Welcome to our Pay it Forward Summer! We at Kids in Service are so ready for the slower pace of summer. We are looking forward to warm weather, spending more time outside and going on adventures with family and friends. Summer is also the perfect time to reflect upon our blessings and Pay it Forward, so that we can bless others.
Have you ever gone to pay for your coffee at the drive through window and someone has already paid for it? Have you ever gotten a big smile or compliment from a stranger, just when you needed it most? Have you ever been given flowers or a plate of cookies from a neighbor or friend for no reason at all? That is what it looks like to Pay it Forward. Kids in Service is going to encourage you and your family to Pay it Forward all summer long.
Acts of Kindness often have a ripple effect, that we never see. One kind deed has the power to inspire a chain of kindness where hundreds or thousands of people may be blessed as a result. This is the MAGIC of Paying it Forward.
The book Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson is the perfect way to explain the concept of paying it forward to young kids. Young Mary secretly leaves a basket of fresh picked blueberries on her neighbor’s porch and this kind gesture sets off an infinite chain of kindness. All ages will love this tale of how one kind deed changed the world. Click HERE to check out our Pay it Forward booklist!
We have service project ideas, book recommendations, DIY camps and creative inspiration to help you and your family Pay it Forward this summer.
Summer Service Projects
Summer Fun & Creativity
FUN DAYS TO CELEBRATE THIS SUMMER
June–National Pride Month
June–First Friday in June is National Donut Day
June–Second Friday in June is National Movie Night
June 1st–National Say Something Nice Day
June 4th–National Hug Your Cat Day
June 6th–National yo-yo Day
June 8th–Best Friend’s Day
June 11th–National Corn on the Cob Day
June 14th–Flag Day
June 15th–National SMILE Day
June 17th–Global Garbage Collector Day and National Eat Your Veggies Day
It is hard not to smile when you look at the children’s artwork on this page. In January, our Kids in Service NH group painted cheerful paintings for the patients at a hospice house. Volunteers visit the residents and ask if they would like to choose one of our paintings to cheer up their room. The painting of their choice gets hung on their bulletin board and it is our hope that everyone who visits their room is brought a little joy in a very difficult situation.
This spring, we partnered with the hospice house again and painted small terra cotta pots. I sealed each one with glaze and then we planted a flower in each pot. The 20 pots were delivered to the patients staying at the hospice house and other hospice patients around the community.
Creating artwork to cheer up hospice patients is a WONDERFUL service project for all ages. You could paint uplifting paintings, make blank greeting cards with the children’s drawings on the front or paint pots like we did. I recommend that you reach out to the volunteer coordinator at your local hospice house and see if they would like children’s art donations.
Hospice is a very difficult and sad concept for young children. I suggest that you tell your children that you are painting happy art for people who are sick in the hospital. That is all they need to know to be invested in this project. I am sure that their art donation will not only bring a little joy into the patient’s heart but the hearts of their family as well.
When I was a kid most of our summer was spent at home. Most days I’d wake up, eat breakfast in front of the TV and then my mom would kick us outside for the rest of the day. We didn’t have neighbor kids nearby so we’d create our own fun in our own backyard. We’d run under the sprinkler, ride our bikes, sip on lemonade, play in the imaginary world that we’d created or play board games in the screen house tent we had. Summer was simpler back then and it didn’t consist of fancy vacations, multiple day trips per week, fancy summer camps or a summer pool membership.
When summer rolls around now, I feel stressed to make sure that my kids have a great summer. We create a bucket list and fill our calendar with camps, day trips, vacations, homeschool (we school 3 days a week in the summer) and play dates. Everything that we schedule is lots of fun but the fun often leaves me exhausted and longing for simpler days.
This summer, I want to slow things down. We are staying close to home and our kids will have time and space to play and be creative. Below we have some ideas to help your summer be slower, yet memorable. It’s time break out the lemonade and give our kids the simple summer of our childhood.
Create a Summer Oasis
Maybe you have a backyard, a deck, a rooftop, a community garden plot or a special place inside your home where you can create a summer oasis. Hang fairy lights, bring in flowers, create cozy seating (a tent maybe) and bring in some fans or a water element to keep things cool. Serve a special summer treat like homemade popsicles or roast marshmallows over an open fire. My friend has Pina Colada Fridays on their back deck all summer long and they love ending the week with this yummy tradition.
