Love in Action: Read Aloud

Love in Action Day 11

Today’s loving action is a sacrifice of time and often personal preferences for the love of your children.  It’s also a real crowd-pleaser.  If they don’t already, your children will grow to love this. It’s just one more reason to refocus on the simple priorities of life.


Read aloud to your children.

It doesn’t matter how old your children are. Reading aloud to them takes you on a shared adventure, a journey of togetherness.

Baby steps.

If your children are not accustomed to listening to you read aloud, don’t start with Homer’s Iliad.  Some children will sit through two hours of straight reading.  Others are better off with five- or ten-minute sessions, such as during your morning snuggle, after lunch, and before bed.

Stop reading for the day while they are still interested. (Oh, sweet torture!)  When they’re caught up in a story, they’ll be begging you to read more.

Let them wiggle!

Allow children to build with blocks, color, knit, stand on their heads, or sketch while they’re listening.  I like to teach my crew a new skill, such as knitting, and then read while they make my birthday presents.  (I don’t peek, naturally.)  Often I will find a coloring book or paper dolls that coincide with the book, or I will make photocopies of the book’s illustrations for them to color.  (It’s legal — personal use!)

What should you read?

Give them some say in the books you choose, within your family’s guidelines, of course.  It’s quite exciting for all involved if you introduce some of your childhood favorites or hit the library to hunt down new treasures together.  Eventually you will want to seek out higher quality books and weed out some of the chaff, but for now, just read.

Read whatever good books you have on hand. As you search for great books to read in the future, check out the following:

You’re in for some great adventures!

Together you’ll travel to Narnia and Treasure Island. You’ll be shipwrecked on an island and make your home in the trees. You’ll discover a noothbrush on your toothbrush and climb to the top of a tree to party with the dogs. You’ll meet the Moffats and Pippi Longstocking and watch the five little Peppers grow. You’ll tame the mighty black stallion, cry through Black Beauty’s losses, and ride along with Marguerite Henry and the great horses of history. You’ll memorize Prayer for a Child and Dr. Seuss’ ABC. You’ll flee Egyptian priests from Bubastes and sail the seas with Odysseus.

You’ll meet the real Mary Poppins. You’ll help Charlotte save Wilbur, help Christopher unstick Pooh (again), and tag along on vet visits with Dr. Herriot. You’ll make friends with Patricia St. John and Louisa May Alcott. You’ll empathize with Beezus and root for Henry. You’ll cheer through Understood Betsy and bake through The Little House series. You’ll give a moose a muffin, a mouse a cookie, and a pig a pancake. And you’ll do all of it, together. Why, I’m almost envious!

You may have tangible wealth untold.
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a mother who read to me.

~Strickland Gillilan

Are you curious about some of the reading adventures to which I alluded?  Click here, my curious friend, and be enlightened.

What are your family’s favorite read-alouds?

Helpful Tools: Our family is currently reading through the Little House series.  Much like other great series (Anne of Green Gables, Chronicles of Narnia), there are many add-ons available to make the experience even richer.  Check out some of the many extras that go along with the Little House books:

Read to Your Children: Little House Paper Dolls

And, of course, you can always retrace the Ingalls family’s steps, including a stop in Pepin, Wisconsin for Laura Ingalls Wilder Days.

Love in Action: Play and Laugh

Love in Action Day 10

It’s time to have some fun!  For today, the rest of the Love in Action series, and hopefully beyond, you will focus on family fun.

Play and Laugh

Happy, healthy, loved children laugh.  They laugh a lot. They laugh uninhibited and with joy.

And they play.

Your blessed privilege as the parent of these laughing, playing children is to laugh and play with them.

If you have babies and toddlers, this is easy.  Sit on the floor with them and investigate toys, set up blocks, roll a ball, let them play with your hair, your hands, your face. Share their contagious laughter.

If you have older children or teenagers, play is a bit more involved.  It may involve board games, train tracks, remote control cars, sports, even video games.  It may involve word games, jokes, riddles, or cards. Whatever you play, it should involve laughter.

Need ideas?

Love in Action: Cat's CradleTry some classics, like Monopoly, Twister, or Scrabble. Play basketball or four-square. Try Cat’s Cradle (remember the string game from when you were a kid), Simon Says, or good old-fashioned Freeze Tag.  Hey, how about marbles!

