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Cabin Fever? Staycation? We’ve got you Covered!

January 13th, 2018

by susan ragsdale

originally pubished at

How do you respond when your kid complains about being bored or having NOTHING to do? When the sun is shining, and it’s warm out, it’s easy to say, “Go outside and play.” But during the unpredictable months of winter and spring, it’s tempting to spend money on rainy day entertainment or expensive vacations to beat the winter blues. Here’s a word to wise (and budget-minded parents): keep a few of the following creative activity ideas in your back pocket. Pull them out on a rainy day, during your upcoming spring break “staycation”, or when cabin fever starts to set in. Your kids (and your wallet) will both benefit from the quality time spent together and the money saved in the long run.

  • Tips for all parents:

Keep an eye out for deals and events: Check out what’s going on through community calendars for your area. Remember to take advantage of deals offered through Groupon, Eversave, Living Social, or other coupons specific to where you live – specials can offer 1 day painting classes for ½ off or good deals on restaurants and area attractions.

Be prepared for bad weather: Good weather isn’t always a luxury we can all enjoy – bright and sunny here, rainy and muddy there. Keep in mind some back-up plans for those non-sunshine days. Libraries, museums, indoor swimming pools, art exhibits, aquariums or the second-run movie theater are all viable, affordable indoor options. Be on the lookout for free, student, or reduced rate promotions.

Take advantage of the good weather: Did spring come early this year? Pull in some of that fresh air and sunlight. Check out festivals, parks, zoos or backyard games. Fly kites, ride bikes or go hiking. Be a tourist in your own town.

Make it count: They grow up so quickly. One moment they’re in diapers; another moment you’re standing at their graduation! If possible, take a few vacation days to spend with your kids. Explore new things. Do favorite things. Invite friends over. Visit family. Be together and make moments to remember. Make it fun; make the time count.

  • Parents with children under the age of 5:

Think about things that move: Riding the trolley (tram, or train), watching airplanes take off, riding up and down in a glass elevator – simple activities can create hours of fun.

Explore nature: Take a nature walk around a pond, lake or creek and look for tadpoles, feed the ducks, or splash in the water. Be a flower spotter (look for flowering trees or buds).

Check out the library: Many libraries have children’s shows, puppetry, musicals, other special events or storytelling and craft hours. Expand beyond the event to play or read books in the children’s section.

Parents with children ages 6-9:

Connect with animals: Go on a walk in the park to bird-watch. Pretend you’re a National Geographic photographer and try to capture those winning shots with cameras, or simply draw them in a made-up journal with colored pencils. Borrow a bird-call book from your local public library and learn how to identify birds by their sounds. Go to the zoo for more animal fun.

Star gaze: Take a night walk and study the stars. Look for patterns. Find a telescope in your city to let you see further.

Build and construct: Look into Build and Grow free kids’ clinics at Lowes hardware stores. These workshops offer a variety of fun things for kids to build with their own hands. For more ideas on crafts and play, check out the Let’s Explore blog here.

  • Parents with children ages 10-15:

Host a slam night: Have friends or neighbors over for Slam night: Music Slam, Art Slam, Talent Slam, Poetry Slam or Reading Slam (or create your own). With Slams, the rules are simple: everyone must participate and you must have food. With a Music Slam, everyone has to sing or play a song, alone or with others. With a Reading Slam, each person picks a favorite story, poetry or book to read from aloud. Whatever Slam you choose, match one to the interests of your family.

Go “Camping”: Throw up the tent outdoors in the backyard, or inside if the weather is bad. Build a fire and roast marshmallows, add in a picnic.

Have tea: Join an old English tradition and host a “tea time” with various flavored teas, cookies, and milk at 3:00 p.m. Add in fabulous conversation about books, movies or interesting people.

Get crafty: Go to Hobby Lobby or a local craft store and find a craft kit to do. Craft stores carry interesting kits that range from learning to sew to creating your own light sabers and kaleidoscopes. Not sure you can do it on your own? Check out Pinterest for inspiring craft ideas. (Note: Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts offers classes for ages 8 and up.)

