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Welcome to Kids in Service

The Kids in Service site was created to inspire families to participate in age appropriate service projects to help their community and beyond.
What can you expect to find on the Kids in Service Site?
  • Age Appropriate Service Project Ideas For Kids
  • Activities that Teach Children about Kindness & Gratitude
  • Book Recommendations to help reinforce the themes of Kindness & Gratitude
  • Stories of Incredible Kids and Families who are Making a Difference in their Communities
  • Seasonal Projects, Activities & Stories
  • A Project Calendar of Service Projects in Your Area

I hope that you will check back often and subscribe to our monthly newsletter so that you will updated on new service project ideas and book recommendations.

Please share the community projects that you are leading too, it is fun to learn and be inspired from one another.

Please email us at communityserviceforkids@gmail.com.  

Thanks for visiting!

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Gratitude

Practicing Daily Gratitude

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Gratitude, like empathy, is an important skill that must be taught to children over time. There are many studies that have been done that show that practicing gratitude can increase happiness, improve self-esteem and reduces greed and materialism.  One of the best ways for children to learn the important practice of gratitude, is to model it for them.  Regularly sharing what you are grateful for, helps them to understand the meaning of gratitude and will help to alleviate some of the anxiety and stress they may be feeling.

Gratitude Sticky Notes--This is one of our favorite ways to mark gratitude.  Grab some fun sticky notes (they have many shapes and colors now) and each night have everyone at the table write one thing they are thankful for.  You can invite guests to your house to do the same when they come over.  We stick our notes all over the dining room window and it is fun to see the windows get COVERED in blessings and thanksgivings.

Thankful Jar–For a few years we kept a Thankful Jar during the month of November but there is no reason you can’t have one going all year long.  There are LOTS of examples of Thankful Jars on the internet and but I found this cute free printable from Mama Miss. Family members take turns writing down what they are thankful for and the papers go into the jar.  Every once and a while pull out a few papers from the jar and remember those blessings from the past.

Gratitude Journals–When my children were small we kept a Family Gratitude Journal. Each day we would record the things we were grateful for in the family journal.  Now that my children are older, we each have our own gratitude journals to mark the things we are blessed with.  They are now working through their fifth journals and there are lots of different versions available.  Many, like the one above, have plenty of space for younger children to draw pictures of what they are grateful for.  You can find the journal above and many others on Amazon (this is not an advertisement) or make your own journals in a spiral bound notebook.

Goodnight Blessings–As you put your children to bed each night, ask them to share with you three things they are grateful for.  You can then share three things that you are grateful for as well.  Thinking about their blessings will be a wonderful way for them to drift off to sleep each night.

The Gratitude Game--We played this fun Gratitude Game from Teach Beside Me, last year at our Kids in Service meetings.  I made our game out of colored popsicle sticks and it was a lot of fun to play with the seniors at the nursing home.  You could keep this game by your dining room table and play during family meal times.

Gratitude Conversation Starters--These FREE Gratitude Conversation Starters by Creative Family Fun will be perfect for family meal times.  I just printed out a set and cut them up and put the papers in a glass mason jar.  I am so excited to use these as conversation starters to help continue to develop my children’s gratitude practice. There are twenty conversation starters in all and can be used again and again throughout the year.

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Gratitude Scavenger Hunt–This great activity is from Let’s Get Together.  My kids and I are planning to do it as a photo scavenger hunt but you do not have to.  This simple activity encourages EVERYONE in the family to look closely for the blessings all around them.  Click Here to head to their site so you can print out your own Scavenger Hunt.

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Write a Thank You Notes--Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately?  Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift?  EVERYONE loves mail!  Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you.  This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home.  This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).

 

Book Corner

Books to Spark Creativity

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CLICK HERE for our FREE Printable Booklist.

It is impossible for most folks to get to the library right now, so I have included YouTube links for all of the books below.  Happy listening!

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Ish by Peter Reynolds is a favorite story in our house.  We have some perfectionists who live here and this story helped them to look at their artwork and writing in a whole new way.  I would recommend this book to kids ages 3 and up.

 

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires is a book about determination and not giving up.  A girl and her dog work to create an invention that they both can enjoy but there are bumps in the road and frustration ensues.  I would recommend this book to kids ages 4 and up.

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What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada a book about nurturing those ideas that come our way.  Throughout the story the child gains confidence in their ability to bring their idea into the world.  I would recommend this book to kids ages 4 and up.

