My niece celebrated her 4th birthday the other day. And my sister in law’s love for color was everywhere! What fun…homemade parties are so much more creative. I don’t know why people spend so much money for birthday parties when you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost and kids will still have fun.
I belong to a homeschool playgroup of about 8 families. (We have tried to keep this group small.) This Christmas, our playgroup decided to be more purposeful about reaching out to the poor.
Personally, I don’t think our children are going to develop a heart to serve others unless we, as parents, provide opportunities for them to do so. So, I was thrilled when Cathee, one of the moms in our group, suggested that we “adapt” a group of 50 young children from Tondo for a day so we could do something special for them.
We invited them to come to Kidzville in Podium. The idea was to sponsor a day of feasting, playing, and fellowship. But most of all, we wanted them to hear the gospel message and let them encounter Jesus Christ. Besides our own financial commitments, I was so blessed by how people in the group were able to raise the funds and collect donations by enlisting the support of others — friends, family. God really provided more than enough. Of course, we all recruited our children to pack the give-away bags and groceries. They had a whole lot of fun doing it, too.
The day began early at Trevor and Bonnie’s home so we could consolidate everything by 11 am. We then headed to Podium Mall to meet the children at Kidzville. Located on the 4th floor of the mall, it is an amazing play place that looks like a miniature town. Another part of it is similar to Active Fun but scaled down a bit. My kids love this place. The owner graciously allowed us (thanks to Betty’s negotiating skills) to use the area to host the children from Tondo. (I must say that I was impressed with how carefully the Kidzville staff cleaned everything after the children used it. They washed all the toys and scrubbed the place down.)
Henry Gula, also a homeschool dad, gave the gospel message in Filipino. We let the children eat a hearty buffet meal sponsored by a lady in our group whom I am sure would prefer to remain unnamed. And the kids had the time of their life running around the play area. Afterwards, we distributed their bags and loaded groceries unto the bus they came in.
It was a very good ministry experience for our kids. Sometimes our children have no idea how blessed they are to have the comforts that they do. The kids from Tondo have so little. Some of them were practically inhaling their food because it was such a treat for them to be eating so much.
I set the same food in front of my kids and they said things like, “I’m not hungry. I don’t want to eat that.” I looked at them and replied, “Don’t you dare complain about the food. The children over there (pointing to where the Tondo kids were seated) go through the trash to find food to eat. They eat bones from chicken that people throw away. So don’t tell me that you don’t like your food. You will eat that food.” The bones thing is very true. It was featured on TV. My kids looked at my I-mean-business-face when I said this and proceeded to eat.
This experience was one way to let our children get up close and personal with poverty. They told me this evening that they learned to be more grateful. I really don’t want our children to grow up so unconscious of how impoverished other people are. I sometimes fear that the comforts they are so used to will make them approach life with a sense of entitlement. So these ministry outreaches are an important part of their education. I really believe it helps to condition their hearts to look beyond themselves to see the needs of others.
We were only able to reach out to fifty children. In relation to the number people who need to be clothed, fed, and ministered to spiritually, this seems so insignificant. But I am hoping that our playgroup can do this kind of thing more frequently.
I was at the park with my kids one afternoon, when I heard a mom freaking out about her son’s dirty shoes. In the background, I caught sight of my own kids looking like a bunch of scalawags compared to the neat little boy who was being protected from mud at all costs. They were making soupy sand with a water hose and tossing sand bombs. Disheveled hair, sweaty bodies, and muddy feet and legs made for quite a sight as they and their cousins took over the sandbox.
I don’t mind dirt. Kids need dirt once in a while. As long as they don’t eat it and as long as they take baths after they are done rolling around in it, then that’s quite alright with me.
My parents were the same way with my siblings and I growing up. They let us run around barefoot in the yard, climb trees, dig traps, slip and slid down the grass, play house and make actual fires for cooking our “food.” We could explore any part of the house, even the roof, and we spent a whole lot of time with our stinky pets (I had a native monkey). My siblings displayed mud balls on the bathroom counter like little trophies and we almost always had black feet when we came back into the house. I don’t remember wearing much either. We were always half-naked or so it seemed (until we hit puberty, of course).
Those were fun years.
It’s harder to replicate that kind of childhood for our kids because we are urbanites. Living in the heart of the city doesn’t give them much opportunity for mud adventures. I miss that kind of outdoorsy lifestyle which has been replaced by computer games, tv, Internet, IPods, IPads, etc.
I did some research on outdoor play and discovered that playing outside has many benefits that we don’t always think about. It helps improve eyesight, it encourages an appreciation for God’s creation, it exposes children to many opportunities to enhance their gross motor skills. They also invent games when they are outdoors. Running around, leaping, jumping, swinging, climbing are all great for burning calories, and these activities keep kids less susceptible to developing obesity and heart disease. Exposure to vitamin D from the sun (during less intense times of the day) also keeps them healthier. Furthermore, being surrounded by nature engages all of their senses. The National Wildlife Federation even claims that kids who get outside “need less medication and are less prone to depression.”
Edric and I have to be creative as city people homeschooling our kids. The fact that our kids’ default mode is to play inside is not their fault, but ours. Edric and I may go running on some mornings but the kids don’t join us because it is way too early. And we spend most of our day inside. So our kids do the same and will continue to do so unless we are more purposeful about their daily activities.
