Our Neighborhood Craft Day

Is your home the gathering place for neighborhood children? Mine seems to be, and I encourage it. You see, I periodically invite children over for a “make day.” It all started years ago when school-age children in our neighborhood began visiting me and my two toddlers at home. Because their mothers worked full-time, they had little to do during the afternoon, so I began entertaining them one day a week with my “treasure box” of unfinished crafts.

When those projects were completed, we made other inexpensive crafts, such as papier-mâché items, sewn snakes, pipe-cleaner pencil toppers, and play-dough sculptures. I also helped the children learn to cook simple treats. We enjoyed making doughnuts, suckers, and baked goodies. They even helped me to make a spaghetti dinner for their parents. As our “make day” became increasingly popular on the street, the children took turns bringing snacks to share.

We moved after two years, and “make day” ended for a while. As my children grew, life got busier, but the fun memories of our initial neighborhood activities have prompted me to reinstate it for my own children and their friends from time to time, whenever I can manage it. For me, the main reward is making my home a fun place to be. I also enjoy providing our neighborhood children with a good experience in a Latter-day Saint home, and I hope I’m contributing to happy childhood memories.

I think any neighborhood would enjoy having a “make day” mom. To start your own neighborhood “make day,” you might see if other stay-at-home mothers would like to help. It’s also a good idea to notify parents of your plans, obtain written permission for their child to participate, and exchange contact information. The rewards of friendship and happy memories are worth the time and effort.

Marianne Olson, California

Nutrition—to Go

While sitting down to a meal with the whole family is the ideal, sometimes that isn’t possible. And when you are in a rush, it’s easy to forget about eating right or even eating at all. Eating on the run requires some planning so that as you rush out the door your nutrition and health goals aren’t left behind. You can still eat healthy on the go by following these tips.

Start the day with a portable breakfast. Bring along a minibagel and juice, yogurt and graham crackers, or a plastic bag filled with nutritious dry cereal and a piece of fruit.

Prepare foods ahead of time. Pack sliced vegetables, dried and fresh fruits, string cheese, whole-grain crackers, jerky, nuts, squeeze yogurt, and bagels into individual plastic bags that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice. Fill plastic bottles partway with water or juice and freeze; top off with cold liquid as you run out the door.

Create a “snack area.” Designate an easy-to-reach location where busy kids can find a healthy snack. With the foods you have prepared in advance, fill a drawer with shelf-stable items or a refrigerator shelf with perishable goods.

Keep a variety of nonperishable foods in the car. Fill a portable, easy-to-carry container with more shelf-stable snacks. Add containers of juice and water, canned fruit, and pudding to fill your “snack caddy.”

Make wise choices when eating out. Choose a child-sized hamburger, a small deli sandwich, or a salad with low-fat dressing. Curb the tendency to order large sizes or additional high-calorie items. Keep in mind that a typical fast-food meal can contain almost two-thirds of your recommended daily calories.

The secret to eating nutritious food on the go is to plan ahead. Taking a few minutes each week to prepare healthy foods, ready to go, will keep you and your family’s nutrition and health goals on track.

Pauline Williams, Utah

Web of Gratitude

We feel it is important for our family to visualize the many things we are grateful for. A simple activity that helps us to remember our blessings is called “the gratitude web.” One person holds a ball of yarn or string and identifies one thing for which he is thankful. Holding onto part of the yarn, he then tosses the yarn ball to someone else in the circle. That person then repeats the process, also holding onto a portion of the yarn. The activity continues until everyone has had at least one turn. Depending on the size of your family, you may want to play several times until a web is formed, connecting the group.

Sometimes life’s challenges can hinder our ability to focus on our blessings. Activities and lessons that help us realize how much Heavenly Father loves us can bless us individually and as families.

Kristin W. Belcher, Utah

Family Home Evening Helps: Come On Over!

As a child, I loved participating in family home evening with my family. When I moved away for school and career opportunities, I wanted to regain the “family” aspect in my single family home evenings. Rather than wait for an invitation, I realized I could do the inviting. At the beginning of the year, I decided to prayerfully choose a family each month and prepare dinner for them in my home if they would furnish the night’s lesson and activity. Would they! I had no trouble finding plenty of guests. To ensure a successful dinner, I asked about food preferences ahead of time and learned how to prepare meals for both small and large families. I enjoy cooking, but those who don’t could simplify meal preparations by assigning potluck dishes or serving just dessert. Spending time with others is more important than the food you serve.

By the end of the year, I felt my dinner invitations had helped me to become a more integral part of our ward family. As various family members have shared their testimonies in my home, my heart has been touched, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share family home evening with them.

Marian F. Ashley, Delaware

[illustration] Illustrated by Beth Whittaker

[illustrations] Illustrated by Joe Flores