give thanks Posts

Start Your Year with a Powerful Non-Resolution by Stephanie Rische

Tyndale Kids

It’s the beginning of another new year, and I might as well make my confession now: I am terrible at resolutions.

Oh, I might make an impressive list of goals with corresponding sub-points. I might write them down in a pretty journal and even color-code them with fancy pens. But don’t be fooled. Before the Christmas decorations have had time to gather any dust, I will have forgotten all about my lofty aspirations and bullet-pointed lists.

So I’ve made a new resolution: No more New Year’s resolutions! Instead, I’m shooting for the “New Year’s for Dummies” version of goal-setting and choosing a word of the year instead. That’s right—no lists, no striving after a bunch of unattainable ideals, just a single-word theme.

The idea is that throughout the year, my heart and mind can settle on that one word and be open to what God wants to show me on that topic. This is a relief for a recovering perfectionist like me, because it offers a lot of room for grace. My yearlong quest won’t be about succeeding or failing; it won’t be about how many boxes I check off or how far off the mark I find myself come December. It will be about anticipating the transformation God is going to do inside of me in the year ahead.

As this new year begins, I’d like to invite you to join me on this adventure of non-resolutions. Whenever you can sneak in some moments of quiet—in the morning, while you’re in the car, or over a cup of coffee, ask God if there’s a word he wants you to focus on this year. And then, once you’ve settled on your word, jump in with both feet.

The beautiful thing is, there’s no wrong way to pursue your word. Maybe you’ll write the word on a sticky note and post it on your mirror or your refrigerator to recalibrate your thoughts throughout the day. Maybe you’ll read the Bible with an eye open for what God has to say on the topic. Maybe you’ll meet with a friend each month to share how you see this playing out in your life. Maybe you’ll find a book that speaks into this topic or tells the story of someone who lived out this word well. You might even have a family meeting and decide on a word of the year for your whole family.

If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few ideas to get you started, along with some books that go along with each theme. Some of the books are for you, some are for your kids, and some are read-alouds for the whole family. I trust that they will be good company as you pursue your word of the year.


 

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under-the-cover-of-light-carole-engle-avriett

 

the-red-badge-of-courage-stephen-crane


 

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so-close-to-amazing-karianne-wood

 

loving-luther-allison-pittman


 

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long-days-of-small-things-catherine-mcniel

 

little-women-louisa-may-alcott

 

great-expectations-charles-dickens


 

one-year-book-of-bible-trivia-for-kids-kathy-cassel

 

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i-can-be-kind-amy-carlson

 

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Once you decide on your word for the year, we’d love to hear from you. What word did you choose? How do you hope to see it play out in your life and in your family in the year ahead?

Happy 2018!


Stephanie Rische is a senior editor and team leader at Tyndale House Publishers, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as Today’s Christian Woman, Christian Marriage Today, and Significant Living magazine. You can follow Stephanie’s blog at www.StephanieRische.com.

5 Ways to Cultivate Grateful Hearts That Last by Kathryn O’Brien

Tyndale Kids

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This article originally associated gratitude with Thanksgiving. Now after the holiday, we encourage you to read it with Christmas in mind. We can be grateful every day of the year!

Ah, the wonder of fall. Crunchy leaves. Pumpkin pie. All of those forgotten fuzzy socks and flannel jammies pulled from the bottoms of dresser drawers. And most glorious of all, our kids, our busy, bustling, blessed kids are asked to turn their hearts and minds to living with thanksgiving.

At least for a few days. All over America, at this time of year, children are presented with activities, assignments, and lessons that center around gratitude. As they learn about the hardships of colonial life, they discover the joy of simple things, such as enough food and a warm bed. They make lists of blessings for which to be grateful. They read books about Plymouth Rock and make turkeys out of clay. They wear Pilgrim hats and reenact friendship feasts, remembering those who faced dire circumstances yet continued to praise God for His provision.

All too quickly, though, the big day comes and goes; and along with our harvest décor, the Thanksgiving focus of our nation, community, and family is put away for another year. To help the thanks keep on giving throughout the year, try these simple tips and activities with kids of any age.

Point out blessings. Invest in a spinning globe or world map. On the first day of every month, let your children take turns spinning the globe or pointing to a place on the map. Then do some research together on that nation or city. What are the people, customs, and culture like? What issues do they face? How can we pray for them? In what ways could we help? Allow your kids to see the many ways they are blessed by being interested in the needs of others.

