Category Archives: Family

Family Experience Gifts that Don’t Break the Bank

Family experience gifts that don’t break the bank are such a great idea!

Wrapped presents on wood floor. Your family will love these family experience gifts and you don't have to spend a fortune either! You can create memories, not clutter this year.

My posts contain affiliate links. For more info, read the disclosure page!

It’s present season. So many gifts. Not only are your kids receiving gifts from you but most likely there will also be gifts from friends, grandparents, and other relatives.

Our kids only need so much stuff.

Our houses can only hold so much stuff.

Often times we find ourselves buying things because we have to get our kids something or because we find a good deal.

All the gifts, even if we are trying to find good deals, can eat away at the budget.

What if, instead of buying all these little un-needed gifts, we pooled the money and gave family experience gifts instead? Things that we otherwise wouldn’t splurge on but we know that our kids would love.

For the first time we are doing a family experience gift this year and the kids are so excited. We were gifted a week stay at a timeshare and are purchasing the attraction tickets to use on our trip.

Family Experience Gifts

Day Trip

Take a day trip to a near by city. Spend money going to museums, amusement parks, state parks or whatever the local attractions are. If your family is like ours and eating out is not something you normally do, splurge on a fun restaurant experience to finish off your day.

Museum Membership

Museum memberships are typically well worth the cost if you just go 2 or 3 times and are perfect for a family experience gift. All three of my kids absolutely love the science museum an hour and half from our house.

Zoo Membership

If your kids are not yet teens, the zoo is another great place to get a membership for a family gift. Maybe throw in some gift certificates to get ice cream or a special treat after a few of your visits.

Sporting Event

Choose your family’s favorite sport (or team) and purchase tickets, or season tickets if you can afford it. Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, or hockey are all fun ideas! Hockey games are a fun memory from my childhood.

Game Basket

Put together a basket of age appropriate board games for your kids. Include snacks, drinks, and everything you need to throw a super fun game night. Throw an all day game tournament over Christmas break and then the gift continues giving over the next months.

Hotel with Waterpark

Watch Groupon for deals at Great Wolf Lodge or other such hotels. When you find a great deal, book a few days at the lodge and wrap some beach towels or other small water themed items up for Christmas morning.


Plan a camping trip for when the weather is nice. It could either be to your favorite location or try some place new. Does your crew need any new camping gear? Wrap that up along with a brochure about your camping destination.

Mini Vacation

Don’t have the budget to plan a week long trip? That’s okay. Put together a mini vacation. Whether it’s one, two, or three nights, plan a trip that your kids will think is awesome and they won’t question the length! My kids would love a long weekend in Branson, MO and going to Silver Dollar City or going just an hour away and spending a few nights in a hotel, swimming, and hitting up the local sights.

Trip to the Beach

Most kids love the beach. I mean what’s not to love about sand and water?! Can you swing a day trip to the closest beach? Or maybe you can even spend a few days there. Considering my son has called the dirt around a pond a beach, I think he needs this present. 😉

Jump Gym/Bowling/Movie

Living on a tight budget can mean saying no to a lot of these types of things. Use Christmas as an opportunity to purchase gift certificates to any place like a jump gym, bowling alley, or movie theater and go have fun as a family.

Are presents for your kids a struggle year after year? Try something different this year and wrap up family experience gifts! Not only will you prevent new clutter in your house, you will get to create memories with your kids.

You can find a family experience gift that will work on your budget!

Family on a road trip! Your family will love these family experience gifts and you don't have to spend a fortune either! You can create memories, not clutter this year. Wrapped presents on wood floor. Your family will love these family experience gifts and you don't have to spend a fortune either! You can create memories, not clutter this year.

Earn Money For Christmas Now

Santa bag full of gold coins! If you could use some extra cash for presents and parties this Christmas, check out these easy ways to earn extra money for Christmas! Enjoy not stressing about where the money is going to come from.

My posts contain affiliate links. For more info, read the disclosure page!

Do any of these these things leave you wanting to earn money for Christmas:

Does the thought of having to buy Christmas presents leave you stressed? Maybe the budget is tight and you really don’t have much wiggle room but you want to have a special holiday season with your kids, family, and friends?  Do you find yourself wondering where the money for Christmas is going to come from?

What should be a fun time of year often times isn’t because of the financial burdens and other obligations. We’ve talked before about taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas (something I’m all about) but having no money for Christmas is a whole different matter.  To help you out I have 10 ways you can come up with some cash for Christmas.

Start these things today to help with this season but then continue doing them in January and through the rest of the year and set aside the money you earn into a “money for Christmas and birthdays” fund.

This list mostly consists of money making ideas to help you earn extra money for Christmas, but I’ve thrown in a couple bonus ideas on saving money and stretching your dollar too.

Ways to Earn Money for Christmas


There are several ways to earn with Swagbucks – everything from surveys, games, watching videos, and searching on the internet. You can see some of the details on earning Swagbucks here and here. Sign up using my link and you can get 300 Swagbucks!

Seasonal Job

I know this one is hard, especially for us moms with little kids.

But it is worth looking for a seasonal job you can work around your husband’s hours. Find a weekend or evening job at a retailer hiring extra help the next few months.

Watch the classifieds, ask around, and also pay attention in Facebook groups for tips on these seasonal jobs.


Have date night babysitting you offer monthly. Plan a babysitting night so parents can go out and buy presents and shop for holiday events without having to take the kids along. Adult only Christmas parties mean still another need for babysitters.

