Top 5 by My 5


As a child my fun-filled, non-school days were spent playing with Barbies, board and card games, large group games with masses of neighborhood kids which overflowed into several yards, biking, and swinging.  Swinging included any aerobatics that could be accomplished on a swing set and the neighbor’s maypole.  We mostly ran barefoot.  Our mom worked full-time at night.  Only some moms worked outside the home.  All moms had the responsibility and right to scold and call your mom if they deemed your behavior required it.  Kids played outside till their parents called them home to go to bed.   The 1960s was an innocent time for young children to play.  Even then I vividly recall my mom’s frequent admonitions to NEVER, NEVER get in a car with a stranger NO Matter what they told

I recently asked my five children what their five favorite play time activities were from their childhood.  I will give them to you in birth order.  (Two insights of which to take note are; 1. our only girl is child #4 and  2. child #5 was born when #4 was 10 years old.  This time gap meant he grew up as an only child and in a later era.)

Laser tag              Reading             G.I. Joes                                           Reading                 Legos

Bicycling              Play games       Board games                                  Dress up               Nerf guns

Rollerskating      Sports                Tree climbing                                Color/drawing    Family                                                                                                                                                                     gatherings

Basketball           Bike riding       Anything outside after dark      Barbies                 playing                                                                                                                                                                   outside

Tree climbing     G.I. Joes            Rubber band & dart guns           Roller hockey      computer                                                                                                                                                               games

At this point #1 son had to clarify “I think all gun battles (laser, rubber band, air soft, dart, water, sticks, cap) fall under one category. . . . Awesome!”

in a treePlay time is important. Make sure your children have plenty of unstructured free play time. It is good for them to be the masters of their own entertainment.  It stretches their imaginations and develops leadership and independence.  Parents should not be entertainers. It is not the parents’ job to keep their kids from being bored.  My only contribution to this effort was to keep a handy list of available extra chores to occupy them.

My children did resent, but lived by, the following temperature rules: 1. No water play unless it is at least 80 degrees. 2. No outside play when it is less than 10 snow

When my children were toddlers I played with them a lot.  As they grew and played more with each other they had less need and desire for me to play with them.   I did enjoy bike riding with all of them and still like it.  For some activities my lack of imagination just got in their way.  I never played guns with any of them.  My number 1 house rule was, “Never shoot the Momma.”


It is good for children to be physically active and outside, even if outside is limited to their own fenced in backyard.  If you have safety concerns for them, then go outside too.   Fresh air, sunshine and activity helps everyone sleep better and feel better.

in a tire


“work smarter, not harder”

Time spent teaching and training children to do household chores will reap benefits for the parents and for the child’s lifetime.  Doing chores also boost their self-esteem as they see their contribution to the family.




I received a request from a friend in Florida to send a Valentine’s Day card to her acquaintance, a nine year old boy with autism.  He will be receiving a Valentine’s card from me.  I know that all children love to receive mail.  Children enjoy celebrations of all kinds.

I have been reflecting on children and Valentine’s Day and wholesome celebrations. Family celebrations can help de-romanticize the holiday for children and adolescents.  Try focusing on expressing love to others.  Perhaps make and send valentines to grandparents or single adults.  Homemade decorated heart-shaped sugar cookies are always a hit at home or to share.  Having a hand in the process makes them more delicious.

heart cookies

these delicious and beautiful cookies were made by my daughter-in-law

Have you ever studied the history of Valentine’s Day?  It is the fascinating and inspiring story of a priest named Valentine who honored marriage and refused to obey a third-century Roman law to stop performing weddings.   Adventures in Odyssey, album number 44: Eugene Returns, an audio series from Focus on the Family did an outstanding job telling this story in the episdode titled “The Last I Do.”

aio 44

Start your own Valentine’s Day family traditions.  Maybe each child could choose an activity which they love and all could participate in it.  Perhaps there is something the entire family loves and could establish as a tradition on this holiday.  Is there a silly song or movie that could become your family Valentine’s Day standard?

When our daughter was an older teen, the bookstore that employed her sponsored a Fernando Ortega concert at which she was asked to work.   Initially, she was a bit bummed at having to work on Valentine’s Day.  At home after work she received flowers and a sweet card from her dad, and candy from mom.  She realized that her Valentine’s Day had actually been quite nice because it included a concert, candy, flowers and a card.

IMG_2275When our children were young I found and purchased four red, plastic, heart shaped dishes.  Every Valentine’s Day my children enjoyed receiving these dishes filled with candy and maybe a small trinket.   They were almost as good as a getting a Christmas stocking six weeks after Christmas.

Romantic love is not the only kind of love to be celebrated.  There is also brotherly or familial love. Within the family we all need to experience unconditional love which accepts and forgives even when we disagree or mess up and hurt each other.  That is the kind of love God has for each of us.

Happy Valentine’s Day.


Teen Years

Is there a particular age of children which you most enjoy?  Some people love babies and others are happier with children who can talk and communicate clearly.  I have a brother-in-law who adores three year old children.  He has volunteered in the three year old’s class at church for nearly thirty years.    Three year olds can say and do  amazing and entertaining things.   I have heard parents say their favorite age is whatever age their child is currently.   I can understand that sentiment.

I am a champion for the teenagers.   My teenagers were awesome.  Having teens has many benefits for the parents and the family.   Having a teen can mean no longer hiring an outside babysitter for younger siblings.  When my teens babysat their siblings, I still paid them.   Teens enjoy many activities which adults also enjoy such as movies that both parents and teens wish to see.  It is nice to view movies beyond the G rating.


Teens are acquiring skills and abilities which can benefit the family.  They may be more tech savvy than their parents.   Teens may have valuable ideas and lend solutions to conflicts or problems.   Their maturing minds and bodies enable them to be more productive and capable to truly help.  I loved seeing my sons move furniture or change the oil in the car.

As teens all our children had employment, which meant they had their own spending money and could contribute to some of their expenses such as paying part of the registration fees for summer camps and other big ticket events.  Once they earned their driver’s licenses they could transport themselves and siblings.

I thoroughly enjoyed having mature discussions with our teens.  It is fascinating to watch their ability to reason and think logically develop.  A favorite activity was discussing literature with all of them.  Our second son was and is a voracious reader.  I could not keep up with his pace of reading.  Fortunately I had been a reader for 30ish years before he began reading.

DJ2000Parents do not have to dread the teenage years.  Those years have many wonderful aspects, too.   Then . . . . .  poof. . . . . they are over and gone.    I think the teen years are the pay-off –years for all your hard work of discipline and nurturing throughout their childhood.

One of the biggest struggles during the teens is the desire for independence.   I can completely relate to that desire.  I hated high school because I felt like it kept me from real life.  I was thrilled when those three and a half years ended.

Parents can help their teens with this struggle by stopping the struggle.  Give them more and more independence.  They need it and it is good preparation for them. Stop holding their hand, they don’t want or need you to do that.  Stop bailing them out when they fail.  Let them manage their school work and their schedule without your constant supervision.  That is how they become independent.   Give them more responsibility and accountability for themselves.  Be available but do not micromanage them –  particularly once they are in high school.  Yes, they still need to follow house rules.  Give them a curfew only if it is needed.

I recall when I was in high school asking my dad to help me make a choice about something.  His reply was, “what do you think you should do?”  It was a great answer and one I used with my children.

Enjoy your child at every age/stage, including the teens.

DDS 96

me with my eldest and youngest sons tackling geometry