If you have a backyard, maybe you invest in a fire pit or an inflatable kiddie pool for the oasis. Grow a beanpole tent, buy a slip and slide, get some tiki torches, put up a screen house…whatever it takes to make this space special and your own little summer oasis.
If you want to spice things up this summer, plan on monthly theme nights. One of my Facebook friends has been having theme nights all throughout quarantine. They have had a Disney Night, a Hawaiian Luau, a Fancy Dinner Party, Family Escape Room Night, a Living Room Campout and many more. Pick a theme for the month and have everyone contribute something. Have somebody pick the music, others help to decorate and work as a family to plan the menu. We recently studied China in homeschool and are working as a family to put together a Chinese Festival. We are planning a night of stories, music, food, games and a movie.
When my kids were younger, I’d handle those long days of summer by organizing “camps” for us. I would plan a theme for a week and we would read books, make crafts and do activities all around the theme. Do you have a house full of wizards? Turn your house into Hogwarts for a week and make potions, practice spells and drink homemade butter beer. Are your kids into sports? Create a wacky sports camp where there are no rules and sports are combined to make new and different sports. The possibilities for themed home camps are endless!
There are also lots of FREE and inexpensive camps that you can find on the internet. Kids in Service has created Camp Kindness and Camp Empathy two FREE “camp” experiences that you can download and try out with your family this summer. They are organized as a 4 day week but you can easily spread the days out and do one a week for a month long program or schedule in the activities when they fit into your summer.
Grab the buckets, cups, water guns, hoses, sponges, sprinklers and anything else that can carry or shoot water. Set up a water obstacle course and/or some racing games and end the fun with popsicles for all of the participants.
Our family has a backyard Quidditch pitch where we play a water version of the wizard game (water balloon bludgers and a sprinkler in the middle of the course). Click HERE and HERE for some fun family water games that will keep the whole family cool even if you don’t have a pool. Click HERE for some ideas for DIY PVC sprinkler fun!
The Games of Yesterday
Kick the Can, Hopscotch, Jumprope, SPUD, Four Square, Flashlight Tag, Capture the Flag…it’s time to bring these classic games back. Many of these games can be played with social distance modifications so the neighborhood kids can gather to play together. Click HERE and HERE for an explanation of some great 80’s backyard games.
OTHER FAMILY FUN IDEAS
LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--We LOVE watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox and we were inspired by my friend Claire’s LEGO family challenges. We pick a topic for the challenge (Movie Sets, Holidays, Amusement Parks, Vacation Locations etc.) and then set a timer for 15-20 minutes depending on the challenge. We put a big LEGO bin in the middle and we are off. When the timer is up we each take turns explaining our challenge. Then each person has to vote for the build they think is best (you can not vote for yourself). If you are worried about hurt feelings you can skip this part or do a paper ballot vote.
FAMILY OLYMPICS–Another fun thing we like to do is set up a Family Olympics. Each family member picks an outdoor and indoor activity for the competition. We then go through the events and cheer each other on. We have done events like bocce, races, boardgames and Mario Kart. My kids love picking the events and we even have a silly medal ceremony at the end (we don’t have medals but do make a podium with furniture at different levels and play the National Anthem). You could even go a step further and have each family member pick a country to represent in the Olympics and make a flag for your country. Then do a Parade of Nations and play the national anthem from each country before the games begin.
FAMILY GAMES--This is our go to when we are needing a little family time. Each person comes to the table with their favorite board game. If we can’t make it through all of them in one sitting, we will pick back up with the games we didn’t play the next time. You could also have a family video game night. My son is obsessed with gaming and loves when we agree to play along. We will have a family Mario Kart competition, play Just Dance or break out the old school Mario Bros games.
VIRTUAL FAMILY GAME NIGHT–Our extended family has been getting together a couple of times a week for Family Game Night online. You can use FaceTime, Google Hangout, Zoom or another service to come together and play. We have done Name that Tune, Charades, 5 Second Rule, Yahtzee and we are working on a virtual corn hole tournament. It is fun to come together to laugh and be silly with the ones we love. We may not be allowed to be together physically but it is fun to connect in virtual ways whenever possible.
FAMILY TALENT SHOW--This is another gem from my friend Claire. This year her family has started putting on regular talent shows. They each practice an act during the day and then come to the show ready to present. Some of the acts that they have done are magic, baking, playing their musical instruments and she and her husband did a Sonny and Cher act to I Got You Babe! We are definitely putting this on our list of things to try.