Present Wrapping Service

I can’t be the only one that is horrible at wrapping presents and gets absolutely no enjoyment out of it. But I know that some of you love it. Sell your gift wrapping skills – there will be people out there excited to pay someone (you) to do it for them!

Sell Baked Goods

I enjoy baking and cooking. Some people don’t. If you are skilled at baking bread, Christmas cookies, dinner rolls or fudge, considering selling your goodies.

Many busy families and people that really don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen would prefer to buy homemade treats instead of purchasing grocery store items.

Please research Cottage Food Laws for your state before you get started. Rules and regulations greatly vary. You will also need to register with your state to file sales tax.

Rake Leaves/Shovel Snow

Get your kids involved and, depending on how early in the season it is,  rake leaves or shovel snow.

Print up flyers and hand them out around your neighborhood and town. Post on Facebook groups. Even if you do this for just one snow storm you can earn a chunk towards your Christmas expenses.

Help with Holiday Parties

November and December are busy months. Individuals and businesses are both hosting parties. If you are a skilled organizer and hard worker, market your services as either an event planner, event host, or an event assistant.

Sell Stuff

I dare say the majority of us have too many things. What do you have that’s quality and something that others will want? Considering selling on Ebay, Facebook groups,, or even having a garage sale. This is a quick way to earn money for Christmas. You will also be organizing and decluttering items you don’t use before more stuff arrives from the holidays.

Donate Plasma

I’ve never done this but I have a sister that has sold plasma to save money for presents and other splurge items she wanted. You can donate twice a week.

Find Ways to Save Money

One of the best ways to “earn” money is to find ways to spend less and rework your budget! I’d say it’s one of the easiest ways as well – because it doesn’t involve finding extra hours each week to work. Make a menu plan and spend less on groceries, say no to coffee, drink water, have a no spend challenge. Here are some ideas on ways to save even on a tight budget!

I don’t want you to stress about finances this Christmas. Instead, sit down and plan on spending less on presents this year. Maybe have a simpler meal, and participate on fewer costly holiday events.

Then, use a few of these ways to earn money for Christmas and earn some extra cash to use to purchase the presents and attend the events that you decide to do!

Enjoy a debt free Christmas this year!

A pile of cash. If you could use some extra cash for presents and parties this Christmas, check out these easy ways to earn extra money for Christmas! Enjoy not stressing about where the money is going to come from. Santa bag filled with cold coins. If you could use some extra cash for presents and parties this Christmas, check out these easy ways to earn extra money for Christmas! Enjoy not stressing about where the money is going to come from.

Cheap Gift Ideas for Men

Is it just me or are men super difficult to buy for?! And then when you come up with the perfect idea it’s crazy expensive. What are some budget friendly, frugal, cheap gift ideas for men?

package wrapped up with gold ribbon. This list of cheap gift ideas for men will make shopping for the guys on your list a breeze!

This post uses affiliate links. See our disclosure page for details.

Gift guides can be hard.

We know that not every person, not every man, is alike. They have different interests and personalities. The best purpose of gift lists is to get you thinking of ideas you wouldn’t have on your own. Ideas that even though you might not want to buy the exact item on the guide trigger the idea of a perfect item.

Bonus if several of the ideas on the gift guide actually work for your shopping recipient as is.

Cheap Gift Ideas for Men


This might mean a digital album, record, or CD.

Or you could go the more sentimental route and put together a CD of downloads of songs that make you think of your husband/boyfriend/dad. Along with the CD provide an insert you made listing each of the songs and its significance in your relationship.


Movie lover? Purchase the Blu-ray of a favorite old movie. Find a pair of socks that are themed with their all time favorite movie or show.


Digital, physical, and audio books all work great. As long as you select something that’s super in tune with an interest of theirs, they will be excited about the purchase. My husband’s not a huge reader but books about Disney, Chick Fil A, a favorite TV show, or the Dodger’s still get him excited.


It might be a stereotype, but most guys love food. Giving them a stash of their favorite snacks and splurge items will be appreciated. Plus, this is disposable so you don’t have to worry about if they already have it or if there is space.

Electronic Gadget

Maybe something like a phone camera lens, flash light, a coffee mug warmer.

If the man you are buying for travels (or if outlets are a hot commodity in your house) this power strip tower with 8 outlets and 4 USB ports looks like it would be super helpful.

This charging station would help with desk and electronic clutter.

The idea of a small metal detector intrigues me. It could be helpful for finding all of those rogue screws and nails.


Whether your guy does woodworking and major projects or just minor house repairs, get a new tool to make the work easier and a little more fun.

Something like a magnetic wrist band , this universal socket, or an outlet and voltage tester would be a great place to start. Of course if he doesn’t already have a stud finder, that’s super helpful.


A pair of fun socks (my husband received a pair of Back to the Future themed ones for his birthday and loved them), sunglasses, winter gloves, wallet, ball cap for their favorite sports team, or a pop culture t-shirt.


Put together a mini photobook or scrap book of the highlights of your years together.

You could make a basket with the things to go on an adventure: a hike, trip to the ballpark, fishing, movie night etc.

Buy a new game and plan a family game night with all his favorite snacks.

Be creative!

There are over 25 cheap gift ideas for men. I hope that you’ve come up with some fun ideas through this guide. Hopefully shopping for your husband, dad, brother, or friend won’t be quite as difficult this year.

