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

Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless ebook

Sarah A. Reinhard



Looking for a way to bring your family together in faith and fun, but not sure where to start?
Discover how game night meets Catholicism in this guidebook of activities with strategies and suggestions for fun family engagement— with one another and with faith!
Adaptable ideas for storytelling, arts & crafts, meals, outdoor adventures, places to go... these are just some of the ways families can bond and deepen their faith, building a "domestic church" of their very own!

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A Guide for the Adventurous,Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless

Sarah A. Reinhard

Foreword by Greg Willits

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Reinhard, Sarah.  Catholic family fun : a guide for the adventurous, overwhelmed, creative, or clueless/ Sarah A. Reinhard.        p. cm.  ISBN-13: 978-0-8198-1604-7  ISBN-10: 0-8198-1604-3  1. Families--Religious life. 2. Christian life--Catholic authors. I. Title.  BX2351.R45 2012  248.4’82--dc23                                                            2011036158

Many manufacturers and sellers distinguish their products through the use of trademarks. Any trademarked designations that appear in this book are used in good faith but are not authorized by, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

Cover design by Rosana Usselmann

Cover art:

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

“P” and PAULINE are registered trademarks of the Daughters of St. Paul.

Copyright © 2012, Sarah A. Reinhard

Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3491

Printed in the U.S.A.

Pauline Books & Media is the publishing house of the Daughters of St. Paul, an international congregation of women religious serving the Church with the communications media.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9                                                                                    17 16 15 14 13 12

To Bob




PART 1Are We Having Fun Yet?

CHAPTER 1Silly Things to Do Together

Be “Crazy”

Sing a Camp Song

Joke Time

Unbirthday Party

Opposite Season

CHAPTER 2Story Starters

Create a Skit

Silly Story

Spotlight Storytelling

Puppet Show


PART 2At Home

CHAPTER 3Craft Projects

Family Scrapbooking

The Great Canning Jar


Nature Hunt Creation

Homemade Greeting Cards

CHAPTER 4Meals to Share


Dinner with a Twist


Mystery Food Night

Sabbath Meal

PART 3Out and Around

CHAPTER 5Outdoor Adventures

Treasure Hunts

Scavenger Hunt

Backyard Circus

Water Fights and Fun

Obstacle Course

CHAPTER 6Places to Go

The Zoo

The Library

Horseback Riding


Traveling Dinner

PART 4Faith with Fun

CHAPTER 7Saints to Celebrate

A Mary Garden

St. Lucy: Eyes and Fires

Holy Card Heaven

Saints Calendar and Saints Celebration

Saint Poster

CHAPTER 8Ways to Serve

Pregnancy Center

Food Pantry

Soup Kitchen

Nursing Homes or Neighbors

New Baby or Surgery Supper

CHAPTER 9Praying Together

Hands-On Decade

Eucharistic Adoration

Stations of the Cross

Ora et Labora

Tea with God




At a Glance

Activities Organized by Prep Time

Activities Organized by Duration

Activities Organized by Cost


I imagine all parents feel like this from time to time: We clothe our kids, give them food (frequently in “nugget” form), try to address their basic needs, take them to Church, and aim them down the sometimes difficult pathway of life, all the while praying and hoping and praying some more that we gave them all we could to help them be successful.

But what is real success when it comes to raising children? How do I know when my wife and I have been successful in helping our kids to be successful? It all depends on what you think “successful” looks like.

My definition of success has changed drastically as I’ve gotten older. When I was thirteen, success meant being a well-paid novelist selling as many books in a week as Stephen King does in a year. When I was in my early twenties, success meant simply supporting myself and being able to pay my rent each month by waiting tables. In my thirties, with a wife and children, success meant a mortgage and a dog and a paid-off car. Over time, monetary concerns have become less important to me, less central in my life.

Just recently both my wife and I hit our forties, and my definition of success has changed once again. Now, I just want to get to heaven and make sure my wife and kids get there as well. Success, to me now, would be seeing my children grow into adulthood and not just going to Mass each week, but constantly seeking out God in their daily lives. I want them to want God. Not because their mother and I want them to, but because they have chosen to make God a part of their lives.

If that happens, I’ll consider my life a success, despite the bumps in the road I seem to keep driving over a wee bit too quickly. If my kids hit forty and (assuming I’m still around) they say something like, “The other day when I went to Confession,” then I’ll know I’ve done all right. If our children regularly seek God’s love on their own and by His grace, I’ll be grateful.

But what am I doing to get them to that place? In between the fast food and hand-me down clothes, in between bath times and Sunday Mass, how much time am I really investing in my children? And if I’m not spending enough time with them, how can I do better?

In today’s electronics-laden world, I’m as guilty as the next social media friend for spending far too much time on all the distractions life has to offer when I could be investing that time in prayer and with my family.

