Friday, March 4, 2011

Kids Need Truth

There are long-standing traditions of deceit in some families.  Kids are told that Santa Claus is real, that there is a Tooth Fairy who buys their teeth, and that there's a big bunny who goes around hiding candy on Easter morning.  Yes, these made-up characters can seem like fun, but what if your children really believe these things?  What will they think when they learn that you have been lying to them?  How will they feel?  Betrayed, hurt, doubtful of other things you've told them?

What a way to dive into a sensitive subject, huh?  But really, whether you tell your kids that Santa Claus is the one who brings them presents on Christmas morning or not, don't you think it's a good idea to consider the consequences of lying to your children?  

Lying is one of the quickest ways to undermine our trust and authority as parents and caregivers.  It is also teaches kids that it's okay to lie in certain situations.  We may believe that it IS okay to lie in certain situations - like when we explain to our boss that we are home sick with the flu when we really just wanted an extra day off.  Or when we make up important-sounding reasons for why we aren't available to play with our kids.  But when our kids start lying back at us, following the examples they've been given, it's easy to preach that lying is wrong.

As parents, shouldn't we want our kids to trust us?  Shouldn't we avoid betraying our children?  Shouldn't we teach them to tell us the truth by example as well as with words?  Let's show our kids how to live honest lives.

One of the best ways to foster close and healthy relationships with our children is to lovingly tell them the truth.  This doesn't mean we need to go into gory details about what happened to Fido, the family dog who was hit by a car.  It doesn't mean we need to tell our preschoolers the latest news headlines about suicide bombings or share with them personal details about our adult relationships.  It does mean we need to take their questions seriously, think of honest, age-appropriate answers, and tell the truth.  If we don't know the answer to a question, we should admit it.  If we don't know how much information to give, we can tell them that we'll think about the question and get back to them with an answer after giving it some thought and research.  If we don't want to answer a question, we should kindly admit that, too.

It is better to say to a child, "I'm not going to tell you about that right now because you are too young," than to make up an answer to a tough question.  Kids will eventually find out when you've told the truth and when you haven't, and your level of honesty will play a big factor in determining their level of honesty when you ask them who broke the lamp in the living room.

Questions for thought/discussion:
How do you do when it comes to being honest with your kids?  Have you ever told your kids something truthful and then wished you hadn't?  If so, how did you handle the situation?  How have you handled a situation in which you believed your kid to be telling a lie?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kids Need Friends

Pretty much everyone knows that it's important for kids to make friends.  And I think most people will agree that it matters what kinds of friends kids make.  Some friendships are more harmful than helpful.

How do we, as parents and caregivers, help foster healthy friendships in our children?  One way is making sure that we set a good example in our own friendships.  Our kids watch us and often follow our example.  If we have friends who build us up, are positive influences on us, and are there for us in times of trouble, our kids will see the value of good friends.

Another way is making sure that we give our kids opportunities to make healthy friendships beginning when they are young.  If we let our kids spend time with friends who swear, hit, and bully, our kids will learn those behaviors.  If, on the other hand, we seek out parents who share our interests, beliefs, and values, and then provide opportunities for our kids to spend time with theirs, we can hope that healthy friendships will develop.

Unfortunately, we can't always control the kinds of friends our kids make.  Starting with preschool or daycare, we lose much of the control we have over whom our kids chose as friends.  Yes, we still say who comes over to visit and who gets invited to birthday parties.  But if there is a bully or class clown or rebel in our kid's class, we can't keep our kid away from that influence.  If there is a liar or tattle tale or an abused child, our child will be exposed and influenced.

Obviously, we can still teach our children right from wrong at home.  We can talk with our kids about the friends they are making.  We can teach them good friend-making skills (see this article on the importance of friends and friend-making skills by Dr. Michele Borba).  We can invite their friends into our homes so we can observe them and find out how they are impacting our kids - whether positively or negatively.  We can explain to our kids that bullying, lying, hitting, cheating, and disrespectful behavior are wrong.  We can teach by example.

