Activities for Little Hands: Thanksgiving Crafts

thanksgiving 9
source: Harris County Public Library via Flickr Creative Commons

Having a hard time keeping your little one out of the kitchen while you prepare for Thanksgiving’s festivities? My daughter thinks the oven is her personal playplace, much to my chagrin. Thankfully, we will be spending the holidays with extended family and letting others cook for us (and the baby in my 36-week-pregnant belly rejoices).

Here are some activities for distraction … I mean, education …

Thanksgiving door hangers would be a fun addition to the front door even a toddler can help decorate.

Older kids can do a Thanksgiving Day word search. You could have your kids cut out the word search and glue it to sheets of construction or scrapbook paper for any children coming to your Thanksgiving feast. It will give the kids something to do while they wait on the food! Fall or Thanksgiving-themed scrapbook paper would give the word search a festive feel.

Oreo Thanksgiving turkeys are adorable to see, easy to make, and yummy to “gobble” down!

Napkin rings made of paper-towel tubes and scrapbook paper add a festive touch and keep little hands busy gluing while you’re basting the bird.

Even toddlers can rub a leaf on newspaper. You can cut them out and then together string them on some twine to hang. Adorable!

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving craft?

Happy Thanksgiving from the ParentLife staff and Jessie, Resident ParentLife Blogger!


Originally published November 24, 2010

A Simple Gift Kids Can Make

Made by kids coffee mugs

Last Christmas, the kids and I discovered this fun craft that is so simple! They made coffee mugs for all their grandparents and aunt and uncle, and a platter for the other aunt and uncle who are newlyweds. Their sweet drawings were a big hit. This gift is sentimental, adorable, and inexpensive – you can’t beat that!

Here’s what you need:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Have kids draw on clean mugs/dinnerware however they want. You will want to prep the paint pens since they take a minute to get going, but then the kids can do the drawing themselves.

Bake your mugs/dinnerware in the oven for 30 minutes. Let cool.

THAT’S IT! Seriously!

These should be dishwasher-safe, too, although I haven’t tested that hypothesis.

Do you have a favorite easy gift for kids to give?

[Craft inspiration from Glued to My Crafts.]

Gentleness by Jessie Weaver

Around this time seven years ago, I had my first-ever contraction. It was the night before my due date, and my mom, husband, and I were hanging in our condo’s living room, watching an Indiana Jones movie. I don’t remember one scene of the film, but I remember the sudden knowing, the realization that ah, this was what a real contraction felt like. I had worried I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a real one and a Braxton-Hicks, but I knew instantly.

(Note to my pregnant friends: if you start having contractions, guzzle a whole lot of water and see if they keep up. I had aggravated labor due to dehydration and thus it was a mere 36 hours later that I finally gave birth to my beautiful daughter.)

baby Libbie

On Tuesday, it will have been seven years since this girl came into our lives. She’s a first-grade fireball, a rule-follower for others and a rule-stretcher at home. And oh, I wish my 26-year-old self knew what I know now about parenting.

Not that I know a lot. But I do have seven years and three children worth of experience. Not to mention in those seven years we moved to a new city, my husband went from being a student to a teacher, we’ve lived in four different homes, and we’ve gone through a foreclosure that broke and put back together our hearts.

What I wish I could tell that younger Jessie laying on the microfiber couch and thinking finally! is this: they say love covers a multitude of sins. And it does. But love takes many forms. And let yours be a gentle love.

I think of a few ways I disciplined my tiny girl that now seem simply ridiculous. Because she could talk very well, I think I treated her as older than she was at times. I look now at my 2-and-half-year-old “Toddlerzilla” and think, I never would have disciplined him in _______ way. What was I THINKING with Libbie?

In the book Love and Respect in the Family, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs proposes that parents long for respect while kids just want love. And also we often misinterpret their simply childish behavior for disrespect and discipline it as such. When really … sometimes kids are just kids. And we are there to teach them how to be more mature, in time and in a godly manner.