If you have any other ideas, be sure to comment!

paper package wrapped up with red twine. This list of cheap gift ideas for men will make shopping for the guys on your list a breeze!

Visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum

This summer we took our family on a road trip! It was our first big vacation. We started off visiting a friend in West Virginia (so fun) and finished with visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum.

Tips for visiting the ark encounter and creation museum with your kids! These ideas will make your trip the best!

The Ark Museum is in Williamstown, Kentucky, halfway between Cincinnati and Lexington and right off I-75. The Creation Museum is in Petersburg, KY which is west of Cincinnati.

Our kids loved it! It was a great experience and I wanted to share a little about our trip, some tips, and what I think the ideal age(s) are to visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.

On this trip our kids were: 7 1/2, 5 and 4 months, and 2 1/2.

Homeschooling perk – we planned our visiting for weekdays after the school year started. I highly recommend doing this if possible.

You won’t avoid crowds entirely (you’ll quickly discover both places bring in many, many tour buses) but they weren’t bad at all.

Tickets, Parking, Planetarium Shows, Schedule

Tickets aren’t exactly cheap – especially to the Ark. There aren’t any ways to get stellar deals. Just buy the combo ticket and enjoy your trip.

(Kids that are 4 and under are free!)

At the Creation Museum you have the opportunity to buy tickets to two different Planetarium shows (first costs $9 and the second will cost $5). We talked to the gentleman at the ticket counter and he recommended that we not buy tickets this trip. The material would be way over the kids’ heads. We decided to listen to his advice and it worked out well. On a trip when the kids are older we’d maybe get them. If you decide to purchase Planetarium ticket purchase when you first arrive or risk them being sold out!

When you purchase a ticket for The Creation Museum (individually or as a combo with the Ark Encounter) it is a two day ticket.

This is how we planned our visits:

  • Day 1: Creation Museum (open to close)
  • Day 2: Ark Encounter (open to close)
  • Day 3: Creation Museum at opening for a few hours

We were very happy with that decision and would do it again that way. I also heard from other people that planned their visit in that order and liked it as well.

Both places were less busy after lunch. The majority of the tour buses seemed to arrive at opening and left early afternoon.

You will have to pay for parking at both parks.

$5 parking at the Creation Museum
$10 parking at the Ark Encounter


Both places have restaurants, cafes, food stands etc. The Ark Encounter has many more options. We heard the buffet at the Ark Encounter raved about by so many people. When you are feeding 5 people, costs of eating out quickly add up. So we chose to not purchase food on location.

We packed a cooler with our lunch and left it in the car. Around 12 -1 on both full days we took the bus or tram back to the car and ate a picnic lunch in the car before returning back inside.

I would recommend also packing some snack items and throwing them in your purse or diaper bag. The kids were thankful for them in the afternoons. They are also light enough that they aren’t bad to lug around all day.

There are drinking fountains near most of the bathrooms, but a water bottle is also nice to have.

Ideal Kids’ Ages

In case you were wondering when to take your kids to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, especially for someone like us who doesn’t live near Cincinnati, I recommend the following.

First Visit: I’d recommend your first visit to be when your oldest is at least 7 – probably in the 7-9 range. This trip worked out when our kids’ ages was perfect. When your oldest is old enough to read, understand, and discuss with. They are starting to think analytically. They are still young enough to be amazed and this will make a huge impression. The younger kids are still learning and in awe and you can feed them facts in bite sized chunks.

Second Visit: I’d plan a second visit when your oldest is in high school. At this age it will be a completely different experience for them than it was 10 years ago. They will understand the information on an entirely different level and will be going through the exhibits with a different perspective. If they are questioning or doubting, this would be a great way for them to grasp Creation.

I think this is a great place to take your kids to twice. Now, for the disclaimer. There is nothing wrong with going when your kids are 4, 2, and 1 (or whatever). Especially if you are doing it for your sake – because you want to learn and experience it. I just think if this is a big trip you will likely only do once (or twice) it is better to wait until your kids are slightly older. 🙂


We did lots of hunting. Both hotels and rentals. If your family needed two hotel rooms, renting a small house might be the more economical way to go. For us, a hotel room was all we needed.

Florence is a nice city in between Petersburg (Creation Museum) and Williamstown (Ark Encounter). Lots of hotels, restaurants, stores etc.

We ended up finding a hotel on Hotwire in Erlanger, KY near the Cincinnati airport: a Holiday Inn with an indoor pool. No pool and no microwave (did have the mini fridge) but we were happy with it.

Florence was where we went to the grocery store to get stuff for breakfasts, packed lunches,and suppers.

Visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum:

Creation Museum

At the entrance to the Creation Museum

Let’s dive into the creation museum. You will purchase your tickets and receive your wristbands in the parking lot. Even your free kids 4 and under will need a wristband and ticket.

Put on your wristbands and after taking the tram or bus to the museum (so be sure you are ready to fold your stroller) you can enter without needing to do anything.

There is a nice lobby area with displays on dragons. The Planetarium is also near the entrance and a restaurant.

Inside the Creation Museum. This is where the Planetarium and 4D theater are. There is also food options.

A new 4D Theater showing the film In Six Days opened up not long before we visited. It is free and very well done. The kids loved it. You use high tech 3D glasses and the story of Creation is captivating. My older two kids loved it. They saw it both days we went to the museum. You will need to do this first thing or after you’ve gone through the museum since once you enter the exhibit area, the museum is one way. We did it right after we arrived both times.

