  10. Sing/dance. YouTube is my friend in this instance. My toddler loves to sing–like her momma, lol–so she loves singing along with songs we find online (usually Disney and nursery songs). And we play the Freeze Dance game, as well.
  11. *Bonus* I plan to homeschool in the future, so we’ve been practicing line tracing, lately. You can find some activities on Pinterest, but I also picked up a Preschool workbook, from Aldi’s, a few weeks back. I make copies (since I have 2 littles) and place it in a dry erase pocket I purchased from Target while back-to-school shopping, last year.

It may look like I keep them busy, but I don’t really. They play by themselves (or with each other) and they watch some television, but they mostly watch educational shows (I’ll share a list of our favorites below). If they didn’t watch some TV I’d never get anything done around the house. Other times they follow me around the house as I cook, do laundry, or clean.

We’ve started implementing family movie nights on Friday or Saturday evenings, with pizza, popcorn or hot chocolate, and a Disney/family movie. Our toddler might get to stay up a little later to watch the movie with us; and we’ve only done this a few times, but she’s constantly asking for family movie nights, now.

When dad’s home from work, it’s easier to actually go places with both kiddos. So, we tend to save bigger/longer outings for the weekends. Our favorite place to go, so far, has been Maymont in Richmond, Va. We went a few weeks ago, toting along a picnic lunch. It’s free–supported by donations–and complete with animals, gardens, and lots of walking. Last time we went there were kids (and parents) rolling down a huge hill on the property, near the birds of prey exhibits. We have yet to make it inside the mansion for a tour (which is currently closed due to COVID-19), and the Nature Center–which we have visited previously–was under renovation.

If you’re in the area and looking for a free outdoor activity, we always recommend it. There’s a couple parks in the area, as well, but we haven’t been to them, yet. As my girls get older I can make further recommendations, but these are what currently work for us.

Favorite Toddler Television Shows

  • Daniel Tiger
  • Sesame Street
  • The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That
  • Llama Llama
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
  • Doc McStuffins
  • Word World
  • Curious George
  • Super Why
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Wild Kratts
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog
  • Dora the Explorer
  • Max & Ruby
  • Wallykazam!
  • Dino Dana
  • Superbook
  • Owlegories
  • Veggie Tales

Worship Series: Song Selection

If you’ve been following for some time, you’d know that I help out with children’s worship once a month. Well, once a month we also hold a children’s worship practice, where we introduce new songs and motions to our children’s worship team. And every month I struggle with tying to figure out what new songs I’d like to add to our slowly growing list.

Now, it’s not that I don’t have songs that I love, however, everybody has their own style of worship and artists they prefer, and I’m no different. I love upbeat and energetic praise songs and I love worship, but I’m also very lyrically driven. Obviously, I’m a writer, so I tend to be drawn to songs with powerful, biblically sound lyrics. I mean, the Bible says that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth, and the Word is Truth (John 4:23-24).

However, when it comes to children’s worship, I can’t always choose to share or lead the same songs that I enjoy during my personal worship time, because the lyrics are sometimes too complex for children between the ages of 5-12. That’s not to say that I choose watered down songs, because that would mean I’d be underestimating the understanding of the children; and children understand much more than we often give them credit for. (That’s why Jesus said that we should be more like little children in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18.) However, sometimes I really struggle with finding age-appropriate songs, especially because our group varies so vastly in age.

I think this is a challenge that someone leading any type of worship–adults, children, teens, etc.–faces: choosing the right songs for the particular group you’re leading. Leading adult worship, for instance, means you have to choose songs that reach a multitude of generations (unless your church has only one primary age group).

Here are three things that I started taking into consideration when choosing songs for Children’s Worship:

Tempo

Because I’m working with kids this is an important one. If we want the children to be excited about worship, we need some up-tempo songs to begin with and we have to be careful when we slow down our praise and enter into worship. Usually, I like to have a transition song, something mid-tempo, before going into worship, but sometimes it’s not always possible. Their attention span is pretty short and I’ve found that if we sing any more than one worship song, we usually lose them.