My biggest parenting regret is the many, many times I have parents from my first response instead of stepping back, saying a prayer, and “trying a little tenderness.” Living in guilt does no good, though; all I can do is move forward, ask for forgiveness, and keep praying and practicing gentleness every day.

Libbie Easter

Jessie is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer, editor, and social media-y person. She writes at, is the manager of ParentLife Online, and curates for

Three Not-So-Spooky Books for Kids

We all may have varying ideas on Halloween, but we can probably all agree that celebrating evil is not fun or something we want to do with our kids. My young children like the general idea of ghosts, monsters, etc. – but mostly as the silly versions we find on cartoons. And that’s OK. I’m not ready to go deep into these topics with them yet.

But for some lightly spooky fun, we head to picture books.

Here are a few that are a wee bit spooky and very funny.


Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems – Willems, author of such favorites like Elephant & Piggie and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, hits it out of the park with this silly Goldilocks remake. The very intrusive narrator tells us of three dinosaurs (Mama, Papa, and one visiting from Norway) who obviously did NOT leave their house set as a trap for capturing a little girl. Nope. No way. He pokes fun at Goldilocks’s naivete, but it all turns out OK in the end. And both the girl and the dinos learn valuable lessons.


Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer – Bernadette is mostly monsterly. But she also likes to pick flowers, bake, and sing. When she goes to school, she doesn’t quite fit in with the other monsters. The way she does is slightly gross for grown-ups … but kids will love it. And little Monster Bernadette is just so cute you can’t help but love her.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School by Davide Cali – A student gives a long list of excuses as to why he is late for school – including being mistaken for a banana by a giant ape, being attacked by ninjas, and encountering giants ants and a time machine. These normally scary apparitions are instead hilarious when stacked one on top of another.

And because I can’t help myself, here are some more general fall picture books that I love:

Do you have any favorite children’s books for fall?

Is My Child Ready for Swim Lessons?

Boris op de rand
source: Ianus via Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve heard stories of babies thrown in the water who come up swimming at six months. You’ve seen kids in the pool who look way too old to be wearing floaties. So when should a child learn how to swim?

Here are some tips, although of course you know your child best and should take that into mind.

  • Children younger than 3 are probably not able to do a swim lesson with an instructor. (Really, how often does your 2-year-old listen to YOU, nevertheless someone else when he is distracted by splashing?) Hold off on parent-free lessons until age 3. But if you can take a parent-child class, go for it if you toddler is comfortable with it.
  • Find a class that splits by age range so your child will not be mixed in with kids much younger or older.
  • Most experts will say that the motor skills for actual swimming are not developed until age 5 and beyond. Preschoolers will do great in simple getting-used-to-the-water type lessons, but don’t expect your son or daughter to learn how to really swim in a proper fashion before 5. The more comfortable he or she already is with the water, though, the easier lessons will be in the future.
  • Lessons will be progressive, so continue them each summer.
  • Studies show that whether you start swim lessons at 2, 3, or 4, most kids won’t start swimming independently until about 5 1/2.

I would conclude that you can start swim lessons when you’re comfortable with your child being in the water with an instructor – beginning with a parent-child class and moving onto group or individual instruction without parents in the pool. But don’t be discouraged if your preschooler doesn’t learn to swim independently.

(Puddle Jumpers are so wonderful for that age when they WANT to try to swim but can’t, too!)

Do you have any tips or stories about swim lessons?


God-Focused Summer Reading

While you’re trying to get your child to read this summer, why not slip in some books that will increase their faith as well as their reading level? Here are some ideas for books on every level.

God-Focused Summer Reading from Toddlers to Preteens

Babies and Toddlers


Early Elementary


Maybe that will help you jump-start some summer reading? I love that we have so much Christian media – books, TV shows, movies, music – that helps us reinforce biblical truth.