In the new 4D theater

(If you do the shows in the Planetarium you’ll will probably want to schedule them for right after you arrive or for several hours later.)

Once you are done with the 4D show keep going down the path and you’ll enter the exhibits and traffic flow becomes one way.

Through the Garden of Eden in the Creation Museum

We went through the exhibits reading (and/or paraphrasing) the information cards to our kids. Our 7 year old read a lot of them herself. We tried to go slowly and have the kids enjoy, learn, and observe things.

Lower Level of the Creation Museum

As you go through the museum the floor actually slopes down to a lower level.

By the time we were at the lower level and the main exhibits were finished, the kids were hungry and it was time for a lunch break. (There are also food items to purchase right there.) We headed to the car for lunch.

After lunch we went to the outside petting zoo first. They were doing construction in the garden area but the zoo was still open.

We then went and started the museum exhibits at the beginning and just went through it more quickly. The kids enjoyed checking out their favorite things again.

Back at the lower level there is an Insectorium, Dino Den, and Bible Museum Exhibit. (I don’t know if the Bible Museum exhibit is permanent or temporary but it was interesting for adults to go through. The kids didn’t spend much time in there.)

In the afternoons there is a story time and Animal Encounter. Perfect for younger kids.

Check the schedule of events each day because there are also presentations and movies shown in the lecture hall throughout the day.

The Creation Museum has two book stores.  One on the lower level (where the lecture hall entrance is) with not as many things but it much more spacious and then the main, extensive book store on the upper level that you will pass through as you leave the museum. There are so many resources that it can be overwhelming. The book store manager was super helpful, though. Be sure to ask with any questions.

The museum was open from 9am-6pm. We arrived in the parking lot shortly after 9 and were there until shortly after 5.

Second Day at the Museum

The day after we did the Ark Encounter we went back to the museum for a few hours. The kids wanted to watch In Six Days again, so we did that and then they were able to go through the exhibits again and revisit all their favorites.

Ark Encounter

Our Ark Encounter day was a blast. You will most likely have to drive a ways from your lodging to get there (our trip was a little over 40 minutes). The museum opens at 9, so be sure to get up and going.

The Ark is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Driving up to it was exciting.

The parking lot is quite a ways from the actual Ark. Once again, you will buy tickets, or use the tickets you already bought at the creation museum, to get your wristbands. Then you will wait in line for a big bus.

Ark Encounter Parking lot

You are dropped off closer to the Ark and go by bird cages, great places for photos where you can get the entire Ark in the shot, and numerous food options.

This place is built for crowds in peak months. The queue line is such that it can wind back and forth when it’s busy. We didn’t have to wait in any lines and simply walked up the ramp to the bottom floor of the Ark.

There are bathrooms and drinking fountains on each of the three floors.

On the all the floors you make your way around the ark. Some exhibits are on the inside and some near the exterior walls.

The second and third floors both have their own 25 minute movie looping. They are open theaters with bench seats and no enclosure on one end of the ark. My 2 1/2 year sat through them, but they were over her head. The other two enjoyed them.

You see so many animals in their cages and learn about how Noah and his family would have lived on the ark and how the whole ark thing could have worked – how it was a feasible possibility! The ark could have actually housed and taken care of all the animals.

You walk past many cages like this with animals that might have been on the Ark.

It was after 1:00 by the time we made it through just the first two levels.

We took a lunch break in the car and then came back and did the petting zoo before heading back inside the Ark.

We did a faster re-walk through of the first two floors and then did a thorough visit of the third level (be sure you don’t miss the live animals that are at the back end of this level – llama and porcupine were out when we were there).

We finished off in the gift store. There are books but not near as many as the Creation Museum. The Ark Encounter shop is more of a gift shop and the Creation Museum more of a book store. (Though of course they both have some overlap.)

The Ark Encounter also has a huge fair trade section in their gift store.

By the time we left the gift store, it was minutes from the 6pm closing. Another full day.

This really was a fabulous trip! Shaun and I enjoyed it and the kids all loved it. If you are a Christian, or even just interested in learning about young earth Creation, how Noah built an ark and how caring for all of the animals might have worked, I highly recommend you put it on your travel list!

If you have any questions as you are planning your trip, be sure to ask and I can let you know what we did or thought. 🙂

Dinosaur at the Creation Museum. Everything you need to know to make your trip to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum the best trip yet!

Noah's Ark at the Ark Encounter and everything you need to know to make your trip a success!

Kid Service Projects

Once there are kids in the picture, simple things can become a little more complicated. Anyone else agree? Where once you could commit to serving once a week or could drop everything and give up a Saturday it is much more difficult. It’s simpler to say no and not find kid service projects.

raking a pile of leaves. This is a great list of kid service project ideas!

Sure, we might not be able to serve in the same manner we were before, but don’t quit all together! Brainstorm some kid service projects that would work with your family.

Coming up with family service projects is also a great way to raise more grateful children.

Throughout the year, I challenge each of us to purposely add a few hours of serving to our calendars. We can do this!

7 Kid Service Projects

1. Operation Christmas Child Shoe boxes

We’ve been doing this since our oldest was a baby. Each of our kids makes a shoe box for the age group and gender associated with them.

