Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard

Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless by Sarah A. Reinhard

One of the challenging things about having kids is what to do with them. When they are infants, the process is pretty straightforward--sleep, eat, clean up, change diapers, maybe play or read--a seemingly endless cycle. But eventually the cycle ends. They walk and talk and grab and wonder and move stuff around and ask you where they put it. Having activities to keep them occupied and to help them grow as persons is necessary for everyone's sanity. But how to keep those activities fun for kids and parents? And how to sneak in some faith when you can?

Enter stage right Catholic Family Fun, a new book by Catholic blogger and podcaster Sarah Reinhard. She provides an array of activities sorted into various categories, like activities at home, things to do outdoors, ways to start stories or skits, ways to serve in your local community, etc. For each activity, she'll add in "Faith Angle," "Wide Angle," and "Make It Your Own" bits of advice on how to customize the activities. The index sorts the activities based on cost and by preparation time and by duration. The book is a very handy reference, allowing a parent to hop right into something good.

I found the book reassuring. One of the activities is "Be 'Crazy'" which is just like what it sounds. Let the children run around, say silly things, laugh, and have fun. I struggle with this because it is quite chaotic and drives me a little crazy. But the kids are having fun and as long as they aren't hurting themselves, why not? My children are three and five as I write this, so they are a little young for some activities, like performing skits or volunteering at local charities. But that time will come and it's nice to have ideas and encouragement beforehand.

Faith-related ideas are woven throughout the book. Even in unlikely places. One outdoor activity recommended is creating obstacle courses. J used to watch a lot of Ninja Warrior and still wants to do physical challenges and courses like the Japanese contestants do on the television show (we used to watch a lot of clips online). She recommends building a course based on Old Testament stories, like using a sandbox and a wading pool to have contestants flee the Egyptians as in Exodus. Or a saint theme--I would do St. George, so we could slay a dragon!

The book also has a web site with links to resources. The materials there are also helpful (especially the links to recipes for St. Lucy's Eyeballs which is appealing to me, because, well, you know). We have done a sort-of Seder on Holy Thursday for a while (we grill a leg of lamb and have unleavened bread and salad). I think we are ready to up our game this year and the web links on the books site will be very helpful.

I highly recommend this book. It has a lot of wonderful ideas but isn't too long or too complicated. The index is especially helpful in finding things to do when only a certain amount of time is available.

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