In the past decade, I’ve been blessed to work from home for seven out of ten years. While we save a ton on gas, and I haven’t had to worry about a commute since 2006, one of the problems with this scenario is that over the years I’ve had to fight to find balance in my life. While I’ve no longer had to drive 100 miles a day, instead of giving that extra time to my wife and children, I’ve often filled up those hours by working extra hours.

How stupid is that?

What if, instead, I took that extra time and put it toward my current definition of success? What if I found a way to carve extra time out of my busy weeks and give that time to my children for the benefit of their eternal souls?

Yeah, it’s easier said than done, but it is doable. And Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless helps to make this goal not just a possibility, but a reality. How? By giving concrete strategies, methods, and ideas.

Maybe you’re already doing some of the things Sarah A. Reinhard recommends in this book, but I can guarantee you, Sarah’s going to challenge you to do them even better.

For several years, our own family has had a “Family Fun Night” tradition on Fridays of getting a couple pizzas from a local family restaurant and watching a goofy family movie. While this has been a great way of spending time together, it doesn’t really offer our children opportunities to grow in holiness.

In Catholic Family Fun, Sarah equips all of us parents who share the goal of getting our families to heaven with the tools for making real progress. Instead of just weekly pizza and a movie, Sarah brings our faith into the mix in a vibrant and tangible manner by suggesting ways we can serve others, meals we can make together, and adventures we can experience hand-in-hand.

Most importantly, in this book Sarah outlines ways that—as a family—we can grow in our prayer lives and in our relationship with God.

What Catholic Family Fun provides is not a road map, for no two families are alike. Instead, Sarah provides us with a much-needed toolbox for Catholic families, one filled with spirituality, fun, and the kind of love that encourages each family member to be even more open to the closeness God has already given them.

If you’re like me, and sometimes struggle to find balance between spirituality and responsibility in your family, Sarah’s suggestions will be a wake-up call. In this book, you’ll discover inspiration to keep pushing forward, to constantly seek God in your family life, and to help your children seek him as well.

Sarah A. Reinhard’s Catholic Family Fun is the kind of book that sits on the kitchen table where it collects years of coffee stains in between laughs and life moments and memories. It’s the kind of book that gets passed around on family trips in the van, its pages folded over and marked with discovery. Each great idea Sarah gives us helps us to be not only more “successful” parents, but more faith-filled families.


Co-Founder of Rosary Army (

Co-Host of Sirius XM’s “The Catholics Next Door”



Our family loves to spend time together, and that’s the underlying theme in these pages. Faith and fun are not exclusive concepts, though we often act as though they are.

The purpose of a Catholic family fun activity is to have fun together. Keep it simple and remember that there’s time ahead of you and no need to fit everything into a single time slot. You will have many more opportunities to tweak and add.

When you gather for family fun, you can include more than just your immediate family—why not invite grandparents, close friends and their children, or your siblings and their children? Ask everyone to turn off the electronics and join you for the present moment. Keep your phone on the charger and your earbuds in your pocket for a few hours. Find out what being really present to one another can do for your relationships.

Use this book as a reference and companion, but know that I did not write it to be a step-by-step guide. My desire is to help draw your family closer, not lock you into ideas that may not work for you.

Modify, just as your grandma did with her favorite recipes. See this book not as a blueprint, but as guidelines, an outline with room in the margins for you to annotate, abridge, and revise. Don’t be afraid to use the margins to make note of your own ideas and things that worked well for you.

You might consider designating a special place for your family fun materials, such as a basket, a bin, or some shelves. This will give you a location for the things you’ll gather as you prepare.

This book is organized into nine chapters, ranging from a series of light-hearted activities to suggestions I hope will draw you deeper into the Catholic faith. With each activity, I offer suggestions for ways to further personalize the activities in the “Faith Angle,” “Wider Angle,” and “Make It Yours” sections.

The Faith Angle will help you add Catholic faith elements or connections to your family fun. Whether it’s a way to modify an activity or to see and do it from a different angle, this is where I’ve gathered the little ideas that could change your family fun into something even richer and more meaningful. Likewise, the Wider Angle sections are meant to help you integrate explicitly faith-oriented activities into life as a whole.

In the Make It Yours section after each activity, you’ll find additional thoughts about how you might adapt the activity. These tips will allow you to adjust your approach to family fun based on the number and ages of your family members, their preferences, and your family’s dynamic. I also include suggestions for age-appropriate changes, such as dividing your family into partners or teams to forge deeper bonds. Siblings can be paired, older and younger, in various ways, or a parent can be paired with opposite gender kids. Doing this can also be an ongoing lesson in tackling competition—or building it—constructively. If your family tends toward competitiveness, maybe you’ll find yourself urging them toward kindness even as you spice up the activity to keep it interesting for them. If your family doesn’t have a competitive streak, then you might have a totally different way of dealing with competition.

On the book’s website,, you’ll find the resources I’ve used and recommend. There are notes within each chapter and within the activity descriptions to let you know when there is additional content on the website. If you don’t have the time or inclination to visit the website, this book will still serve as a complete guide all on its own.

My prayer for you is that, in some small way, this book will join the beauty of the Catholic faith with the fun of family life, and create a set of activities that you will experience as both memorable and instructional.

May God bless you and your family as you journey—and have a blast!—together.

PART 1Are We Having Fun Yet?

It’s hard, sometimes, to just have fun. For one thing, “fun” means different things to different people. For another, letting your hair down can be uncomfortable, especially if you are invested in a certain approach to things. Having real fun and really enjoying yourself can be a hurdle sometimes, especially if the idea is new.

If you have young children, you may find that the hurdle you face is exhaustion or being overwhelmed with all the other things that need to be done.

I’m giving you permission, right now, to let go of those things that weigh you down and keep you from relaxing and having fun with the most important people in your life—your family.

Getting everyone in your family on the same “fun” page can be a challenge, but it can be done. Convincing everyone that they want to participate can be a headache, but it is worth the time, effort, sweat, and words.

And, sometimes, “fun” is something you don’t realize you’re having until you look back on something, especially if you’re in a certain age range.

So, with these chapters, let go of your need for perfection and settle into the comfortable laughter that can only come while you’re in the presence of those you love—and those who love you—unconditionally.

Chapter 1Silly Things to Do Together

Sometimes, the best way to be together is to just let your hair down and be silly. If you can’t put on a funny face with the people in your house, who can you be comfortable with?

Have you ever pictured Jesus smiling or, better yet, laughing? Perhaps the reason so many people have trouble getting close to God, Mary, or the saints is that we don’t think of them as smiling. It’s impossible to be silly without smiling, so, in this section, let’s just be silly! Here are some ideas to get you started.

Be “Crazy”

Prep: Little or none

Duration: Less than 1 hour

Cost: Low

This is balm for cabin fever, whatever the weather. You go outside and, well, run around. I don’t like to run, but my young daughters do, so I can send them on a race around the house. These moments often turn into discussions about what’s going on in nature and how God made our Earth.

To use this as family fun, you will want to have a few specific ideas in mind, once the initial running-around is done (and because there will be at least one adult present, for whom running around might not be such an option). “Crazy” here means uninhibited, releasing the free spirit within, and in doing so, relaxing a part of yourself that might have forgotten all about relaxation.

Some Ideas to Help You Get Started

Let the kids run a bit to start. In the summer, maybe the running will be a result of the squirt guns the adults are brandishing. In the winter, maybe it’s their way of avoiding tickle attacks on a snowbank.

Partner up and see who can be crazier. Dance and sing. Run around shouting gibberish or nonsense phrases. Act like circus animals and perform exercises from a circus stunt. Work as a team against another team. Anyone who’s left out can serve as the judge and participate in round two.

Challenge one another to do stunts. Who can do a handstand? Who can perform a somersault while catching a bug and juggling three dolls? Who can think up the most outrageous (but safe!) trick?

Does the weather prevent you from going outdoors? Craziness can be found inside, too. How about crazy dress-up with silly hats, different color socks, different shoes on each foot? Take an old eyeliner pencil and decorate the family with fake mustaches, then top them with a zany gelled hairstyle. Try a goofy picture-posing session when you’re all looking your silliest.

How about weird food? Use food coloring, then see who’s the bravest taste-tester. Have a guessing game with different foods. Blindfold the kids and see if they can guess what they’re eating. If you have picky eaters who find this intimidating at first, try adding some color and letting them dig in to a

Green Eggs and Ham

sort of meal. Food coloring can make your eggs actually green, your macaroni blue, or your butter orange.

Take pieces from one board game and figure out a way to use them for another board game. Bonus points if you use the rules from a third board game.

Faith Angle

Spring and fall are great times for discovering things outside when taking a breather from all that crazy time. What evidence do we have of God’s order for the universe or his presence around us? Can we see his hand in creation? What is God’s craziest creation, and why do you think so? Read one or both of the creation stories from Genesis (1:1–2:3 and 2:4–25) and reflect on what it means to your family. You could also spend time with your family discussing what can be learned from each.

Make It Yours

Give your older kids a challenge or a goal when they’re outside running crazy. Enlist their help in deciding a method to the madness. How will you be crazy together? What will make everyone laugh? What’s something outrageous that they can think of? Make them your partners in planning. Even better, encourage them to work as a team to make this truly fun!

