By Karen Whiting, Crosswalk.com
New Year’s Day or the first week of the year is a great time for your family to start the year well.
Celebrate the time with some new food, new books, new games, new hugs, encouragement, and a new devotional that also promotes mental, physical, and spiritual growth.
My husband and I made these activities an annual tradition. We began by reading the Creation story or the coming new world at the end of Revelation. We talked about life and the newness of fresh starts. Then we focused on these five different areas:
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Develop Great Minds
There are lots of fun but educational ways to grow the minds of your children. We choose special books and games for the start of the year. We picked games that focused on strategy, cognitive skills, and learning new information.
We chose books for each child to stretch their minds and imagination. We sometimes chose nonfiction with facts or crafts that tap into creativity. On other years, we chose a classic or new fiction title to let their minds relax or investigate thoughts and other places or times.
Take time to play the new games. You can also enjoy a favorite game and play it together. A game that involves a number of players brings more laughter. Focus on the play and learning rather than who is winning or losing.
Romans 12:2 reminded us to consider God’s wisdom in making choices: “Do not be shaped by this world. Instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you. And you will be able to know what is good and pleasing to God and what is perfect.”
Talk through the best ways to make wise decisions and avoid impulsive choices. Share good choices made last year and poor choices that brought undesired consequences.
Spend some conversations on discussing creativity that helps the mind too. Be open to a variety of subjects even if everyone does not share the same perspective and choose to discuss them calmly.
Read some of the news around the world as well as local news to understand other people and to be aware of what is happening. See who can locate a country of the world in the news on a map.
You’ll stretch minds!
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Nourish Healthy Bodies
Sample new foods, including a few snacks or desserts and fruits. Encourage everyone to try!
Discuss nutrition including how a balanced plate of food should look. Talk about menu planning and cooking together. Read Psalm 139 about how God created each person to be unique. He loves every inch of us, down to the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7).
Help each family member be happy in their own skin. It’s not about weight and diets. It’s about making the best choices each day on caring for our bodies from brushing and flossing teeth, dressing for the weather and occasion, to eating well.
Praise each person for their looks such as a great smile, glowing skin, or good posture.
Choose how to let family members team up for cooking. Maybe a dad and daughter grill night or mom and son bread making could become part of a monthly meal deal. Note people’s favorite foods and be sure to consider those with upcoming meal plans.
Discuss the body’s need for water and how much we need to drink. Water helps our cells, digestion, and much more. Share the need for various nutrients:
- Proteins (macronutrients so you need lots of this) to build new cells, maintain tissue, Protein also helps your nerves to send messages back and forth in your body
- Vitamins for growth and to function well
- Calcium for strong bones and teeth plus to help the nervous system work well
- Iron for healthy blood
- Fatty acids for a longer life and to feel happy.
Discuss how we eat is also important. Eating slowly and sitting up is better for our digestion. Sharing meals adds to our happiness and helps families remain close. If your family has a crazy schedule, chat about when you can gather together to share a meal or snack.
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Maintain Strong Muscles
Get moving together. Put on music to dance or lead the family in jumping jacks and other calisthenics. Consider how you can spend time this year to keep your bodies fit. Choose to take exercise breaks in the coming months, from watching shows or homework and reading. Rotate who leads with stretches, aerobics, or other short movement drills.
Plan to add regular fun activities to the family calendar with dancing, family hikes, obstacle courses, or outdoor games that get everyone moving. Make it a weekly goal to do something physical together.
Walking is always great and even helps improve memory. Mix in squats and lunges as they improve balance. Bending and standing give your back a good workout, especially if when you bend down you bend your elbows and pull your arms back and then relax them. Lift water bottles to add simple weights for added strengthening.
Discuss the need for rest too. Chat about the importance of slowing down and relaxing. Discover how each person likes to relax. What helps each one have a good night’s sleep? What relieves stress for each person?
Avoid overfilling the calendar this year. Discuss who has a heavy schedule and how they can lessen it.
Do a few stress relief exercises such as should rolls, deep and slow breaths, and slowly turning your heat to look over one shoulder and then the other (this can relieve headache pain too).
Try to untighten muscles by tightening and releasing. So, wrinkle your nose or forehead and let go; arch your back and then relax it, hold in your stomach and then relax it, hold in your biceps and then relax your arms. Curl toes up and then relax them. These little movements help muscles relax and lessens tension. They also keep your heart physically healthy.
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Grow Lasting Faith
We review a scripture on faith that will inspire us to commit to studying God’s Word, such as Colossians 3:10: “Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.”
It’s a good time to give each person a new faith-based book to read that might be the first in a fiction series, a new biblical resource book, or a daily journal to write out private thoughts.
Look back on the past year to see how faith impacted your lives. We kept a little book where we filled out a few pages each year. We noted the funniest, best, worst, and happiest moments of the past year.
We looked at the previous year’s prayer requests to see what ones God answered. Then we listed each person’s prayer request for the coming months.
On New Year’s Day, we revealed the new weekly or daily family devotional we plan to use and started off with the first one. It’s also a good time to discuss what verses might serve as great guides for the coming year and let each person state how they hope to live out one of the scriptures.
Post those verses where you will see them often.
Be enthusiastic and share how God works in your lives when we make prayer a daily habit and live out the scriptures we study. Pray before leaving home, at meals, and before bed. Hang up a dry erase board to list prayer needs and answers.
Faith includes gratitude to God. Take time to thank God for your family, home, food, friends, and other blessings. That helps each person focus on God and develops thankful hearts. Let each person state an attribute or name for God that is meaningful to him or her.
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Nurture Servant Hearts
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10) is a verse to guide your family in the new year.
We want us to love and serve one another. Gather together for a group hug and expressions of love to renew the heart of your family. Chat about the verse and how forgiveness makes our hearts clean and how cheering for one another helps each person persist and persevere through challenges.
Choose to be kind to one another. Talk about what kindness means and how encouraging words make a difference. Let each person share how one member served her and her that brightened the day. Let each person also share how they like to serve family members.
As Christians, we are called to serve beyond the walls of our homes and people we love. Be willing to shower others with kindness and choose ways you will do that this year. Think of ways to be friendly and kind to neighbors.
Greet them with a smile, help elderly ones and those facing hardships with yardwork or little gifts of homemade meals and goodies or a simple card of encouragement.
Make it a habit to ask how each person found an opportunity to bless someone during the day. Simple actions and words like opening a door, complimenting a person, of listening to someone who had a tough day blesses others. Also, share how someone blessed you or made you laugh or smile.
Think of your community and ministries at your church that reach out as well as other organizations that help people. Think of how your family can help and make a commitment to do that with something that can fit your schedules.
Let these simple discussions and activities become traditions in your home to celebrate the New Year and begin each year with a positive outlook that fosters your children’s overall growth.
Karen Whiting is a mother of five and grandmother of twelve. She writes to encourage families. Her newest family devotional helps families grow servant hearts. It’s titled 52 Weekly Devotions for Families Called to Serve.
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