Some of us can even make choices to limit our kids' exposure to bad influences by homeschooling, seeking out high quality daycares and preschools, and enrolling our kids in private schools.  If you have young children and are concerned about how their behavior has changed since they began preschool or grade school, I encourage you to examine your options.  One very legitimate option, especially for families where one parents stays home, is homeschooling.  This book by Lisa Whelchel, So You're Thinking About Homeschooling, describes a variety of homeschooling situations and encourages families that there is no one way to homeschool.

Questions for thought/discussion:
What do you do to promote healthy friendships in your kids' lives?  How do you respond when you suspect your kid is making unhealthy friends?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kids Need Sick Time

I'm fortunate to have a husband who has a lot of sick time at his job in the public school system.  He can take something like 15 sick days per year.

I'm not sure how much sick time the average kid needs in a year, but I am pretty sure that it's good for our kids when we parents and caregivers let our kids have time to be sick.

Every kid gets sick.  Every kid needs time to recover from being sick.  This can be a challenge for parents who work and have limited sick time themselves.  It can also be a challenge for parents who are sick and have to take care of their sick children.  Even parents who are healthy and available can find it challenging to change their routine, set aside their busy schedules, and care for a sick child (or children).

Nevertheless, giving our kids time at home to rest, drink fluids, and recuperate is better for their long-term health.  And don't forget the importance of emotionally supporting and encouraging our kids when they are sick.  I don't mean coddling a faker, but I do mean building up your relationship with your children by comforting and cuddling with them when they're sick.  Show them that you care about how they feel and that you are here to care for them no matter what.

Kids forced back into their active daily lives before they've had a chance to recover are more likely to develop secondary infections like ear infections and bronchitis.  They are more likely to need antibiotics.  They are also likely to take longer to recover and may get sick again sooner.

Plus, kids who are still recovering from illness may still be contagious.  Sending a sick kid to school and other social settings may expose other kids and adults, some of whom suffer from weakened immune systems.

So take it easy on kids when they're sick.  Let them rest up and recover so they can face the world again in good health.

Questions for Thought/Discussion:
What do you find most challenging about taking care of sick kids?  What are some tricks or tips you've learned that have helped you through caring for sick kids?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kids Need Routine

Actually, a more fitting title for this post might be "Kids Usually Benefit from a Daily Routine as Long as the Routine is not too Rigid or too Loose," but that seemed a little long for a title.

By routine, I don't mean a rigid, unvarying sequence of events or procedures.  I do mean a schedule of events or tasks that should be done daily in a certain order with some flexibility thrown in.

Kids benefit from knowing that they can count on certain things happening at certain times throughout the day.  Meals, naps, and bedtimes are all important parts of a kid's schedule that should happen at approximately the same time and in the same way pretty much every day.  Irregular schedules lead to things like over-snacking, lack of sleep, and anxiety.  If a kid's body can count on getting fed and resting regularly, the kid will be healthier, happier, and better able to function in the world.

Some kids rely on routine more than others due to personality differences.  Some parents find routines easier to implement than others due to the same.  Even if you are a parent who doesn't naturally do routine, try setting up a loose sequence of events for the day and sticking with it as often as possible.  It will help you make sure your kids are getting what they need when they need it.

I tend to be more of a rigid person when it comes to routine.  I want things to happen in a certain way and in a specific order every day.  I've had to learn to loosen my grip on the routine and be ready to postpone or skip nap time occasionally for play dates, let my kids rest more when they need to, and let them stay up later occasionally to attend special events.  On most days, I find it does my kids and me good to stick with that routine, though.  I don't have set times when things HAVE to happen, but I do have windows of time each day when I serve up breakfast, lunch, and dinner, tuck the kids into bed, and, since I'm a homeschooling mom, do school with my kids.

