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It’s Raining! It’s Snowing! Cabin Fever Busters for Families

January 20th, 2017

By: Ann Saylor

originally published at

When cabin fever starts to kick in, it’s time to get creative! Here are some fun ways to make indoor memories with your family when it’s cold outside.Get tips >

Host an International Night. Close your eyes and put your finger on a map of the world. The spot where your finger lands (or closest to where your finger lands) will be your country to explore on International Night. Do some searching online to find a recipe from that country for dinner; find a game from the country that your family can play together. Create a playlist of music from that country and dance, sing, or simply listen together. Use Google Translate to learn a couple of phrases in the country’s language.

Play games, of course! Raid your game shelf, or pick up a game at your favorite thrift store. For young children, try Memory, Candyland, or Guess Who. For older children, try Boggle, Battleship, Rummy, or Pictionary. For teens, try Spades, Hand and Foot, or Catch Phrase. Add some yums to your fun with popcorn! If you get snow outside, gather some fresh snow to make snow cream. Combine one gallon snow, one cup white sugar, one tablespoon vanilla extract, and 1-2 cups milk in a large bowl and blend with a mixer. Serve immediately. Add a little flair to your snow cream by serving berries or chocolate syrup on top.

Have an old school movie marathon via Hulu or Netflix. Pick a favorite old cartoon, television show or movie. Snuggle up on the sofas, and relish in the memories together. Not sure where to start? Some of our favorites include Knight Rider, Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, A-Team or The Cosby Show.

Tell Us: What are some of your favorite old school movies or TV shows?

Make homemade hot chocolate and read together. Some great read-aloud stories for younger kids: Little House on the Prairie, Ralph S. Mouse, The Chronicles of Narnia, Velveteen Rabbit, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Pippi Longstocking.

Tip: If you have older kids, let family members tell their own stories by candlelight or firelight.

Have a Marshmallow Olympics night. Do a marshmallow basketball toss into a Tupperware bucket. For a marshmallow drop, have one partner lay down on the floor with an ice cream cone held point down on his chin while his partner stands above him to drop mini marshmallows into the ice cream cone. Do a marshmallow baseball throw by seeing how far each person can throw a marshmallow (you can challenge older kids, teens, and adults by telling them that they can’t use their dominant hand!). See who can make the craziest or scariest marshmallow monsters with different size marshmallows, licorice, toothpicks, frosting and skittles. What else can you do with marshmallows?

Got a fireplace? Bonus: Roast and eat your marshmallows afterward…mmm :)
Photo credit: Dimitri N via Flick’r.

Make a home movie. Start with family photos or videos (new or old), a family talent show, or make a video tour of your favorite places around town. Use iMovie, PowerPoint, or Windows Movie Maker to make your creation.

  • Do you have an idea for an awesome Cabin Fever Buster? Comment below and share it with us!

_________________________________________________________________________________________________1. “Snowed In” image via Bohpix on Flick’r.

Resolve to Make Family-Focused Volunteer Efforts in 2017

December 27th, 2016

By: Ann Saylor

originally published at

The holiday season is now behind us, but there are still many opportunities for families to help others. Instead of teaching children to focus on the gifts they have received these past weeks, teach them to share the gift of service with people in your community. Serving others can also empower youth, strengthen positive identities, build social competencies, and unify families.

Your family might choose to serve a meal at a homeless shelter, decorate cards for prisoners, or help children make crafts for their families. You could host a game night at an assisted living facility or bake cookies for firefighters. The possibilities are endless!

Volunteering doesn’t have to be “just another thing” on your to-do list this month. It can be a natural outflow of your family’s interests and talents, and a great way to build family memories. Here are some steps to get you started:

1. Ask family members about their skills, talents and passions—what do they love to do?Your list might include basketball, painting, singing, or playing games. Or organizing, hospitality, and making new friends.

2. Ask them what they would like to see change in the community (or neighborhood or school). You might hear interest areas such as helping the homeless, helping people with physical challenges, helping children learn to read, putting an end to bullying, or breaking up school cliques.

3. See where family strengths and community needs overlap, and start with a simple service project.

  • If your children like music and they are concerned about loneliness in nursing homes, plan a time to go sing with friends at a local nursing home.
  • If your family loves sports and they are concerned about their peers getting involved in negative activities, ask a recreation center if you can host a family sports night at the gym this winter.
  • If your family has a tradition of playing board games or solving puzzles, call a homeless shelter to see if you can host a game night after an evening meal.
  • If you have an artistic family, you might paint a mural at church, at school, or at a community center.
  • If you love the outdoors, you might pick up trash on a hiking excursion.

We all have unique skills and talents—how will you use your gifts to make a difference during this season and throughout the year?