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Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg is such a cute book and great for the littles who may struggle with perfectionism.  It is interactive and the kids who read it below are super cute!  I would recommend this book for ages 2 and up.

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Not sure what to do with all of those delivery boxes?  Read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis to your kids and watch their imaginations take flight.  The Read Aloud below is animated and lots of fun.  I would recommend this book to children ages 2 and up.

 

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We are huge Mo Willems fans in this house and his book Because is one of our favorites.  This beautiful story shows that “because” one thing happens, another happens and so on and so forth.  This book is filled with the magic and wonder of music is sure to inspire your children.  The read aloud version below is a lot of fun. I’d recommend this book to children 3 and up.

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Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler is sure to inspire your child’s imagination and leave them wanting to explore their own backyards.  This book has wonderful illustrations and the woman who reads the book below starts you off with a little clapping song.  I’d recommend this book to children 3 and up.

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Weslandia by Paul Fleischman is sure to inspire your children to start their own civilizations.  This is a fun book about a child who does not fit in with the other kids in his school.  As his summer project he starts his own civilization and slowly the other kids take notice.  I’d recommend this book for children ages 5 and up.

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Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell is based on the artistic transformation of a California neighborhood.  In this story, a little girl named Mira starts an art revolution when she passes out her artwork to her neighbors.  It is a beautiful story that I would recommend to ages 4 and up.

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What If…by Samantha Berger is a story about using your imagination in creative ways.  The young girl in this story will stop at nothing to find ways to express herself and share the creative ideas that she has inside of her.  I’d recommend this book to children ages 3 and up.

Family Time

Family Fun at Home

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Fun is one of the most important ingredients to family life and it is needed more than ever right now.   I know life is turned upside down but make sure you plan a fun activity for the end of every day.  This could be a simple activity like hopscotch in the driveway or something more complex like creating a family obstacle course or scavenger hunt. Remember to include the fun and these memories will be the ones that your kids think of when they think of this strange and difficult time.

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LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--Is your family watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox?  We LOVE it 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.

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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.

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VIRTUAL TALENT SHOW–The Virtual Talent Show was created to help spread joy and cheer to senior citizens across the globe. Many seniors live alone or are in quarantine in their nursing home and assisted living facilities.  Let’s bring a little joy to their lives!  Post an act of your family or child to the Virtual Talent Facebook Group.  It could be comedy, dance, acting, magic, a musical performance…the sky is the limit!  Please keep your video under 2 minutes long.  Click HERE to join the Virtual Talent Facebook Group.

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--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. 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.  Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!

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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 some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.

VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS--From the comfort of your couch you can go on a virtual tour of 12 famous museums from around the world.  Click HERE to learn more.

homeschool

Taming the Chaos

Hello work from home families,

I have been homeschooling my two kids, Zach (age 13) and Caroline (age 10), for the past 7 1/2 years.  I was an elementary public school teacher before homeschooling and a few years ago I founded an organization called Kids in Service.

I was asked to write to you today with a few tips about schooling your kids at home.  I am not an expert but I have been in the trenches for awhile and have tried and failed at MANY things.  Here is some of the wisdom that has been shared with me and a few things that have worked for our household.

1. Give Yourself Grace

This situation is new for all of us (even the homeschooling families) and it will take time to adjust.  It is okay if the house is a mess, if your kids are on their screens more than normal and if some days you never make it out of pajamas.  Give yourself and everyone living in your home grace as you adjust to this new way of life.

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2.  Rhythm vs. Schedule

Kids thrive off of structure and predictability.  It is important for them to know what is expected of them and what their day will look like.  Their daycare/school days were very structured and now they are home all day, trying to make sense of this new routine.  I have seen some DETAILED schedules floating around the internet.  A strict schedule may work for some families but schedules fail for the majority of us. Schedules are regimented and don’t allow for those last minute things that come up (and they always do).  That is why many homeschool experts recommend a RHYTHM vs. SCHEDULE.

A Rhythm will be predictable but not tied to a certain time.  Your day may start at 8am some mornings and 7:30am on others.  Post your rhythm so that family members know what comes next.  My kids know that after family lunch, they go off for an hour of quiet time.  Lunch may be at 11:30 some days or 1pm on others but quiet time always follows.