What’s one of your favorite Christian kids books?

Giving My Kids Responsibility for Their Stuff

One of the best choices I’ve made in parenting!

#ds302 - Trail of Tears

I was so tired of asking my kids to clean their rooms.

It gets old, doesn’t it? The fact that my 6-year-old would still throw a giant tantrum any time I asked her didn’t help. Maybe it was because by that time, I was so frustrated I was about to burst. This had been going on for years. Instead of cleaning, she would whine, complain, cry, and then often fall asleep in avoidance of the task at hand.

We don’t have a ton of toys for our kids, either. But we live in an apartment, a small-ish place, no playroom, and the toys seem to overrun it nonetheless.

One day I decided I was just DONE. I talked it over with my husband. What do we do well that the kids respond to?

Bedtime. We do bedtime right. Every night, the kids (6, 4, and 2) know exactly what to expect. We read a Bible story, share what we are thankful for, and sing a song. Then they brush teeth, get tucked in with essential oil diffusers on, and are expected to go to sleep. My sons (the 4 and 2 year old) share a room, and often giggle and chat until it gets dark. But they know to go to sleep. They don’t come out and ask for a million things. It’s BEDTIME.

So I thought about how we could transfer that kind of consistency to cleaning up. After thought (especially reflecting on some of Kevin Leman’s books, like Make Children Mind Without Losing Yours), I posted a few new rules on a chalkboard in the kitchen the next morning.

Rule #1: The kids would be expected to have clean rooms by 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. If they did, they would receive an age-appropriate allowance. Rule #2: Any toys left in the living room after bedtime might not be there in the morning.

Simple, right? But it was enough to make it click for my 6-year-old, at least.

The first week, my 4-year-old’s room wasn’t clean at 7 p.m. And he didn’t get the allowance. You better believe it was clean the second Sunday night!

There’s more to it, of course, a few more rules we created to help consistency around here. But just putting it in writing has made a huge difference in our household. And the best part is my own freedom: I might remind them that if they pick up during the week, it will make Sunday easier. But it puts all the responsibility on them, not me. And amazingly enough, the rooms have stayed much cleaner the rest of the time, too.

Do you have any great go-to tips for getting kids to pick up and do chores?

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Common from user Sharon Drummond. This post added to Works for Me Wednesday at Giving Up on Perfect

When Your Kids Are Like Night and Day by Jessie Weaver


I’ve always been sort of baffled at how very unalike my two older children are.

Exhibit A: This was one of the first times David played on ABCMouse, a learning Web site. When his sister (older by two years) does these coloring pages on the site, she generally does everything one color, wanting to get it done as soon as possible. These days, she enjoys spending all her earned “tickets” to buy clothes for her avatar and decorate her virtual room. She is jealous of her brother’s thousands of tickets, earned because he will do puzzles on the highest level and spends his time detailing the coloring pages.


Exhibit B: This boy loves to dress up. He never changes after church on Sunday, no matter how dressed up he is. The first Monday after he wore his fancy suit to church on Sunday, he was home alone with my husband. Adam asked him to go get dressed. Adam says he came out dressed in the suit, again, having dug it out of the dirty clothes. Poor David had to learn that we do not wear dirty clothes. Usually.

My daughter, on the other hand, no matter how much she loves to dress up, changes the second she gets home from church into “comfy clothes.” I am never sure whether she is uncomfortable or she just wants the chance to wear another outfit. But she has to get into a new get-up whether Mommy thinks it’s necessary or not.

These two, they are remarkably different, showing that nature can have a funny sense of humor. I’ve never know whether it’s boy/girl, older/younger, or just their personalities. One is an extroverted, wild, active child with gangly limbs and big curls. One is introverted, generally quiet and focused, teensy-tiny and with none of his brother and sister’s curly locks. They are night and day.

