A survey by Michigan State University found that “75 percent of parents polled thought they communicated well with their children, while 81 percent of those parent's children said their parents did not communicate with them.”
Family games and projects can wonderfully strengthen communication. Parents can gain deep insights into their children's needs, thought patterns, and peer pressures in the excitement of being together in an activity.
Choose one of the following each week. Seek to integrate the project or activity into time with your family. Use some of the time after you pray for each of your children, to think ahead and plan a time of fun and creative growth.
Meal Time Fun
- Ask questions or play quick “games” around the table such as
- “What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the past 24 hours?” Let each family member tell something new, not mentioned by another member.
- Play SPIN THE BOTTLE. Take a large soda bottle, and spin it in the center of the table. When the bottle stops, pointing towards someone, let each one around the table affirm that person. Begin with sentences such as, “I love ____________ because,” or, “I like ____________ because.” Sometimes the family may want to continue, until everyone has had the bottle point to them.
- Take one of the names or titles of God in the devotional guide, this section, and ask each person to think of something the name MEANS, or DOES, or a NEED it meets in our daily lives.
- MAKE ANY MEAL SPECIAL: Decorate or buy a YOU ARE SPECIAL plate (be sure to use food-safe and dishwasher-safe material). Put it in front of where the one you are honoring this day will sit. Prepare ahead of time the person's favorite food, or desert. With a little imagination you will make a regular ho-hum meal into a time of special celebration at the table. A few colorful balloons could be hung or taped to the light above the table. Ribbon may be strung. Make a center piece for the table by putting together into a square, four colorful sides of old Christmas or birthday cards. Cards given to the person being honored makes this even more special.
- Make devotions — short and exciting — involving as many people at the table as you can. Note any unusual interest or discussion excitement, and include the topics in a longer “Family Night” time — an evening each week.
When A Child is Bored
Cure that boredom with one of these, creating some fun as you do:
- Give pencil and paper. Have child think up and write down 25 things he might like to do sometime.
- Hang a bird feeder outside the child's window.
- Stand over a milk carton or bottle; try to drop clothes pins inside.
- Blindfold child:
a. Teach identification of objects, fruits, things. Let child smell, feel, eat! Or, give an orange, let them feel and remember its specialness; then place fruit in a group of oranges and see if child can identify it with blindfold off.
b. With two or more children give one a little bell to ring; blindfold other children. They say “ring bell, ring” and person with bell must tinkle it. Seek and find.
- Play Sardines: One person goes to hide, preferably in close quarters such as a closet; family counts by 5's to 200. Everybody searches for hidden person. As each person finds hidden person, they crowd in until all are like sardines, awaiting last family member.
- Squirt Time: Weather permitting, fill empty plastic bottles with water; send kids outside to hit target — or each other
- Box It: Get a large cardboard box, let kids play inside it. To enhance imagination, decorate, color and cut the box outside to look like a car, airplane, or boat.
- Use Tape Recorder:
a. Radio Station — Station H-O-M-E:
# Let kids do weather report. Announce future events such as “A picnic is to be held at the Moores Saturday,” or, “Bible study will feature visiting missionary friend at the Moores Friday evening.”
# Interview a person in the house, or down the street. Parents and teens: Plan questions ahead carefully, then interview grandparents; strengthen your roots. Ask them questions about their schooling, their grandparents and parents, childhood, fun and recreation, special events, traditions and experiences no longer a part of our culture.
b. Record birthdays, special events around the table, happenings parents attend at a school program (sit near PA speakers for good recording). Our daughter's graduation program and speech was recorded and mailed to me while I was ministering overseas. Preserve tapes.
- Invest in a good magnifying glass. Look closely at salt, sugar, finger prints, fabrics, snow flakes. Print name on wood and burn. A hand mirror is a wonderful plaything to reflect the sun onto paper, or to flash a message over a distance. CAUTION: Supervise your child. Do not let child look directly at sun through magnifying glass. Dangerous!
Let Christ Touch the Family
- Act out bible stories. Assign children and parents rolls.
- Ask questions about a passage you read to the children.
- Use devotional books to help you; Ken Taylor's series, the Muffin Series.
- Grab an interesting TV or magazine story, or newspaper clipping; share how the story illustrates a Biblical principle applied, or broker. Major on those helpful, modeling, experiences for the children. Discuss.
- Recall specific answers to prayer. KEEP A PRAYER DIARY. Go over your many requests and the answers God has given over the weeks.
- Play 20 questions. Pick a Bible character personality. Let children ask 20 questions to discover the answer.
- FAMILY DEVOTIONS:
a. Use children's Sunday School memory verse. Review, then make it the basis for a family devotion.
b. Take SERMON NOTES at church. On Monday evening, review and discuss notes and ideas for APPLICATION from Sunday AM sermon. Use Sunday evenings' notes for Tuesday nite's devotions. Wednesday prayer hour devotions for your Thursday evening family time together. Note taking will become a supreme aid to remembering sermons, and the application of God's Word to family life. Simple rewards may be given for the “best set” of each month's notes.
- Memorize a verse or passage of Scripture together:
a. For a birthday, emphasize a special verse for their new age.
b. On a vacation. Discuss while driving, and dig into possible applications of the verses to daily living.
c. At special times of the year: Christmas, anniversaries, New Year's.
Touching Others Through the Family
Expose your children to the needs of others; teach them early to share, with food, work ministries, and words of love.
- Make a short visit to someone at home . . . a shut-in or person recovering from illness. Write a family letter of “thank you” to a school teacher, policeman, church staff worker or pastor. Send a note of thanks to a Sunday School teacher, a Deacon, musician, or custodian. Send a cheery note to “someone nice.”