Ask your children to teach you their favorite games. Return the favor and teach them your favorite games from when you were a child.  Learn a new game together online or from a book. We like Hopscotch, Hangman, Hot Potato, & Ha Ha Ha.

Schedule a family game night, or set up an ongoing game of Chess or a perpetual game to play when in the car, such as counting cars or Shell’s Gas Stations.  How about Padiddle? (Count cars with only one headlight; it only counts if you’re the first person to hit the roof and shout “PADIDDLE!”)

Stop whatever you are doing and play, or start spontaneous word games, knock knock jokes, or 20 Questions while working together in the kitchen.

It doesn’t matter what you play.  Just play!

Don’t just play to check it off your parental to-do list.  Play because you love to be together, to play together, to laugh together.

Play together and fill your home with laughter.

What are your favorite games to play with your children?

Love in Action: Hugs and Kisses

Hugs From DaddyLove in Action Day 9

Today’s loving action is very powerful.  Am I getting repetitive?  Yes, I am, because every single loving action you ever perform has an impact whose depth cannot be measured.

Hug and Kiss Your Children

We all love to hold our babies and toddlers.  We love to kiss their soft cheeks and bury our faces in their hair.  We love to hold them in our laps and rest their heads on our shoulders.  We get our “snuggle fix” from our little ones.

But what about our older children? Our 5-year-olds, our 10-year-olds, our teens?

Where do they get their snuggle fix? At what age do they suddenly stop needing the comfort of a mother’s hug, the sitting close, the head on the shoulder?

They don’t stop needing it.

Not ever.

Intentionally focus on taking the time to connect physically with each child each day.  A hug. A kiss.  A pat on the back. A pat on the head. A playful shoulder punch, tickle, or poke.

Sit close together.  Put your arms around your children.  Pull someone onto your lap, even if she is almost as tall as you. Hold hands. Set up a Mommy toll booth — nobody can pass without paying one hug . . . or a substantial chunk of change.

Scratch your son’s back. Brush and play with your daughter’s hair. Rub their feet when you’re sitting on the couch together. I know, their feet aren’t cute and tiny and kissable like they used to be. Do it anyway! Your feet probably get pretty skanky, too, and you’d still like your hubby to massage away the day’s foot weariness.

If you need to, count how many times you’ve hugged each child until you’ve made it a habit. I told my children that a mommy needs three hugs a day per child to keep her batteries charged.  Now they do the counting. Nobody wants Mama to hit empty!

Not sure how to start?

Look around you and find the child who, at this moment, is the least lovable — cranky, dirty, scowling, bickering.  Grab that child and hug as if his life depended on it.  It would be a great time to practice yesterday’s smile as well.  Always show affection to the child who least deserves it — that’s grace.

Eventually all this crazy lovin’ will become a habit, and those terrific kids of yours will still be hugging and kissing on Mama when you’re 92!

Whatever you do, make it fun and keep it natural.  Nothing’s worse than forced affection from someone who should love you wholly and unconditionally. Well, there might be something worse, like, I don’t know, a worldwide chocolate shortage. Hmmm.  Nope. Not even that.

Always kiss your children goodnight,
even if they’re already asleep.

~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

How do you connect with your older children?

Today’s Love in Action is linked up to the Homemaking Link-up.

Love in Action: Smile Even More

Mary Cassatt 1901Today we begin the second half of Love in Action focusing on our children.

Keep up with the loving actions toward your man — they’re not that hard!  Most husbands are bumped to the back of the bus when babies come along, so let’s keep them up in the driver’s seat throughout the rest of the challenge.

Now, onto our children.

Love in Action Day 8

This is the easiest and most fun thing you can do for your children.


Every time your child walks in the room, light up your face like a Christmas tree, like a neon sign, like a . . . really big, bright thing.

Donna of Positive Parenting 3-6-5 calls it the 1000-watt smile.

Shine it!

That smile tells your children you are happy to see them, happy to have them near you.  It gives them a sense of belonging, of love, of comfort.  It lets them know you want them there.  There is little better for a child of any age than feeling wanted, loved, secure.

No matter what you’re feeling, no matter what they’re interrupting, no matter how much mud they just traipsed in the house, look at their eyes, at their hearts, and smile!

And mean it.

Every time you smile at someone,

it is an action of love, a gift to that person,

a beautiful thing.

~Mother Teresa

Have you fallen out of the habit of smiling at your children?

Artwork: Mary Cassatt, 1801

Large Families: Making Time for Everyone

Having a lot of children may take a toll on the waistline, but not on the hearing. Sure, when someone small cries out from the bathroom, “I missed,” we moms of many pretend we can’t hear in hopes that Daddy will go handle potty patrol.  In reality, however, the more children a mama has, the more highly attuned her sense of hearing becomes.  Therefore, the comments people mutter when our large family parades by do not fall on deaf ears.  

Large Families: Making Time for Everyone

The first thing I usually hear from the parade watchers is, “She has seven children?! Wow, she looks amazing!”  (Okay, so maybe I am just a little bit deaf.)

What I actually hear outside of my fantasy realm is, “How does she find time for all those kids?”

Is there time for everyone in large families?

My friends, I have an answer for you, and it is a mere click away!  I wrote about busting the not-enough-time-for-everyone myth over at Purposeful Homemaking.  

If you think parents and children in a large family have it rough, go have a read. If you think parents and children in a large family (or any family where they are loved) have it great, go have a cookie…or three.

While you’re here, I will give you a little hint about spreading myself around as a mom of many: 

It doesn’t require a superhero cape…although I do have one in a stunning shade of red.  No, you may not borrow it.

Read the post at Purposeful Homemaking.

Linked up to Big Family Friday.

Love in Action: Building Strong Families

Monday marks the beginning of a 14-post series entitled Love in Action. This series encourages all of us to express love through simple actions that will work toward building strong families.

Love in Action Series: Building Strong Families (

I first posted this series last February around Valentine’s Day.  It’s easy to show a little mush on Valentine’s Day, but the kind of love we’re building extends beyond a one-day holiday.  It’s the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, baby-puke-in-your-hair, morning-breath kind of love.  It needs work, nurturing, and effort…more than once a year.  It is for that reason that I have chosen to revisit the Love in Action series. (Plus I need a little kick in the pantaloons, myself.)

Love in Action: Building Strong Families Details

There will be 14 Love in Action tasks.

Love in Action: Building Strong FamiliesWe will focus the first half of Love in Action on loving actions toward our husbands (or wives, for my male readers).  The second set of Love in Action posts will focus on loving actions toward our children.

Now, please don’t do your loving action for the day and check it off your lifelong love list.  Practice each day’s tip from the day you read about it throughout the rest of the Love in Action weeks. I’m sure your family won’t complain if you make these loving actions a habit for life.  (I know. I’m a pest. I get that a lot.  A lot a lot!)


Don’t be. These are simple, common sense (but unfortunately not common practice) ways to express love. You may well be doing all of them already. Me? Well, let’s just say I’ll be actively participating in all Love in Action tasks.

A simple home is a home where love is a priority. Let’s put building strong families back where it belongs–at the top of the to-do list.

Love in Action Building Strong Families

Love in Action Series: Building Strong Families

For my spouse:

For my children:

And the closer, Love in Action: All Wrapped Up.

Will you join me for Love in Action: Building Strong Families?

Love in Action Building Strong FamiliesHelpful tool: I received Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages from someone who had alienated most of his children and three ex-wives, so I read it only out of an I’m-afraid-you’re-going-to-call-me-and-see-if-I-read-that-book-yet sense of a duty.

Wow!  The basic premise is that, essentially, if you parlez vous francais and your loved ones sprechen sie deutsche, you won’t understand each other, no matter how fervently you exclaim “Je t’aime!” or “Ich liebe dich!” Mr. Chapman does an excellent job of explaining the importance of learning how to say “I love you” in the language of our loved ones. Highly recommended!

Read more reviews here.

Amazon Prime members can read The Five Love Languages free on Kindle.

Disclaimer: I in no way accept any responsibility for damages incurred by my creative use of foreign languages.  If you’re confused, get a dictionary here or here. Yes, those are my affiliate links.  I earn a small commission on anything purchased through them, and I will not be using the money to travel to a foreign country to impress the locals with my mastery of foreign languages.

Linked to Better Mom Mondays,  Weekend Whatever, and Marriage and Mommyhood.

Mommy, Play With Me

I hope you had a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast, because you need to be at your best for this. I’ve got a pop quiz for you. I can hear your groaning, you know. You didn’t study, did you? Don’t worry; it’s multiple choice.

The Importance of Playing with Your Kids and How To Fit it In | The Simple Homemaker

Ready?  Let’s go.

Question number one and only, asked by someone small(er than you):

Mommy, can you play a game with me?


  1. Yes.
  2. No.
  3. Maybe later.
  4. I have to finish ________, and then I can play with you.
  5. No hablo ingles.


1 or 4

Mandatory long-winded commentary on the options:

1. Yes.  As parents, “yes” should be our answer as often as reasonable when our children reasonably ask for our time, attention, and love…but not necessarily for Legos, money, or car keys.  It warms any child’s heart and gives children confidence in their worth when you truly enjoy playing with your children and enthusiastically take the time to do so.  Just a note: a cheerful yes is not the same as a begrudgingly dutiful “I suppose.”  Children can tell the difference between love and duty. (There is a lot to be said for children playing independently and respecting the time of others, so if your child is over-the-top about demanding you entertain him or interrupting your time unnecessarily, then this does not apply to you. But that’s a topic for another day.)

2. No.  Heart crushed.  Of course, sometimes the answer has to be no, like…when you’re…uhhh…skydiving or…in the final stages of labor, maybe.  But, really, opt for number 4 instead of the “no.”  A better answer would be  “Sure, Son, after I land and regain my ability to breathe unassisted” or “Yes, but please wait until after the baby is born and napping.”

3. Maybe later.  The problem with the maybe laters of life is that later never comes.  Most children will tell you that “maybe later” (and “we’ll see,” by the way) means “never.”  ‘Fess up.  You know it’s true.  “Maybe later” is too open-ended and abstract and will rapidly be forgotten by you, but not by your small(er than you) child who will subconsciously add it to an array of unfulfilled maybe laters that chisel away at your relationship and at his little heart.

4. I have to finish _________, and then I can play with you.  This is great if, and only if, you follow through to the letter.  Not only does this answer tell your child exactly when you will be available to play, but your consistent follow-through will instill trust in your child.  Knowing you will be playing with them as soon as possible, your children will happily wait (and probably help you with whatever you’re doing).  Take warning, however, that if you consistently tell them you will do something at a certain time, and you consistently let them down, your word will mean nothing to them…and that’s a tragedy.  Better to say “no” and be truthful than to put your children off indefinitely until they learn your word has no value.

5. No hablo ingles.  No commento.

How can I find time for playing with my children?

You’re busy; I know.

Busy MomsI have six children whom I homeschool, I run a business and assist with a music mission with my hubby who also enjoys a little attention, and I am considering installing a hammock and toilet in my kitchen since I practically live there, seeing as we buy almost no processed foods—nope, not even bread or cereal.  This is on top of the normal tasks involved with being a wife, mother, homemaker, and writer/editor.  Believe me when I say I too am busy, and I understand the lure of answers two and three (number 5 doesn’t work on my kiddos, since they’ve noticed a little ingles escaping from my lips over the past 15 years).  Consider, however, that a family game does not have to be Monopoly.  It doesn’t have to be chess.  There are quick, fun alternatives for playing with your children.

A game of 20 Questions or I spy requires no supplies or set up, and can be played anywhere, even while you’re cooking.  There are also family games that can be played in under ten minutes, such as some of the mini Lego games* and a few of the array of quick card games now available (some favorites are Dutch Blitz and Gopher It).  Games can be played with a timer or altered to be shorter.  Longer family games, like Apple to Apples, Clue, or your classic favorite from childhood, can be reserved for family game night, which you can schedule weekly, monthly, or sporadically by writing it on the calendar and sticking to it. You can even have an ongoing game that may take days, weeks, or months to finish, such as chess or Scrabble—of course, this has to be set up out of reach of the really smalls.

When you consider the monumental returns on the small investment of time that accompanies your enthusiastic “yes,” you may be the one asking your children if they want to play games instead of the other way around.

Hey, you did great, but next time study for the quiz.

* Our favorite mini Lego game is Wild Wool, which is currently rather pricey at Amazon.  We bought it in spring for ten bucks at Wal-Mart, so check there first.  It only takes about ten minutes to play…unless your sheep are named, get married, and have lambs—that drags it out a bit.  Robo-Champ is also great; it’s faster (five minutes, usually), and is under ten bucks online.  My children like some of the other lower-priced, less-time-consuming Lego games as well, but I haven’t given them the parent tolerance test.

What is your favorite family game for playing with your children?