Once they reach an appropriate age, we don’t just hand them the money to shop and fill these boxes. Instead, they work and do extra jobs around the house to earn money. One year they did a bake sale at a garage sale for this project. Our 6 year old really got into doing extra jobs this year and worked hard earning money. The 4 1/2 year old also did little jobs but wasn’t quiet as enthused as big sister. 😉

Why do we make them work? So that they are invested in the project and can take ownership. They can can feel good about what they actually worked to achieve instead of just having fun doing it with mom and dad’s money. After they work and earn money, they go shopping, select the items (with guidance if necessary), pack their box, and go deliver them to the drop off point.

They love doing this every year – and I love seeing them work to be able to buy items with their own money and do so excitedly! And as they are shopping for kids that have so little, I can see their minds processing just how much they do have.

2. Sponsor a Child

With your child, find a child to sponsor. Look at Gospel for Asia, Compassion, and World Vision. If sponsoring a child monthly isn’t in your budget, many of those same organizations have “gift” catalogs where you can make a one time purchase of something like ducks, mosquito nets, school supplies etc.

Like number one, let your child earn money to give toward this project. It likely won’t be enough to cover the entire child sponsorship, but even them doing extra jobs each month to have even some money to apply toward the sponsorship will make a difference.

3. Volunteering

Doing things for others really can help broaden perspective and make you appreciate what you have. Many non profit organizations have plenty of jobs that can be done – even things like laundry or organizing. It may take some calling around to find a place that fits with what the ages and abilities of your children are, but there is something.

My mom had us volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center as kids. We were able to do things like cleaning the bathroom and waiting room, putting together newborn bags, organizing the clothing room.

During the Christmas season there will most likely be even more opportunities. Look for places serving meals, that need presents wrapped, cards mailed etc.

Don’t forget about your local church either! Often times there are ample opportunities to step up and volunteer. Even simple things like setting up before a potluck, staying for kitchen duty, showing up to a clean up day are great kid service projects.

4. Delivering Baked Goods

The next time you are making bread, cookies, or cinnamon rolls why don’t you make up some extra and deliver them to your neighbors, widows you know, someone who is going through a hard time, emergency responders etc. Doing little things for others really can make us more grateful for what we have. You could also have your kids draw or write cards to go with the goodies.

raking a pile of leaves. These are great ideas for kid service projects!

5. Needs Around You

Be aware. This requires slowing down. And it’s hard. Train yourself to notice needs and people around you, let your kids see you listen and act.

I have a friend who is so good at this it always amazes me. Bringing meals, visiting the sick and lonely, cleaning out gutters, running to the store, stocking a refrigerator, being a listening ear – this person has served so many people just by taking the time to listen, ask, and act.

6. Make a meal

Again, this is a simple thing to do with your kids! They can help you cook, bake, and deliver! It can be easy to dismiss doing things because they aren’t big or important, but the little things can be just as appreciated. Many a new mom (raises my hand) and under the weather individual has been blessed by supper being dropped off.

We are cooking anyway so we can make extra and be a blessing without a large time or financial commitment.

7. Presents

During the holidays, look for an organization that is providing presents for kids that wouldn’t otherwise get anything. Our church even does a gift tree some years. Find an item that’s in your budget and have your kids go shopping. You could even have your kids earn money to purchase items like we do for the shoe boxes!

During the rest of the year, ask a children’s home, foster family, shelter if there are any birthdays you can help with. A lot of kids have basic needs met by these presents.

8. Outdoor Work

Go to the neighborhood park with trash sacks and gloves to pick up litter. Rake the home bound person’s yard. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway after doing yours. All simple things that cost you nothing and your kids could work alongside you.

Do you struggle to find time to come up with kid service projects or family service projects? Have you found any ways to serve with kids that have worked well? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear!

a rake and a pile of leaves. This post has great ideas for kid service projects!

Operation Christmas Child Ideas

kids holding plastic shoeboxes. This post give the best Operation Christmas Child Ideas!

Every November is collection week for Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. (We had much younger kids in this post! Man, where does time go?!) Summer and fall is the perfect time to start thinking of Operation Christmas Child ideas.

[Having your child/family participate in child sponsorship through an organization like Compassion or World Vision is also a great way to build an ongoing relationship and come along side a family in another country.]

I love how simple this project is and how involved children can be.

Each child can put together a shoebox for a child their same age and gender and give ideas and input for what is going into the box.

Operation Christmas Child Ideas

Earning Money:

This is a great project to have your children earn extra money for and purchase themselves. If your children are young, you could match what they earn so they will have enough.

Small Jobs:

Find small jobs that don’t normally get done around your house and set a pay for each of them and give your children the list. They learn to work and how earning money works and you get a few extra jobs done.

Bake Sale/Lemonade Stand:

Another idea would be to have a bake sale/lemonade stand on your corner or as part of a garage sale and have the profits go toward the Operation Christmas Child Boxes.

Operation Christmas Child Box Ideas:

After the money is earned, you have to come up with what exactly to put into a small box. Of course Samaritan’s Purse has ideas for you on their website.

Be sure you remember: no liquids, toothpaste, candy/food, war themed toys, or breakable items.

Not knowing where your box will be going to can make a little difficult to buy for. You don’t know the weather or any cultural differences. If you know where you box is heading you’ll know if you can include things like scarves and gloves.

I imagine that kids will be kids throughout the world, though, so what your children are into is probably a good starting point.

The following list of Operation Christmas ideas consists of options for boys and girls and the littles to the older kids. A mixture of fun and practical is a good idea. And I know my kids love receiving “real” grown up things. Tools are a fun idea for any hands on, creative kid.

