Suggested Order of Connections


Beginning with the Spring 2018 box, PLAtime quarterly boxes will have specific connections rather than random activities. Boxes will still include the Truth Connection of optional Scripture for parents to ponder or share while playing with their child.

 Below is the suggested order of the connections and descriptions. Remember PLAtime is designed for parent-child interaction primarily followed by sibling connection when appropriate. Parents, you are the foundational key ingredient!

These connection PLA Steps and needed items will be packaged together inside the box.

1)Teamwork Connection: brings you together as team with shared goal or target.

To communicate: "I am always on your team." "I enjoy working toward a goal with you."

2) Organization Connection: uses fun to practice skills needed to create and/or maintain order

To communicate: "I enjoy practicing maintaining order with you. It creates calmness and margin for fun."

3) Bonding Connection : fun that allows parents to study and know kids and kids to study and know parents better

To communicate: "I want to know you more,  your thoughts on topics & see your perspective."

4) Creation Connection : something that you build or make together 

To communicate: "I enjoy being constructive with you."

5) Giving Connection : an identical activity of one the above 4 wrapped and ready for you and your child to experience regularly thinking of others & giving a small token of friendship.

To communicate: "Let's appreciate our friends together." 


The following extra connection cards will be added to the bottom of the box and can be used in any order of your choosing after the above have been completed. They will utilize items that may be prepackaged with another card.

6) Silly Connection: we believe children should regularly experience their parent's silly side but it is sometimes hard for parents because "adulting" can make that side a bit weak.

7) "I Can" Connection: this uses the same items for fun and trains life skill in your kids  (i.e. priorities, time management, etc.)

8) Leadership Connection: kids need to practice leading so this connection switches your roles and the parents follow the child (within safe parameters) 

9) Homework Connection: using the packaged items in homework, or sparking parents' and children' imaginations in how to add a little fun to homework while maintaining connections about content of work & how children feel they are handling work load

10) Extended PLA: any other ways items could be used to chase away boredom

We hope you enjoy the new structure and that it helps you PLA well!

Valentine's Day - Bringing Sibling Connections Into Holidays and Family Traditions

Add a little sibling connection to your Valentine activities by finding out things about each other while you find things around your house... for only children, enjoy this as a parent/child activity

Items Needed: the list below (don't gather the items if possible, let the gathering be part of the activity)

Key Targets (Purpose): Consideration, Bonding, Teamwork

PLA Steps: Siblings grab a cell phone and flashlight and go on the following photo scavenger hunt with get-to-know each other questions. Everyone answers while hunting together or prepping the photo (one person holds flashlight for extra light  or just holds the object while another snaps a picture).

Optional Scripture: "Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others." -Philippians 2:4

  • Quarter (what do you treasure? What is your favorite thing you own?)

  • Face stamp on a coin ( People who have faces on money were believed to be people of strong character. What character trait do you most value in a person? Honest, Humorous, Authentic, Kind, Decisive, Humble, Leader, Wise, Loving etc.)

  • Food crumb (What's you favorite way to cheer yourself up on a "crummy" day? How can we help?)

  • First letter of each person's name around the house or in a book (What is a positive trait about yourself that starts with the first letter of your name? Family members can make positive suggestions.)

  • Close up of the fur on a stuffed animal (What is one thing that makes you smile?)

  • Something red (Do you like Valentine's Day? Why? Why not?)

Extended PLA:**If you are really creative, work together and add the answers to the photos in an editing program or create Google slide on your phone. (adds Constructive Play to key targets)

May our interest in each other grow and grow!  Happy Valentine's Day and PLA well!


Parent's Intent and Investment in Sibling Relationship

As an only child, siblings have always intrigued me! I have both longed to have siblings and simultaneously been apprehensive of stereotypical sibling conflict. I studied siblings too. Although as a child I never actually took notes, I would observe sibling sets through friendships. I had two sets who were polar opposites of each other but my age was situated right in the middle of each sister.  With one pair, I would leave their house tired and tense because they had treated me a bit like a tug-of-war rope, arguing over me during the entire visit. The other set loved each other so much and I was invited into the relationship to simply multiply the caring and imagination. I would leave their house energized and inspired because they were pros at imagination and taking turns, but a bit envious because they were rarely lonely. I marveled at the difference...

