Friday, May 24

Thinking Outside The Sandbox: Ideas from the Thrift Store

If your sandbox could use a little pick me up this summer, try stopping by a thrift store before you hit the toy store. They've got a lot of cool stuff for making your sandbox an imagination station 
and it's all cheap!

Here are some of my favorite finds:

For your little pretend gardener,
flower pots, fake flowers, and scoops

For your builder or sand chef,
Scoops, random kitchen utensils, cookie cutters, 
measuring cups, plastic plates, and baking pans

For your little treasure hunter, 
bags of beads or marbles

Now our kids just need some new sand! 

Cheers, friends! 
To repurposing and to inspiring play!

Sunday, March 17

Playing in the Easter Story: Parent's Guide

Why playing with a story is so important:

Something great happens when we give kids the tools to explore and discover a story on their own. Their imaginations are engaged and suddenly those stories become their own. No longer bound by pages, these are stories with the ability to form the hearts and minds of our kids. We can easily provide these opportunities with popular stories like Spiderman and Cinderella, but too often we lack the resources to play in the really rich and valuable faith stories.

These play sets were created as an easy and accessible way for all families to play in the Easter story together. My hope is, they will engage your kids’ imagination and hearts, and they will generate authentic conversation about Jesus’ life, journey to the cross, death, and resurrection for you!

Role of parents in story play:

Gretchen Pritchard author of Offering the Gospel to Children puts it best, “You are not so much an instructor as a midwife and a guide.” Really leave space for your kids to lead the story and the discussion. They may not want to hear a chronological retelling, so listen when they ask to start with “this” picture. They may retell the story with slightly more flare then you did, and while it may not all be plausible, it is very valuable. 

Check out Playing in the Easter Story: Play Set Options for free printables and ideas!

Playing in the Easter Story: Play Set Options

See Playing in the Easter Story: Parent's Guidefor helpful advice on
 how to and why play in the Easter story.

Using the Cutout Story Set
(See end of post to download)

These cutouts were created so you can actually play with Jesus’ journey. It’s best to print the cutouts on sturdy card stock to withstand your kids’ hands and imaginations!

-No assembly required: Simply print, cutout, and play on a flat surface.

-Assembly required (but so worth it in my humble opinion!): Print and follow the assembly directions on each sheet.  They will guide you through creating an accordion style backdrop for the story and stands to hold up each cutout. Enjoy!

- Help with how to play: Talk about the story as you act it out with the cutouts, have the kids retell the story to you, or just let them play in the story on their own. Remember to let them take the lead as much as possible. If you’re telling the story, allow them to lead you with their questions or ideas. If they’re doing the telling, try not to impede them with ideas of the right or wrong ways to tell the story. Let them own it!

Using the Story Cards 

(See end of post to download)

-Print and cut out the story cards. Allow the kids to put them in order as you talk about the story or as they retell the story to you.

-Print two sets of story cards for a game of memory. When the kids make a match, you can talk about the story or have them retell that part of the story.

-Create a token for each story card (see below). I love this one because it’s so rich in imagery! Your kids match the tokens to the story cards as you talk about the story or they retell the story to you.

Welcome to Jerusalem palm branch (from paper)
The Last Dinner little bowl (*wooden miniatures in craft store)
Praying in the Garden flower or tree (from paper)
On Trial crown of thorns (*brown or black pipe cleaner)
Carrying His Cross cross (*wooden miniatures in craft store)
Nailed to the Cross nail
His Death small piece of black clothe
In the Grave small piece of white clothe
He’s Alive! gold crown (*gold or yellow pipe cleaner)

*If you buy packages of pipe cleaners or wooden tokens from the craft store, you might make the tokens with or for another family!

Click images to view and download from google docs:
Story Cards

Backdrops for Cutouts

Wednesday, February 6

Part 2: Kick-off Activity for Lent

This family activity was so simple.

And yet it generated so much valuable discussion on Lent and what it's about. 

Loved it!

We just decorated a sign for our pantry donation box where we'll collect food and hygiene items for a local charity.

 And also decorated a jar label for our alms jar where we'll collect money for another charity. 

Before I share the printables, let me give you a little encouragement for talking with your kids.

Younger Families!

I thought it might help to share that our grade schooler drove much of the questioning while our preschooler did a lot of listening, and our toddler just loved all of us coloring together.

So if your oldest is only a preschooler, you may need to lead by asking questions, letting them share if they want, and then sharing your answers too.

Ideas for All Parents!

If you're not sure what to talk about, here are somethings I found myself sharing with the kids:
(You'll notice a garden theme!)

Lent is a time for us to get our hearts ready to grow God's love. Kinda of like we get our garden ready for the spring plants.

And we get our hearts ready by practicing and practicing and practicing loving other people the way God does. Like the way we're collecting food for the hungry.

And it becomes a good habit for us after  FORTY days!

We also try to look for ways we aren't doing so good at loving others, so we can get those "weeds out" and make space for the good plants!

It's just a really great time of year to start fresh and get our hearts right with God!

Sometimes I find that in sharing abstract ideas with my kids, I come to understand them better myself.

Like last night,
talking with them about Lent helped me to really
wrap my own heart around

the simplicity
and importance of it.

So here's to worshipping with our kiddos, friends.
:) Cheers!

What you'll need to make your own!