Bedtime is a key time for family routine.  A routine of bath time, pj time, teeth brushing, story time, song time, etc. can really get kids ready to settle in for the night.  If your young kids have trouble getting to bed on time, I suggest you map out a bedtime routine, including a set time when the routine starts, and stick with it for a week or two.

As your kids get older, family routines help protect family time.  A certain time when the family eats dinner together most evenings can help teens feel more secure.  So don't dismiss routine just because your kids are able to get themselves ready for bed at night.  Some level of family routine helps kids learn to set and stick to their own schedules later on in college and the workplace.

Questions for thought/discussion:
What are your thoughts on routine?  Do you tend to be more rigid or lax when it comes to routine?  How do your kids respond to routine or lack of routine?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kids Need Consequences

When kids push the limits, they need to experience the consequences.  This is the only way they will learn that they are responsible for the choices they make.  What they do matters, and they need to be taught this truth from an early age.

Parents and caregivers set the limits/rules/boundaries for the kids in their care, and they determine what the consequences for breaking those rules will be.  Healthy consequences are related to the rule that was broken, safe, and enforced in love, not anger.  It is best to decide on the rules and the consequences for breaking them in advance.  Then you will know what to do when your kid breaks the rules - because he/she will break the rules.  That fact is certain.  When you teach your child a rule, plan on your child breaking that rule and plan on having to administer an appropriate consequence.

When a child breaks a rule, he or she will learn best if the consequence for breaking the rule is related to the rule itself.  If a child throws food on the floor, a consequence might be losing dessert or having to clean up the mess (or both).  If a child misbehaves and delays bedtime, a consequence might be having to go to bed earlier the next night or losing story time that night.  If a child is disrespectful, a consequence might be taking time out to be alone until he/she can apologize.  A good consequence takes the child's unique personality, likes, and dislikes into account.  For example, if your child loves story time, he/she will not want to lose story time at night and will be more likely to get ready for bed on time.  Another child might care little about story time, but will not want to go to bed earlier tomorrow.

Children should experience safe consequences when they break the rules.  The consequence should never involve any type of abuse such as yelling, demeaning, disrespecting, beating, slapping, ignoring, or depriving the child.  Also, a consequence that is generally considered safe for most children, might not be safe for your child if he/she is experience an extreme reaction to the consequence.  For instance, a child who seems to interpret a time-out in his or her room as being abandoned may need a different consequence.  Perhaps being confined to a chair in the corner of the room would serve the child better.  Be careful about interpreting your child's reactions.  Some children are good actors and will try to manipulate you by over-reacting to an consequence.  There is no substitute for knowing your child.

Parents and caregivers should administer the consequence in a loving and kind manner.  Having an angry, vengeful attitude about enforcing a consequence may teach your children that your love is conditional, that it's okay to seek revenge, and that they can "push your buttons" and control you by making you angry and upset.  If you are angry when a child does something wrong, take a few minutes to get past your anger before enforcing the consequence.  If you know you are so angry you might do something harmful (such as yelling or hitting), send your child to his/her room immediately or take a time-out yourself by going to a room where you can be alone for a few minutes.  Lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary.  If your child is very young, put you child in a playpen or crib before taking your time out.  When you are able to think straight and enforce the appropriate consequence in a calm manner, do so.

Here are two books that give helpful advice for setting limits and consequences for children: 
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman and Who's in Charge Here? by Bob Barnes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kids Need Limits

Kids need to know what their limits are.  They need to know the rules.  And who makes the rules?  The parent(s)/guardians/caregivers.  It's up to us to decide what the family limits are, teach them to our kids, and enforce them.  The kids are responsible for living within these limits.  And for pushing the limits to see what the consequences will be.  Kids break rules because they want to know whether or not the limits are real.  More specifically, they want to know that their caregivers care enough to enforce the limits.  If there are no boundaries, there is chaos, uncertainty, and danger.