  • Parents with children ages 16-18:

Be the “kool-aid house”: Have your kids invite close friends or cousins over for a movie night and a sleepover, an ice creaam extravaganza (or a chocolate-dipping extravaganza), a field day in your own backyard, or a game of capture the flag.

Be a tourist in your own town: Explore your own town – walk downtown to see new sights, go places you’ve never visited before, or set a green goal and walk in different greenway sections or parks every day.

Do an over-nighter: Stay 1 night at a hotel or camping spot and take advantage of putt-putt golf, trails, the pool, or dining in a new restaurant.

Stay in: Declare a p.j. day and hang around the house catching up on rest from all the going and simply enjoying time at home with family, sleep, a good book, movie, or playing card and board games.

Bonus! Try at home idea: Give everyone a turn at controlling the CD player, computer, or iPad. Each person takes a turn as the DJ and plays a portion of a favorite song, and others have to guess the song and/or group/artist, and why he or she likes that particular song. This is a great way to talk about and enjoy music and learn what each person is listening to!

Summer Time Fun: 12 Games to Play Outside

June 8th, 2017

by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor













Holiday weekends. Birthday parties. Park gatherings. Church picnics. Camps. Summer is full of opportunities for families and programs of like to get outdoors and have some fun.

You never know when you’ll find yourself with a few people ready to play. Here are a few crowd-pleasing outdoor games sure to keep your group moving, laughing and having fun.  Summer energetic. Some are challenging. And some are a mix of both. Pick and choose to find the activity just right for your group.

Water Games

Water games are a great way to cool off and make some smiles. The games can be as simple as:

  • Water Limbo – Using a hose instead of a broomstick, players bend to go underneath the line of water without touching it. The line is lowered each time. How low can they bend before getting wet?
  • Water Balloon Dodgeball – Two teams stand across from each other and toss water balloons at each other to get members out.


Lawn Games

Lawn games call for skill but also leave enough space for casual conversations to take place while playing. Great for being active while fostering relationships at the same time!

  • Corn Hole – In this lawn game, players take turns throwing bags at hole in a raised platform. Points are awarded for direct hits or near hits while points are subtracted if another team’s bag knocks yours off. First team or player to reach 21 wins. Want to save money? Make your own set:
  • Kubb – A favorite of our families, this yard game is a game of skill. No running involved! Aim? Very important. Kubb is a great way to focus, get rid of energy (you get to throw things!) and work on your eye-hand coordination.


Running Games

These invigorating strategic games are sure to leave you energized and revitalized after you work off excess steam or build up your energy. And you use your brain!

  • Streets and Alleys – This chase game of a cat to dog or cop to robber (whoever the the chaser and chase are) involves the entire group creating streets and alleys that make life interesting for the chase . . .
  • Giants, Wizards and Elves – This interactive game of tag and strategy creates fun chaos and hasn’t lost its popularity over time . . . it just changes with the times!
  • Don’t have a crowd of Hobbit lovers? Then try putting it in a superhero setting. Wolverines, Spiderman and Thor:  Wolverine beats Spiderman (slashes the web). Spiderman beats Thor (gets hammer stuck in web). And Thor beats Wolverine (breaks his claw with his hammer). See a quick clip here:
  • Capture the Flag – The most complicated of the games in this post, Capture the Flag involves two teams, two flags and strategy as teams try to win by capturing the other team’s hidden flag. Of course, all the tagging and going to jail gets in the way of accomplishing such a simple task. Check out how to play:
  • Adult Recess – Outdoor games and play isn’t just for young people. It’s for adults, too. Want to take advantage of good weather but aren’t particularly the iron man or woman type? Then gather some friends for an hour or two of adult recess. Bring it all back with dodge ball, tag, potato sack races, water balloon tag . . . The choice is yours. Just get outside and get active. It will do you good.


We would love to hear about your favorite outdoor games, so tag us in your pictures or stories on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram; or send them to us at



© 2017 by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor at Write Creations Group, LLC.  For permission to reprint, contact

Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor have created over 891 activities in 8 published works and led training experiences together with groups of all sizes since 2001. They help people craft fun, engaging experiences where children and teens learn and thrive. See more of their work online: Facebook Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn for Ann LinkedIn for Susan | Books 


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