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Activities for the Family:


Clay Creations:
Combine flour, water, and salt in a bowl until it is like clay. Then model it any way you'd like. Dry it in a safe place. To speed up the drying process, ask a parent to help you dry it in the microwave. If you do this, check your creation often as it is heating. You can paint it when it's dry, if you want to.

Find a bottle. It can be a glass or plastic bottle. Paint the outside in any design you want. Now find some pretty real or fake flowers to put inside the vase.

Pencil Holder:
*Ask a Parent to help you with this Ask a parent for a soup can after a meal when you have soup. Cover it with paper and tape it in place. Be careful with the jagged metal inside the can. Cover it cautiously with paper. You can decorate the paper with marker, crayon, paint, etc. You may want to put a ribbon around it. Now you are ready to put some pencils or pens inside the pencil holder.

Picture Frame: - For the kids to keep, or to send with your soldier.
Find some cardboard. You can get it from an old cereal box or from the back of a notebook. Cut two rectangles that are the same size. Take one rectangle and poke a hole in the middle. Cut out a rectangle within the rectangle, or a circle, or any shape you'd like. Tape three of the four sides with masking tape to the other rectangle. Color the frame any way you'd like.

Mobile:- put pictures of your soldier and the kids and hang over their beds.
Tie together two coat hangers in a criss-cross. You can also tape them together. Make pictures to hang from your mobile and cut them out. Cut pieces of string 4-5 centimeters long and tape one end of each string to each picture. Tie the other end of each string to different places on the coat hangers.

Perpetual Calendar
Get a bunch of colored index cards and mark them with the dates of the year. Divide them up between the kids and yourself and take time writing, drawing and pasting pictures with captions on each day. Hole punch them and slide onto a ring or buy a desk calendar and remove the pages and replace with your index cards. Give to your soldier before he leaves. He will have a small message from home (or picture) for every day that he is gone.

Same idea as the perpetual calendar, only get stationary and envelopes and mark them for each day that he will be gone (best to try and do at least 9mos to a year). Have the kids write notes, draw pictures etc. Even one sentence surprise that the soldier can open each day will help him! It is fun to open envelopes. Caution- this does NOT get you out of mailing letters during the deployment, but it will go far to "tiding" him over when the mail is slow.

Soldiers can also do this activity for their family. Take time every day for a month (you usually get that much notice) to write five small notes. Put them in envelopes and leave them when you deploy. Your family will enjoy opening something from you each day too!

Games to play before/during deployment

Raisin Race

This intriguing science game is wacky fun!


  • Glasses
  • Clear carbonated beverage
  • Raisins

How to play:

Step 1: Fill each glass with equal amounts of a clear carbonated beverage, trying to minimize the fizzing.

Step 2: On cue, each player drops in a raisin, which should sink to the bottom, then rise to the surface as bubbles collect on it.

Step 3: The first raisin to the top wins.

Crowd Squeezer

Here's a family game you can count on in a crunch.


  • Sheet or blanket

How to play:

Step 1: Spread a sheet or blanket on the grass and challenge everyone to pile on top so that no part of any person's body touches the ground beyond the blanket.

Step 2: If the group succeeds, fold the blanket in half and try again.

Step 3: Continue in this way to see how small an area you can all squeeze on to.

Family stuff to do together or for the separated parent

Tape Recorder Time- an absolute fantastic activity to do before deployment to send with the deploying parent or to make to send afterwards.

Speaking--or singing!--into a tape recorder is lots of fun in itself, but playing back the tape is the real hoot. Try one of these great tape capers.

  • Name That Noise: Kids record sounds (Fido snoring, a faucet dripping), and parents must guess what they are.
  • News Broadcast: Kids get the scoop, interviewing family members about breakfast, the new bunk bed, and summer vacation.
  • Stuffies Tell All: Favorite stuffed friends make up the guest panel in this recorded talk show that, of course, requires kids to play both guest and host.

Critter Hunt
(Just perfect for those soldiers to bring some "field" experience home to the kids)

Forget your fly swatter! Head to the woods, a local park or your own backyard for a major bug-collecting expedition. Use our directions to make a "critter keeper jar" or simply use a jar and punch several holes in its metal lid. Arm yourself with curiosity and you've got all the tools you need for an interesting and educational adventure that literally leaves no stone unturned.