Limits/boundaries/rules keep a kid safely enclosed in healthy, respectful, obedient behavior.  It would be nice if the rules could always be clearly stated, easily remembered, and readily understood.  In some instances, they can be.  "Whash your hands after using the toilet" is pretty straight forward.  However, many rules, such as "be respectful," must be taught and defined over time.  What does it mean to be respectful?  No name-calling, no yelling, no defiant looks?  You can see that rule-making isn't always clear-cut and simple.  It's important to spend time with your kids not only teaching them the rules, but also modeling proper behavior.  The better you know your kids and vice versa, the better you will be able to define the limits and the better your kids will understand them.

When your kids are young, start with the basics: no biting, no hitting, no throwing blocks at other people's heads, no playing with electrical outlets, etc.  Model good behavior for your kids and initiate discussions about what it means to be kind, respectful, and polite.  Some rules will arise as you kids break them: "No throwing food on the floor at mealtimes."  Others are best decided upon and taught ahead of time: "Stay away
from the road when you're playing outside."

Next time, we'll talk about setting the consequences for breaking the rules.

For now, think about the following:
What are the limits/rules/boundaries in our home?  Have I taught my kids what the limits are?  If not, maybe it's time to make a short list.  Customize the rules to your family and kids' developmental levels.  Try to explain the rules in simple language - especially for very young kids.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Kids Need Work

Kids need to learn how to work.  I'm not advocating child labor.  I am advocating teaching children how to do small tasks early on; such as picking up their toys, throwing their dirty clothes in the hamper, and picking up the Cheerios they threw all over the kitchen.  Kids need to be taught how to take care of themselves and their homes, and that involves work.

When a kid grows up and leaves home, he or she should know how to do laundry, wash dishes, prepare meals, dust, vacuum, clean the bathroom, take out the trash, organize their belongings, and complete other necessary chores.  Rather than trying to give your children a crash course in domestic tasks like these just before they walk out the door (or over the phone during their first week at college), try to teach them new chores as they become able to complete them.  Teach both boys and girls how to manage and maintain a household.  You don't want your child to be the one who doesn't wash his/her sheets for an entire semester at college because he/she doesn't know how to run a washing machine.

It's important to remember that kids won't be able to perform tasks up to your standards at first.  When they finish a new task and seem to be trying their best, encourage them: "You did a good job!"  And remind your child that the task will get easier with practice.

Be careful about how you reward your children for doing work, or chores, around your home.  Rather than encouraging your children to work only for the prize they will get at the end, teach them that work is a necessary and important part of life.  Since they are a part of your family, they need to do their part to make sure the household functions in a clean and somewhat orderly manner.  That, in itself, is a reward children should be taught to value. 

Read this brief article for some helpful guidelines for teaching kids to work: Household Chores Teach Kids Responsibility by Shannon Hutton

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kids Need Play

Kids need to play.  Our culture tries to push kids into organized activities early on, and soon their schedules are filled with school, sports, lessons, and competitions.  What down time they have is often spent watching TV, playing video games, or on the internet.  Even very young children are quickly caught up in this pattern.

Here are two types of play that are beneficial to kids: 
  • Unstructured play.  This is where the kids are given time and opportunity to play freely amongst themselves or alone - without TV or other media to distract.  Giving kids time to play on their own early on helps teach them how to entertain themselves so you don't have to hear "I'm bored!" over and over again when they get older.  On the other hand, kids who are constantly entertained by TV, video games, shopping trips, or even well-meaning caregivers are more likely to find themselves "bored" because they don't know how to keep themselves occupied.  Another good way to prevent boredom is teaching your kids how to work, but I'll save that topic for another day.
  • Play with caregivers.  There are parents out there who enjoy playing with their kids, and there are parents who hate it.  Even if you hate playing with your kids, you can choose to do it for their benefit.  It will show them that you care about them, it will help you enter their world, and you will be able to teach them new ways to play.  Don't assume that your child will know how to play with a ball or a top.  Teach them how to roll that ball across the floor or spin that top until all the colors on it blend together.  At other times, let your children direct the play so you can find out what interests them and get to know them better.  When my kids are pestering me to play with them, I find that spending fifteen to twenty minutes doing just that is more rewarding than spending half-an-hour to an hour putting them off while I try to do my own thing.  Yes, there are times to say "no" to your kids and tell them that you need to do something important.  But there are also times to put your kids' need for your focused attention ahead of your own desires.
Tip for the day: 
Read this article on the benefits of play: 11 (Not So Surprising) Benefits of Play by Dr. Michele Borba.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kids Need Teachers - And You Can Be One Of Them!

