Book review: Catholic Family Fun by Sarah A. Reinhard

As a teacher, I’m a strange hybrid:  a work-outside-the-home mom who, for two months every summer, becomes a stay-at-home mom.  And  I have found that when I’m home, I’m sometimes at a bit of a loss when it comes to entertaining my kiddos.  I don’t have the big bag of tricks that full-time stay-at-home-moms have — which is why Sarah Reinhard’s new book Catholic Family Fun is, as they say, scratching me right where I itch.

Sarah (who blogs at was one of the first online buddies I got to know when I started blogging in 2008.  And her other books (about observing Advent and Lent with kids) are super.  So it’s not surprising that Catholic Family Fun is such a treat.  It’s full of all kinds of activities that parents can do with kids, everything from games to service activities to theatrical productions to homemade greeting cards.  And what makes this book “Catholic” is that, for every activity, there is a short section  called “Faith Angle” that shows parents how they can make that particular activity tie in with the Catholic faith.  (For example, the entry about homemade greeting cards suggests that you help your kids make get-well cards for people on the parish prayer list; the section on a visit to the zoo invites you to see if you and your kids can remember times that animals appear in Bible stories).   Sarah also explains how each activity can be adapted in various ways to fit your needs, and the appendix at the end is super-helpful in organizing the activities by cost, duration, and prep time.

As I read the book, I dog-eared several pages with my favorite activities, and last Saturday morning I piloted one of them.  The activity was a scavenger hunt, and, taking a cue from Sarah, I adapted it to meet the personality of my own little test subject (a five-year-old who is learning how to read and who loves a challenge).

I announced to Matthew that we were going to do a scavenger hunt, and he was immediately intrigued.  “What’s that?”

“It’s where I write a list of things for you to find,” I told him.  “It’s really fun.”  I grabbed a notebook and a pen, parked myself on the couch, and within about five minutes (an interval during which I had to constantly angle my notebook away from the eager eyes of my little guinea pig), I had come up with a list of seven items for him to find.

I handed him the list and it was so gratifying to see him read each item aloud to himself, slowly.   After each one he’d say, “Oh!” and dash off, laughing, to find the necessary object.  We made a pile of them on the rug, and he could hardly contain himself with the excitement of it all.

“Mommy, let’s do another one!” he said the moment we were done.  So I grabbed the pen again, whipped out another list (I made it harder this time: it had items like “Find a mammal” and “Find a book that has purple on the cover”) and he ran around blissfully.  Inexplicably, he started to exclaim “Ay, caramba!” to himself each time he located an item, which I found simultaneously perplexing (where on earth did he learn that?) and really super adorable.  Happy shouts of “Ay, caramba!” echoed around the house, and our little pile on the carpet grew bigger, and I sat on the sofa and thought: Thank you, Sarah. This activity is gold.

“Let’s do it again!” he said after completing the second list, but as it was 11:20 in the morning and I had not yet showered, I told him we’d have to wait.

About twenty minutes later, I wandered into the dining room where I found Scott sitting at the table, notebook and pen in hand, with Matthew hovering eagerly nearby.  Daddy’s list proved to be even more challenging than mine, containing items like “Find a stuffed animal who is wearing clothes.”  But Matthew was thrilled with the game and, honestly, so am I.  It’s easy to pull off, it fills my son with joy, and he even gets to practice his reading in the process.

So I think my “fun quotient” just rose a few points.  And what’s even cooler is that this is just the beginning.  I have several more ideas to try, all thanks to Sarah’s great little book.

I think we’ll be hearing a lot more “Ay, caramba!” around here … and, as Matthew would be the first to tell you, that’s a very good thing indeed.

Thanks to Pauline Books for the review copy.  For even more information and activity ideas, check out the book’s website.

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