Fun/Toy Items:
Art/Drawing Supplies
Stuffed Animals
Small, real, musical instrument (some things just aren’t worth getting at the dollar store)
Balls (deflate the ball and include a ball pump with extra needles)
Clothes (fun depending on the age 😉 )
Coloring Books (age appropriate)
Jump Ropes

Personal Items:
Toothbrush (no toothpaste)
Hair Accessories
Soap (packaged in zipped bags to keep the smell contained)
Nail Clipper
Blanket (small, lightweight especially since it may be going to a warm weather location)
Draw String Bag
Coin Purse
Ball Cap

Other Items:
Sewing Kit and Fabric
Solar Powered Lanterns
First Aid Kit (without medicine or liquids)
Screwdrivers (Head to Lowe’s or Home Depot for this and the following items)
Nails (in their package)
Work gloves
Bungee Cords
Duct Tape
Tape Measure

School Supplies:
Watch the back to school sales every July and August. It’s a great time to stock up on most of these things. For example, Crayola crayons are much nice than the dollar store ones and you’d be able to purchase them for the same price during the sales.

Colored Pencils
Pens & Pencils
Pencil Sharpener

I love starting early in the season focusing on others, and this is an easy way to do it.

There are over 55 Operation Christmas Child ideas to help you pack your box this year. Have you done the shoeboxes with your kids before? Any favorite packing ideas to share?

Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything

Do you struggle with coming up with gift ideas for the kids in your life? Do you especially struggle with coming up with gifts for kids who have everything?

wrapped boxes taking about the best gifts for kids who have everything

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You are not alone! So many kids have the latest and greatest gadgets and everything that they could wish for. It definitely makes it a challenge to go shopping.

It’s time to start thinking a little outside of the box!

If presents are a problem at your house during the Christmas season, you might even want to consider de-emphasizing gifts this holiday season!

Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything

Experience Gifts

An experience gift is a great option. You can create memories with the recipient or they can create them alone. This could be anything from a fun adventure to learning a new skill.

This post has some great ideas for experience gifts.


No kid will ever turn down money. Perfect for them to spend or put towards a savings goal. If you are looking for a unique way to gift money, check out these posts!

Gift Cards

If you know restaurants, stores, hobbies, etc that the child likes, you can pick up a gift card or two! Here are some ideas on how you can wrap a gift card to make things a little more interesting.

Shop for Others

Only you know the recipient and if this idea would work for them. But if their personality and the situation is ideal, this is a fun idea if they truly don’t want or need anything. Instead of spending the money on them, you can either donate in their name or, better yet, give them a budget and let them help you shop and donate the items.

Here are some places to look into:

World Vision and shop their online catalog

Angel Tree or another similar organization

Pregnancy Center – donate cash or buy items for their clothing room


Think back to when you were the recipient’s age and what your favorite books were. Purchase the book and include a card saying why you purchased that particular book for them and what you enjoyed about it.

Themed Gift

Put together a bundle of goodies according to a theme.

It might be craft supplies, coffees, food, game night fun, rock climbing, cooking essentials or one of many other things. Gather the must haves and put them in a basket or bucket to gift.

Mission Trip

What a great idea for a teenager! This can get pricey, so it’s probably not the best option if you are on a budget. There would be a lot of details to this, so it might not work for it to be a complete surprise but how fun. If you aren’t the parent, you could coordinate with the parent before gifting the money for a mission trip and then work out when, where, and with what organization after giving the gift.

Sentimental Gift

Is there something special to your child, something that belonged to a grandparent or another important person in their life? If they are mature enough to appreciate it, this gift might be treasured for the rest of their life!

Have you found any great gift for kids who have everything? Do presents end up being a struggle in your house year after year or have you found a method that works well?

Be sure to check out these other gift guides for more ideas:

Best Experience Gifts for Kids
Educational Gifts Kids Will be Excited About
The Best Craft and Art Gifts for Kids
Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything
Gifts for Teen Girls
Gifts for Teen Boys
Gifts for Preschool Boy
Gifts for a 2 Year Old
Gifts for Preschoolers
Gifts for a Home Cook
Gifts for a Fitness Lover

smiling girl next to tree and gifts for kids who have everything

square picture of wrapped boxes for gifts for kids who have everything
smiling girl next to tree and gifts for kids who have everything

Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas Your Family Will Love

Thanksgiving. What comes to mind when you think of the holiday? For me I think of family, food, being grateful, travel, cool weather, beautiful leaves, cranberry salad. What Thanksgiving tradition ideas do you have?
dinner plate setting and the ultimate list of Thanksgiving tradition ideas

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If I’m honest, I am a bit torn when it comes to traditions. On one side, you know what to expect, the kids love it and look forward to them, it’s easy to plan. On the other side I don’t like always having to do the same thing.

I guess my balance is traditions that are held lightly. Traditions that we can take a year off of or tweak if needed.

Traditions that work for our family.

If you are looking to tweak your Thanksgiving traditions or add some new ones, I have a great list of Thanksgiving tradition ideas for your inspiration!

pile of pumpkins and the best Thanksgiving tradition ideas

Thanksgiving Tradition Ideas

Writable Tablecloth

Whether you get a cloth table cloth you reuse each year or simply cover your tables with butcher paper, have sharpies, pencils, or crayons available for everyone to write down one thing they were thankful for the past year. If you use the cloth cloth, have everyone initial and put the year next to their item.

