Family Bonding on a Budget

You’re stressed out from work and looking for a little family R and R but the wallet looks pretty slim these days. Beyond the normal freebies – going for a walk, picnic in the park, trip to the beach – what kind of fun can a family have on a limited budget? Plenty.

1. Our family has recently scored with bowling. On a Saturday afternoon, a couple of games at the local bowling alley can cost upwards of $50 for a family of four, but many locations offer special rates at off peak times like Sunday mornings and after 9pm on weekdays. One place near us charges just $1.50 a game on Sundays from 9am – 12pm, plus they have lightweight bowling balls and bumpers so kids of any age can join the fun.

2. Many museums offer a free day once a month and some are just plain free. You can check http://www.freemuseumday.org/ for free days in major cities or call local museums to see if they have a free day or offer any discounts on admission. Our favorite freebie in the LA area is Travel Town at Griffith Park. Chock full of massive steam engines from the glory days of railroading it is a train lover’s dream! See www.traveltown.org for details.

3. We are fortunate to live in a city with a large Park and Recreation department featuring an Activity Center and gymnasium for public use. The Activity Center features ping pong, pool, Wii, air hockey and various board games free for anyone to use. The gym charges a $2 fee for access to two indoor basketball courts. Check with your local Park and Recreation to see what’s available in your area and get your game on!

4. You can go green for cheap with a trip to a state park. Admission fees vary but are seldom more than $10 and get you a whole day of fun taking in the natural wonders your state has to offer. For not much more, you can enjoy an entire year of fun with an annual permit. National parks are also reasonably priced or even free. Many parks also offer special programs about the park, it’s inhabitants and it’s history. Visit www.nps.gov for national park information and your state Department of Natural Resources website for state parks in your area.

Family bonding doesn’t have to break the bank. Sometimes the best memories don’t cost a dime.

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Top 10 Family Outdoor Activities for Great Outdoors Month 2020

The summer solstice marks the astronomical beginning of Summer. With the changing of the season to warmer temperatures, the sizzling heat gives people a reason to escape the stale indoor air and enjoy healthy fresh air. Finding outdoor activities for the entire family that everyone will enjoy can be cumbersome. There are many outdoor activities that can be fun and fit for everyone.

1. Picnics have always been the traditional form of outdoor hobby. For those that would prefer a more laid back activity, a picnic might be your best choice. Picnics are generally centered around your food choice. To even make the picnic extra fun, try having a themed picnic. Choose your theme around your food choice. You can even incorporate entertaining lessons into the themed picnic. For example, if you chose to have Italian food, then come up with topics surrounding Italian lifestyle or history and have discussions or games centered around Italian. You could maybe even discover new words in that foreign language and use them while you talk about the topics. Also, not only can picnics be surrounded by food selection, but perhaps also by activity. For example, you can have a nature trail picnic. Select picnic areas that have natural trails. But make sure it is somewhere were you can leave your picnic items because it would not be enjoyable if you had to lug around your picnic basket.

2. Camping is a great outdoor activity. Camping usually demands a lot of preplanning. To go camping you would need to choose whether on sleeping in a tent or if you will be renting a cabin. Also, depending on the length of the camping trip, you will need to decide what things you will need to bring for food preparation. Building a camp fire can allow fun activities such as weenie roasts and smores. Camping can incorporate many other activities. One popular camping activity is fishing. So, don’t forget your fishing rods and worms.

3. If you don’t have a lot of time on your hand, but would like an outdoor activity that fits your time budget; visiting your local park might be your choice. Many towns and cities have a least one park. If you are fortunate enough to have a choice of parks, it is good to visit the park briefly to determine if it is the park for you. If you have children, you may want a park with lots of outdoor play equipment. If you are a pet owner and want to take your pet, it is important that you know what the pet policy is for that park. A popular park activity is Frisbee tossing. This is fun for both children and dogs. Also, kite flying is fun, but only if the park has a good open area with no trees or power lines.

4. Swimming is an activity that is generally popular with most kids. When the temperatures rise, cooling off in a big swimming pool can be ideal. There are many options when it comes to swimming. If you don’t mind spending money, you can visit a water theme park. Also, most cities have public pools that you can visit. If money is tight, you can always purchase above a ground pool and enjoy swimming all summer long.

5. Volunteer work is a very rewarding activity. Incorporating volunteer work into an outdoor activity is very simple. Cleaning up a park is a great outdoor volunteer activity. If there is not a volunteer group, you can either clean solo or you can form your very own volunteer clean up crew.

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The Duggar Family of Arkansas Has 17 Children – Good Idea or Not?