MINI-GOLF–My kids LOVE to create mini golf courses and they have spent HOURS building them both indoors and out. Grab a few putters and golf balls and encourage them to create a 9 hole course that you can play together as a family.
VIRTUAL VACATIONS--You do not need to leave the house to have a fun family vacation. Have everyone in the family research a place they’d like to visit and organize a virtual vacation. Dress up the way you’d dress if visiting that country (is it a beach location, put on your beachwear), play the music of the location, watch travel videos on YouTube, create a dish you might eat there, learn a few words if they speak a different language, play games or create artwork inspired from that culture. Take pictures as you experience each new place and then put together a scrapbook or a family slideshow of your travels.
FAMILY SERVICE PROJECT— It would not be Kids in Service if I did not encourage you to do a family service project while in isolation. Click Here for lot’s of ideas for a project for you and your family to start today!
December is the darkest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and that is why so many faiths and cultures have brought light into their celebrations. As the lights of Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa are glowing in your home, take a moment to think of those people living in darkness. It is my hope that the lights of the season will inspire you to be a light for yourself and others this month.
On the Kids in Service site this month we have lots of ideas to help you celebrate the season, learn about other December holidays, take care of yourselves and give back to others. December is a busy month and it will be over before you know it. I hope that you and your family take some time to focus on self-care, kindness and giving.
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me….” I won’t torture you with the entire song but I will encourage you to SERIOUSLY consider celebrating the full 12 days of Christmas. We started celebrating them a few years ago and it has stopped the “After Christmas Blues” from coming to town. Each night we add a candle to our window sill until there are 12 candles lit for Twelfth Night. It is beautiful.
One of our favorite parts of the 12 Day Celebration is listening to a new Tullyport Story each day. Sparkle Stories puts out this LOVELY audio series for the 12 days of Christmas. Throughout the series Martin and Sylvia (siblings) “explore what it means to celebrate the traditional ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ inspired by twelve delightful stories from 18th century Maine.” (Sparkle Stories Website). You can CLICK HERE to learn more. If you are short on time each day, they also have a series with the just the 18th Century Stories from Tullyport Maine (a fictional coastal town). These stories are truly magical, CLICK HERE for that series.
We have been a Sparkle family since they began and this is our FAVORITE series. You can get a free 10 day trial which would get you through most of the 12 days of Christmas and you’d be able to see all that Sparkle Stories has to offer. This is not an advertisement, I am just a true fan.
What else do we love to do during the 12 days of Christmas?? Here is a little glimpse into all we have planned this year.
Day 1–Christmas Day-This will be a quiet day for us this year. We plan to stay in our jammies all day, hang by the tree and enjoy a wonderful dinner made by dad.
Day 2–Boxing Day (Kwanzaa Day 1)–We will be having a family Christmas party this day.
Day 3–Hibernation Day–This is the day we do NOTHING. We play games, read books and just chill. I love to hibernate and this is one of my favorite days of the week.
Day 4–The Forgotten Gift–Every year one of the gifts gets “forgotten” under the tree. The kids open it on this day. It is usually a book to share or a board game to play. They love having this fun surprise.
Day 7–New Years Eve– New Years Eve is usually very low key for us and we like to celebrate at home. We usually make a nice dinner and when the kids were little we would do an 8 o’midnight celebration with a live ball drop from our upstairs. Having 8 o’midnight meant we are always in bed by 10, which I LOVE. Now the kids are older and enjoy staying up until midnight but this mama loves her sleep and is often in bed by 12:02!
Day 8–New Year’s Day–Every year we have a BIG New Years Day fancy breakfast. After the meal, we complete our New Years Day Interviews. You can read all about the Interviews and get your own copy by clicking HERE. We’ve been doing these interviews for years and it is always fun to go back and see how we have grown and changed.
Day 9–Plan out Service Projects for the Year--This year during the 12 days I want to have a family meeting where we map out the organizations that we would like to volunteer with this year. 2018 was a big year of service for us but we were flying by the seat of our pants and it felt like we were saying “YES” to everything. This year I want to be more intentional about our volunteer hours and the money we donate.
Day 10–Family Game Night–On the 10th night we are hoping to break out the new games the kids got for Christmas and a few old favorites and have a big family game night.
Day 11–Family Movie Night–We are hoping to pop the popcorn and find one last holiday movie to watch. There are a bunch we have not watched yet this year, so I am sure there will be lots to choose from.
