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10 Simple Ways to Serve Together as a Family

Posted on Dec 13, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

Operation Christmas Child

I’m sure you can agree it is a true joy to see your child’s face light up when he receives a gift.  As a matter of fact, I have a feeling the memory of the joy you experience is likely to outlast the joy your child experiences from the gift itself.

During this season of giving, consider giving your child a gift that lasts.  A gift that teaches children to think beyond themselves and their own needs.  Take the time to teach your children what it means to give.

Here are 10 ways to cultivate a spirit of giving, not just during the Christmas season, but throughout the entire year:

  1. Make a meal for someone who is sick.

  2. Shovel snow or do yard work for an elderly neighbor.

  3. Babysit for a single mom.

  4. Sponsor a child through a Christian charity organization.

  5. Bake cookies for someone who is facing a challenge.

  6. Provide transportation to church for a homebound member.

  7. Write letters to service people.

  8. Volunteer in your church nursery.

  9. Maintain a change collection jar and donate the proceeds to a charity of your family’s choosing.

  10. Pray together for others.

girl giving

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)


3 Ways to Encourage Your Child’s Creativity and Imagination

Posted on Sep 20, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Kim Schlauch

creative boy

While mastering the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic are important building blocks of a good education, this academic knowledge is not the only area of importance when it comes to your child’s overall development and well-being.  Important lessons and life skills can be learned and cultivated beyond the books using a little creativity and imagination.  Not yours, but theirs.

Creativity involves the use of the imagination, or the formation of original ideas.  Encouraging creativity stimulates mental growth and helps children develop their critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving skills.  In addition, stimulating a child’s imagination can, among other things, sharpen memory skills and help develop cognitive skills.

Creativity is vital to a child’s overall mental, physical and social well-being.  Encouraging creativity and imagination in your children can help them mature into well-adjusted adults.  Here are three ways to do so:

1. Limit Screen Time.

When children focus their attention on televisions, computer screens and other technological devices, they are learning about the world in an artificial way.  And, rather than being in control, children simply become the passive recipients of visual and auditory stimulation.  While screen time can be entertaining, due to its passive nature, too much can be unhealthy both mentally and physically.  To stimulate creativity and imagination, limit your child’s screen time and encourage your children to participate in other activities that will stimulate his mind and his body. 

2. Encourage Free Play.

While structured play and organized activities such as team sports or other youth development programs can be beneficial to your child, these adult-controlled activities force her to follow adult rules and concerns, limiting her ability to develop creatively.  Find a way to strike a balance between structured, adult-led activities and child-driven play that will give her the opportunity to move at her own pace, practice decision-making skills, discover her personal areas of interest and protect her against the effects of stress and pressure.

3. Read To/With Your Child.

 Reading not only improves your child’s literacy skills, it can also spark his imagination.  When stories are told through other means such as on television or in the movie theater, your child is at the mercy of another’s imagination.  Reading, however, affords him the opportunity to use his own mind to re-imagine the sights, sounds, and other sensory stimuli by seeing or listening to the words of the narrative.  While reading, take the time to ask your child about the characters you are reading about.  What do they look like?  How should they sound?  When you get to the end of the story, challenge your child to us his imagination to come up with his own alternative ending to the story.

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Shared Interests: A Leap of Faith and a Lesson Learned

Posted on Sep 16, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Pam McKee

smiling horse

When my daughters were tiny infants I looked forward to their upcoming childhood, watching them grow and doing activities with them, having a good time together as a family. I don't think I ever thought about it being something my husband and I would have to creatively plan for and schedule. Our family...having fun together. It would just happen. Naturally. Right?

Well I was so wrong. As each daughter was born into our family, a new little personality was added to the mix. As they grew, especially as they got into the elementary school years, we began to realize that we had to create some Shared Interests for our family to take part in together.

So...we bought a horse.

Now, many girls, as they were growing up, went through a phase in which they loved anything horse related. I was not one of those girls. Neither my husband nor I had ever ridden a horse. We had never put a saddle on a horse. We knew nothing about how to care for a horse. Nor did we have a great desire to. But still...we bought a horse. Candy was her name.  horse saddle

Our friend, who had given us this creative idea of buying a (cheap) horse in order to have a shared interest with our girls, taught us how to feed Candy, put the saddle on her, and ride her. Sort of.