My study, observation (and yes, my apprehension) intensified as my husband and I prepared for the birth of our second child and the new section of our journey as parents to siblings.  There are a plethora of examples of close and distant siblings in all phases of life.  Environment and levels of effort both affect sibling relationships.  Over the course of 2018, PLAtime will have a sibling focus and we invite parents to come along with us.  The following are some questions to help  parents walk through setting up their own intent and levels of investment in their children as siblings.  These are questions I use to periodically evaluate my investment in my children's relationships with each other. We will look at some practical activities, but individual families must discover their own "why" and "how much" driving investment in sibling relational connections.

1.    Do I have some favorite examples of siblings? If so, who are they? If not, where can I look ...people I know, in books and movies, etc.? 

2. What do I admire about these siblings? 

3. What are some qualities that I would like for our children to experience in their relationship with each other?

4. Do I have some favorite Biblical moments or movie moments between siblings? Have I ever actually shared these with the kids?  The most commonly known sibling conflicts in the Bible often have lesser known but extremely powerful reconciliation moments. Do my kids know these?

5. How much time do I spend planning experiences for them? How much time do I spend refereeing conflict between them? How can I be more preventative in conflict by investing time and effort in preparing shared experiences that draw them together? 

Hoping sibling bonds flourish this year in our homes and may we PLA well!


Want, Need, Wear, Read...

Guest Post by Natalie Lewis

(You can read more from Natalie's heart at

Last year, on our daughter’s 1st Christmas, my husband and I started to implement the “4 gift rule”. Well, actually we added another category that we thought was a part of it and so ours is really a “5 gift rule.” Last year implementing this rule was not hard at all, considering we could have wrapped an already-owned toy and she would not have known any different. This year, however, has proven to be a little more challenging. Reese is still not yet old enough to have Christmas expectations, so the challenge was solely in the hearts and minds of her parents. I have to admit, it was tough walking around Toys R Us on Black Friday with my husband and not giving into the  “oh just one more thing…” mentality. I already had to fight off feelings of guilt and discontentment.

But, as of now we are heading into this Christmas with 5 gifts to give our daughter.

Before I move on I do want to make something clear: this blog is not at all written with the intention to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not trying to draw anyone’s line for them or even say where I think it should be drawn. Because I don’t know. While my husband and I seek to be intentional, we are naturally very spontaneous and “wing it” sort of people. So this new “tradition” is held with really open hands. We liked the idea behind it and we wanted to give it a try. So, we’ll keep re-evaluating and re-adjusting as needed. Or maybe at some point we will scrap it all together. But for now, here are the unspoken and spoken messages we want to be sent to our kids through each specific gift-

  1. Something you want: We care about your enjoyment and we want to invest in things that make you excited.

  2. Something you need: We want to be aware of and provide for your needs. Some years this might be a physical need while others it may be more spiritual, emotional, or relational.

  3. Something to read: Your brain is an invaluable gift that is worth being fed and stretched and invested in. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr Suess

  4. Something to wear: We want you to know when you get dressed in the morning that you are protected and provided for, as much as it is up to us. We want you to have shoes to run in and a jacket to keep you warm. We also want you to be able to express yourself- who you are and what you like- through what you wear.

  5. Something to share: Others matter. Gifts aren’t just for or about indulgence and they aren’t just about us. Shared possessions can lead to shared enjoyment and experiences, and that is often better than the gift itself.

Even more importantly though- whatever we end up doing in the years to come- here are the underlying questions we want to ask ourselves each Christmas as we decide how to navigate things like traditions and gifts and family values-

Overall, we want to ask ourselves what a specific gift (or the way we “do gifts”) is teaching our kids about the rest of life. Do these gifts and the way we are going about them promote what we are trying to teach them every other day of the year? Is Christmas an isolated event in our life or does it flow with what we care about every other season of the year?

Something I read in a blog a while back that really struck me was the idea of setting your enjoyment bar. She talked about the need to often times set our bar lower in order to enjoy more frequently and more deeply. If our enjoyments are only found in the highest of highs, then we are always waiting around for the next big trip or gift. And then we go to the next level by trying to always top them. Instead, we need to learn to enjoy what we often dismiss as simple or mundane. Enjoyment can be guided and learned.