The key to quality youth development that keeps a kid coming back

November 25th, 2016

Originally published by Karen Beranek

A simple hello is important but it’s not enough. For some youth, you’ll need to go a step beyond that. My son’s active wrestling career began five years ago. It has been amazing to watch his growth through the program. Yes, he’s getting better at take downs, staying off his back and putting his opponent on his back. But that’s not why he goes to practice twice a week. He goes because he is building a relationship with a caring adult – his coach. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is! In the first two years, he couldn’t say hi to the coach because he was so shy. Coach hadn’t had a wrestler quite like that before, but he knew the importance of a welcoming environment, so he re-thought his approach: he took the time to talk to my son individually and show him how to improve on one specific technique. He asked him if he was coming to the next practice. These simple actions showed my son that coach cared about him, that he belonged to this team, and that he could be himself in the practice room.

I am so thankful the coach recognized my son’s need and took it upon himself to re-evaluate how he works with this young person. Now in year five, my son is willing to ask questions, share stories and work directly with this adult who took the time to create a welcoming environment for him, even if this willingness to speak up was years in the making.

Have you had to change how you welcome youth to meet the need of a particular group or an individual young person?  Do you use the “eight keys” in your work?

Read the full article here:

Who are you grateful for?

November 25th, 2016

originally published by Dr. Lauren Tober

Today I’m inviting you to consider WHO you are grateful for.


Take a look at this wonderful video by Soul Pancake.  I had tears.  And smiles.  Lots of smiles.


After watching this video, your task, should you choose to accept it, is take photographs of people you’re grateful for.


And then share it with them (you knew I was going to say that didn’t you?).


Post it on their facebook timeline.


Tag them in instagram.


Send it via email.


If it’s your grandmother, print it out and post it to her.


Do whatever you need to do, but be sure to tell someone you’re grateful for them.


With gratitude,

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour Visits A Home

November 23rd, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor has been showing up in its “tour” in after-school settings, camp, classrooms and . . . homes.

Here’s a quick review from Amazon that shares one household’s experience of Brain Boosters (the reviewer let us know that they also pinned it in Pinterest):





You can create some quick fun moments in your home yourself!


Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order:

A Gratitude Song

November 18th, 2016

Here s a beautiful song called ‘Grateful: A Love Song to the World’  Check it out here...

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® Stops off at YMCA Camp

November 16th, 2016

During its tour it was only right that Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, creators of Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar visit the YMCA of Middle Tennessee and see brain boosters in action in a camp setting.  Here’s what one staffer from the Brentwood YMCA had to say:

“Thanks Susan for sharing Brain Boosters with the Brentwood YMCA Day Camp. What a great ice breaker and team builder! My day camp counselors really enjoyed it. You ladies are so creative.”

Many blessings,

Tracey Jernigan

Family Services, Day Camp and Preschool Program Director

YMCA of Middle Tennessee


You can see and try Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar out for yourself!


Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order:



Thanksgiving Poem

November 11th, 2016


I had to share this sweet little poem written by 9-year old Anna Kate.  Make your own Thanksgiving acrostic.  What are YOU thankful for?  Ask others that you care about to tell you some of the things they are most grateful for.  thanksgiving

November 11th, 2016

What's the point of helping youth discover their inner beauty, meaning, and giftedness if we don't teach them to take time to delight in who they are?

originally shared by Search Institute:

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s the perfect time to encourage the young people in your program or classroom to cultivate a sense of gratitude. Youth development experts Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor devote an entire chapter to the practice of gratitude in their new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

Ragsdale and Saylor ask readers an interesting question: What’s the point of helping youth discover their inner beauty, meaning, and giftedness if we don’t teach them to take time to delight in who they are?

“Gratitude is simply the act of being grateful,” write Ragsdale and Saylor. “Being grateful that I am strong and healthy, even if I didn’t score any points in the basketball game. Being grateful for my friend who really appreciates me, even when I was shunned by the popular group.”

A strength-based approach is grounded in recognizing what’s right with people, particularly in yourself and the people you interact with every day. Gratitude is so relevant because it changes attitudes, and it helps people focus on the good, instead of the negative.

“Gratitude is a power practice that changes our perspective about life’s joys and hardships. It recharges our batteries when our energy is depleted or we are overwhelmed by life,” say these best-selling authors of Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busting, Zero-Prep Team Builder for All Ages.

Ragsdale and Saylor recommend certain disciplines to adults to foster gratitude, especially because some personalities tend to be more negative than positive. Try these tips:

  • Decide. Decide you’re going to be as present as you can to each moment and find the joy.
  • Every day, embrace what’s good. When something good happens, stop, note it, and receive it as the gift it is.
  • Hit replay. Savor what’s good. Re-picture it and turn it into an experience.
  • Share gratitude. Sharing is a happiness booster: hold open a door, help someone cross the street, or take a moment to listen.