Teaching kids is a big part of parenting.  Parents teach their kids to feed themselves, dress themselves, and use the potty, among other things.  Kids have so much to learn.  If you're a parent or childcare provider, teaching is part of your job.

Most parents know that it's their job to teach kids the basics of self-care and some social skills.  Many even understand that they can and should teach their kids shapes, colors, letters, and counting skills.  But did you know that you, as a parent, can significantly contribute to your child's academic education?

You don't have to be a certified teacher to give your kids a love of books and reading.  You don't have to be a mathematician to teach your four or five-year-old to add and subtract with Cheerios.  You, as a parent, have the power and ability to instill a love of learning in your children from a very young age and to continue to encourage and support that learning throughout their lives.  

When you have time with your kids, use part of that time to teach them.  I'm not suggesting that you make them sit at a desk and give them worksheets to complete, although there are a few kids who enjoy that sort of teaching.  I am encouraging you to have a look at the world around you, consider your child's interests and abilities, and find ways to teach them something they didn't know before.  

It could be as simple as taking your kids for a walk outside and collecting leaves or rocks to examine.  Or looking up information about butterflies on the internet.  Or running sprints across the lawn and timing each other with a stopwatch.  Or teaching your child how to measure the flour for a batch of cookies.  Or figuring out how much of your child's allowance will be left after he or she buys a new toy.  Or looking at your child's schoolwork, finding out what he or she is learning in various subjects, and coming up with ways to add to that learning at home.  

Don't depend solely on schoolteachers for your child's education.  Schoolteachers are important and most of them do an excellent job.  However, they need you, the parent, to support their efforts.  Kids can't learn everything they need to succeed academically and relationally during their time at school.  They need parents who will show them that learning isn't just part of school; it's part of life.

Thought for the day:
Kids need teachers.  I don't have to be a certified teacher to teach my kids.  How can I be a teacher in the life of my child?  How can I encourage academic learning in my child?  What are some small ways I can add to my child's knowledge of the world?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kids Need Rest

Kids need time and encouragement to get their rest.  Not only do they need a good night's sleep as often as possible, they also need down time to relax.

The frantic pace of our culture tends to deny kids their rest.  Many kids get up early to go to school and stay up late to finish their homework (or watch TV or play video games).  Kids need caretakers who will enforce age-appropriate bedtimes.  This varies according to age.  This article on has some sleep guidelines to help you figure out if your child is getting enough sleep and how to set an appropriate bedtime.

Kids also need downtime to stay at home and relax.  Too many activities during the week can keep a kid so busy that there is no time to simply enjoy the home you've made for him or her.  Schedule time as a family to simply stay home and be together.  Read together, play board games, eat together, talk with each other.  Restful time at home together is important for the health of your family.

Rest is important for kids' health (both physical and mental).  Kids who don't get enough rest are more likely to struggle in school, get sick, and suffer from things like anxiety and depression.

Tip for today:
Kids need rest.  Schedule rest into your kid's day.  Determine how much sleep your child needs.  Set and enforce age-appropriate bedtimes.  Schedule time together to rest as a family.  Protect rest.  It is important for good health.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kids Need Caregivers

Kids need people who will take care of them, teach them how to live, and protect them from evil influences.  These people need to care about the kids as much as they care about themselves in order to do a good job.

If you have kids that are in your care, then you need to make sure that those kids are being adequately cared for. 