We want to teach our kids, and our own hearts, that gratefulness springs from a heart of contentment and ungratefulness springs from one of comparison. Instead of looking around at what others have we want to practice looking at what we have. We want to verbally practice saying “thank you.” Our heart will get there if our mouth starts there.

It is so easy for the Holiday season in particular to bring a sense of entitlement. We can subtly believe that we deserve gifts because “that’s just the way it is on Christmas.” Instead, we want to remind and recognize that all gifts are, well… gifts! If we are “owed” something, it ceases to be a gift. You do not “deserve” a gift more than the kid down the street whose parents were not able to afford any this year.

Gifts are about more than just you
With every gift there is both a giver and a receiver. We want to instill eyes that see the giver behind every gift. To see an actual person who is using something of their own- likely time and money- in order to give you something. Gifts are also given to do more than just hoard and keep. The more we get the more we are able to give.


Farah's Thoughts: My husband and I have followed this gift-giving format for about 7 years now and have enjoyed it so much! A friend first shared it with us, so I wanted to share it as well. However, when I read Natalie's blog about her own experience, she said so much of what I would say. She even included not trying to convince anyone, holding it with open hands, altering it for their own family, and the "share" gift. We call those "together" gifts in our family & they leave us room to buy things our children can use to build sibling or friend relationships.  About 5 years ago, we added a "tool" category. The first year, we bought tool boxes and the grandparents joined in. Each bought their favorite tool  adding a note with ways they use it in life. Our daughter's box is more of a heavy duty sewing kit that can hold a hammer and level etc. in the top lid section. David and I now add one tool to each child's toolbox annually and when they move out, they should be set to hang some pictures, sew on lost buttons, and complete minor repairs. Now that they are older, we try to find ways we can use our tools to serve others together as a family at some point during the year.

Sick Day Survival

It has happened! You have received the emergency shreak in the middle of the night from your child's room and as you reach their bedside you can already feel the heat from their feverish little body. You know that school is not allowed for tomorrow but you also have learned that the medicine will have kicked in by 8 am and they will be feeling fine and looking for entertainment. What is a sleep deprived parent to do?!?!?!

1. Start with an Expectation Exchange.

Alter ideas of accomplishment.  Consciously exchange the prior planned chores or to-do list for some relational goals to redeem the time.  Turn your attention to connecting during this extra time you would not have otherwise.

2. Use some forethought to create traditions.

People in a family are going to get sick. It will happen -repeatedly- use the repetition to your advantage!  Save one of each child's favorite movie (a series is great because those can go with a 3 day virus); keep it separate from other movie choices only to be watched on a sick day.  Do the same with a few picture books and if you are extra creative, make a silly face scrapbook of all the kids for eliciting healing laughter on sick days. Read the same books each sick day. Some choices could include The Blue Day Book for Kids,  Alexander and the Terrible, horrible, No-good, Very Bad Day, and Riot Brother chapter books by Mary Amotto's. Read even to teens; they may roll their eyes a little but it will get those endorphins pumping and help them heal.

3. Hydrate! 

Setting a timer & administering 5 -10 ml of water from a small medicine cup is better every 10-20 minutes than drinking an entire bottle. Keeping a water bottle nearby the child is recommended but keeping track of those ml doses is even more crucial for a speedy recovery-especially with a stomach virus!  If using the schedule formula below, drink from the medicine cup in each transition from one activity to another.

4. Wash hands often! 

Have special "sick" bottle of hand soap. It is hard when you are little and feel puny to stand on a stool. However it is crucial to wash hands after any trips to the bathroom with sickness.  To facilitate more consistent hand-washing for little children, place "sick" soap at the outer rim of bathtub.  This also keeps them from sharing the sink and regular soap with other family members to hopefully decrease the spreading of germs. 