A jar (like spaghetti or jelly)
A medium size box
the printables below

Let your kiddos color and decorate the labels.
 Chat about what the labels say, why we're collecting for charity, and why we observe Lent.

Monday, February 4

Including Kids In Lent: Part 1

For me, the season of Lent is like spring.

Full of potential.

Rich in nutrients and budding hope.

It’s a good time to prepare yourself for new fruit.

I love the way Joshua explains this idea, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."  
Joshua 3:5

And I love the way Isaiah adds to the idea of consecrating ourselves not with sackcloth and ashes alone, but through practicing the way of love.

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear." 
Isaiah 58:5-8

Below you'll find ideas for consecrating not only yourself this Lent but ways to help your kids be both the recipients of and co-conspirators in your Lent.

Enjoy, Friends!

Recipients of Lenten Practices

Carve out time to make your kids your only priority. 

Our adult worlds often marginalize kids, and Lent can be the perfect time to make space for them the way Christ would.

Start by making a list of things you’d like to do together and set time aside on the calendar for each activity. 

Hike a new nature trail and explore together.
Go to the zoo and let them lead the way.
Play their favorite game. Repeatedly if necessary. 
Have a pj party with ice cream AND popcorn IN a tent. 
Start a new art project together.

Tips for success: Really try to listen to them, ask them questions, be close, share their excitement and your own stories of when you were little like them.

All of this will say, “I’m here and you are the only important thing right now.”

Co-conspirators of Lenten Practices

Make a list together of people you think might need an extra blessing. Then decide how you could bless each person. It’s a good idea to set aside time on the calendar for each act of kindness so you don’t end up with just good intentions. And it can help you decide if you’re over committing, too.

Consider helping others through local shelters and ministries. I know our local shelter is always in need of hygiene items, underwear, and socks. Kids can help by collecting their own alms all Lent and by helping you purchase and deliver the donations. 

If you’re here in KC with us, let me share two of my favorite locals:

Operation Break Through: Providing early childhood education, dental and health services, meals, clothing, housing, and emergency aid. They do so much to enrich and stabilize the lives of families in need. Check them out at

Hillcrest Transitional Housing: Their ministry moves families from homelessness to self-sufficiency within 90 days by addressing the total life situation of the homeless families they serve. Visit them at

Part 2: Kick-off Activity for Lent

Sunday, December 30

Celebrating Epiphany

I’ve had so much fun pondering how we can celebrate Epiphany with the kids, 
I wanted to share!

First, some Epiphany basics:

 When is Epiphany? 
 January 6th, twelve days after Christmas.

What is Epiphany?
 Originally it celebrated Jesus' dedication in the temple but now focuses on the visit of the three wise men.

Ways to Celebrate!

1- We've moved our wise men clear across the house and have been slowly moving them closer to our nativity scene each night. I read how another family had a blast making the journey into an adventure for the wise men. The magi had to overcome all kinds of "obstacles and dangers" to make it to the baby Jesus.

2- Dress up and reenact the wise men's long journey, their visit to Herod’s court, and finally worshipping the baby Jesus. See Matthew 2 for the complete story.

Add caption

3- Read these wonderful children’s books together:

The Last Straw, by Fredrick H Thury
Humphrey's First Christmas, by Carol Heyer
The Magi, By Bevan Olsen
The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park

4- Play “Follow Yonder Star!”: Start by hiding baby Jesus! Hang a star off the end of your broomstick and take turns guiding the rest of the family around the house in search of the baby Jesus.

5- Dedicating the kids. 

Jesus was dedicated to the Lord eight days after his birth just like all little Jewish boys are. So I was reading up on how Jewish families dedicate their new babies, and it inspired me to whip up a little dedication ceremony to share with our kids! 

Click below to open the pdf file and print.

6- On the actual day of Epiphany, worship Jesus with gifts like the Magi did!

-Choose a ministry or charity to bless with your time or money together.
-Choose kind ways to bless those around you as a family.
-Write down ways you can give the best parts of you to Jesus this year. 
Then roll the pieces of paper up and place them in a jar 
or fold them into origami stars and hang them in the house.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

--Christina Rossetti

Hoping your Epiphany is filled with joyful worship and sweet memories together, friends!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 29

A Jesse Tree Devotional for Young Families

I was really excited about sharing a Jesse Tree with our family this year,
 but I couldn't' find a devotional that seemed right.

So, with younger kiddos in mind, I undertook writing my own! 

So excited to share!
 Click on the image below to access the devotional and ornaments from google docs.

Thank you to Jacque Larsen for the beautiful Jesse Tree art!
 Please respect her work, and do not copy or distribute it in anyway. Her art can purchased for your own personal projects at

Inspiration for creating your Jesse Tree!

Love the clothes pins and twine idea. I was actually thinking about combining an advent calendar like the one below with our ornaments.

So the kiddos would do the devotional with us,
hang their ornament,
and retrieve the goody bag for that day!

You can also create a Jesse Tree like this thankful tree, but instead of hanging notes of gratitude, 
you'd hang your ornaments!

And if you're going to use sticks in a vase,
I love the idea of jazzing them up with yarn!

 My Trash and Treasure

If you want to get really creative, some families actually make/purchase all their ornaments.

And you can always go the good ol' fashion way and hang them on a small tree!

The Ramblings of a Crazy Woman

Hoping this will help you share the story with your kiddos!

To sharing our faith with our kids and enjoying it!