Caring for kids means more than meeting their physical needs.  Healthy diet, exercise, a safe environment in which to sleep, eat, and play - all these are extremely important.  However, caring for kids means more than that.  It means helping kids develop character, wisdom, and common sense.  It involves showing them how to be honest, deal with their emotions, work hard, and make a positive difference in the world. 

Kids are naturally foolish, meaning they think they know what's what, but they really don't.  They don't naturally know how to be kind to others, how to give to those in need, how to be polite, or how to work for a living.  Their minds are childish and childlike.  The childish side is the foolish side that needs to be taught how live a healthy live.  The childlike side needs to be protected from evil. 

Evil in kids' lives can take the form of people who abuse, neglect, bully, or exploit.  It can also take the form of messages: "It's all about you;" "Do whatever you think is right;" "If it feels good, do it;" "You should be able to have whatever you want;" "Your worth lies in your physical appearance."  There are many more.  Evil messages like these pour into homes all accross the country every day.  Media is the main delivery method.  Know what your kids are watching/reading/listening to.  Don't let them feed their brains with junk.

Thought for the day:
Kids need caregivers who will provide for their physical needs, teach them how to live, and protect them from evil.  If you are a caregiver, how well are you doing your job?  Are there ways you could do better?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


KIDS ARE IMPORTANT.  They need us.  They can't figure out life on their own.  Our culture poisons kids.  It teaches them lies about life.  Our job is to teach them the truth.  Only then will they be able to grow into healthy, high-functioning adults.

This blog is about parenting our kids against the flow of the cultural current.  It threatens to sweep kids away to destruction.  We need to fight it with all we've got.

Here is one of the strong currents of our culture: kids aren't important.  They are secondary to adults.  THIS IS A LIE.  This might sound corny, but it's true: kids are the future of our country and our world.  They are the ones who will carry on after we're gone.  If we care about them at all, we don't want to leave them to face life on their own.  Instead, we want to find ways to instruct, train, and guide them into maturity.  Kids don't do well physically when we neglect to feed them healthy food or provide them with adequate shelter.  Similarly, kids's character development suffers when we don't teach them how to live life in a healthy way.  They don't learn how to make wise choices on their own.  A child's heart is naturally foolish.  Only with instruction in the truth will a child grow into a wise adult.

So the key thought for today is: 
Kids are important.  They are just as important as anyone else, including me.  I am not more important than my kids.  My needs are not more important than their needs.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stuck At Home ABCs

Stuck at home with your kids with nothing to do?  This is my list of Stuck At Home ABCs.  Feel free to add to the list and share with others.

A - ACCEPT the fact that you are indeed stuck at home for the day.  Rather than be grumpy about having yet another day at home together, count yourself blessed that you have yet another day at home together.  A time will come when you aren't together but wish you were.  Make some memories and enjoy the time so you don't regret it later.
A - ART is great fun for some people.  Draw pictures of each other.  Get out the paints and have a painting contest.  Make stamps out of apples or potatoes and stamp up a storm.
A - ACT out a play that you write/make-up together.  Or, if your kids are older, try a little Shakespeare.  Dress in makeshift costumes; use props and paint scenery.  Or, simply assign parts and read through them together.  

B - BAKE something yummy.  Let the kids help measure out the ingredients or cut out the cookies.  Then try out the freshly baked goods.
B - BUILD a fort with pillows, cushions, blankets, etc.  Cover the dining room table with blankets and hide underneath.  Tell stories, play games, eat snacks, or sing songs in your fort.
B - Bust out the BALLOONS!  Find those left over balloons from the last birthday party, blow them up, and play balloon toss or balloon volleyball.
B - Cardboard BOXES can be used to make all kinds of fun things: dollhouses, boats, hats, robots... See what kinds of things you can come up with.*

C - COLOR together.  Bust out the crayons, print out coloring pages from the Crayola website, and show off your pictures when you're done.
C - CHARADES can help you while away the hours.  Take turns miming while the others try to guess.
C - COLLAGES made of pictures cut from old magazines pasted onto paper might brighten up your day.