5. Create a general schedule for all sick days and keep it on hand.

Keeping the schedule posted in the medicine cabinet or in a phone note is great so you don't have to create it each time. Remember to hydrate from the medicine cup with each transition. Hear is a sample framework:

  • Eat breakfast if possible

  • Transition to somewhere besides bed like a mat or couch in family room (preferably with a bit of sunlight)

  • Search for some "preschool or elementary seasonal jokes" to get in some laughter

  • Read a book together ---Rest 20-30 minutes

  • Do some stretches -- Rest 20-30 minutes

  • Play a game (I Spy if they can't lift head; Board game/puzzle if need to stay seated; sock ball toss, hot potato or target throw if have energy)

  • Lunch if possible. -- Rest or movie

  • Squeeze activity for restlessness (i.e. stress ball, play doh, Legos)

  • 5 more stretches

  • 5 minute clean and straighten to get mat straight and ready for that infamous possible afternoon/evening fever

  • Sit outside, maybe have a snack in the sun for Vitamin D. --Rest

  • Supper if possible -- TV with the family

  • Story--Scripture/Prayers--Bedtime


PLA well to recover!

Stormy School Closure Days


That phone call or web-post announcing weather-induced school closing can bring a mix of emotions to a parent.  In preparation for safety measures, those hours in the waiting both before and after the  actual storm are often forgotten until you are living them- occasionally in the dark!  After my first experience with kids on weather days, I added a rough framework of activities to my emergency kit along with the needed essentials.  I would like to share it here and encourage you to print it out and either tape under the lid of  of your emergency supply or keep with the flashlights.   There are no exact times, just a flow for when your brain needs to be focused on other things like adding wood to the fire or keeping everyone in the closet or under the stairs. All you need are one sock per family member, pillows and blankets. 

Awake and breakfast

3 minute stretch (optional Scriptures printed at bottom of page)

  •  stand strong, looking straight forward, head balanced and feet spread hip width  (1)
  • reach up in x stretch and pull down like putting on sweater. repeat. (2)
  • bend and touch toes, hang  arms over for a bit and swing side to side (3)
  • cat stretch- on all fours round back and then arch back repeatedly(4)
  • Child's pose- on knees, bend face to floor, and stretch arms out on floor in front of you (5)

  Sibling Team Time- 

  Items: One Clean sock balled up per family member (i.e. 5 people, 5 clean socks)

 Each person balance sock on head. Try to hug each other while balancing; then thumb             wrestle; then clap , touch your right hand to other person’s right, clap, touch your left hand to other person’s left, clap, touch both hands to other person’s. With more than one kid form a circle and move the items and activity around circle from person to person. Cheer each other on!  Think up more things to do as a group while balancing socks.   Work together and practice until entire team balances all socks.

Use socks on hands as puppets! Take turns saying nice things about each family member. Have their puppet say their favorite food, favorite color, favorite interest, then your puppet says your favorite thing about that family member. You can make it silly by whispering the answers in your puppet's "ear" so they know what to say.)

Team clean If safe, set timer and turn on music,  team clean one room for 5 minutes. Listen to timer and stop when it stops! There will be time to really clean on an ordinary day.


Free Play 30 minute free play

Dance Come together for 3-5 minute dance party to get wiggles out.

School target 20 minute read or school work to knock it out for day

Lunch  have a picnic in a fort or in the storm zone to add a bit of excitement, if safe and temperature appropriate to go on a porch, have it there.


even with Big kids (teenagers will roll eyes but in their 20s they will thank you- when done just on storm or sick days becomes special tradition)

Nap prep play (getting them to lie down while playing can help transition to closing of eyes:))

  • Option 1: Stack pillows and blankets and let kids fall into it
  • Option 2: have them lie on a blanket or towel; drag them around –just be sure to hold onto the where their head is and drag them backwards; be sure they understand only parents are allowed to drag someone
  • Option 3: lie in a blanket fort together and make shadow puppets on fort ceiling
  • Option 4: lie on your back on couch, by bed or by closet wall with feet over back of couch, propped on the bed, or up against the wall. Make your feet dance funny up in the air! Kids do this a lot; they just don't get to see their parents do it very often!

Movie or rest until movie is over or timer goes off  (read silently alone if wake before the timer)

5 minute snuggle time (all together)


Alone Time (see the "Alone Time" blog post) or another  20-30 minute school target for older kids

Free Play  or Rainy Day Bucket (bucket you have compiled by collecting all the items they have not put away since the last rainy day)

Team Clean 5 minute session; can do one or two rooms

Family supper preparation if safe, prep the final meal of the day together

***For power outages, play flashlight hide-n-seek, sardines, build a fort in safe space, if hunkered in the closet, allow kids to draw on wall but be sure to discuss the special instance that allows this and the only allowed wall space for it as well as only allowed utensils (i.e. pencil is easily painted over- but you may find yourself cutting out and replacing this piece of sheetrock and taking it with you when your move)

May we find God's peace in the storms of life and PLA well!


Optional Scripture:
(1) Psalm 3:3: "He is my glory and the One who lifts my Head." / "I am strong in the LORD and the power of His might."
(2)Colossians 3:12 : "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." 
(3) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. " 
(4) Job 33:4 : "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life."
(5) 1 Peter 5:7: "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." / Colossians 3:15a "Let the peach of Christ rule in your hearts...
Sibling Team Time - Romans 12:10 "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor  one another above yourselves."

Helping kids through missing someone

As I was riding with my youngest the other day en route to pick up her brothers, she says with a gentle sigh, “Mom, I miss Faith.” Faith was our 14-year-old Golden Retriever that passed more than 2 years ago. This quick comment reminded me that kids miss people/pets and often need help processing those feelings. Building their emotional vocabulary will often help them communicate more effectively and help resolve issues that occur as they feel the weight of a missed connection. Often when kids can’t express these feelings they might act out in other areas as they seek to move past missing a loved one.

I have recently been learning from foster families and have specifically discussed “missing” with some foster parents.  While foster and adopted children are often so happy to be in safe and loving new environments, they can still feel a loss and feelings of missing their biological parents can overtake them on certain days or just in unexpected moments.  Communicating this can be hard for the child.  Letting them know we miss people too and that it is totally normal to feel this can do wonders.

 I can understand this to some degree as a child of divorce. When I was 3 my heart was stretched over a 4 hour drive distance; being with one parent at a time meant this feeling was a regular companion- even at the most exciting events.  I eventually came up with some private ways I could focus on the joy I received from little things with each parent, keeping the draining feelings of sadness or anger from stealing the enjoyment completely.

The truth is all children are going to experience this feeling of loss in their lives. It may be from death- the passing of a pet, friend, grandparent. It could be due to a move or school’s redistricting.  The PLAtime Emotions box provides a brainstorm of tangible activities for parents or other caregivers to come alongside their children when this emotion occurs. However, I wanted to add some more here. 

1.     Squeeze love into a stuffed animal or ball and mail it to the missed one or to someone else who loved them.

2.     Write their favorite Scriptures on rocks and leave them in public places. Add (in honor of _______________)

3.     Google fun sayings about seasons and write them on cards, rocks, or wood craft pieces, put them with a new pair of socks and take to a nursing home or take them to a homeless shelter.  (Add the “in honor of____________)  If contact is possible with the missed person decorate while on the phone together or drop the items while on the phone together.

4.     Use a dry erase marker and write their favorite quote or funny things they used to say on a window. Sometimes business / restaurant owners will let you do this on a window especially if it was a favorite of the person.  Or post them to social media for others to see.

5.     Go on a “smile” hunt! See how many people you can get to smile back at you in a public place. Set a timer for 3 minutes and count that number in honor of the missed person.

6. If missing a pet, let your child take some treats to neighbors or teachers with pets in honor of the pet. Or take donations to a shelter.

7. When you miss someone, share with your child that you are missing them and ask them to join you to go to a library, for a walk/run, or feed some ducks or birds with you because that person liked to do that. Let them authentically see when you miss people too!  If that person has passed away and they were strong in praying for others, talk about how we can pray for others to carry on how they served that role so well.  Think of someone they would pray for and pray for that person.

8. If missing a place, go together on a hunt to find new favorite spots in a new city.  You can even make a fun chart to rate places you try and see how long one place stays in the top spot. Guard room in your finances and time budgets to do these visits at least every two weeks.  Librarys, parks, museums, and local shops are great places to start.  Check out the local chamber of commerce for suggestions.

May we grow to remember with joy over sadness and PLA well!


Parent Encouragement Drives PLAtime

Parents, you could use an assistant. I'm serious, being a parent is full time and non stop and you need an assistant! How great would it be to just point out a task that needs to be done and you have someone who can just handle it? While we at PLA can't be around to help with all of the things you need to accomplish we can be your assistant for one of the most important, relational time with your kids. As a service based on taking care of the details to allow for relational connections with your kids, we thrive on filling in the gaps for parents.  Working with various parents, we have heard the following top five phrases repeated and they have been major motivators in shaping PLAtime:

5) "I am tired of toys. They are everywhere and our house always feels cluttered." Toys can take over and we have bought the lie that we need new toys for each new developmental stage. PLAtime uses common items and pushes back on that deception.  These items can be either packed away in the box (smaller than an average shoe box) and used again in the same season next year or they can be incorporated into the household items to bring back fun memories during teeth-brushing (i.e. the timer from the Summer '17 box).  PLAtime also comes with Exended PLA for older ages so items can be used repeatedly throughout the years!

4) "I am divorced. My child/ grandchild only visits for short visits. We don't have much time together." Relational connection is PLAtime's primary goal. It creates fun memories with less competition than traditional games and it uses memory associations with everyday items the child will see when they are not in your presence. (i.e. a kitchen utensil). 

3)" I don't know what to do. I have a Master's in Business/Accounting/etc. but I don't know about how kids develop."  PLAtime comes with detailed instructions and the specific goal to work on.  Many times, traditional toys or games require the child to do multiple concepts at once to enjoy effective play (i.e. take turns, sort, match, follow directions, and use eye-hand coordination). PLAtime focuses on a Primary Key Target during the activity so parents know the exact target. The activity can be repeated later to target a Secondary concept.

2)  "I don't have a lot of money." PLAtime keeps the cost low. With several activities per box, we target $1.50 per activity. We keep the cost low by repeating the use of the item in a different way in another activity as well as ordering items in bulk and dispersing them to our customers. 

1) "I don't get enough good time with my child! We are just so busy!" This by far is the number one thing we hear and what drives PLAtime. We want parents and children to spend quality time together. We serve parents by doing the planning, prep, wrapping of Ninja Drops, and getting items in the same space so the parent can use the time they would normally spend doing the creating and gathering in actual one-on-one, face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder experiences with their child. 

The parenting phase flies by so fast! It also happens often simultaneously with so many other developmental events in our own adult lives - from building careers to spiritual growth, from medical challenges to maturing marriages, mixed in with aging parents, homes, and bodies and grieving our own losses. Time with our children while they are most present can get lost in the shuffle because it can seem like the kids are always there.  One day the reality that this season has limits will set in and when it does we want to have helped parents squeeze every ounce of relationship from those years.

PLA Well!


Back-to-School Relational Prep

Fall is one of my favorite times of year, as the season begins to usher in cooler nights and warm clothing we also begin to find ourselves in the busyness of life. School starting back, new sports seasons starting and if we are not careful we can easily overlook on the most important needs of our kids. Yes, it is important to get them ready for the school year and equipped for whatever activities they choose, but how can we prepare to provide for our kids relationally?

Our kids will encounter so many things in their relationships with friends and teachers and coaches. We can be the steady consistent influence to help them make sense of all the noise. We must be the voice that helps them remember the Truth of who they are and not lose site of how important and valuable they are.

The following are four ideas to help you invest in your child's school year and communicate both love and respect to them:

1) During the week leading up to school, do something one-on-one with each child.

  • Pack a lunch or grab some drive-thru. Picnic at a park (or in your own driveway or yard) and feed the birds or ducks some leftover pieces of bread or take some bird seed with you if you are fancy.
  • Let your middle schooler or high-schooler take you to a new lunch place introduced to them by their friends- let them give you guidance in your ordering or try some sauce they recommend. On the way listen to their music.  Some possible topics of conversation could include: hopes they have for the year, any grade-specific thing they are excited about or worried about, people they are most excited to see, people they may not be excited to see, any items or clothing they would like to have.
  • Take your elementary or preK child to picnic at the playground at their future school.  While there dream about the new friends they will meet and pray for their teachers and all they will learn.
  • Go together one-on-one to grab the supplies with each child.  Rotate which older child stays home with the others or partner with a friend to keep all the other kids while you two rotate taking one child at a time.  I did this three years with a dear friend and the kids loved the play time and their one-on-one hour.
  • Take your child to shop for a child in need and donate to any organization or store that is helping make those connections.
  • Bake some cookies together that you can pack in lunches during the first couple of days.