Thanksgiving Tree

Gather some sticks and arrange them in a vase to make your Th. Set out a basket with leaves cut out of paper and some yarn. Again have everyone record what they were thankful for the last 12 months and hang on the tree. At some point during the evening someone can read them aloud.

Write Cards

Take a moment on Thanksgiving to have everyone write a card (or draw a picture) to let someone know how much you appreciate them.

Say What You are Thankful For

Go around the dinner table and have each person say 1-3 things they are grateful for from the last year.

Activity Sheets for the Kids

Set out different activity sheets for your kids to work on through out the day. It will help the times of waiting go a little more smoothly. Perfect quiet, not messy activity for when the kids are getting a little rambunctious. Here are some ideas.

Games for the Kids

Take sometime for fun and giggles. Plan a few special games for the kids (and adults even) to enjoy. You can find lots of ideas online!

New Dish Every Year

This would be so much fun! Something new and probably nontraditional making an appearance each November. If your Thanksgiving involves multiple families, I think it would be fun to rotate who brings the “surprise” dish each year.


Spend a part of your day volunteering. Look around your town for organization that serve Thanksgiving meals and see if they need help. Growing up we volunteered at a local church that served a meal in their facility and delivered meals to people that were working or home bound. We loved it!

Take a Walk

Spend 30 minutes or even an hour an a stroll around your neighborhood sometime after your meal is eaten and the kitchen is cleaned. As simple as it is, I can remember this happening in my home growing up.

Movie Theater

Going to the movies was a rare occurrence in my family. We did this once when I was still home and I’m pretty sure they have done it since I’ve been married. It was special enough that I even what movie we watched! (Treasure Planet, in case you are remembering.)


Okay, it doesn’t have to be pizza but there’s nothing wrong with not having a turkey dinner. Mix it up an do the traditional feast one year and something completely different the next. Pizza and ice cream always seems like a good option though. 🙂 One year it was just my husband and 2 kids for Thanksgiving and we had fajitas.

Visit the Nursing Home

There are people in the nursing home with no family coming to see them for the holiday. Spend a little bit of time wishing the residents of your local nursing home happy thanksgiving. Have the kids draw pictures to give away.

Watch a Thanksgiving Movie

Instead of going to the theater put a BluRay in at home and let the kids relax for a while. There’s always A Charlie Brown Christmas or Miracle on 34th Street. 😉

Read Thanksgiving Books

Books are the best. Read aloud a few picture books – even over breakfast in the morning. I’m a fan of Read Aloud Revival, so be sure to check out this post for some great ideas!


Have a little fun with a trivia game (and probably learn something while you are at it)! While you are preparing the questions for one year I’d go ahead and make them for the next few years. It won’t take much longer and your can separate out the questions into a list for each year. Check out these lists for some ideas.

Turkey Trot

I’ve only actually done this once, but it was so much fun! Cold and exciting. It was nice to start a day that involves so much food and sitting with some physical exertion. If you live (or travel to) an area with a Thanksgiving morning race, I highly recommend you give it a try.

There are just 16 Thanksgiving tradition ideas out of countless options. You can get as creative as you want.

I’m curious, what fun Thanksgiving traditions do you have in your family? Are you going to try any of these Thanksgiving tradition ideas this year?

fall tree and the ultimate list of Thanksgiving tradition ideas! pile of pumpkins and the best Thanksgiving tradition ideas

Educational Gifts for Kids That They Will Be Excited About

Christmas and birthdays are filled with all sorts of excitement and fun toys and gadgets. Isn’t it nice when you know that those presents will also be stretching their brain? Educational gifts for kids are the perfect solutions.

chalkboard and globe with list of educational toys for kids

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This list of educational gifts for kids is full of ones that they will even be excited about!

So many presents turn into clutter. These will be ones they will use again and again. I love the one time use kits too because they learn and have fun while putting the project together and then shortly after that you can dispose of it, not feeling bad. 😉 (Just don’t tell my kids that.)

Educational Gifts for Kids

1. Dinosaur Fossil Dig Kit

This would be a hit with both my son and my daughter. Anything dinosaur is a guaranteed home run.

2. Nature’s Explorer Kit

Perfect for your young kids who like exploring in the back yard. They will spend hours finding everything there is to see.

3. SmartyPants

Your kindergartner will think it’s cool to be called a SmartyPants as they go through the fun activities on these cards.

5. 3D Walking Dinosaur Puzzle

How cool is this? I’m telling you, it will be a winner for the dinosaur and puzzle lover. (Don’t exclude your girls from all things dinosaurs and science! My daughter loves both and wonders why dino’s are only marketed to boys.)

6. Pop Can Robot

My nephew received one of these for his birthday and I got to assist him with putting it together. He was so proud when it went moving across the floor.

7. Snap Circuits

Designed for ages 8+, they will love building burglar alarms and even a radio. Such a fun hands on way to learn about circuits.

8. Brain Builders

This game for ages 7+ will have your brain learning to go from a 2D pattern to 3D!

9. K’nex

K’nex takes building to a whole new level. So fun!

Be sure to check out the rest that K’NEX has. So many super cool looking sets!

10. Microscope

A present that you will also be able to use for school. Your child will have a blast using the included slides and finding numerous things around your house to inspect (maybe even the mold in that container that’s been in the fridge too long).

11. Bananagrams

Have some fun with words!

12. Science Kit

The young scientists in your house will find these kits amazing. My 5 and 7 year old love them.