Serious bug hunters may want to record their findings in a notebook. Others may prefer to draw bug pictures to create a book. But even the most amateur entomologists will be amazed by what lies under the rocks, especially when they realize they can play in the dirt to find out!

Set out for a critter hunt in the morning, afternoon or evening. Following are tips on how to have a safe, successful and exciting hunt (including directions and a photo for making your own critter keeper).


Vote on Spotting vs. Keeping

Let the kids decide if you want to "catch" what you see or just spot what you see. If you want to catch, see below for our "critter keeper" directions.

Choose your Search Area

  • Try your garden or backyard, a local park, flowerbeds, hedges, cornfields and under rocks or logs.
  • Many critters hide among their favorite plants. Katydids are green just like the leaves. Many moths are brown and look just like the bark on their favorite trees. Butterflies are drawn to red, orange and pink flowers and also like phlox, alyssum, verbena, and herbs such as marjoram and thyme.
  • Look for beetles under fallen logs or rocks.
  • Crickets love cracks in sidewalks and buildings. (Hint: you've got to be fast to catch them as they hop away!).
  • You might find the woolly bear caterpillar crawling across a sidewalk or on plants.
  • Keep your eyes open for ants of all sizes---they are everywhere
  • .
  • If you're heading on a nighttime hunt, try turning on a porch light, standing near a street light or shining a flashlight and you're sure to see some moths.
  • Find a large grassy lawn on a warm summer's night and you'll see the bright flickering of hundreds of fireflies. Fireflies and ladybugs were favorites among our panel families.
Be a Detective

Signs of critter life include nibbled plant leaves or flowers.

  • Look on the stems and underneath the leaves or petals for hungry caterpillars and other insects. Carefully lift up leaves, flowers and rocks to look for critters.
  • Listen as carefully as you look. Cicadas, for example, sing at dawn and dusk in the summer. Peek on tree trunks. If you're lucky, you can watch a green cicada drying out on the tree trunk after crawling out of its brown nymph skin, which may still cling to the tree.

. . . and Catch!

If you plan to keep your critters, gently shake a branch over a light-colored towel so the bugs and critters fall onto it (try not to handle with fingers). Let them crawl up a stick to transfer them into your jar. Do not try to capture anything that may sting including wasps, bumblebees, or hornets.

Identify your prey

It may be difficult to correctly name what you've found, but here are some tips.

  • Count legs: Insects have only six legs, but spiders have eight.
  • A hairy spider could be a "wolf spider" that lives in the ground and moves very fast to catch its food.
  • Antennae? Most butterflies have antennae that look like golf clubs with thick bumps at each end; moths tend to have antennae that are straight or feathery.
  • If you want the official insect names, check out a field guide from the library; a good one for kids is the National Audubon Society's First Field Guide-Insects published by Scholastic.


If your kids want to collect what they've found, make this keeper jar. Your critters can breathe and you can watch them closely. Add some grass, sticks, leaves or flowers and when you're finished watching, let the bugs go back to their own homes again.

What You'll Need:

  • 28 or 40-ounce plastic peanut butter jar
  • sharp scissors (an adult's job)
  • nylon netting, tulle, or fine wire mesh
  • electrical or masking tape
  • Optional: 2 chenille stems, paint markers, bug stickers
  • TIP: Use scraps of lace or netting and substitute masking tape and permanent markers to cut down on supply costs.

What To Do:

Remove the paper label. Ask an adult to cut a small rectangular hole in the upper half of one side of the jar. Make it about 3 inches wide and 1-2 inches tall.

Cut a piece of netting that is 1 inch wider than the hole and 3 times the height of hole plus 1 inch. Fold the netting into thirds so you have 3 layers of netting to cover the hole.

Stretch the netting layers over the hole and tape it in place along all 4 edges with electrical tape. Press tape firmly against jar. Decorate the tape with paint markers and bug stickers.

To make an optional handle: Wrap one chenille stem around the top of jar under the lid and twist ends together. Slide the ends of the other stem under the first one at opposite sides of jar. Hook the ends around it and twist to hold.




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