2) A new school year can give children a sense of starting fresh. Talk with your child about one word they would like to focus on this year so you can encourage them in that. Be patient and give them a few days to think it over. They may not know until a few months into the year but it leaves an open door to come and converse with you.  Some examples could be: contentment, authenticity, boldness, confidence, friendships, etc.  When they give you the word, pray for God to help them grow in this area.  Look for little ways to encourage them like memes to text them, magnets for their lockers, little books to read, or other ways to cheer them on in life.  

3)  Consider them when volunteering at their school. Ask for their input in what they would like for you to do.  If work or other things limit you, try to at least choose two options and let them have some say in which you participate.  Even kindergarteners feel respected and valued knowing they have influenced your decisions!

4) Plan a shared target schedule template for the season.  Incorporate chunks of time for homework, extracurricular practice, friend interaction, family time and of course, PLAtime.  This gives them days they can anticipate having your attention, shares expectations for when they can have friends over, and helps them budget their time and responsibilities.

May you have a great time with your child planning and dreaming about the new experiences and new ways they will grow this year!  








Colander PLA Activity

PLA Activity: Colander


PLAN: 1. Read through entire activity

            2.Choose a location with minimal distractions of chores or other toys

            3. Narrow your focus on helping child practice repetition of only one Key Target

**Pretend or creative play stretches the brain for increased problem solving


ADVANCE: Follow the PLA steps with your child encouraging even the wildest uses of colander. Take turns pretending what the colander can be or how it can be used in play.


RETURN: Discuss with your child how they can alter the activity to lead a sibling/ cousin/ friend through it with a different or expanded option from the “Extended PLA”.



Items Needed



Key Targets

PRIMARY: Symbolic/ Pretend Play leading to Problem Solving


PLA Steps:

For younger children, show them the colander and ask them if they know what it is… if not, what could it be? A Helmet? When turned over, a mountain in a Lego scene?   Then show them how it is used to drain what you don’t want to keep and keep what you do.  Wash fruit or drain pasta for a meal together.  Later in the week, do an alternative option from Extended Play. 

For older children, ask them to imagine some uses for it other than what it is usually used for and act it out…we came up with a fencing mask, a beekeeper hat, and explorer’s Pith helmet, a ravine for Hotwheels… then discuss how well it operates with its created function and connect to the optional Scripture.


Optional Scripture:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”- Romans 12:9 NIRV

(Additional Truth:  Philippians 4 especially verses 4-9 NIRV /James 1 especially vs 22-27)


Memory Association: 

When you see a colander, may it remind you to only “cling to what is good" and let the rest go far from you.


 Extended PLA: 

Repetitive exposure to the item with varying activities will strengthen the association.


Key Targets:

Functional Play, Symbolic Play, Turn taking

 -Mix water or sand in a bowl with small plastic toys, pour the bowl contents into the colander over the sink or trash or outside.  Watch the colander keep the toys and release the water or sand.  

- With a bouncy ball inside, hold the colander and move it in a circle. Roll bouncy balls or cars around inside the colander and listen to the sound it makes and feel the vibration. (Sensory)

-Place a ruler across the top of the colander to create a bridge. Try to roll the ball across without it falling into the colander. Try rolling the car. Use it to have a doll or action figure "walk" on it.

-Play catch with one person tossing clean balled up socks and the other catching them with colander

-Use the colander in the bath! Then see how easy it is to gather all the bath toys up to end bath-time by dragging the colander through the water to "catch" the toys and leave the water behind…

-Find a dark or low light area (hallway) and shine a flash light through the colander. Watch what shows up on the wall with light released through it… move closer and farther from wall to watch it change and move, grow and shrink, blur and become clear again.

-Use it to sort marbles from tiny beads. As the tiny beads fall through the colander, hold hands beneath and feel them shower your fingers. (Sensory)