I’ve found, though, that my job as a parent is not to identify more with one of them. I see myself and my husband in both of their personalities. I love those little reflections. But I can love every piece of them, as different as those pieces may be. And, most importantly, I learn differently from my children. From Libbie, I learn to live a little more exuberantly, embracing life in its fullest, loving people loudly. From David, I learn patience (did I mention he is SLOWWWWW?) and to take time to stop and smell the roses. I try to delight a little bit more at dandelions and puffy clouds.

God’s given me three very different children. (I’m not even getting into my baby, here!) And they are all blessings. I just have to learn how to delight in their differences!

Jessie Weaver writes regularly about family, faith, and food at 


Create a Hall of Family Faith

One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids as people of faith is a long line of believing people. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (NIV). It is a blessing to our great-great-grandchildren, whom we may never meet, to be a person of faith!

Custom "Frames" Family Portraits up on Etsy!
source: Grace Uhm via Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re searching for a meaningful way to decorate your home, how about making a Hall of Faith for your family lines? This will involve some research, but will be well worth it.

Think of some moments of faith in your life and your spouse’s. Brainstorm together. Maybe you have pictures from:

  • baptisms, dedications, or confirmations
  • mission trips
  • special church events
  • your wedding

If your children have accepted Christ, make sure to include pictures of them or of their baptisms.

Then think back to your parents, grandparents, and beyond. Are there any great stories of faith in your family histories? Perhaps you have a missionary aunt, a pastor grandfather, or a relative who worked in disaster relief through a state board. Personally, I know my mom was an awesome VBS director and when my ancestors came over from Germany, I believe one or two were ministers.

Frame photos of as many people and events as you can, and hang them in a “Hall of Faith” gallery wall. Tell the stories to your children. They will pass these pictures frequently, and you may have to tell the tales over and over again. But that will help ingrain these events in their young minds. They can be excited about the family history of faith, just as we are excited about the heroes of the Bible when we read Hebrews 11.

And if you don’t have a history of believers? Focus on you, your spouse, and your children. Add some photos of biblical or historical figures, people your children admire. Share stories of their faith. And anticipate the wonder of a thousand generations starting with you!



What a Teacher Wants to Tell You, the Parent by Ashley Terpstra

What a Teacher Wants to Tell You as a Parent
source: Duke University Archives via Flickr Creative Commons

  1. The reason we give homework is not to make your life harder as a parent. In order to transfer their knowledge, it is important that they practice independently what we are learning that week. We have a limited amount of time to practice during a given lesson. Ideally, homework is something we, the teachers, think that they can do on their own without help.
  2. School isn’t like it was when we were young anymore. Current educational research trends support children taking more charge in their learning. We don’t do math by teaching them algorithms (one certain method) anymore either. We KNOW that it is difficult to watch your children struggle with their learning, but it is helping them learn how to think rather than just digest and spit out information without really learning anything.
  3. The teacher is on your side! And your child’s side! You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You are the expert on your child, and we are the experts on teaching. It is so important to be on the same team. Adversarial parent-teacher relationships are only detrimental to your child, and no one wants that. Keep your child’s teacher informed. If your child had a bad morning, communicate that with the teacher! If we know what’s coming, we will be more ready to help your child jump that hurdle and move on with the day.
  4. When your child is in our class for the year, they become “our kids.” Being a teacher is like having 20 children that are the same age. It can be difficult sometimes to be a teacher. My whole life is encompassed by these children. If they have a bad day, I have a bad day. I may have high expectations of their behavior and their effort, but if someone messes with MY kids, I will take up for them every time. Here is my pinky swear–I honestly want your child to reach his highest potential, to grow to be a whole person, to learn empathy and compassion, and do her best.
  5. Teachers are real people. They are dealing with person struggles, heartaches, illnesses, and the plethora of everyday life events. They put this aside to teach and empower your children. Give them the benefit of a doubt. They are doing their absolute best for your child.


Ashley Terpstra is a first-grade teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee.