Activities for children–cold and wet weather

I recently published a blogpost about activities for children during nice weather.  But the weather doesn’t always play along.

When the weather is cold or wet or both, there are still plenty of fun things to do with children.  Here’s a list of some of our favorites.

1) Family reading:  we love to read.  Frog and Toad books are perennial favorites of the children (and myself).  We read these to each other a lot.  When two little ones get into a fight, I put them on the couch next to each other and have them read Frog and Toad to each other.  You can also do quiet family reading time, Bible reading, or “Daddy reading”–I like to read a chapter of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, time permitting, each day.  J.R.R. Tolkien has such an incredible writing style, the tales are entertaining and adventurous, and he paints a setting like none other I have known.

2) Board games.  I have always loved board games, and I think the children take after me in this respect.  Board games are perfect training tools for how to deal with winning and losing in life, as well as being good sports, and learning to take calculated risks and not be afraid.  Whether you win or lose in board games a few things always hold when you are through:  1) you are still alive, 2) Mom and Dad still love you, 3) God still loves you.   Never forget that.

3)  Baking and making.  Whether it is simple dinner rolls, pancakes, or desserts, it is always fun to do some baking on a rainy day.

4) Clean up.  House chores can be fun with the right attitude, especially if everyone chips in and helps out.  Many hands make light work.  We like to put on some groovy tunes to keep the mood and motion peppy.

5) Help Mom with laundry.  Folding is a good thing for children (and Dads) to learn.  Doing it together makes it fun.

6) Story telling.  Children have the best imaginations and come up with the funniest things.  With all the reading we do, they also learn to create settings and give characters “voice”.

7) Making juice drinks or smoothies.  Frozen berries with yogurt become an easy treat and are fun to make on a rainy day.  If it is cold, warm it up and make hot cocoa or spiced cider instead!

8) Spa treatment for Mom.  This is one of the favorite things the little ones love to do!  A towel on the couch a few helpful children and a little lotion and Mommy gets one great foot and leg rub!  Throw in a hairbrush and an aspiring salon artist and Mommy gets a scalp massage and new hairdo at the same time!

9) If all else fails, wrestling always works.  Note:  for aging Dads and adolescent/preteen children–approach this with caution!  Once the youngsters reach 2/3 of your body weight it might be time to throw in the towel!  But while they are still small I like to cover the room with pillows, get on my knees, and play “Daddy takes on all comers”.  The couches are ‘safe zones’ for the kiddies, they can’t wrestle each other, and Daddy can call a time out when needed.

Activities for Children–warm weather

We had a brief warm spell here in the Carolinas recently.  I like to take advantage of the break in weather whenever we get a chance.

Some ideas for activities for children if you have a brief warm spell include:

1) Going for walks!  This is my favorite.  Our street is a mile long and we have a great sidewalk to keep it safe.  The walk is pleasant and trees over-arch the street from both sides making nice shade, even for the hot sunny days.  The tree canopy is high enough to allow breezes so it always feels just about perfect.

2) Grilling dinner.  We give the children (or teams of two or three) each a different focus.  The oldest is now 13, so grilling is on the menu for any teenager!  This is a pastime I love to share.

3) Washing the cars.  Our conversion van is nearly 9′ high, so it does not fit in most automated car washes.  But it is great fun for the kids and helps us all learn responsibility and how to take care of things God has given us.

4) Pets.  For us pets now means chickens.  We are learning all about egg-layers and how to feed and care for them.  Warm weather is a great time to do this.

Muddy girl with bike

Muddy girl with bike

5) Gardening.  Even in the ‘winter’ (it does not typically get down to freezing much here in Charlotte so things stay pretty green) we can do some weeding and prepping for spring as well as picking up sticks off the lawn.

Girl in Garden with Banana Tree

Girl in Garden with Banana Tree

6) Sports.  Although I currently have a broken toe and am sidelined until it heals, we normally like to kick around a soccer ball or ride bikes.

7) Fire pit.  If it is dry enough and we can get chores done early enough and plan ahead, it is always fun to roast some marshmallows over the fire pit.

Girl with multiple hula hoops

Girl with multiple hula hoops

Girl with many hulahoops

Girl with many hulahoops



8)  Go to the park.  Frisbee, hoola-hoops, festivals, carnivals, outdoor concerts or just plain playing in the sand.

9)  Just plain old hanging around and chillin’.  Nothing is better than crashing out after a hard day at play!

Little boy crashed out sleeping

Little boy crashed out sleeping

Travel with Children Lesson Learned


Bring Bags!

