Today for my Quick Takes I’m reviewing Sarah Reinhard’s new book, Catholic Family Fun. This is a stop on Sarah’s virtual book tour, so she should be lurking around the combox ready to answer any questions you have.
FYI, Sarah is not only a super-friendly person, she is also an extrovert, which means that her life as a writer is made tolerable by finding people to chat with. So say “Hi Sarah!”. She’ll be excited.
This is what the book looks like:
You know how women’s magazines have those little articles about fun things to do with your family? This is like 10 years of those ideas all in one place. Only you are spared those obnoxious photos of pristine toaster ovens and closets organized by that sect of hermits who take a vow to own nothing but three pieces of splashy, sassy, ready-for-spring ensembles to pair with their strappy heels. Also, no perfume ads.
Instead you get page after page of practical, realistic ideas for unplugged family activities that you can customize to match your kids’ ages and interests. The chapters are organized by types of activities (crafts, meals, outdoor adventures, etc.), and there are several easy-to-read indexes in the back to help you quickly find the ones that match your budget and energy level. Most of the suggestions are either free, or involve money you were going to spend anyway. (You are going to eat today, right?)
Other than the chapters on prayer and on the saints, the activities themselves can be purely fun family time, or they can be explicitly tied to the Catholic faith. Every activity includes suggestions on how to make the faith connection.
What if you aren’t crafty? Don’t panic on the crafts, there aren’t that many and they are very low-key. Indeed, I’d say this is the perfect book for people who don’t do glitter glue, foam art, or anything involving popsicle sticks, ever. Did I mention Sarah R. is a real mom of young children, with a farm, and a writing job, and . . . you get the picture. You may find yourself wanting an internet connection to pull off a few of these activities (I see you have access to one, very good), but no glue gun will ever be needed.
What if you are, in fact, the grumpy, curmudgeonly type? See the next section. I advise letting your kids pick the activities. That way you never need fear you’ve gotten all goofy and relaxed for nothing. Also you could tell the kids you aren’t going to do Chapters 1 and 2 yourself, but you’ll give them five bucks if they’ll just be quiet while your finish reading the paper. (Um, wait a minute. No, that’s not how the book’s supposed to work. Oops.) Chapters 3-9 are Curmudgeon-Safe, though the one idea about a backyard circus makes me a little nervous . . .
Who could use this book? Three groups of people come to mind, and last was a surprise to me, but it’s true:
1. Parents, grandparents, and other relatives.
- If you’re trying to think up new ways to connect to the kids, and get out of the rut of doing the same old things.
- If you have a long summer vacation ahead, with stir-crazy children and no money for expensive camps and activities.
- Or if you didn’t have a satisfyingly Catholic childhood, and you want to find ways to share and practice your faith without being all stodgy and dour about it.
2. Kids. My daughter is fighting me for custody of our copy. The book is eminently readable, so you really can hand it to a late-elementary or older child, and say, “Pick something out for us to do Saturday.” I like that because then the onus is on the kids to decide which activity sounds fun — and I’m always surprised by what kids come up with when given the choice.
3. Catechists, VBS volunteers, scout leaders, and anyone else charged with keeping a group of kids busy for an hour or two. Some of the activities will only work in a family setting, but very many of them are well-suited to using in a classroom. The suggestions for faith tie-ins make this an awesome resource for religious ed and VBS. If your parish doesn’t have money for a high-priced pre-packaged program with talking pandas and cheesey chipmunk videos, you could seriously just go through this book and pick out activities to assemble a home-grown series of your own.
You know who loves a good VBS program? Allie Hathaway. It’s Friday, so we’re praying for her. And hey, offer up a quick one for Sarah Reinhard’s intentions as well. Thanks!
What else do you want to know? I’ve wrestled the book out of my daughter’s hands, so I’m happy to look stuff up and answer questions. Sarah’s around here somewhere, and if she doesn’t get to you today, she’s a very reliable combox-attender, so feel free to ask her questions as well.
You can also take a look at the Catholic Family Fun Facebook page, where people are sharing ideas, and the Catholic Family Fun website at Pauline Media, where if you click around there are a pile of useful resources in case maybe you don’t know any camp songs or g-rated knock-knock jokes.
PS: This and a package of pre-cooked bacon would make a great Mother’s Day gift.
Updated to toss in three bits of full disclosure, which together give the most accurate picture:
7.1) Pauline Media sent me a review copy.
7.2) You might have caught on, Sarah & I are friends, and perhaps you’ve noticed we work together at the CWG blog. Which means that if she wrote a lousy book, I just wouldn’t review it. I’m very grateful she doesn’t write lousy books, because that saves us a lot of awkward moments.
7.3) See “free book” above. I gave a copy of this book to my DRE, who is a mom and grandma of 10 bazillion children, and always
griping observing that all the grandkids do is play Angry Birds. I knew she’d love to pass it around her family, and I was thrilled to see she could use it for religious ed ideas too. But you know what? I did not give her my free copy. See, that’s what I would have done if this was a so-so book. Instead, I paid cash to buy her a brand new copy of her own.
Hey and a gratuitous 7.4: Let’s just clarify: If you want a collection of pom-pom art ideas, this is not your book.