Model a life of thanks. Be a daily reminder to your children to live gratefully, by living gratefully! At the dinner table, share blessings from the day. Start bedtime prayers with a list of gifts from God. Get in the habit of saying thank you to your kids, your spouse, your friends, and complete strangers for kindnesses big and small. Write thank you notes or e-mails with your children. Bring flowers or treats to neighbors, teachers, coaches, or friends—just to say thanks!

Frame the discussion. Buy or choose a special frame, and set it in a place of honor in your home. Fill the frame with the photo of a person, place, or event that your family loves and appreciates. If there isn’t a photograph readily available, spend some time with your kids drawing and coloring it yourselves! Change the picture on a regular basis, by the month, holiday, or season; and use the frame as a reminder to give thanks for that person or place in their lives.

Give thanks write now. Purchase a journal, or even make one from blank paper bound with pretty ribbon. Title the book, We Give Thanks, and every year, ask family members to jot down the things for which they are most thankful. Let even the smallest children participate by dictating their words to an adult or older sibling. Store the journal with your autumn linens so that each year you can bring out the book, reminiscing about past blessings and adding new blessings for generations to come!

colorful-plate

Create a plateful of grateful. Buy a uniquely colored dinner plate (or decorate an old plate with safe markers), and add it to your set of dishes. Let different family members use the special plate at least once a week. During mealtime, give the honoree encouragement by sharing the ways in which they are a blessing to those around them. Mention their God-given qualities, abilities, and talents that you are most thankful for, and say a special prayer of praise for them.

Hopefully, this Thanksgiving—as the last of the cranberry sauce is gobbled up and the cornucopia is tucked away—we will hang onto gratitude for God’s goodness in our lives . . . and our children’s thankful hearts will remain.


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Looking for books that encourage little ones to live with a grateful heart? Check out Give Thanks by Kathryn O’Brien, part of the Sit for a Bit series from Tyndale.


kathryn_obrien_author

Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


For more tips from Kathryn O’Brien on how to help your kids think about thankfulness, check out this post!

8 Educational Books to Read with Your Preschooler

Tyndale Kids

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Children who are preschool-age are curious and tend to ask a lot of questions. Help your preschooler learn and grow this fall with these eight educational books that cover a variety of topics from questions about God to manners—and everything in between!


For your future scientist . . .

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Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? addresses common children’s questions about all things nature. Children learn about starfish, elephants, bears, stars, earthworms, eagles, trees, and heaven, while absorbing the underlying themes of God’s love and grace and a parent’s love for a child. Corresponding to the “Science” portion of STEM curriculum standards, this book is one you won’t want to miss for your inquisitive preschooler!


For learning memory verses together . . .

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Be Still, Give Thanks, and I Can by Kathryn O’Brien

These adorable books by author Kathryn O’Brian turn Bible memorization from a duty to a delight! These books will help your child memorize, understand, and absorb passages as the author presents each powerful verse one word at a time. Be Still, Give Thanks, and I Can build a meaningful connection between God’s Word and a child’s life experiences, laying a foundation for a love and comprehension of Scripture.


For your little theologian . . .

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Does God Take Naps? by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley

This book offers satisfying answers to many questions about God that your preschooler may have—such as “How can I talk to God?” or “How old is God?” —while also showing parents how they can respond to their child’s questions with patience and love. For your little one with many theology-based questions, this book will not disappoint!


For your explorer . . .

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Where Does Love Hide? by Mary Manz Simon

In Where Does Love Hide? children are given the opportunity to see love in action. In addition to the fun, lift-a-flap feature, each page includes a memory verse and an example of a way your child can share God’s love. This book is a great place for your preschooler to start exploring what love looks like!


For developing manners and character . . .

i-can-be-kind-amie-carlson

I Can Be Kind by Amie Carlson

Scripture teaches us to love our neighbors by treating them with kindness and respect. I Can Be Kind is a fun, creative way to teach your child polite behavior in a society where rudeness is often the status quo. With lift-the-flap interaction on every page, I Can Be Kind is a great resource for developing kindness and manners in your child!