D - DANCE together.  Get out your favorite dance music and have a dance contest.  Get some exercise as you groove to the music.
D - DECORATE the rooms of the house for winter (or spring).  Families enjoy decorating together for the holidays, so why not try it on a snow day.  Make snowflakes by folding up paper and cutting out shapes.  Or make flowers from brightly-colored paper and hang them around the room.  Use glitter or aluminum foil to make things sparkle.  Paper chains or mobiles are also fun to make.

E - EXERCISE together.  Push back the furniture and follow along with an exercise video.  Or make a space for running sprints or laps.  Time each other with a stopwatch.  Do push-ups and jumping jacks.
E - EXPLORE the world via the internet.  Ask your kids what country they've heard of but know little about.  Look it up online and find out about other parts of the world.  Or find a subject your children are interested in and find out more about it together.

F - Hold your own FAIR (or carnival).  Put together simple games like ring/beanbag toss, three-legged races, obstacle courses, and art/singing/dancing/story-telling contests.  Make crafts to share or "sell".  Eat treats you wouldn't normally eat in the afternoon.
F - FIND the missing toys.  Go on a toy finding hunt and award whoever finds the most.  Or give one piece of chocolate (or one sticker) for every toy found.  Get out the flashlights and search under the furniture.  Speaking of flashlights:
F - FLASHLIGHTS can be use to make shadow puppet theaters.  Hang a white and shine a flashlight at it.  Make different shadows with your hands, feet, and various objects.  Put on a show.
F - FOLD the laundry together.  Teach your kids how to do this important task.  Ask littler kids if they can guess whose clothing you're folding.

G - GO FISH could mean the card game or you could make your own fishing game.  Tie a magnet (from the fridge) to to the end of a dowel (or a wooden spoon).  Draw, color, and cut out fish with your kids.  Stick paperclips through the mouths of the fish and you're ready to go.  Simply scatter the fish over the floor and have your kids take turns catching fish with the magnet.
G - GAMES are a great way to pass the time and have lots of fun.  Dig out board games such as Chutes and Ladders, Memory, Jenga, and Chinese Checkers.

H - HIDE-N-SEEK can be a lot of fun if you have the space for it.  If not, play HIDE the Button (or other small object).  One person hides the button while everyone else counts with eyes closed.  The "hider" gives the seekers "warmer" and "colder" clues to let them know if they are getting closer or farther away.  Whoever finds the button hides it next time.

I - ICE cubes make fun building blocks - for a while.  Freeze ice cubes tinted with food coloring and let your kids built with them or simply scoot them around the table or kitchen floor.  Just be careful of little kids who might choke on them.  You can also try freezing different condiments (put each condiment in an separate compartment of the ice cube tray and make a diagram on a piece of paper showing what is where) and comparing them after they've had a couple hours in the freezer.  Have the kids guess the results beforehand.

J - JUMP ROPE if you have the space and surface.  Or play leap frog.  You can also have little kids pretend to be different hopping animals - frogs, kangaroos, rabbits - and then look for videos of the animals on YouTube.
J - JUGGLE if you know how or try to learn if you don't.

K - Make KITES in anticipation of spring.  Use trash bags, strapping tape, dowels and string.  Cut the kite shape out of the trash bag and decorate it with permanent markers.  Cross the dowels and tape them together and to the trash bag with strapping tape.  Add the string, tying it onto the kite where the dowels cross.  Make a small slit in the trash bag at this point, too.  Attach some strips of trash bag or streamers on the end for the tail.
K - Learn how to KNIT.  You can find instructions online.  It helps to have a supply of needles and yarn, though.  Yarn but no needles?  Try finger knitting.