Day 12–Family Twelfth Night Celebration--This year Twelfth Night falls on a weekend night and so we can do more than our traditional candlelit dinner. We are hoping to do a bonfire with s’mores, write some wishes on pieces of paper and send them into the new year by burning them in the fire. We will also bake a Kings Cake and the person who finds the bean will be the wish keeper for the celebration. They will hold everyones wishes for the new year in their heart.
Epiphany or Three Kings Day–3 Little presents arrive on this day. One for each child and one to share. They are not big presents, just a small item of fun to open and my kids are sooooo excited for this day EVERY Year. This is also the day we pack away our Christmas decorations and give thanks for all of the fun and magic we had throughout the season.
I loved this graphic from the Art of Simple. You may incorporate some of these things into your 12 days. They have a great post about the tradition and history of the 12 days that you can find HERE.
I LOVE the cleansing feeling of a new year. I love new calendars to fill in, new goals to set, creating a vision board and picking my Word of the Year. This past year my word was Ohana (and boy did I get a lot of family time this year!) and in the past I have used Discipline, Mindful, Balance, Gratitude, Renew, Joy and I am not sure what my word for this coming year will be.
Here is a great site to help you pick a word for the year. I have encouraged my children and husband to pick words too. It was a fun process and I found a quote to go along with each of their words.
I always spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day dreaming, planning, goal setting and creating my personal vision board (which I then make the wallpaper of my computer). For the past few years I have brought my kids and husband into this process. We love collecting magazines throughout the year and spreading them out on the table with the glues sticks, scissors and construction paper to create our vision boards for the coming year. This has become one of our FAVORITE family traditions.
On New Years Day our favorite tradition is our New Year’s Day Interviewsthat we do over a big family breakfast. We started these in 2010 and we love to see how we have each grown and changed over the years. If you’d like to see our simple interview, you can CLICK HERE.
One of my favorite resources for helping my kids to DREAM BIG and to set goals is our Big Life Journals. We have had our Big Life Journals since the very beginning when they launched as a Kick Starter Campaign.
The Big Life Journal is a journal your child fills out with an older buddy. My son picked myself as his buddy and my daughter picked my husband. Kids can pick ANYONE and have weekly, bi-weekly or monthly Skype or phone calls with their buddy. The idea is that the buddy and the child read the journal together and the buddy helps the child to respond to the prompts. Just this year they came out with a version for teens and I am so excited to get our copy for my son.
The Big Life Journalwebsite also have lots of resources (many FREE) about helping your kids to develop their growth mindset, set goals and build self-esteem.
How do you mark the New Year with your children?
This is not an advertisement for Big Life Journals. I just wanted to share this amazing resource.
November is a great time to focus on gratitude with your kids. Just like empathy and kindness, GRATITUDE is a learned trait. You can help your children learn this important trait by modeling gratitude and putting a gratitude practice in place in your home.
This month is the perfect time to start a gratitude practice (or dust off the old practices that have gone by the wayside). Check out the posts below for ideas of how to teach your children about gratitude and gratitude practices you can put into place this month and beyond.
Looking Ahead to December
The month of November always flies by so quickly and December seems to go even faster! I wanted to bring the following posts to your attention now, so you can plan ahead for how you want to spread love and kindness this holiday season.
Advent is a season of waiting. This season can be so much more meaningful for families when you focus on kindness, love and the true meaning of Christmas. I wanted to share with you a few ideas/resources that we have put into place for over the years during Advent and would love to hear any ideas or traditions that you may have as well.
We have participated in the Reverse Advent Calendar, from Passionate Penny Pincher, for a few years. The idea is simple and a great visual for young kids. Find a big box and each day of advent put in the assigned food item. Once your box is filled with 24 items, donate them that to your local food bank. Food banks receive so much help in November and December and often struggle in January and February. This will box will be a much needed donation and something you can drop off as a family.
My kids each had a box last year and took a lot of time and care decorating their cardboard boxes. We shopped online as a family for the entire list before December 1st and stored all of the food in the basement. Each day the kids would head to the basement and “shop” for the item of the day. They were so excited when the boxes were filled and we took them to the local food bank. This is a wonderful way to help your kids focus on others this holiday season.
This FREE Kindness Calendar from Action for Happiness gives you a daily suggestion for how to spread Kindness. My kids and I have used this for past few years as inspiration for good deeds to do throughout the holiday season.