Usually when parents are teaching their children a skill, it is something that they themselves have already mastered, at least somewhat. Well this wasn't the case with Candy.

So on Saturdays the four of us would entice Candy in from the pasture where she was boarded, attempt to saddle her, check her feet (like we would know if something was wrong?), and then we would take turns "riding" her.

When we first began this Shared Interest adventure we thought:  How will four of us take turns with one horse?  Will one horse be enough for four of us?  Oh yes. One horse was plenty.

As I look back on this experience I wonder - What were we thinking?  We knew absolutely nothing about what we were doing.

But, you know, that wasn't the goal. The goal was to do something together that everyone in our family could take part in and enjoy. Not only did we spend time together out in the pasture with Candy, but many hours were also shared together in the tack store figuring out what we needed for this horse of ours.

As you might try to come up with a Shared Interest for you and your kids, remember it does not have to be something in which you are the expert. Learning about it together with your kids is half the fun!


The Carpool Advantage: A Captive Audience

Posted on Aug 23, 2014 6:00:00 AM by Pam McKee


The summer has been lovely, hasn't it?  Kids playing with friends, leisurely family time spent at the beach, no homework to complete, no hectic schedule to stay on.  And now we're about to rev our engines, line up at the starting line, and begin the nine-month race to the finish line of yet another school year. I'm panting just thinking about it.  

Sometimes in the heat of the race, in other words the busyness of everyday school life, we start zooming along so fast in our effort to get each project completed on time, that we forget to have calm, quiet conversations with our kids. And when, WHEN could we possibly do this?  

Maybe the breakfast table is not a place for easy conversation - "Did you put your lunch money in your backpack?"   "Honey!  Please come downstairs, we're leaving in 5 minutes!"

Or possibly the dinner table is not an opportunity for peaceful conversation - "Have you finished your math homework?"   "Please do not toss the soccer ball in the air while we're trying to eat. "


And while carpooling to school or soccer practice or dance rehearsal, in our effort to successfully run this daily school race, could be used to review spelling words, see how fast we can say the "9" times tables, or practice our poem for the Speech Meet, it could be used instead to have calm, quiet, relational conversations with your kids. Oh, there's a thought.

Now this might not happen naturally.  We, Moms and Dads, have to be intentional about this.

  • Don't talk on your (hands free) phone.

  • Don't make a mental grocery list.

  • Don't plan the next piece of information you want to share with your co-worker at your job.

Give your child your attention.  After all, isn't your relationship with your son or daughter one of the most important things in your life?  And, one more thing... Don't appear as though you are working at this.  Even if you are.

Here are a few conversation starters you might try:

  • Name two reasons you are glad to be alive today (during morning carpool you could receive a blank stare, but during afternoon carpool this could be a good opener instead of the usual ‘How did school go today?’).

  • What do you think the difference is between being wise and being smart?

  • How does this school year compare with last school year (This is a good one for the first week of school, the middle, and the last week of school)?

  • What hurts your feelings? How do you act when your feelings are hurt?

  • Who is your best friend?...What qualities do you look for in friends?

  • Name two things you really like about yourself that have nothing to do with what you look like.

  • And of course there are the usual sports, fashion, or video game related questions. These are for days when it's obvious no one is in a relationally sharing mood.

Granted, sometimes it might be quiet, no one saying a word.  And that’s ok.  But when they talk, listen to their answers. Reflect back what your child is saying in a way that he/she knows you have heard and understand.  Use questions as a jumping off point to begin a two-way conversation.

What questions we ask will depend on whether there are others in the car and how old they are.  You know your kids. If this is a group of kids who have been together for a few years and are

comfortable with each other, you could even put a question out there and see who answers! 

Being together in the car for a period of time creates the opportunity for interaction among family members and with other kids who are part of your carpool. Don't underestimate the ways you could be an encouragement to other children simply by listening to them.

Here’s the thing:  You have a captive audience in your carpool. Use this time with those kids God has given you (your own and maybe others, too) to begin to develop and nurture a positive relationship with them.