I remember how intentional my parents were with us. They had daily morning walks with us. We would swim in the nearby club together. They built a simple, outdoor playground, and a mini basketball court in the backyard. We had a rope that hung from a tree so we could swing on it. And they got us all kinds of pets.
Edric and I may not be able to do exactly the same for our kids because of space constraints, but recently, we have been trying harder to instill a love for the outdoors in them. Even if we live in the city, there are many things that we can do for free or inexpensively. A condo lifestyle shouldn’t be a hindrance or an excuse.
One of the things we have done is enroll our older boys in a Football (soccer) club – Azkals Global Football. We pay 300 pesos/child for every 2.5 hours of soccer training. The group we joined is an all homeschoolers group of kids, which is great. The coaches are more exacting of the kids, too (which we prefer.) They toughen up the boys. Our little kids accompany them and play beside the field. During the rest of the week, we try to take the kids to a nearby park or go to High Street. Sometimes, we take walks with the kids, too.
The good news is our kids are starting to really like playing outside, but it is still a pitiful amount of time compared to what we had growing up. We really hope to condition them to prefer the outdoors as their play area of choice. But Edric and I can’t just hope that our children will prefer to play outside, we have to go outside with them. So we are doing that whenever we can.
Today, our playgroup was at a park. The kids ran around with their friends and they invented all sorts of games. I loved hearing them laugh and shout out game rules. They would come panting back to where the moms were gathered to ask for a drink or a snack every now and then. I looked at all their sweaty faces and dirtied clothes and I thought, this is what kids should be doing in the afternoons…getting sweaty, dirty, and stinky while playing outside. That’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of!
I never thought Star City could be a fun family place. My impression of it dated to way back when it seemed like a glorified local carnival which lacked the actual thrill factor of big amusement parks. But we were invited to spend the afternoon there for a birthday party and the kids couldn’t get enough of it! They especially loved the Snow World attraction which allowed them to experience icy cold weather and slide down an ice slide. (I recommend bringing your own coat and mittens to this one. I was in shorts and had to run out after about fifteen minutes even when they lent me a jacket.)
There were a couple of areas and rides that needed renovation to really make them world class, but for 350 pesos as an all-you-can-ride entrance fee, your kids will not be bored. And it’s a contained enough space that you won’t be dead tired walking around. If you are there during a weekday, like homeschoolers can afford to do, you will practically have the place all to yourselves! It’s open from Monday to Thursday, 4pm onwards. And Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 2 pm onwards. We went on Friday and it didn’t get crowded till about 5pm.
The 350 entrance fee gives you access to everything except Mid-way games, coin operated machines, Snow World, Lazer Blaster, 4D Theater, and Walk on Water. Check out their website for more details Star City
As a family bonding experience, I do recommend this place. It was very enjoyable for my kids and the kids in our playgroup. We were all so blessed. It was a great birthday celebration idea!
Just watch out for some of the rides which have visual experiences that may scare young children — like movable life-size people. Tiana and Edan didn’t like those. (Edan could not sleep very well afterwards). Also, we did not go into the rides like Dungeon, Gabi Ng Lagim, and Kilabot Ng Mummy.
One of the highlights for me was buying 3 wigs for 80 pesos each. I thought they were a steal. My kids like to do role playing games every now and then so I thought they would like having some wigs for their dramatics.
For our playgroup, we had volunteer firefighters come over and teach the kids about fire safety.
Fire truck arrives!
Volunteer firefighter and friend of mine, Kim Evangelista, gives the talk, “Learn Not to Burn” to the playgroup kids.
Kids learn how to use a mini extinguisher to put out a fire.
Sparky the fire dog entertains the kids and demonstrates how to crawl to a fire exit and “stop, drop and roll!” Tiana volunteers to crawl.
Volunteer firefighter, Jester Wong, shows the kids how to put on every piece of equipment a fireman needs to wear to be protected when he enters a burning building or home.
The kids’ favorite part was shooting the water out of the fire hose! It’s more fun in the Philippines!
Learning about fire safety does not get more fun than this!
My two younger boys love M&Ms. After taking them to the grocery, I bought each of them a pack of M&Ms. I thought they would both finish them. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Edan left some for Tiana. “I am saving them for Tiana,” he said and gave me the bag to put in my purse. Delighted and blessed by his thoughtfulness, I gave him a big hug and kiss, telling him repeatedly that I was so proud of him for being so thoughtful! Titus, my third son, was watching and listening to us. He poured out some M&Ms into his hand and then handed me the rest of the bag and said, “Here, mom, this is for Tiana!”
“That’s so sweet!” I encouragingly told him, hugging and kissing him, too. A smile cut across his face. “Were you copying your kuya?” I asked. He nodded. This was a big deal for my three year old, Titus, who is still learning how to share.
I often see the power of sibling influence in effect among my four kids. The older ones look out for the younger and the young ones look up to the bigger ones. And they all entertain each other!
We waited nearly thirty more minutes for my sister to come out of the grocery but the boys invented games, sang songs, told each other jokes, and wrestled. It was a little noisy but I enjoyed seeing them have so much fun together. It’s times like these that I thank the Lord for lots of kids. Being a mom is such sweet joy. Truly it is as the Bible says…
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.”(Psalm 127:3 NASB)