Lyrics

This is the most challenging for me. Some of my favorite worship songs are very lyric heavy. They either have a lot of lyrics or the lyrics are complex. In the days leading up to our most recent practice, for example, I went back and forth on a song that I really loved, but eventually decided against because I felt that the kids couldn’t handle it. The best songs for them tend to be those with simpler lyrics and repeating choruses, although I have found some exceptions. Songs that they are familiar with, because they hear them repeatedly on the radio, tend to do extremely well with this group! So much so, that we’ve begun to use more of such songs during worship.

Song Length

Unfortunately, we don’t have a live band for our children’s worship, so we use tracks (usually, including the lyrics). Sometimes the track we have is too long or there’s too much ad-lib going on in the track. I’ve been making notes of which songs these are, so that I don’t continue to use them or I request that a new/different version of the song be purchased. Again, I can’t lead an 8 minute worship song with this age group, since they just don’t have the attention span, and they don’t know what to do when someone is ad-libbing.

Still, even after taking these things into consideration, we just have to lead the song a few times and see how the children respond to it. Sometimes they pick it up easily and other times we end up disappointed and end up removing the song from our list.

Now I have questions for you…How do you choose which songs to use in your worship services? And how many times do you try/lead a new song before ultimately giving up on it? I’d love to hear your responses below!

Responsibilities of Parenthood

This post has been a while in the making. I’ve been slow to post it because A) I’m not a mother (yet) and B) I don’t want anybody to think I’m telling them how they should raise their children. However, this is something that’s been on my heart lately; especially, since if you’ve read my last post, you know that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future.

Recently, a TON of my friends (and my sister–I’m going to be an aunt again!) have announced pregnancies. While I may not currently be in the same boat, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t thought about the responsibilities we have as parents (from here on out, just accept that I’m going to speak in the future tense in regards to myself, lol).

As parents, there are a lot of things that we’re in charge of when it comes to our children, the most obvious being food, shelter, clothing, protection, love and encouragement. And as they age, we encourage them to walk, teach them how to use the restroom on their own, how to share, the difference between right and wrong, and how to ride a bike, just to name a few. We are deliberate in these lessons and experiences because we want our children to grow up to be capable adults one day. The same should be said in regards to sharing the gospel with our children.

My sisters and nephews at the Botanical Garden in SC.

My sisters and nephews at the Botanical Garden in SC.

I heard a pastor a few weeks ago, on the radio, talking about how when interacting with his son, he and his son practiced what he called “Say, Play, and Pray.” They would read Biblical stories together, act them out, and then pray. When I heard this, I thought, “Wow! What an amazing way to be intentional about sharing the gospel and studying the Word with your child.” I decided right then that that was something I would love to do with my future children. Just as it’s our responsibility to provide, care, and teach our children other life lessons, we ought to be responsible for teaching our children the Word and how to apply the Word in their lives.

This couldn’t have been made more clear to me as I’ve read Deuteronomy chapters 6 & 11 these past few weeks, in which, Moses tells the Israelites to remember that their children didn’t get to see all the great and wonderful miracles God did while extracting them from Egypt. Therefore, as men and women chosen by God, they’re to not only obey the Lord, but to teach their children about Him and His commands, as well. As parents, we’ve seen and experienced many great and wonderful things ourselves, and God calls us to be intentional about teaching our children. Just like Moses told the Isralites:

And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NLT; repeated again in 11:18-21)

So what does that mean? To be intentional? I think sometimes we think that our children will just “get it” or understand things without us explaining to them. However, just like we have to teach them how to share, or play fair, or how to treat people with respect, we should be teaching them the how’s and why’s of studying the Word, teaching them to seek the Lord in prayer, teaching them to be worshipers, and how to walk and be lead by the Spirit, in word and in deed. We are their parents, the people our children look up to and observe every day. Who’s in a better position to do so than us!? It’s a responsibility given to us by God, and is not to be taken lightly.

I may not currently have children of my own—I’m not even married yet—but I know I plan to be intentional, what about you? How are you being (or how do you plan to be) intentional about sharing the Word with your children? Do you read a children’s Bible with your children before bed? Do you share how God has blessed you and your family over dinner? Does your family have devotional time? Or a quiet time, where everybody reads on their own and then shares what they’ve been studying? Let me know in the comments below! I’m sure all of us could use some inspiration. Take care and God bless!