This is my FAVORITE gift of Christmas and makes my December mornings so special. You can read about the sweet Advent Calendar I request from my children each year HERE.
4. Book Count Down
This was one of my favorite ways to count down to Christmas when my children were little. For this countdown, you wrap up 24 holiday books and place them in a basket. These books can be books you own mixed in with library books and maybe a new book here or there. Label each book with a number and then each day, your kids open up a book and you read it together as a family.
I know 24 books can seem daunting but you can add in Winter books, Hanukkah books or anything that would be fun to read during the holidays. If you are wrapping library books, make sure you put those early in the count so that you don’t get into trouble with overdo fines!
I wish these little guys were around when my oldest was young. If your children are planning to ask Santa for some elves to visit you this Holiday Season, you may want to consider these cuties. The Kindness Elves spread joy and happiness and leave your children daily notes with suggestions of Acts of Kindness that they can partake in. Such a sweet way to encourage your children to spend the Advent Season doing kind deeds.
We have been a sparkle family since the beginning in 2010. David Sewell McCann has a tremendous gift for story telling and the Sparkle Stories are WONDERFUL for children ages 3 and up (although my daughter has been listening since she was one). They have stories for every season, stories that teach valuable lessons, stories for grief….they are an incredible resource.
The holiday season is a very special time at Sparkle Stories and they now have 3 audio Advent Calendars. We LOVE the Martin and Sylvia Advent Calendar that follow a brother and sister through the 24 days leading up to Christmas and their search for yellow Advent Cards. The Junkyard Advent is a precious story about a community of animals that live in a junkyard trying to make a wonderful Christmas for the Warden of the junkyard. This year they have a new Advent Audio Calendar called Libby and Dish’s Good-Deed-a-Day Club and we are soooooo excited.
I highly recommend you check out the magic that is Sparkle Stories. You can sign up for a 7 day trial to try them out for FREE (this is not an ad, we just love Sparkle Stories that much). It is fun to listen to them in the car as you are driving around or you can snuggle up on the couch and listen together. Sparkle stories are a great way to remember to slow down for 20 minutes each day and listen to a beautiful and inspirational story together.
I wish this had been around when my kids were little. I do know other families that do a version of this without this kit. The kit is adorable and a great visual for younger children to watch their kind deeds build up a sweet bed for Baby Jesus. It is a nice way to help younger children focus on the spirit of giving, kindness, love and the meaning of the season.
I did this for a few years with my children when they were small and we LOVED it. It was a great way to teach the story of the birth of Jesus in language that is easy for children to understand. There is a simple craft to make for each day or you can get the printable ornaments to color instead. I recommend it for children 3-6 but older children would enjoy doing it along with their younger siblings. It is another great Advent resource for little ears to get them ready for the coming of the baby Jesus.
What are your Advent and Christmas Countdown Traditions?
Three years ago for Homemade Christmas (Click HERE to learn more about that), I asked my kids to work on my present a little early and create an Advent Calendar for me. They share a LEGO Advent Calendar and a beautiful calendar that my mom buys for them each year but I wanted something to help me mark the days of advent.
I gave them 24 envelopes, 24 index cards and 24 tea bags. They each took 12 and created love notes for me to open each day with a new teabag. I looked forward each morning to opening my new card. I loved their notes of love, the excitement on their faces as I opened each one and the effort they put into choosing the perfect tea for that day. It was the BEST gift I received last Christmas and it lasted 24 days!
Last year they made me another calendar and I added 24 different Yoga With Adrienevideos (my yoga hero who is on YouTube for FREE) to go along with my cards and tea. This advent calendar was a great way for me to take a little time for self-care each day during the busy holiday season!
This Advent Calendar of Love is a wonderful gift for parents, grandparents, aunt and uncles and close family and friends. You could even save artwork throughout the year to use for the envelopes. If the recipient is not a tea drinker you could put in a few scratch tickets, a gift certificate for coffee or some “love coupons” in the envelopes. Spread them out so that they are a nice surprise for the recipient. This gift is simple but so filled with love.
Don’t celebrate Christmas? This gift can easily be adapted for Hanukkah, Solstice and Kwanzaa. My daughter has sent our friends who celebrate Hanukkah, 8 Nights of Love and Jokes for the past few years. She mails them 8 envelopes with a drawing and joke to open each night. They have really enjoyed this.