L - LETTER WRITING can fill an afternoon (or at least ten minutes).  Write to distant friends or relatives and decorate the letters with stickers or drawings.  Take photos, print them out, and send them along.  Teach your kids about letter writing including how to address and stamp the envelopes.
L - LEGOS are big fun for most ages (chocking hazard for kids under age three- Duplos or Quatros are safer for them).  Build spaceships, houses, cars, airplanes - make an entire town or space station if you have enough.

M - MASKS are fun to design.  Use paper plates or construction paper.  Cut out the eyes and mouth.  Add ears or a large nose or yarn hair.  Attach to a dowel or popsicle stick or tape a strip of paper or yarn around the back of the head to hold it on.
M - MAKE a MOVIE with your digital camera or camcorder.  Come up with a plot and characters, costumes, sets, etc.

N - Play NUMBER games like Sudoku together as a family.  See who can count the highest or fastest.  If your kids are little, practice counting objects.  Use manipulatives like Cheerios or goldfish to demonstrate how to add or subtract.  Show kids fractions by cutting up an apple.  Look for shapes around the house.

O - ORIGAMI instructions can be found on the internet.  Fold paper to make all sorts of cool animals and other designs.
O - ORGANIZE your desk drawers by having the kids sort items by type.  Or organize the toy or book shelves.

P - PLAY with PLAYDOH.  You can even make your own dough (search for a recipe online).  Make people, cars, animals, food, etc.
P - PUT on a PUPPET SHOW.  If you don't own puppets, make some out of old socks or paper bags.  Use yarn for hair and draw the faces with markers or (if you're more crafty) use buttons and thread to make eyes and mouth.  Fabric bits are useful for clothes.  Set up a theater by suspending a sheet across a doorway or two chairs.
P - Look at old PHOTOS and home videos.  Share memories of your youth with your kids.  Let them see what you looked like when you were their age.  Or tell stories about when they were little.

Q - Play a QUESTION game like I SPY.  Someone spies something in the room and everyone else can ask yes or no questions to find the item.

R - Teach your kids the colors of the RAINBOW including their order.  Have them draw or paint rainbows.  Or cut out strips of colored construction paper and put them in order.
R - READ an age-appropriate book to your kids.  If your kids are older, have them take turns reading aloud.
R - RACE each other.  Try a sack race with pillow cases, a relay race, a sorting race, or a dress-up race.

S - SING songs with each other.  Take turns picking songs and doing solos.  See how many songs you can remember.
S - Set up a STORE.  Have your kids pick out items, add price tags, use change or play money, and teach them how to use a calculator or their heads to figure out change.  Take turns being the cashier and the customers.
S - SECRET acts of kindness can really brighten your day!  Write each person's name on a slip of paper, mix them up, and have each person draw a name.  Secretly do something kind for the person whose name you drew.*

T - THROW A PARTY.  Play games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Musical Chairs.  Bake a cake and or eat ice cream.  Have the kids make cards and/or prizes.
T - Play TIC-TAC-TOE, Hangman, and other pass-the-time games on paper (or chalkboard/whiteboard).
T - THUMB WRESTLE each other.  See who wins the championship.
T - Use TV wisely.  Try not to let your kids watch TV all day long, but do watch a fun video together as a family.  If the TV has been on all day, turn it off and try one of these other suggestions for a while.  Too much TV isn't good for anyone.

U - Wear your (clean) UNDERWEAR on your heads and chase each other around like mad people.  It's amazing how funny people look with underwear on their heads.  This game is especially fun in dim light.

V - Record silly VIDEOS of each other.  Record yourselves doing some of the other activities mentioned.

W - WRITE A STORY together.  You could make up a story or write the story of your family.  Or write separate stories and read them to each other.

X - X MARKS THE SPOT on the treasure map.  Make a treasure map for your kids and hide something special (or ordinary) at the X.  Or have your kids make treasure maps for each other.  See if the others can follow the map and find the treasure.

Y - Practice your YO-YO skills.  Have a contest.  Learn new tricks.

Z - ZIP around the house like crazy until everyone is so worn out they want to go to bed early.

* These ideas came from Anne-Marie.