- Take a small gift of food, flowers, etc. to a neighbor, with a note that says “thank you for being you.” Let children help you make cookies, put in bags, and give. Notes to those who serve you daily are so encouraging; have kids write to groceryman, postman, barber, beautician.
- Invite neighborhood kids over for a party. (You may use a birthday time, but not mention it.)
Holiday to Holy Days
- OPEN HOUSE — Invite in neighbors at a holiday time to share coffee, cake, goodies, and an appropriate story or Scripture. Have children help make “invitations” and deliver to neighbors around the block. At Christmastime when some of those invited came, our children had memorized the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20, and shared it as we talked and ate with the new friends who visited us for the first time. Take the whole family caroling around the neighborhood; visit a widow's home or a shut-in. Visit a lost family, or that new family you don't know. Sing two or three songs, then go elsewhere. Afterwards at home, pray for your neighborhood.
- THANKSGIVING — Choose some thanksgiving Psalms, read each night. Invite a family you don't know, who can't “pay you back” to eat Thanksgiving dinner (Luke 14); look for a widow or older couple, some singles who live nearby. Share your blessings from the Lord. Invite a family from a different background or race for a meal; why not a foreign student or refugee.
- CHRISTmas — Give a family offering to foreign missions. Give more than your combined personal and family gift budget, to Christ. That is, give Jesus the biggest gift. Why do some people still celebrate CHRISTmas as if it's their birthday rather than His?
Make CHRISTmas last. Celebrate it the whole month; CHRISTmas is when we celebrate the birthday of the King of Kings, our Savior. Make the celebration fitting for a king. Decorate a table with five candles surrounded by green — four pink and one purple candle. Beginning four Sundays before CHRISTmas, symbolize the LIGHT that came into the world with:
1. Advent – Prophecy Candle – Read Isaiah 9:1-6
2. Bethlehem Candle – Read Luke 2:1-5
3. Shepherd's Candle – Read Luke 2:8-10
4. Angel's Candle – Read Luke 1:26-33
5. Christmas Day: purple candle. Sing “Joy To The World.”
LET JESUS LIVE: Draw family names. Each person play the part of what Jesus would do, in sharing a kind act or word, or helpful ministry, to the one whose name you drew. At the end of the week, reveal whose name you drew, and draw again. Did they guess it was you?
- Celebrate one-half year birthdays; you'll have twice the fun! Children grow up too fast; slow it down this way and savor God's grace. Bake a cake, cut it in half. Freeze the other half for the next fun time. Put one candle on the cake. Do this at the pleasure and need of the parents. Birthdays are for parents, when we admit it. Children wouldn't know otherwise.
- Start a breakfast with a donut or waffle with a candle in it.
- On YOUR birthday, give your mother a gift. After all, who did it?
- Treasure Hunt — Hide peanuts, candy, balloons, through the house. Each kid is given a sack and dumps what he finds on a sheet in middle of the room. Then divide up the snacks and enjoy a crunchy time.
- “I SPY” — Hide something small that can be seen, but must be observed to be found. Camouflage it. When person spots it they move away from object and say “I spy.” Wait for others to also discover it. See who is first, and last. Hide objects according to the height of the smallest child playing.
- SCHOOL Surprise — Pick a child up at school at lunch break time; take them out to eat once a month for a taco, or fish and chips, or something they won't get for lunch at school. Listen to them, and you'll learn. Please check with school administration to get an OK for this activity. We don't want to break school security rules.
- OVERSEAS MISSIONS Surprise — Cook something from another country. Discuss the nation and its people. Have a map and information available. Ask a missionary friend for suggestions and recipes, if possible. Look online for recipes. Click here, and here, for just a couple examples of what's available. Mentoring does not endorse these sites, we merely mention some we found with a quick search for “international recipes” on the Google search engine on our Home Page — scroll down the center column and enter your phrase (with quotation marks). You will find other examples.
- HAVE A DATE — Make a date with each kid SEPARATELY for breakfast on a Saturday every few weeks. Order their favorite food. Listen to them carefully; they'll talk and love the time. Give them your undivided attention.
- Take the whole family out to eat. Let each family member put into a hat or sack the name of their favorite place to eat; then draw ONE name. Go. this will eventually make everyone happy.
- MAKE A CREST — Each member of the family decide on an animal, motto or Scripture, tree, flower, or fruit. Then, pick a symbol that can represent the father's business or family heritage. Draw on bright felt or colored cloth the objects voted on and chosen. Cut out. Combine with imagination. Stitch together your family's new “Coat-of-Arms.” Put inside picturee frame. Change every year, but save.
- If you watch TV as a family, make sure there is discussion on the commercials, their folly, lies, or half-truths. Some dramas and movies are certainly worth seeing (usually you don't know it, however, until it's over). Drive the lessons home, with discussion afterwards. This preserves the lessons to be learned about the morals, decisions, life-paterns, and the BIBLICAL results, rarely shown on TV. A video recorder will let you build a library of valuable teaching movies and educational experiences.
- Read to your children, or let them read biography. You can get children's versions of most of the great men and women of history and Christianity. “Mark the faithful of the land” is an exhortation from me that encourages both watching and reading about mighty men and women. Children will have heroes. Parents can help provide those worth modeling. Bring into your home godly men and women, older teens or singles that your children can know and observe.
* Many of the ideas on this page come from “FAMILIES ARE FUN,” Christian Medical Society Journal, Oak Park, Ill. Summer 1977. Used with their gracious permission.