Finally, here are some tips to use with young people to develop their sense of gratitude:

  • List it. Have youth create a list of the little blessings, joys, and graces that they have experienced recently.
  • Journal it. Allow youth time to journal about things they are grateful for each day.
  • Share it. Include a “circle of gratitude” time, inviting each person to share one thing he or she is grateful for.

You can find dozens of strategies to help young people discover their inner strengths and passions inGroups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms. The book includes numerous games, activities, icebreakers, and quizzes to keep you and your young people engaged and motivated.

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour for a Second Stop in Arkansas

November 9th, 2016

As Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar has made its first tour across the country engaging youth in both classroom and after-school settings, creators Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor couldn’t be more pleased with the response and look forward to seeing Brain Boosters in even more places where the activities can interact with youth groups and bring energy and fun brain development!

Here’s a review from a “tour” stop in Little Rock, Arkansas with Our House:

“The youth and adults, who facilitated the activity, preferred the 20 second challenges because they were quick and simple. In addition, the youth enjoyed the Show Me Your Moves cards because they were able to improvise and “think on their feet.”
“The instructions were simple, therefore it took very little time to explain the instructions to the youth. Please note that we tested this on youth K – 8th grade.

“The youth said the following:

  • It was fun!
  • It got us moving!
  • We had to think fast!
  • It required us to work as a team!
  • We had to use our brain
  • We were able to get some energy out

“Most of the students liked acting out the various scenarios but some youth felt extremely uncomfortable because they do not like being the center of attention. (editor’s note:  the activities do include the right to “pass”).  Our group did not like the activities that required additional time (5 – 10 minutes). We passed over all of the cards that required an extensive amount of time.

“We would recommend this to other programs – It is an easy way to get the kids moving, thinking, and working together.”

- Desirae Holmes, Our House


  Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

  Click to order:

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: a Stop in Indiana

November 2nd, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor made a stop in Indiana with The Journey program (  It’s review was shared with youth workers across the state in their newsletter and Facebook page.  We hope Brain Boosters will schedule more appearances as a result of its stop here!  Thanks, Janet!



Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order:

National Service Dates for November

November 1st, 2016

Veterans Day (November 11)

Plan something to honor veterans in your community!

Connect Four for Group

October 28th, 2016

My son’s friend Lilly leads games for American Heritage girls every once in awhile. Last week, she created a giant Connect Four game to play with the group. she rolled pieces of tape to put on the walls where players could “drop” the connect four checkers (red and blue plates).  Then groups competed to see which team could connect four dots (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) the fastest.  Such a fun idea!

connect-4 connect-4b

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: on Tour in Arkansas

October 26th, 2016

In its trek across the country, Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor made its way to Arkansas over the summer to engage youth and build the brain through fun, interactive ways.  Here’s what the staff from Life Skills for Youth had to say:

Our youth liked the 20-second Challenges, Show Me Your Moves and Make a Melody games the best.  Some of the favorite activities were  the music challenges and showing off their moves – making up skits.  They liked making a song to the star spangled banner.  I would say what they most liked about the activities overall was the chance they had to express themselves in front of classmates.  The activities were amusing for their peers. 

The only critique was that some students thought some of the music items could have been a bit more relatable for their age group (over 15).

What I enjoyed most, as a facilitator, was  was the engagement and humor for those who participated.  I would recommend these activities to other programs.  The activities created involvement between students and teacher.  It allowed children to work together and support their classmates.

- Gary Casey, Life Skills for Youth


Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order:

Rules of Kindness with generationOn

October 21st, 2016
Here is a set of kindness rules that some Pleasant View Elementary School 4th graders created with their counselor Ms. Megan.  It’s part of a national movement with generationOn to get students to write rules of kindness for the their interactions with others.  I love the idea of letting students collaborate to write their own rules of kindness.  When they create and own the rules, they are much more likely to follow them!

Kindness Rules

written by 4th graders at Pleasant View Elementary School

1.     Look for others who need someone to play with.

2.     Say something kind to someone every day.

3.     Help people when they are feeling down or hurt.

4.     Be kind to one another.

5.     Encourage others.

6.     Be respectful to teachers and staff.

7.     Pay attention.

8.     When others are talking, be quiet and listen.

9.     Be nice to others – treat people the way you want to be treated.

10.  Make people feel welcome.

11.  Everywhere you go offer a smile.

12.  Be respectful.

13.  Do your best.

14.  Be caring to yourself and others.

15.  Be responsible.

16.  Take turns – let others play on the playground.

17.  Be on time.

18.  Show empathy for others.