Sarah Reinhard has a new book available to help families spend more enjoyable moments with each other, rather than hooked up to telephones, portable tablets, or the internet. The book, Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless, which includes tons of activities and ideas to bring families closer together, was personally tested with Sarah’s own family (you can see two of Sarah’s biggest fans and critics of how fun an activity was in the photo to the left).
With chapters on “Silly Things to Do Together,” “Craft Projects,” and “Outdoor Adventures,” there is something exciting for any personality. Some of the recommended projects are things I remember doing with my sister, Bobbie, when we were kids. Scavenger hunts, puppet shows, and skits (which involved dressing up in elaborate costumes) were among our favorites. I also remember making a “Maundy Thursday Treasure Map” one year when we were bored over spring break.
Sarah also includes fun “Ways to Serve” and “Ways to Pray” to teach children that helping others and talking to God are also avenues to make our spirits soar.
Under the “Ways to Serve” page on the web site (click on Chapter 8 along the side bar), Sarah listed several places to have children visit to learn to serve. One thing I noticed was missing was visiting or volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue. Since I am a huge animal person, I had to make sure to mention that children are often especially in tune with animals and visiting a shelter, where they can pet neglected or abandoned animals or walk a dog that has not ever had much attention, can teach very important lessons in kindness and mercy. These visits also provide opportunities for telling stories about Saint Francis of Assisi who treated animals with dignity and respect, preaching the Gospels to the birds and calling animals his brothers and sisters.
If your children are not into cats and dogs, there are rescues and sanctuaries for horses (Last Chance Corral in Athens, Ohio), rabbits (Columbus House Rabbit Society), elephants (The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee), big cats (Noah’s Lost Ark in Berlin Center, Ohio), and any other animal imaginable where they could visit and learn more about that particular species and how compassion creates a better world for animals (and people!). For kids who have not grown up on farms or only know city life, a visit to Sunrise Sanctuary in Marysville, Ohio can allow them to meet cows and goats and chickens. There is even a wild animal hospital in Columbus (The Ohio Wildlife Center) that rehabilitates chipmunks, birds, raccoons, and other animals that often are the victims of careless humans.
For animals in shelters, easy-to-make beds, toys, and even treats can be a way for children to, not only have fun making something, but also learn to help dogs and cats in need. For homemade cat toy instructions, go HERE. For cat beds, go HERE (but you do need to know how to sew!). For dog beds (and some require no sewing!), go HERE. For homemade dog biscuits, go HERE. By making these items and then visiting a shelter to donate them, children can see how their efforts benefit homeless dogs and cats.
There are also tons of plans online for outdoor cat houses to keep kitties warm during cold nights. Many rescue groups that help feral cats would love to have these houses donated to them. Check out some of those houses HERE and HERE.
These are all projects that both Girl and Boy Scout troops could also do with only a small investment of time and money, while providing a great service to animals in need.
Beyond crafts as teaching tools for compassion, there are also many lovely fables for children (and adults) about animals and the Holy Family, which promote kindness to our furry friends. One of my favorite stories involves tabby cats and the Virgin Mary. According to the tales, a cat jumped into the manger with baby Jesus to keep him warm. Mary was so grateful that she touched the little cat’s forehead and left the letter “M” emblazoned in the fur. All tabby cats now have that prominent “M” for Mary (or in other religions for Muhammad, who was supposedly such a cat lover that it is a severe crime in Islam to harm any cat).
One of my favorite books is a book of prayers called “For God’s Creatures Great & Small, Prayers for Pets and Other Animals,” which my friend, Monica, bought for me. Monica felt called to start a pet food pantry for people who cannot afford to provide food for their beloved pets. The service, provided through a local church in Plain City (The Vineyard), is part of their Daily Needs Ministry, which also gives items to help people with basic needs and serves a free meal once a month. Taking children to something like this would also be an awesome service opportunity.
But I digress. I was having way too much fun thinking of ways for children to also have fun while learning about and helping animals! Sarah’s book inspired me so much that I’ve spent a lovely morning at the keyboard daydreaming and having my own kind of fun! Thanks, Sarah! I think this is exactly what Catholic Family Fun is meant to do–inspire us all!
Sarah’s book provides a road map to allow families to brainstorm and create their own type of family fun beyond just the activities recorded on the pages (just like I did above). Catholic Family Fun should also come in very handy for Sunday school teachers looking to make lessons and learning joyous, too.
Follow Sarah on her virtual internet book tour HERE. Sarah will be interviewed or guest post about the book on a number of sites.
And “like” Catholic Family Fun’s Facebook page HERE.
Read more about Catholic Family Fun on Sarah’s “My Books” page HERE.