13. Coding

Coding and a robot – a fun combination. This particular kit doesn’t require a phone or tablet.

14. Magnetic Tiles

A fun building toy that’s different than Legos. I love that it’s okay for ages 3 and up.

15. Gravity Maze

A logic game and marble run for ages 8 and up.

16. Geode Kit

You know it’s going to be a good gift when you get to break something. 🙂

17. Sleuth Kit

Pretend you are a detective and learn some new skills while you are at it.

18. Human Body

This is recommended for ages 8-16. A fun way to learn about the human body.

19. Shape Sorter

The best toddler toys are also educational. Melissa and Doug products are always a favorite.

20. Doctor Kit

Another great idea for the toddlers to elementary age children in your house. There’s always something fun about doctor kits for kids.

21. Brickyard Building Blocks

This comes with building ideas from ages 3 to 7+!

22. Cash Register

Everyone needs to learn about money and every child loves to play cashier.

23. Puzzles

Puzzles are a skill all kids need to learn. My children started with these large Melissa and Doug puzzles. There are so many options, but here are a couple:

This extensive list of educational toys for kids (that they will actually be excited to receive) will make gift giving easier for you this year!

What are the favorite educational toys that you have in your house? I’m always looking for new ideas!


Be sure to check out these other gift guides for more ideas:

Best Experience Gifts for Kids
Educational Gifts Kids Will be Excited About
The Best Craft and Art Gifts for Kids
Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything
Gifts for Teen Girls
Gifts for Teen Boys
Gifts for Preschool Boy
Gifts for a 2 Year Old
Gifts for Preschoolers
Gifts for a Home Cook
Gifts for a Fitness Lover

toy robot and list of educational gifts for kids chalkboard and list of educational gifts for kids square graphic with chalkboard and globe. educational gifts for kids

Halloween Alternatives for Families

Halloween alternatives.

Let’s talk for a minute.

I know this subject can be controversial: Is trick or treating okay or not okay? Are substitutes okay?

jack-o-lantern and fun halloween alterntaives

In Christian circles, this topic is touchy with lots of opinions and thoughts.

Today, though, we aren’t going to get into all of that. Instead, I want to share with you some Halloween Alternatives you can do with your kids.

If you do Halloween the traditional way and Trick or Treat, some of these might be a fun addition.

Halloween Alternatives:

jack o lantern and list of fun halloween alternatives

Trunk or Treat

I guarantee that there are numerous churches in you area that put on a truck or treat or some sort of fall carnival. Check out their Facebook pages, community Facebook pages, or your local Christian radio station to find them.

Harvest Party

Again, this is something I’ve seen done by churches and individuals. Host a fall themed party. Have a bonfire or the grill going. Roast hot dogs, grill some burgers, have the ingredients for s’mores and invite your friends for an evening to just hang out. Have everyone help by bringing food.

Family Game Night

My kids love games and would jump at a chance to do this. Let everyone in your family pick a game and rotate through them. Of course, have plenty of yummy snacks instead of a regular supper and this idea will be a home run.

Movie and Popcorn

Another family favorite here. How can you go wrong with popcorn and a movie? Throw in some ice cream and I’d be even happier. 🙂 Growing up we always watched a movie as a family in my parent’s bedroom and indulged in once a year foods. We loved it.

Eat Out

If you never eat out, this can be a fun idea. I can remember one time we met up with friends at a local restaurant for Halloween. Because eating out was a rare occurrence, we thought it was super neat.

Pumpkin Carving Party

Knives, pumpkin guts, creativity. Have a pumpkin carving party with your family or invite some friends to join you. I could see this being something your family looked forward to year after year.

Pumpkin Themed Games

Do these alone or in addition to any of the other ideas. Surprise your kids with just how many fun pumpkin games you can come up with. Younger kids would especially like this idea, but there are some games that would work for older kids. Here are two posts to give you some ideas.

Escape Room

This idea would be perfect to do when you have teens in the house. As much fun for them as it would be for the parents. Full disclosure, I have yet to do one. I’m a little scared of failing the puzzle.

Fall Themed Potluck

Anything done with food and friends is better, right? Send out a bunch of texts, group email, or start a Facebook event. Host a fall themed potluck at your house and everyone brings their fall favorites.

Go Treating

Everyone goes trick or treating on Halloween. Do the opposite. Put together some treat bags and go to peoples’ homes and pass them out. Such a fun idea to do with people you know, neighbors, and strangers.

Fall Crafts

SO many cute ideas out there for kids. My kindergartner and 2nd grader love all things craft. Here are three posts to give you lots of ideas for children.

For teens and adults, check out this list. So much cuteness!

Chili Cook off

We come back to foods and friends once again. This time you get to throw a little competition into the mix. 🙂 Be sure to have slips of paper so everyone can vote. If you can find them locally for a good price, mini styrofoam tasting cups like these are a lot of fun!

Decorate for Thanksgiving

If you haven’t decorated yet, Halloween would be the perfect night to get out your decorations (maybe even make some new ones) and Thanksgiving-fy your house. Of course food should be involved here too. 🙂

So many fun ideas. Try a few out and pick some to be a new tradition for your family. If you don’t trick or treat, I have a feeling your kids won’t miss it much at all.

Do you have any unique and fun Halloween alternatives to share?

pumpkin and fall leaves talking about fun halloween alternatives pumpkin in field and list of halloween alternatives