Posts Tagged ‘family activities’

July 6th, 2012

Creative Ways to Spend Your Summer

Courtesy of: The Dollar Stretcher  

The fun of summer has just about worn off with the thermometer rising and your family being bored with the same old grind.  Here are some suggestions to keep you and your family active without breaking the bank:

  • Encourage your family to whip up recipes that will keep you satisfied without heating up the whole house. If you have a favorite frozen treat, figure out how to make it at home. Dig out that old ice cream maker and enjoy a wonderful indulgence. Find a new chicken salad recipe or try your hands at gazpacho. Have your helpers track down the ingredients in your refrigerator while you supervise from the chaise lounge.
  • Too tired to cook? Then try a melon and cheese plate with some cold cuts, along with bread sticks. Use your cookie cutters and make funny looking peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with some carrot sticks and yogurt. Don’t forget to add lots of water to cool everyone off.
  • Grab a basket or even a takeout bag and go on a picnic. The park down the street might be a grand venue, or you can try a spot at the lake or beach. Cruise on over to the next town and try out a spot that’s new to you. Take along some flying disks, balls, and a blanket, but don’t invite the ants!
  • Be a tourist in your own town. Is there a famous attraction you’ve never seen? What about the museum or the zoo? Botanical gardens are a nice change of pace for those of us with hectic lives. Even a factory tour can provide you with a glimpse of your home turf that you’ve never seen before.Statute of touris
  • Just because school is out doesn’t mean you and your family stop learning. Pick a theme for the month and incorporate different aspects into your routines. Maybe you have always wanted to learn how to speak a foreign language, but never got around to it. It’s never to late to learn anything. For example, if you’ve always wanted to learn Japanese, find some language tapes, cook up some examples of Japanese cuisine, and look for references that will illustrate the daily lives of the people whose culture you are studying.
  • The library usually offers more than books. Your local library might offer story times and activities, reading circles for different ages, movies, CDs, puzzles, games, and Internet access for multiple users (very handy if Junior is tying up your home computer all day long with his games or monster-sized music downloads).
  • Work on a do-it-yourself project together. Don’t do anything too extreme, hazardous, or difficult. Instead, maybe you can work on rearranging a room. Maybe you all are getting tired of the way the family room looks. Jot down ideas for easy refits, including making new throw pillows, updating the lighting in the room, decluttering the place, and picking colors for new slipcovers. Or maybe you can make a simple piece of furniture together, like a shelving unit. Allow your family to pick out the colors and design while you put it together and paint it.
  • Go to the family spa. Even males like to be pampered sometimes. Pick out the fluffiest towels you have, heat up your robes in the dryer, and encourage everyone to do some massaging of the face and shoulders, followed by an easy spa lunch of salad and fruit and smoothies. After the light meal, it’s time for nail grooming for the males and manicures with yummy colors for the ladies.
  • Pick one day of each month to be “Give Back Day.” On that day, try to do an activity that appeals to you and enhances your community. Find things to recycle, like newspaper, glass, and plastic. Take donations of gently used clothing, household items, and toys to the thrift shop or family shelter. Help an elderly neighbor or relative run their errands. Pick up trash at the park. Volunteer somewhere.
  • Designate a movie night. Do a double feature and let your crew pick out two movies or be ambitious and run a whole marathon. Pop up a lot of popcorn, offer a variety of snacks and drinks, and let your family invite some friends over. As an alternative, try out some board or card games instead of movies.
  • Take turns introducing your hobbies or your music to each other. Even though you might not be into the latest girl diva or collectible card games, you might be surprised to find that your child has a deep interest in something you can both share. Bring out your disco records and baseball cards. Your kid just might understand you, too.
  • Start a family journal. The dog days of summer run away all too quickly, so take the time at least once a week to jot down what you did during each month. The family journal will help you plan next year’s activities, too. Along with the good times, you can document the downsides so you don’t repeat activities that were definite bombs. Let everyone take part in making entries and don’t be afraid to stick in a few pictures, even the scary ones! Use a paper journal or even a notebook left over from school or find an online journaling site.
  • Have “Do Nothing Time” each week. It’s hard to juggle multiple hats in a family and everyone needs time to recuperate from all that fun. Send the kids to their rooms with firm instructions to relax, then be sure to plop down on that chaise lounge with a big glass of iced tea and something delicious to read. You deserve to be on vacation, too.

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June 22nd, 2012

Family Pizza Night – Pizza Recipe for Kids

Family Pizza Night - Pizza Ideas for Kids

Family Pizza Night - Pizza Ideas for Kids

Kids love pizza. They love being creative. They love spending quality time with mom and dad. What better way to satisfy all of these needs than by getting in the kitchen and creating a family pizza night?