3. Predictable Rhythm–In and Out

Design your rhythm to have an IN and OUT pattern to it, like breathing. When you breathe IN, you are all together working on an activity or sharing a meal. When you breathe OUT, they are off on their own working or playing independently. This IN and OUT rhythm will be predictable and comforting for your children.  Having a dose of quality time with a caregiver is all they need to then go off and be on their own for awhile.

Examples of IN Activities–Meal Times, Family Read Aloud, Helping with School Work, Family Fun (games, outside time etc.), Craft Activities

Examples of OUT Activities–Quiet Hour/Nap Time, Educational Show, Educational App, Independent School Work, Playtime, FaceTime with Friends and Family, Cosmic Kids Yoga, Audio Book or Sparkle Stories

Example of Daily Rhythm

Breakfast and Morning Read Aloud Time (IN)

Work Block 1 (OUT)

Answer any Questions from Work Block 1 (IN)

Break/Outside Time (OUT)

Set them up for Work Block 2 (IN)

Work Block 2 (OUT)

Answer any Questions from Work Block 2 and Family Lunch* (IN)

QUIET HOUR (OUT)**

Set them up for Work Block 3 (IN)

Work Block 3 (OUT)

Answer any Questions from Work Block 3 (IN)

Independent Play/Screen-time (OUT)

Dinner (IN)

Chore time (OUT)

Family Fun (IN)

*If you can’t do family lunch, consider having your kids use FaceTime or Google Hangout to share lunch with their grandparents, cousins or friends.  It will allow them to feel connected and you will have that time to work.

**If your kids don’t nap, send them to their room with a book, audio book and headphones or another quiet activity for the hour.  It may take them some time to get use to the hour in their room and some incentive may be necessary at first.  I highly recommend you stick with it though because this downtime is so important.

4.  Help Your Child Prioritize

My sister works outside of the home as a nurse and my brother in-law spends most of his workday on the phone.  My sister has been getting up before the kids to check out their schoolwork for the day.  She takes the list of what they have to do, prioritizes the work and then breaks the tasks into work block sessions.

Is your child more focused in the morning?  Have them do the tasks that require more focus then (math, spelling, writing).  Save the work that is easier for them to complete for the later part of the day.  If your child takes awhile to wake up, have them start with something easier to help get them started and save their more difficult tasks for when they are more awake.

5.  Use the Internet 

The amount of resources available during this time is ASTOUNDING.  Audible has over 100 free books available, ABC Mouse is offering subscriptions at a discounted rate, Zoos are doing daily Facebook safari’s, authors and celebrities are doing read aloud times every day…it is incredible all of the free resources available.  Tap into these resources and build them into your child’s day.  These are great opportunities for them to be engaged while you get a little work done.  I have listed a bunch of resources below.

Sparkle Stories–These are wonderful online audio stories that inspire children’s imagination and creativity.  They are offering a bedtime story for FREE each night on Facebook and also have a FREE 7 day trial.  Martin and Sylvia are favorites in our house.  This site is perfect for ages 3 and up and their blog is filled with cooking and craft activities.

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems–Mo Willems welcomes you into his studio every day for an art experience.  All of the old episodes are on the website, we are loving this series.

Cincinnati Zoo Home Safari–Every day at 3pm, the Cincinnati Zoo shares an animal from their zoo for 30 minutes on Facebook.  They have all of their old videos on their Facebook page and you can meet the penguins, hippos, red pandas and lions.

Read Aloud Revival--Read Aloud Revival is a great resource for booklists.  The library may be closed but you can find most books read aloud on YouTube.  Audible is also offering free books and your library also has access to sites like Hoopla and Overdrive which have audio books and ebooks.  Celebrities are reading stories as part of Save the Children’s Save with Stories Campaign.  You can access those read aloud stories HERE.

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10+ Service Projects to do while Social Distancing–We may be social distancing but it is important to reach out and help people when we can.  This article has ideas for 10+ service projects that you can do as a family at home. My group Kids in Service is collecting cards for our local nursing home and soldiers over seas (these will go in care packages) if you would like to participate.  We are also running a Virtual Talent Show on Facebook for senior citizens in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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Click HERE for a long list of other resources 🙂

Thanks for reading. I am happy to help if you have any questions or want someone to brainstorm ideas with when it comes to schooling at home.  Good luck and Welcome to Homeschool (here is another post I wrote about this topic).