We have done a fair bit of driving, visiting different places in and around Panama City as well as around Coclé province, which is central Panama on the Pacific coast. There are a few areas where the roads are pretty curvy as you ascend or descend the central mountains just West of Panama City, and going up and down to El Valle de Anton.

Our van in square as seen from belltower of La iglesia Colonial de Santiago Apóstol, de Natá de Los Caballeros, Coclé province of Panama

Our van in square as seen from belltower of La iglesia Colonial de Santiago Apóstol, de Natá de Los Caballeros, Coclé province of Panama

We quickly learned a good use of all those plastic shopping bags you get from the grocery stores or department stores. They are useful to have in the car in case anyone gets motion sickness. We keep a couple pairs, tested for leaks, having have at least one ‘bag fail’ episode, for each child. Even those who don’t normally get car sick are not impervious to the ‘chain reaction’ when stuck in an enclosed area and one child starts getting sick.

The shopping bags are lightweight and fold down to small spaces. They can be stuck in the side pocket of a handbag, or just stuck next to a seat or in a handle or holder near the seat.

This little secret has saved us on numerous occasions.

¡Buen viaje!

Off Label Use: Bandette or Bandle Child ID Bracelet

Bandette Child ID BraceletWhen we first introduced Bandette sippy cup labels we were very specific that it was NOT a wristband.  Due to familiarity with silicone wristbands, the first thing children and adults alike would do was to put it on their wrists.  We wanted them to understand the primary function was for labeling drink cups.

Now that there is getting to be a broader exposure and understanding of our product, we have received comments that it would work well as a child ID bracelet.  Well, they are absolutely correct.  We have used them in the past when traveling as an easy way to put the name of a child and our contact information somewhere visible in case they were separated from us.  We also use a backup by putting all pertinent information on a small index card or business card and putting it in their pocket.

Bandette band size generally runs a little big for the wrists of small children, so we found it works also to put it over a sleeve or on a child’s ankle where it is less likely to come off.  As long as it is not so snug as to be uncomfortable or restricting we found it to be no hinderance.

Team up this idea with Gripsterz Stay Along, and your outing should be fun filled and enjoyable!

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Alternative to Child Leash-Part 3, Gripsterz offers help for the Clingy Child

[Note:  This is a short series of blogs that are a mental exercise in organizing my thoughts to ultimately create a few short articles.  Please forgive any hypothetical, theoretical, grammatical, or other errors as I hammer this into a less-shapeless form. Gentle comments and suggestions welcome.   Thanks for your patience. –DP] For the ‘runner’ segment of the article, please see the following link:  “Runner Link”

Child leashes and alternatives:

“Yes, but what if your child is A RUNNER”?

  • For the ‘runner’ segment of the article, please see the following link:  “Runner Link”
  • “My child doesn’t run, he clings to my leg so I can’t walk!”

    Scenario: The un-twin twins  (continued…)

    You have two-and-a-half year old twins. You know they are yours and you know they are twins because you were there. They came out of the same womb on the same day. And that is where the similarities ended. From day one they grew and developed into two diametrically different beings.

    Casey is hyperactive and gregarious. She has no fear, and no discretion. She will talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything…all the time.

    Charles  is quiet and contemplating. Sensitive and cautious, he holds each bite of food in his mouth a full minute before chewing and swallowing. In the same time his sister has finished off a 6,000 calorie course with two glasses of milk and is running out in the gardenias and heather chasing squirrels.

    All that is fine and dandy…while you are home. But today, and every Tuesday, you have to get the groceries.

    You shuffle down the neatly packed aisles, with chatty Casey running ahead, and Charles firmly gripping to your leg, more closely applied than a mollusk to its shell. You asymmetrically drag along slowly, while calling ahead for Casey to slow down and stay close.

    She gets to the end a full half-length ahead of you, and turns the corner. You hear the “CRASH”, and a moment later the overhead blare: “Clean up on Aisle 10, end-cap”. All you can do is continue to shuffle your way hurriedly to the end of the lane and hope no one is hurt…..

    – – –

    Gripsterz Helps for The Clinging Child

    The clinging child, Charles, in our above illustration, helps demonstrate another benefit of Gripsterz.  The monkey handle allows a slightly less-than-bold child to hold a familiar ‘pal’, and the attachment remains as a physical connection to Mom, helping bestow the child with the comfort and confidence they need to venture a little more out on their own, while freeing up just a little extra space to allow Mom to walk in comfort.