Ingredients

  • Pizza crust
  • Pizza sauce
  • Bite-size and shredded toppings
  • Round or rectangular pans (optional)
  • Pizza stone (optional)

Instructions

  1. Divide pizza dough into single-size portions or take a whole pizza crust and designate a section for each person.
  2. An efficient way to make a lot of individual pizzas: pat most of the dough into a large rectangle and make a grid pattern with strips of remaining dough. Let kids fill the grids with the toppings of their choice. When the pizza is baked, use a pizza wheel or large knife to cut along the grid lines.
  3. Explore other pizza shapes. How about hearts, flowers, bears, fish, or even kid-shaped pizzas?
  4. Make individual pizza pockets--or calzones--by spreading half a round of raw pizza dough with sauce and toppings, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the other half over and seal the edges by pressing the dough together with a fork. Brush with olive oil and bake.
  5. For a quick and easy pizza night, start with pre-baked pizza crust or make your pizza dough ahead of time.
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June 20th, 2012

Some Low Cost Summer Activities for Families

Courtesy of: Valley City Times Record

homemade bubbles for summer funHere are a number of wonderful low cost summer activities for kids and families that help families keep their hard-earned money in their pockets.

You may want to take each one of these ideas and put them on 3 x 5 cards labeling whether the idea is for “outside” or “inside”.  Then label a box like a shoebox with “outside” and “inside” on the outside of the box.  Let each family member take a turn picking a card of the activity which will be done for that day. This is a great way to avoid activities that cost a lot of cash and a fun way to create a family plan.

Low or no cost outings and activities are something consider for your own kids or a group of friends getting together that will create fun and memories without heating up your wallet or credit card bills:

  • Visit a farm, pet store or the animal shelter
  • Visit a fire station
  • Have cooking lessons at home (bake bread, make homemade ice cream, grandma’s cookies)
  • Visit a pizza store (they’ll sometimes let the kids make one for little or nothing)
  • Visit a television station, radio station, or newspaper facility
  • Visit the Department of Conservation’s nature centers and enjoy educational exhibits
  • Learn to knit or do needlework
  • Get a giant piece of paper and colored pencils and draw your dream house interior view with all the details
  • Participate in free summer reading programs and story times offered by many local libraries
  • Visit zoos and museums that have free or reduced rates for kids on special days
  • Have paper airplane or paper boat races or try making and flying your own kites (books at the library have the instructions)
  • Put on a theatrical performance, a puppet show or a talent contest
  • Write and illustrate a story
  • Plant a small garden or container garden and watch it grow
  • Have sack, peanut or egg races
  • Plan a picnic as an activity
  • Hold a bring-a-dish block party
  • Rent a movie and have special “movie night” snacks
  • Take your kids on a tour of family history and photos
  • Search garage sales as family fun and walk away with a few really good deals
  • Play board games on rainy days
  • Go swimming at the local lake, pond or pool (you can ask for a one day guest pass at a local YMCA to check out the facilities)
  • Visit Vacation Bible Schools, Summer Bible Clubs, Kids Camps, Day Camps
  • Walk, hike, and enjoy nature
  • Go camping in the backyard

And last but certainly not least… make your own bubble solutions and spend hours dipping bubbles and playing with family and pets in the backyard!

Do-It-Yourself Bubble Solution

  • 1 tbsp Glycerine
  • 2 tbsp Dish Soap
  • 9 ounces water
  • Mix it all up (the glycerin added to the mixture is key)
    Pour it into small plastic bottles or a pie pan, grab your favorite wand and enjoy big beautiful bubbles.

Wishing you a very busy, rarely bored and not too costly summer!

This article is adapted from one written by Megan O’Neil-Haight, The University of Maryland Extension, and originally published in Delmarva Youth Magazine, July/August 2006.

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April 30th, 2011

Healthy Homemade Soups on the Go

Healthy Homemade Soups on the Go by Operation Santa ClausIn this day and age it can be hard to eat healthy. With your busy schedule, especially if you have children, many people find it easier to grab whatever is available and the quickest and deal with the health consequences later. With the following tips for soups on the go you’ll learn how to make sure that the food you grab is of the healthy variety.

The problem with dealing with the consequences of unhealthy eating habits is that later is actually closer than you might think. Later is right now. Sadly, we are a nation of obese adults and just as many, if not more, obese children. Our unhealthy eating choices have caught up with us. You might be asking yourself, “How can I eat healthy when I’m crunched for time already?”

One way is to make foods that can be taken with you on the go. One of those foods is soup. Soup is tasty, filling, and good for you anytime, but especially on a cold fall or winter day. There are hot soups and believe it or not even cold soups. Many of the warm soups are even good eaten cold or lukewarm.

First, choose your favorite soup. A popular choice of many is the infamous chicken noodle soup. There’s nothing better when you are under the weather than the warm chicken broth soothing your throat. Campbell’s has a wonderful soup in a microwave container perfect for eating on the go, but we are going to make our own soup for an even healthier choice.

The one thing that is best about homemade food is that you know what is and is not in it. Since we are concerned with health, preparing your own soup creations at home is the best way to go. No matter which type of soup you choose to make, be sure to use fresh ingredients. The other items you’ll need are plenty of cups with lids and a blender.

Now it’s time to actually create your time saving soup. A good soup always starts with the stock. For chicken soup, make the broth by boiling the remains of the chicken you had for dinner. Add the herbs and seasonings of your choice and boil until the chicken bones come out clean. Any remaining meat will be included in the broth. Once the broth cools completely, ladle it into air-tight jars or containers for storing.

If you’re more of a beef and vegetable soup lover, you can use commercial canned broths or bouillon cubes for the base of your soup. Season the stock really well and boil before adding any other ingredients. Once the stock is ready, all that is left to do is toss in your favorite veggies. Again, wait until the soup is completely cooled before pouring into storage or serving containers.

Now, what about that blender? It’s a bit difficult to eat soup the traditional way while driving and if you are serving to your kids, the combination of a car and soup in a bowl is a disaster waiting to happen. Here’s where the blender comes into the picture.

Pour some of the soup into the blender and blend until the pieces are small enough for you to swallow without choking. You can even puree the soup completely if you’d prefer. For a thicker texture, add a bit of cream soup. Now, your soup is ready for distributing in your to-go cups.

The ideal cup would be a coffee mug with a lid. These types of cups have a wide opening perfect for drinking soups from. Be sure to prepare enough soup for the entire week. You can take the soup with you while you’re out shopping, working in the garden or to work. A cup of soup is packed with healthy nutrients and it won’t mess up the car or cramp your busy lifestyle. The next time you don’t have time to eat, reach for a cup of healthy homemade soup instead of pulling into that fast food drive thru.

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November 13th, 2010

8 Tips for Making Your Own Scrapbooks and Memory Books

Pumpkin Patch Memories by Operation Santa ClausThanksgiving is a week or so away and Christmas is just around the corner. What better time to browse through the family photo and memento box for Christmas ideas and creating a family scapbook or memory book can be a delightful family past time.

If you don’t consider yourself particularly crafty, the idea of making a scrapbook or memory book can seem like a huge chore. You might even doubt your ability to be creative.

This doesn’t have to be the case! There are ways to create your own memory books with ease, no matter what your level of creativity happens to be. The only things you need are your family photos and the will to succeed.

Use these eight strategies to make your own scrapbooks and memory books:

  1. Work on one page at a time. Sometimes, the task of a scrapbook seems like a huge amount of work. Instead of thinking about the project as a whole, break it into small, manageable pieces. Work on one page at a time and enjoy the process until your memories are organized and your scrapbook is complete.
  2. Collect embellishments. The embellishments are the parts of the book that aren’t your actual photos. You can use other paper type memories and other designs to mount in your book of memories. Scrapbook and craft stores offer specific embellishments in all sorts of colors and themes. You can also save money by designing your own. Use construction paper to come up with your own designs. You can even print embellishments from your home computer.
  3. Decide on a theme or motif. Pick a theme that you’ll carry out throughout your book. For example, you might want to do a book that represents the last year. Or you might choose to create a scrapbook of your summer vacation. This will help you to focus and narrow down your ideas.
  4. Choose a color scheme. Pick a color scheme that you like and stick to it. You can make a wacky book with all different kinds of pages, but better results usually come from sticking with a certain color choice just to keep things looking neat.
  5. Design a cover. Your cover can also be a nice place to get creative with your book. You might want to include a picture and some kind of description of the book’s theme.
  6. Decide on a size. You can make scrapbooks of all different sizes. You may want one that’s small so you can carry it around. A larger scrapbook can hold more photos and provide longer, more fulfilling trips down memory lane later.
  7. Utilize a free online graphics design program such as Picnik. Here you can upload your pictures and add frames, create collages and just have a great time making gorgeous images. They have a free option, but if you really want to get creative their Premium Option is only $24.95 per year. Computer graphics programs offer many customization options for your photos and embellishments. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love expressing yourself and creating a special memory book you can be proud of. (Hint: The image on this post was created in Picnik! We call it Pumpkin Patch Memories.)
  8. Digitize your scrapbook. If you familiarize yourself with a computer graphics program, you can create all of your memory books on your computer and have them printed like regular press printed photo books. All you have to do is submit your final design pages and cover to the print company of your choice.

Scrapbooking is a special way to ensure that the most treasured moments of your past are always easy to recall. Instead of allowing the process of creating a scrapbook to overwhelm you, take small steps and enjoy the journey as you relive the most treasured moments of your life.

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September 21st, 2010

8 Tips to Help your Children Transition from Summertime to School Time

Back to School family funSummer is a time that most kids look forward to. Free from the burden of school, kids love the free time and fun activities of summer. When it’s all over and it’s time to return to school, however, you can ease the transition by taking an active role in helping your children cope with the life change that’s about to take place.

Try these eight tips to help your children transition from the leisurely days of summer to the challenges of an upcoming school year:

  • Talk about it. Keep an open dialogue with your children. If they have certain anxieties or reservations about attending school, help them ease their fears by giving them the opportunity to talk about it.
    • Help your children adopt a different perspective by pointing out the positives about school. School allows them to discover and develop new strengths. And they’ll be able to see their friends every day!
  • Establish a school routine early. If you’ve lost your routine over the summer, try to get back on track as early as possible. If you go into the school year with a routine, you can avoid many difficult days and stressful situations.
  • Throw a party. The end of summer can be a happy time. Celebrate the beginning of the school year by throwing a party or barbeque. This way, your children won’t dread school. Instead, they might look forward to the party and the school year.
  • Continue hobbies. It’s important to remind your children that they’ll still have free time after school and on weekends. If they played most of the day during the summer, they’ll still have plenty of playtimes after school lets out. The hobbies that they enjoyed during the summer can continue on through the school year.
  • Continue learning over the summer. One way to make the new beginning easier on your children is to limit their completely free time over the summer months. You can continue their education by providing educational activities and outings.
  • Pick out first day outfits. Your children will be nervous and excited on the first day of school. They may even want to spend more time on their appearance. You can help them look forward to the first day of school by picking out special outfits to wear. Help them dress for success by helping them choose the perfect outfit.
  • Shop for school supplies. Another activity that may get your kids excited about school is shopping for school supplies. Children sometimes have a specific list of items they’ll need. Let your child choose their own pens, paper and folders in their favorite colors.
  • Take a trip to school. Often, fear of the new experiences to come can swallow a child’s enthusiasm for the new school year. If your child is attending a new school, bring him to school a day before the first official day of class. That way, he’ll know what to expect and feel more relaxed on the big day.

The new school year can be an exciting time for all. Stress always goes along with new situations. But if you put these tips into practice, your children will be better prepared and may even look forward to the first day of school.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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September 20th, 2010

9 Family Activities for the End of the Summer

When the end of the summer rolls around, it’s time to get ready to go back to school. Before the summer officially ends, and autumn begins celebrate this time with an event that’s fun for the whole family. Take part in family activities that create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

Try these nine family activities for an exciting end to your summer:  

  1. 9 Family Activities for the End of the Summer from Operation Santa ClausMake a memory book. Have everyone in the family get together and make a memory book or scrapbook. Collect photos from your summer or other scraps and artwork that would fit into a book of memories. This will give you a lasting memento of the good times you had over the summer.
  2. Have a splashing good time. The summer usually means a good time around water. Throw a pool party or play around in the sprinklers. Have a water balloon fight with your family. Involve water while you still can, before the cold days of winter arrive.
  3. Make summertime recipes. Pick out your favorite summertime recipes and make food and drinks with your family. Start with drinks like iced tea and lemonade, or pick another family favorite that you associate with summer. Then, make summer treats or throw a barbeque.
  4. Throw a end-of-summer party. Get together with your family and throw an end of the summer bash for all of your friends. Your family can plan the party together, cook the food and make decorations. Take lots of photos of your party so you can remember the good time you had.
  5. Go to the zoo. Summer is a great time to enjoy the zoo during your free time. Go to the zoo with your family one last time before school takes away much of that free time. It’s also a great way to learn about many different kinds of animals.
  6. Play video games. Video games can be fun for the whole family. Some game consoles, like the Nintendo Wii even have games that’ll get the whole family active. Choose a sports game, a family board game or a racing game and compete against your family for an exciting time together.
  7. Go to the beach. The end of the summer might be one of your last opportunities to hit the beach this year. Wear sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring plenty of towels and beach toys. Build a sand castle with your kids. Bury one of your family members in the sand.
  8. Get ready for school. Enjoy getting ready for the school year with your family. Find the fun in shopping for clothing and school supplies. Get the whole family involved. Allow your kids to make some of the clothing decisions and to pick out some of their favorite school supplies.
  9. Relax at home. Enjoy some quiet time at home before the craziness of the school year starts. Order takeout and talk around the dinner table. Rent some family friendly movies to enjoy while you beat the heat together.

Pick one or more of these, or come up with your own end of summer activity ideas. The most important thing is that you take the time to enjoy your family. The end of summer can be an exciting time for your family to bond and experience priceless memories.

Visit us at Operation Letters to Santa for almost 1000 pages of Holiday Activities, Christmas Carols, Christmas Sheet Music, Holiday recipes, Free gifts and downloads and so much more!

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