-Jessica

 

 

 

featured, Service Projects for Families

10+ Service Projects You Can Do While Social Distancing

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We are living in uncertain times right now and one of the best ways to combat feelings of anxiety and worry is to think of others. We may be social distancing but it is important to reach out and help people when we can.  Below you will find ideas for 10+ service projects that you can do as a family at home.  Many require very little materials and most are items you already have at home.  It is our hope to help ease your anxiety (at least for a little bit) while you work together to help those in need.

We’d love to see pictures of you and your family serving others while social distancing.  You can email us (communityserviceforkids@gmail.com) or share them on social media using the hashtag #kidsinservice. Thank you and stay safe!

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  1. Hearts for Healthcare Workers--Make hearts to hang on your door to support Healthcare Workers and First Responders.  Let them know that you appreciate their hard work and sacrifice.  This beautiful movement was started by the Russell Family, one of our Kids in Service NH families.
  2. Send cards to the local nursing home–Local nursing homes are not allowing visitors and the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside. Contact your local nursing home to see if they are open to cards to cheer up their residents.  If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity.  We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
  3. Virtual Talent Show–Many seniors live alone or are in quarantine in their nursing home and assisted living facilities. Let’s bring a little joy to their lives while keeping our kids busy. Post an act of your child performing a talent that they may have (comedy, dance, magic, musical performances…the sky is the limit). Please keep your video under 2 minutes long and let’s help spread some joy to the seniors who are sheltering in place right now.
  4. Do a Trash Pick Up of your street–Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt.  Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids.  Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
  5. Record an Uplifting Message for Make a Wish–Many kids are the most vulnerable during this time and many of their wishes have been postponed.  Consider recording an uplifting message for these kids as a family.  Click HERE to learn more.
  6. Sew Masks for Hospital Workers–Are you or your kids handy and have a sewing machine?  There is a much needed demand for masks for healthcare workers and the public is being asked to lend a hand.  Click HERE for more information on how you can help by making masks.
  7. Make a No Sew Fleece Blanket for Project Linus–Order a blanket kit (or two) from JoAnn Fabric or another online retailer.  Once it arrives, transform it into a warm and cozy blanket that can be donated to a child in crisis.  If you can tie a knot, you can make a blanket!
  8. Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones.  Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
  9. Paint Kindness Rocks
  10. Start making Christmas cards for the Military Holiday Card Challenge–The deadline to send in your cards is the end of October but there is no reason why you can’t get started on them now.  Put on some holiday music, get out the paper and markers and spread some holiday cheer to our military with a holiday card that thanks them for all of their hard work and sacrifice.
  11. Write a Thank You Note-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately?  Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift?  EVERYONE loves mail!  Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you.  This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude.

Other Ideas:

  1. Cut out Shoes for Sole Hope--Do you have old jeans laying around your house?  Order a shoe party kit from Sole Hope and turn those jeans into future shoes for children in Uganda.
  2. Kid Knits–Are you looking for a craft to keep your kids busy that supports others?  Kid Knits was started by 9 year old Ellie who wanted to find a way to help support women in Rwanda by purchasing their yarn to knit hats with.  Five years later she has a non-profit that supports women in Rwanda, Mexico, Chile and Kenya with her yarn and knitting kits.  Click HERE to learn more about Kid Knits.
  3. Start a Gratitude Project-It is important for all of us to focus on Gratitude during these uncertain times.  Click HERE to find some ideas of ways that you and your family and focus on gratitude.
Blog

Welcome to Homeschool

Make a Difference May

Due to COVID-19, many school districts are closing for at least two weeks.  For some districts the close is do to a case or two in the school and in others it is to slow down the spread of this fast moving disease.  I am not a doctor with information to share but I am a homeschool mom of 7 years and was a public school teacher before that.  Because of this fact I have had a few people reach out looking for advice about homeschooling.  I thought I’d use this platform to encourage all of you as you move into your role of temporary homeschoolers.

First let me say that school at home is very different from homeschooling and thus the advice that I would give to new homeschooling parents would be VERY different.  There are some similarities though, and after much thought and reflection, I have come up with some wisdom that I have learned over the past 7 years.  I hope that this wisdom will help you over the next few weeks at home.

1. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective!

This was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn when it came to homeschooling.  If I had a nickel for every time a parent asked me: How do you do it all day?  I would shoot myself if I had to homeschool my kids!  I celebrate when I put my kids on the bus, it’s the best part of my day!”  The key to homeschooling is PERSPECTIVE.  If you go into this two weeks like it is a prison sentence then guess what…IT WILL BE!