    The Agora Principle

    The “agora” was the wide-open public square of Ancient Greece.  It is the root of the term “agoraphobia”, or fear of wide-open spaces.

    Gripsterz encourages an apprehensive child to take an extra step and explore a little more, and slowly build their confidence in a comfortable and secure environment.  Children develop their space-compensating capacities at different tempos.  Just as a newborn is better able to cope with a small, confined space such as a bassinet, and a slightly older baby can cope with a pack-and-play better than a wide open room, it is similar with growing children being exposed to the “agora”.

    Children ‘grow’ their space-comfort and space-compensating capacities over time.  Many children these days spend a fair part of their day indoors at home, at nursery, at daycare, at school, at Church.  It takes time for them to develop comfort in larger open areas, particularly where there are a lot of people and/or variables.  Some examples of places would include a shopping mall, a busy city street, a large store or supermarket.  Processing all of these variables when new can be understandably intimidating to some children and cause them to cling to what is known and secure:  usually Mom’s leg.

    We have a good friend who has twins very similar to the above description.  When we originally designed Gripsterz we had in mind the ‘keeping your little ones close’ concept.  Our friend used it and alerted us to the tremendous relief she was given as it “gave me my leg back and let me walk comfortably with both kids”.

    Please share your stories of ‘leg huggers’ or ‘runners’ with us!Gripsterz short handle can be used with timid children


    Why to Use Gripsterz as an Alternative to a Child Harness

    Child leashes:  An alternative view, and alternative option

    [Note:  This is a short series of blogs that are a mental exercise in organizing my thoughts to ultimately create a few short articles.  Please forgive any hypothetical, theoretical, grammatical, or other errors as I hammer this into a less-shapeless form. Gentle comments and suggestions welcome.   Thanks for your patience. –DP]

    Has this ever happened to you?

    The Grocery Store Scenario

    Picture yourself in a grocery store with a baby in the cart-carrier, and toddler clinging to your ankles, and a four-year-old running around the cart making airplane noises. You’re moving along happily at a decent clip, grooving to the light, slightly fruity elevator music.  The air is cool in the deli and produce aisles, and the butcher waves and smiles at your baby from behind the meat counter.  All is well in grocery-land.

    You turn off the end-aisle down the coffee-tea-sugar-flour aisle.  From the red grinder on the shelf, the aroma of fresh-ground roasted coffee overwhelms you, and you pause to look briefly at the assortment on the shelf to see what good stuff is there, and what you can afford.  After only a moment you look up and a feeling of anxiety overwhelms you—junior is nowhere in sight.

    How about this?

    The Airport Scenario

    You are shuttling yourself and your children through an airport toward the security checkpoint on a busy holiday weekend.  The smell of hot, sweet, sticky cinnamon buns fills the air and mingles with that of new paperback novels and glossy magazines on racks and the faint hint of jet fuel.  An electric cart whizzes beeping past, and there are a hundred splashes of color as every advertiser on the planet attempts to overwhelm your senses from every direction.

    You have your baby in a stroller, a small carry-on bag with roller wheels, your shoulder-bag brimming with kiddie stuff, and your toddler tailing along.  Your spouse has momentarily separated from you to park the car in long-term, and to check the bags and will meet you at the gate.  You recognize you do not have enough hands to manage the stroller, the bags, and your little runner, so you whip out your trusty child leash. “No problem, situation under control,” you proudly think to yourself.

    As you fasten the harness on your child she starts with a pout, which quickly devolves to a frown, and you see it coming….from the bottom of her feet it wells up and climbs to her gut, where it gathers strength and continues to ascend.  Picking up steam like a tropical storm, it reaches the bellows of her chest…now Category 5 hurricane in the making.  As it reaches her throat the tempest is boiling like a pressure cooker behind the steam-whistle of an old coal train.

    Suddenly, it erupts—that red-faced scream of utter childhood resistance.  Her face goes crimson, her eyes puff and pucker, the tears stream sideways out the corners of her eyes.  Her hair is already damp and curly with the heat of her rage.  In the final gesture of defiance she plops her bottom down in the middle of the airport causeway, just in time to get nearly trampled by a well-dressed and hurried group of business travelers with a cavalcade of roll-on luggage, late for their transfer.  You are met all around with stares of scorn and disdain.

    The social stigma of the child leash comes down full-force like a yoke around your shoulders.  Some über-useless brash college kid in torn-up jeans, a punky tee-shirt and worn-out chucks who never in his life even babysat for a child snidely comments, “Why do you treat your child like a dog?  Would you like to be led around on a leash?”  All you can hear above the din of the bustling terminal is the pounding of your heart in your ears.  Your neck is hot and your collar is wet with the sweat of frustration and embarrassment.  Everything is a blur, and then it comes—the final boarding call for your flight…and you haven’t even made it through security yet!

    Wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to keep children close, keep your family together, without overly restricting them, but instead giving them room to explore?

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have something that provides the security of a child leash, without the pain and struggle of fighting the child to use it, and without the social stigma of involuntarily binding your child?

    Is there a way to take an anxiety-ridden trial and remove the fear and loathing of the task, replacing it with a fun, enjoyable experience for parents and children?

    Anyone who is a parent probably has encountered a time when they wish they had more hands, when their child ran off despite their best intentions and precautions.

    Anyone who has traveled with children and tried to navigate through a busy airport knows the stress and anxiety this creates.  Those who have not unreasonably chosen to use an involuntary leash or tether system may have encountered resistance from the child (sitting down in the middle of a passageway, crying, screaming, tangling other travelers), or the social stigma and perhaps outright derision from others viewing the situation from ‘the outside’.

    Most people probably would prefer not to involuntarily bind their child, however, in the interest of safety in today’s uncertain world, that is often preferable to losing a child or having a child abducted.

    – – –

    The Gripsterz Alternative:  Bonding without Binding

    It is natural for both a parent and a child to fear separation from each other, but it can easily happen.  Anyone with more than two children knows that you quickly run out of hands to hold, and it is difficult to figure out how to keep them all close.  Child leashes, tethers, and harnesses are all ways to secure your children, but as the above illustration shows, any person’s natural reaction to an involuntary binding is to resist.  A child’s form of resistance is often loud and distracting.  The idea of involuntary binding is the root of the social stigma attached to leashes, as most forms of tethering are associated with domestication of animals, and people don’t like to think of children in the same sense.

    There have been some products out there that have made some progress in mitigating the effects of the tethers.  Some create a connector that attaches to a child via a fasten-able backpack.  This is helpful as a child is less resistant of a useful backpack that holds ‘their stuff’ (to which happens to be attached a connection strap).  Bonus points for those who combine this with a stuffed animal appearance whose harnesses masquerade as arms and legs “hug” the child in a piggyback position.

    There is also a newcomer product to this field which goes a step further, utilizing the innate nature of children to create a fun, constructive link between child and parent, while fostering an enjoyable experience and enhancing the relationship.  A physician and a nurse practitioner, parents of 9 children, teamed up with a Pediatric Occupational Therapist to develop a product formulated in a way to maximize its attractiveness to children and its utility.

    Gripsterz StayAlong is our product that is an adorable monkey handle with several strap attachments that allow you to configure multiple ways to create a link between you and your child.  A child has a natural tendency to resist being involuntarily bound.  Conversely, a child has a tendency to cling to a hand-sized toy (just try taking a Matchbox car from the clutches of a two-year-old Dale Earnhardt in the making).  The more friendly in appearance, and the more grippable and tactile the toy, the greater the tendency for the child to stay attached to it.  Thus the success of small hand-held toys (Polly Pockets is a good example, Lego Duplo bricks and the all-time classic wooden blocks).

    Gripsterz-the child harness alternative

    When a child develops a psychological bond with a toy (or character handle), they do not need to be involuntarily tethered.  They will want to hold on to that familiar handle for comfort and security.  This gives them room to explore, but keeps them close to parents while freeing up the adult’s hands.

    Even if a family only has two children, holding hands has its limitations.  If one child wants to stop and look at something and the other wants to go tearing ahead, Mom or Dad could lose an arm.  Gripsterz StayAlong allows each child a little bit of freedom to do their own thing, but within reasonable limits.

    What is also important is for parents to realize when children are young, that they need to take a little time before an outing to build rapport and relationship with their children, and address what a child might expect to encounter on their trip, as well as what will be expected from them.  When expectations are clear, anxiety is lessened, and goals and limits are more understandable.  Gripsterz helps achieve this with a board book included in the packaging.  It reviews some common places you might go with your child, and gently touches on what might be expected during the outing, using the Grippy character as a friendly guide.  Having the physical, visible and tactile presence of Grippy during the trip reinforces some of the concepts reviewed by parent and child earlier.  A calm, friendly verbal reminder of some of the points will help most children stay close and on the same page as Mom or Dad.  Getting in the habit of spending a precious few minutes reviewing expectations with your child ahead of time goes a long way in relationship-building in the toddler years and well beyond.