 

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The Character Builder’s Bible by Agnes de Bezenac and Salem de Bezenac

The Character Builder’s Bible highlights core character traits that the Bible teaches, and it suggests fun, practical ways to live out these truths so that little minds can understand. Featuring sixty Bible stories with colorful illustrations, definitions, and memory verses, The Character Builder’s Bible will show your little ones that God’s Word is relevant to their lives and will help you instill biblical character in their hearts.


Find these titles and more on Tyndale.com!


Grateful Hearts That Last: 5 Ways to Keep Kids Thinking about Thankfulness by Kathryn O’Brien

thanksgiving-fall

I love this time of year, don’t you? Leaves are falling. Temperatures are dropping. Cozy scarves, pumpkin spice lattes and brisk walks are once again an integral part of our lives. Hallelujah! And isn’t it nice, before the stockings are hung and the lights are strung, that we are able to pause as a nation, as families, and as children of God, to give thanks?

It’s that sweet time of year when we collectively stop to focus on our blessings before the flurry of the season hits. An entire day to focus our attention on family and friends, concentrating on the abundance of goodness in our lives. The chance for kids to make November lists of all they have before starting those December lists of all they want.

And then, just like that, it’s gone. We pray, we eat, we do the dishes. So long turkey, hello tinsel. Goodbye gratitude, bring on the garland.

Wouldn’t it be nice to keep our Thanksgiving thankfulness a bit longer? Hang on to those grateful hearts even after the gravy is gone? Try these five autumn activities at home to encourage your little ones to maintain an attitude of gratitude throughout the year.


1. Verse of the Month

thankful

Help your children create a list of twelve passages related to thankfulness (the book of Psalms is a terrific place to start or try www.biblegateway.com or www.biblestudytools.com). Assign each verse to a month of the year. Using construction or printer paper, create posters for every verse and decorate with crayons, marker, watercolor or paint. Each time the month changes, place a new poster on the fridge for a monthly memory verse and daily reminder to give thanks!

 

2. Thank You Notes

paper-thanksgivingDiscuss the important people in your children’s lives. Think grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, classmates, friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors, and pastors. Guide your children in writing good old-fashioned letters to each one (you remember, the kind with a real envelope, mailing address, and stamp!). Kids can share a favorite memory, retell a holiday or special event spent together, or simply express appreciation. On the first day of every month drop a
letter or two in the mail to prolong a spirit of gratitude for those who mean the most.

 

3. Helping Hands

There are usually many opportunities in November to help at a local food bank, retirement home, or donation center. Have a discussion with your kids about the needs of others that we often take for granted: food, clothing, shelter, blankets, toys, books. Those needs may be more publicized around this time of year, but they don’t stop once the holidays are over. Make a commitment to serve at least once a month with your kids through the year, as a continuous reminder of our daily blessings.

 

4. Wreath of thanks

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Ask your children to trace their hands on red, brown, yellow, and purple construction paper. Carefully cut out the shapes, labeling each with something for which to be thankful. Ideas can be serious, like doctors and warm beds, or silly, like chocolate cake and funny jokes. Glue the edges of the hands together to begin your wreath. Every month, ask for more ideas and keep attaching more hands of blessing. Watch the wreath grow bigger and bigger as thankful hearts grow!

 

5. Thankful Jar

post-it-notes

Get a jar (or basket or box) and a post-it notepad. Keep the jar in an accessible place, like the kitchen table or counter. Every time someone in the family relays a blessing, an answered prayer or piece of good news, write it on a post-it note and place it in the jar. Kicked a goal at the soccer game? Put it in the jar! Got an A on a math test? Write it down! Kids will be amazed at how fast it fills up, and whenever a bit of encouragement is needed, you’ll know just where to look for reminders of God’s faithfulness. Oh, how He deserves our thanks!


The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is almost here. Such a joyful time! Here’s to the food and the fun, the family traditions, and keeping our kids focused on thankfulness all throughout the year.


kathryn_obrien_author

Kathryn O’Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She’s published five children’s picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale) and serves as a contributor for several publications. When she’s not writing or enjoying her day job as a Christian school administrator, Kathryn can usually be found texting her three grown children, hanging on the front porch with her husband, or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California. To learn more about Kathryn, visit her at her website, www.kathobrien.com.


give-thanks-kathryn-o-brien

One of Kathryn’s newest children’s books, Give Thanks, presents the powerful verse Psalm 136:1 (“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!”) in a way that helps lay a foundation for a love and comprehension of Scripture in young readers. Purchase your copy today at Tyndale.com!


 

14 Ideas to Keep Summer Boredom at Bay by Kathryn O’Brien

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As much as we moms long for the summer season, a lull from hectic schedules, a respite from nightly homework, a nice pause from dragging the kids out of bed each morning, there’s another part of us that completely dreads the upcoming lazy, hazy days. After the initial excitement wears off, along with the rising temperatures, summer break also brings those two dreaded words that spill from our kids’ mouths like sand from a bucket… “I’m bored.”

If the idea of seeing your child on the couch with a remote control in his hand or a computer in her lap for the next ten weeks makes you sweat, read on for some hot ideas to keep your summer from burning out.

Put some purpose in your pause. During the school year, our To-Do lists usually revolve around Must-Do’s. But summertime is the perfect time for our Should-Do’s. Make it a goal with your children to regularly help others. Turn it into a never-miss event by calling it Ministry Monday or Think-About-Someone-Else Thursday!

  1. Write letters to troops to let them know you’re praying for them and their families.
  2. Collect canned goods and drop them at a local food pantry.
  3. Deliver sweets to a retirement home, along with pictures and paintings to brighten a senior’s day.
  4. Offer to take a friend’s dog for a walk or help put away an elderly neighbor’s groceries. The abundance of free time in the summer allows a great opportunity to teach our kids how to be a blessing to others.

Sharpen school skills… secretly. Every teacher will implore you (myself included) not to allow two and half months to roll by without refreshing, reviewing and even expanding on the knowledge children have recently acquired. Math worksheets and reading packets are fine, but involve them in even more learning by disguising it as fun!

  1. Ask your child to summarize a favorite book by writing it as a play, then act it out.
  2. Go on a Number Hunt each day… how many circles are in the house? How many red things are outside? How many flat things can you find?
  3. Practice letters or review spelling words by writing them in sand, shaving cream, pudding or rice.
  4. Do math problems outside with sidewalk chalk or washable soap. Shhh… don’t tell them they’re doing schoolwork!

Make a Bored Book. A surefire cause of the summer doldrums is a lack of ideas. By the beginning of July most moms are fresh out of new options to offer. So take some time in June helping your kids create their very own personalized “Bored Book.”

  1. Brainstorm suggestions and research online for some favorite pastimes… building a card house, pulling out the play-dough, reading a book, calling Grandma, cutting out paper dolls, watching a video, playing catch, tossing a Frisbee, running through sprinklers, making ice tray popsicles, jumping rope, making a hopscotch grid, blowing bubbles…
  2. Now illustrate a page for each activity. Don’t forget a cover and a title page for your book. If siblings or pals can’t agree on what to do, take turns choosing one at at time, then set the timer for thirty minutes. Everyone wins!

Don’t put it away! Why not rearrange things, just for a while? Summer is all about a break from strict schedules and school rules. It’s a perfect opportunity to let loose at home as well. While I’m not suggesting complete pandemonium, I am encouraging making activities readily available in order to keep kids’ choices in plain view.

  1. Set up a card table for ongoing jigsaw puzzles; don’t take it down till September.
  2. Let the kids make a Summer Reading Fort in one of their rooms, filled with beloved old books and new books from the library each week.
  3. Create an art space that makes markers, paper, glue and craft supplies continuously accessible.
  4. Fill a laundry basket with board and card games and keep the basket in the family room or kitchen, not tucked away in a closet. It may seem more cluttered than you’re used to, but it’s only for a season!

Just like the occasional summer storm, the boredom blues will inevitably pass through your home a few times during the upcoming months. Hopefully these ideas will keep your kids off the couch and engaged in playtime, education, friends and fun. Got any other tried and true ways for us moms to keep the kids engaged? Share them here!


kathrynKathryn O’Brien has been published in numerous parenting and teaching magazines, and is a member of the writing team for HomeFront Magazine. An educator for over twenty years, as a former elementary school teacher & current Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Kathryn continues to write on education and family topics. She is an award-winning author of five children’s books, including the Sit for a Bit series (Tyndale) and I’d Be Your Princess, winner of the ECPA Christian Book Award (Best Picture Book). See her most recent articles and blog posts at www.kathobrien.com