It is crucial that you go into this time period with with a positive perspective.  Think of the next few weeks as an adventure.  After all you can do school in your jammies, while sitting on the couch, under the dining room table in a fort, outside on a blanket…the possibilities are endless.  If you go into this experience with a positive perspective then that will rub off on your kids.  At first they may be resistant to your positivity (especially if they are moody teens) but it will be much more pleasant for all of you if you go in to this with an open mind and a sense of adventure.

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2.  Rhythm vs Schedule

I know that some schools will be strict about the time your kids need to be online.  What you all are experiencing is different then what we homeschoolers experience.  However many homeschool experts say that rhythm is best over schedule.  I have found when you try to stick to a schedule at home it fails time and time again.  There is laundry to do, meals to prepare, emails to answer and many of you will be balancing work with school at home.  My advice is take a deep breath, embrace the mess and set up a rhythm.

Our day usually starts around 8:30 (but not always, some days we start at 8 and others at 9, it depends when we are all ready).  Before that my kids sleep until about 7:30 or 8 (growing kids need sleep, and I think that if the school schedule allows, let them get the extra sleep during this time).  While “waking up” they may read, play, grab breakfast and get ready to start our day.  We begin with a family read aloud.  I recommend this even if your kids are in High School.  This is a great way to wake up and connect as a family before you start your day.  After that we will go off and work on our more individual work for about an hour.  If you have more than one child that requires individual attention, try to stagger their work so that you can work with one while the other works independently.  Audio Books and Learning Apps are great ways to distract the youngest ones who may need more attention so you can help your older children. Here is a look at our Daily Rhythm.

Our Daily Rhythm

Morning Read Aloud Time

Work Block 1

Break/Outside

Work Block 2

Lunch

DEAR TIME (I read too!!!)

Work Block 3 (we often don’t even need this block)

Free Time//Extracurricular Activities

Screentime

Dinner

3.  No Morning Screen Time

I find my kids (and most people) are less productive and focused if they have started their day with screens.  I recommend using screens as the reward for a pleasant and productive day.  My children know that they will not earn their screen time if they are rude or do not put their best effort into their school work.  Our screen time is usually in the evening so they know not to ask for it throughout the day.  We do have a family movie afternoon (usually on Wednesdays).  This is a great time to work as a group to fold laundry (my friend Kitty taught me that tip).

I think that during this social isolation time screen time will be important.  Online gaming with friends or FaceTime with friends and family should be encouraged.  My son has even played card games with his friends via FaceTime.  It’s time to get creative with screens!

4.  Brain Breaks

Many kids struggle to focus for long periods of time and children with ADD or ADHD really struggle with this.  I find that building in breaks into your day helps.  When the kids were smaller we had a policy that each person in the family could yell out “Brain Break” once during the day and everyone had to follow suit.  Brain Breaks could be putting on a favorite song and dancing around, play leap frog, do some yoga poses, do some deep breathing, jumping jacks…anything to get your bodies moving for a few minutes.

Before you start a Brain Break, make sure they understand that this is to help us focus and they will be expected to return to their work after the fun.  Believe it or not, this will help them to focus better when they are finished.

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5.  Relationships Come First

This role of parent and teacher will be new for most of your kids.  There will be resistance, there will be frustration and there will be moments where you want to tear your hair out and run for the border.  My advice is to remember Relationships Come First.  I write this EVERY DAY in my journal and I repeat this over and over in those moments where I want to yell and scream in frustration.

Please remember that the math assignment is not as important as your relationship with your child.  This can be really hard to remember in times of frustration.  When your child is acting out there is usually a reason.  Do they understand the assignment?  Are they hungry, embarrassed, tired, anxious?  Often I find a hug, a break and a snack does the trick.

6.  Leave Time for Fun!

Fun is the most important ingredient to schooling your kids at home.  I know that this role is temporary for most of you but please don’t forget the FUN.  Plan a fun activity for the end of the day, let them work in a fort that you built under the dining room table, play hopscotch with your kids outside during break etc.

We homeschoolers are usually on the go and so we will also be feeling the effects of this social isolation.  The museums are closed, our activities are canceled and it is time to find creative ways to fill our time when our schoolwork is done.  Below you will find some of the fun things that we are planning over the next few weeks.