Sing a Camp Song

Prep: Little or none

Duration: Less than 1 hour

Cost: Low

My kids seem to enjoy singing “Apples and Bananas” as much as I do. I’ve forgotten many of the songs I used to know by heart, but I’ve found great resources online that jogged my memory and triggered wonderful memories of singing.

You can combine these songs with other activities. We like to sing while we’re picking up—inside or outside—and when we’re on a long drive. A song can change the mood of an outing or activity, and maybe that’s why they’re burned into my memory as something fun to do.

Here are a few to get you started (links to videos and the lyrics are on this book’s website):

The Bear Song

Sing the story of the kid who dared to meet a bear, then realized the need to run from that bear. Can quick thinking and a tree save you from a bear in sneakers? Featuring parts for solo artists as well as the whole choir and fun echoes, this song is full of action and ends with a hilarious “moral.”

Father Abraham

Use your whole body to praise God! This short and simple tune reinforces the good news that we are children of God and Abraham while continuously adding body motions.

As you sing, raise your left arm, left leg, right leg, hips, head, and tongue. Then turn around, touch the ground. And finally, sit down!

Little Bunny Foo Foo

The rambunctious Foo Foo doesn’t treat field mice very nicely, so the Good Fairy gives the bunny three chances to play fair or be turned into a “goon.” This popular song features two things kids love: a corny pun and active hand motions. Just be careful your children aren’t overly enthusiastic about bopping their siblings—or you—on the noggin!

Old Lady Leary

Challenge your crew to drop words while singing faster and faster. This song relates the tale of Mrs. O’Leary, whose infamous cow reputedly started the Great Chicago Fire. Nine words have corresponding motions. Each time you go through the song, you replace another key word with a gesture. By the end, you’ll hardly hear voices at all!

Save this song for less public gatherings. Yelling “Fire” 27 times at the top of your lungs, while fun, could be easily misinterpreted.


Bed—hold hands to one side of head as if you were sleeping

Lantern—hang an imaginary lantern

Cow kicked it over—kicking motion

Wink—wink (of course)

Hot night—make motions as if fanning your face

Fire—throw hands into the air with each “fire”

Pour on water—throw pretend buckets of water

Save my baby—make baby cradling motion


Faith Angle

Try singing a song or chanting as part of your family’s prayers. You could start with the Hail Mary. You could even explore doing it in another language.

You can also choose songs that are part of your parish’s songbook. Check for versions of them online so you know the tune. Make these your cleanup songs or what’s playing in the background in your home.

Make It Yours

Let your older kids go online and find a song they want to teach everyone else. There are plenty of camp song resources, and YouTube allows a great variety of ways to learn the tunes and motions.

Write your own song, or new words to a tune you know.

Make your own motions for a song.

Take words from a story or saying and make them into an animated camp-style song that you all sing together.

Joke Time

Prep: Little or none

Duration: Less than 1 hour

Cost: Low

Laughter is a remedy for many things in life, and I’ve found that the right kind of laughter can bring people together. When we’re not making fun of others or hurting people, our laughter can be therapy for the challenges of life, one that we share in a special way as family.

Get a book out of the library or go to one of the many kid joke websites. You may spend some time beforehand working with younger children (in the five- to nine-year-old range) to learn their jokes so they can deliver them. Older kids, starting at about age ten, may have their own ideas about a joke time family fun activity.

Sometimes, kids’ jokes aren’t that funny. That’s okay. We don’t have to pretend they’re funny when they’re not, but we don’t have to be mean about it either. The spirit of this activity is finding ways to use words to make us laugh. This is a good time, too, to discuss that there are some things that aren’t appropriate for joking, and that, while we may joke a certain way at home, we wouldn’t do it in public.

You might be wondering how these play into a fun activity. Can you imagine your crew taking turns doing a stand-up routine?

Consider making joke-telling a part of another family activity or doing it in the car to get warmed up. And remember, family fun doesn’t have to last hours and hours. Depending on the age of your children and your time allotment, lengthy activities may be inadvisable.

Knock Knock

My kids particularly enjoy making up their own knock-knock jokes. It has become almost a rite of passage in our house, proof that the speaking abilities of the current toddler are now at a new level.

Here are a few to get the creative juices flowing. They’ve been rated most popular in the Reinhard house, but I encourage you to modify them and be creative together.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrupting cow wh—(at this point, the person telling the joke moos).

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Boo. Boo who? Aw, don’t cry. It’s only a joke.

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Little old lady. Little old lady who? Hey, I didn’t know you could yodel!

Riddles and Jokes

Riddles are great fun when you have a wordsmith in the house, so my favorites tend to be plays on words. My kids, though, love the just-plain-silly riddles, such as these:

What kind of keys do kids love? Cookies.

What do you call a fly without wings? A walk.

How do you stop an elephant from charging? Take away his credit card.