SOME FUN FAMILY IDEAS

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LEGO MASTER FAMILY CHALLENGE--Is your family watching LEGO MASTERS on Fox?  We LOVE it 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.

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FAMILY BOARD 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.

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--There may be a travel ban but that doesn’t mean we can’t still “travel” to new locations. 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.  Who says you can’t travel while quarantined at home!

VIRTUAL MUSEUM TOURS--From the comfort of your couch you can go on a virtual tour of 12 famous museums from around the world.  Click HERE to learn more.

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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.  Here are some things that you could do while home with the kids over the next few weeks.

  1. Send cards to the local nursing home.  Local nursing homes have reduced the amount of visitors and I am sure the residents would love some artwork and cheer from the outside.  If you are sick or have anyone in your home who may be sick, please avoid this activity.  We would hate to spread germs through the mail.
  2. Do a Trash Pick Up of your street.  Our streets are littered with trash, especially those of us who just had the snow melt.  Grab some gloves and trash bags and head out to pick up trash with your kids.  Please use common sense and do not bring your children out onto busy roads.
  3. Make a No Sew Fleece Blanket for Project Linus
  4. Check in on your elderly neighbors and relatives-We may be quarantined but we can still use this time to connect with neighbors and loved ones.  Call them on the phone, FaceTime if they are able or send cards to let them know you are thinking about them.
  5. Paint Kindness Rocks
  6. Start a Gratitude Project-It is important for all of us to focus on Gratitude during these uncertain times.  Click HEREto find some ideas of ways that you and your family and focus on gratitude.
  7. Start making Christmas cards for the Military Holiday Card Challenge.
  8. Write a Thank You Note-Have you thanked your parent or care giver lately?  Have you thanked your teacher, your coach, bus driver or librarian for all they do for you? Did you recently receive a gift?  EVERYONE loves mail!  Bless one or more people in your life with a card or note thanking them for all they do to help and support you.  This is a project for all ages, as the littles can draw and adults can scribe the note of thanks and gratitude. Make writing thank you notes a regular practice in your home.  This simple activity will teach an important lesson in gratitude, respect and connection (not to mention it will help them practice their writing).

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Blog, Kids in Service Clubs

So Very Grateful

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This month the Windham Magazine ran a four page article about our local Kids in Service organization.  I was beyond thrilled when they reached out in January about doing an article about our group and the work we are doing in the community.  Reporter Madeline Hughes called to do a phone interview with me and then reached out to a few of our members (adults and kids) to ask them about their experience with the organization.

Madeline and photographer Carl Russo came to our KIS Teen meeting at the end of January and took pictures and interviewed the kids while they made blankets for Project Linus. We made 12 blankets that night and shared so many laughs as Madeline asked questions and Carl came around and snapped photos.

The article came out last week while I was away. My friend Kristin sent me photos of the article and I cried tears of joy and gratitude in the parking lot of a CVS.  Reading the words of the kids, the parents and the seniors we serve in the nursing home touched my heart. Since the article came out I have been showered by love and support from friends, family, former colleagues, community members and many people from my past.  I am so grateful to everyone who has reached out and for The Windham Magazine for running the article about our special group.  I had hoped that the article would mention a few of the key people who have helped Kids in Service grow into what it is today.  Unfortunately they were not mentioned and so I wanted to take a moment to thank them now.

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Kids in Service NH is a team effort and has been from day one.  The group started almost 5 years ago under the name MOSAIC Kids.  Claire McGarry, founder of MOSAIC of Faith and Shifting My Perspective, and I sat together one Saturday afternoon and dreamed up a group where our children could serve the community in age appropriate ways.   We could not find service opportunities for our young children and decided to create projects of our own.  We brought on Pam Sarantis and MOSAIC Kids was formed.  That first year we worked so hard recruiting families, dreaming up projects and creating the framework for the organization. Claire and Pam stepped down from leadership after our first year but have continued to support the organization every step of the way.  I am so grateful for all they did to help build this group.

Next on board came Kristen Sudati.  She was a busy mom of littles but wanted to get involved.  She took over organizing our nursing home visits and worked to promote our group around town.  Last year Jody Wilkins joined Kristen and they were both given the official title of Community Relations Directors. These amazing women work tirelessly behind the scenes to promote our group in the community (the Memorial Day Parade, Scarecrow Contest etc.), make sure that we have a place to meet and that the families know when it is their turn to bake cookies for Project Appreciation, deliver the food for Project Brown Bag or clean up the park.  I am so grateful to have these two women on board and for all they do to make Kids in Service a success.

Kids in Service is so lucky to have the GREATEST families as part of our organization.  I am constantly in awe of the kids in our group.  Their kind hearts are always searching for new ways to make a difference.  During our Kids in Service Kids meetings we start with a lesson and a story and end with a gratitude circle.  The wisdom and gratitude of these children always warms my heart and gives me so much hope for the future.  Watching the teens and seniors interact at the nursing home is a beautiful site.  The fact that all of these children take time out of their busy lives to stop and help others is so important.

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We could not do half of what we do without the support of the parents.  They are out shopping for items to donate, chatting with the seniors at the nursing home parties, making sure that their kids get to meetings on time and then pitching in to lend a much needed hand with our projects.  These parents are the glue that hold this group together and I am so very grateful for all of the work that they do and for sharing their children with me each month as we work to make our community a little brighter.

Thank you to Joe D’Amore, Cheryl Haas, Katie Cook, Peter Griffin, Lisa Challender, the Bow Rotary Club, Janine and Chris Parkinson, Zack McGarry, Scott Weller, Windham Presbyterian Church, St. Matthew’s Church and the many other people who support us financially, spread the word about our group, allow us meeting space and help to get us involved with projects.

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Finally I’d like to thank my husband Scott and my children Zach and Caroline.  These three are my sounding boards, my cheerleaders and are always willing to jump into whatever service project is up next. Without their support there would be no Kids in Service.

Thank you EVERYONE!!

featured, Mindfulness

10 Ways to Incorporate Daily Mindfulness with Kids

Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it.-9

For the past two years my children and I have been working to include more mindful practices into our days. Practicing mindfulness is a lot like going to the gym.  People go to the gym to exercise their muscles so that they will be strong and ready when they need them.  Just like exercising your muscles, it is important to exercise deep breathing and being mindful.  When you do this, you will better be able to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes your way.

Today I want to share with you a few of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness.  We do not do all of these things daily but try to pick one or two each day to help us to center and focus. Practicing mindfulness daily has made such a big difference in our lives and I hope that it will help you and your kids too!

1. Mindful Jars

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Mindful Jars are not only fun to make but they are a wonderful tool for children (and adults) to use when they are agitated and upset. We have a few Mindful Jars around the house and they are great for those moments when you just need to calm down.  Give them a good shake and sit and watch the glitter settle to the bottom.  Click Here to learn how to make your own Mindful Jars.

2. Breathing Exercises

Over the past few years we have learned a lot of deep breathing techniques.  Many of our favorites were learned through the book by Kira Willey called, Breathe Like a Bear.   We put our favorites breaths on slips of paper and put them in our breathing jar.  At breakfast or dinner, we will take turns choosing one slip of paper and practice that days breath.  Lion’s Breath and Candle breath are two of our favorites.  Our daily breaths usually leave us in giggles but learning deep breathing techniques has greatly helped us in moments of stress.

3. Gratitude Journals

When my children were small we kept a Family Gratitude Journal.  Each day we would record the things we were grateful for in the family journal.  Now that they are older, we each have our own gratitude journals to mark the things we are blessed with.  Focusing on gratitude forces you to live in the moment, be more present and research shows that gratitude leads to greater feelings of happiness.

4.  Mindfulness Apps

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There are so many mindfulness apps and programs that can help kids and parents to learn to breath deeply and self-regulate. Many of the apps offer guided meditations for both kids and adults.  Our favorite apps are Mindful Powers, the Mightier Program and Headspace.  Check out this post from Parenting Chaos for more apps that will help your children with practicing mindfulness.

5. Blowing Bubbles

When my kids were small, blowing bubbles was a regular activity.  When energy levels were high or moods were cranky, I’d grab our bottle of bubbles and we’d head outside (or to the garage if the weather was not favorable).  Watching bubbles is a fun way to practice being mindful.  Bubbles are mesmerizing and kids can’t help but be present as they follow and try to catch them.

6. Body Scans

This is one of our favorite ways to practice mindfulness.  Have your kids lie down and allow their bodies to sink heavy into the floor.  Have them take a few deep breaths and encourage them to make their body feel heavy.  Next have them squeeze all of their muscles tight.  Have them squeeze their hands, their feet, their face, their toes…and squeeze and squeeze.  Then after a few seconds have them release EVERYTHING and feel heavy.  Ask them to pay attention to their body, how do they feel?  Have them scan each body part and see how it feels.  You can repeat this a few times or have them isolate muscles to squeeze from head to toe.  It is such a great way to relax and help them learn to pay attention to the signals of their body.  There are many guided meditations that will take you through a detailed body scan if you want to do it along with them.

7. Gratitude Walk

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Take a quiet walk as a family and as you walk encourage each person to think of things that they are grateful for.  Have them use their 5 senses to explore their surroundings as they walk and observe things in nature to be grateful for.  Spend a few minutes in quiet and then take a break (maybe with a snack) to share all of the gratitude that was felt and everything that they noticed.

8. Coloring or Painting

My kids love to listen to audio books or classical music and color in coloring books or paint.  There is something so relaxing about this process and it is a great way to encourage your children to be present.  Children who struggle to stop moving to listen to a story or music, may enjoy the act of coloring, drawing or painting to help them focus on the what they are listening to.  There is something about art that allows children to truly listen to the book or music that is being played for them.

9.  Finding Your Heart Beat

Teach your children how to find their pulse (either in their neck or on their wrist).  Have them count the beats in 10 seconds.  Put on music and have them dance around for a minute or two.  Have them check their pulse again.  How much faster is their heart beating?  Now take 5 deep breaths in and out and have them check their pulse again.  How long does it take to return to a calm heartbeat?  Explain how powerful breathing can be for our bodies.

10. Solo Sits

Have your children spread out around the house or yard and sit quietly for 30-60 seconds.  You can add time on to the solo-sit each time they practice this activity.  I love to do this on a hike in the woods and have the kids sit for 3-5 minutes.  While they are sitting quietly, have them pay attention to the noises around them.  Ask them these questions when they return.  What sounds did you hear?  Did you struggle to focus on listening for sounds?  What were some loud sounds?  What were some quiet sounds?  How did you feel as you sat there silently?  

 

Other Ways to Practice Mindfulness with Your Kids

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Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it.-5

Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it.-3

Mindfulness isn't difficult. We just need to remember to do it.-4

Kids in Service Clubs

Kids in Service NH Kids

Make a Difference May-18

Kids in Service NH Kids is a great way for children ages 0-11 and their parents to help serve their community in age appropriate ways.  We meet once a month, there is no fee to join and no commitment (please come when you can).

Every other month Kids in Service NH Kids meet at the local nursing home for a seasonal party.  These festive parties are great way for the children and seniors to interact.  We sing songs, play games and work on crafts.

On the opposite months, the group meets to work on age appropriate service projects.  Over the past 5 years we have painted flower pots for hospice patients, made cat nip socks for the animal shelter, made dignity bags for the homeless, sent gift bags to orphans in Honduras, ran a food drive, made birthday boxes and so much more.  These meetings start off with a story book and a quick lesson about our theme of the year.  This year our theme is EMPATHY.  We end our meetings with a circle of gratitude and by reciting our Kids in Service pledge.

Kids earn a service bead for their Kids in Service name necklace for every project they complete.  They love to see their colorful beads grow as they work to help others.

We have lots of other ways for families to earn service beads on their own time.  We have our Adopt a Grandparent program at the nursing home, Project Appreciation, The Brown Bag Delivery Project and Park Clean Ups.

For more information on how you and your family can get involved in the Kids in Service NH Kids group, please contact us at communityserviceforkids@gmail.com

 

Kids in Service Clubs

Kids in Service NH Teens

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We are in our first year of our Kids in Service NH Teen Club!  This group started off the summer granting wishes in the local nursing home.  In the fall they helped to prepare candy for Windham’s Harvest Fest, made 50 bagged lunches for the homeless, made 30 holiday gift bags for hospice patients and made 12 blankets for Project Linus.  In March we will be making shoes for Sole Hope.  Many of these teens also participate in our Adopt a Grandparent Program.  Here they visit with local nursing home residents once a month, when it works in their schedule.

This is the NICEST group of kids and we have such a good time serving together. This group meets once, every other month and there is no fee to join and no commitment (kids should come when they can). We are happy to sign off on any community service hours that they may need. We’d love to have your teen/pre-teen join us!

For more information on how you can get involved in the Kids in Service NH Teen/Preteen group, please contact us at communityserviceforkids@gmail.com