I admit it; I’m a Duggar-a-holic. I am fascinated with this Arkansas family with 17 children. I first learned about Jim and Michelle Duggar through the TV specials about their family on the Discovery Channel, and I have read eagerly about them ever since. I have been impressed with their wholesomeness and the way they raise so many well-behaved children without government assistance.

But I was recently thinking that however much I admire the Duggars in many ways, I would not want to be one of their children. Why? I cannot imagine that any of the individual children are getting much of Michelle and Jim Bob’s attention. I have a downright puny family of just three children, who are now 10, 8 and 6. However, even these three have challenged me at times. There are many occasions where I feel that I am short-changing one or another of them because I need to give attention to another. When I taught school, I often had about 17 children in my entire classroom. While I tried to give the children somewhat individualized attention, there is no way I was giving the amount of attention a child would need from a parent.

From watching programs about the Duggars, I know that they use a “buddy system” where an older child is paired with a baby, usually when the baby is around 8 months old. The older child is then responsible for much of the baby’s caretaking and raising. I feel sad about this both from the baby’s perspective and also from the caretaker’s. Caring for a baby or a toddler is a lot of responsibility for a child of 10 or so.

Speaking of responsibility, I have been really impressed by the Duggar children’s maturity and behavior, at least as it appears on TV. Perhaps because there are so many of them and because there is an atmosphere of respect in the family, there seem to be no real troublemakers in the bunch. Again though, this makes me sad in a way because I wonder if the kids all have the opportunity to express themselves fully. I am a big believer in responsibility and maturity, but I think kids also need time to just be a kid and make childish mistakes that serve as great learning opportunities. I hope the Duggar children have that.

When I think of having 17 children, one of my first nightmare thoughts is the amount of work: cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. However, I know that the Duggars solve this dilemma by designating various children to tasks (known in the Duggar family as “jurisdictions”). For instance, one girl’s jurisdiction is laundry. As a mom, I love the thought that someone else in the family is doing the laundry. But again, it makes me a little sad to think of a girl, even if she is a teenager, being responsible for the laundry of 17 people.

For the Duggars and other large families, I believe “the proof will be in the pudding” so to speak. I’ll be interested to see how the children turn out in the years to come. Will they want large families themselves, or will they be so tired of children and work that they seek a totally different life? Will some of the Duggar children opt for the single life?

I would be interested in comments, especially from those who either grew up in a large family or who have a large family now. Do you see large families as an overall plus or minus?

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Family Friendly Films

You want to watch a movie as a family but want something you will enjoy as well as your children. Those movies can be hard to find at times and it may be difficult to sit through a two hour cartoon that fails to grasp your interest. The following five films sure to capture your attention just as much as your children. You’ll all be looking forward to family fun night and these films will make excellent additions to your DVD collections.

Finding Nemo (2003) Directed by Andrew Stanton

Description:

This is a film about a young clown-fish named Nemo who is kidnapped from his first day of school and taken to Australia as a pet of a dentist. Nemo’s father is a paranoid fish constantly in fear for the safety of himself and Nemo and must travel the ocean in search for his one little clown fish.

Why it’s a great choice:

This is a film you will enjoy just as much if you’re 5 years old or 50 years old. Right from the beginning you get pulled into the story and are worried for the safety of this little clown fish. This film teaches several valuable lessons including lessons on friendship and safety. Your child will want to watch this film over and over, and you wont mind.

The Incredibles (2003) Directed by Brad Bird


Description:

A retired pair of superheroes settle down and go into retirement and have two children who were born with super powers and a third infant whose powers have not yet revealed themselves. In this film the family must come out of hiding to save the world.

Why it’s a great choice:

This film is absolutely charming. It’s underlying message is that a family can accomplish anything if they work as a team and have compassion for one another. This film will have you laughing at one turn but will also have you thinking through its complex world dominating plot.

Monsters Inc. (2001) Directed by Pete Doctor

Description:

Monsters live together in a town that gets its power by the screams of children. Monsters don’t scare to harm children but rather to power their homes. Human children are not allowed in the town but there’s a breach and Mike and Sully (two hilarious unlucky monsters) must deal with the situation.


Why it’s a great choice:

This movie is both funny and entertaining so you will not be bored. This film could help if your child is afraid of the dark or of monsters under the bed or in the closet. The premise of this film is that monsters are not going to hurt you, that they have their own complicated lives and monster children, but have interestingly enough determined how to harness the fear of young children to power their city ; Talk about eco-friendly.

Shrek (2001) Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

Description:

This is the first in a now trilogy of Shrek films. Shrek is an ogre who keeps to himself and lives in a swamp, but is more misunderstood than scary. No one ever took the time to get to know him and his layers except a loud mouth Donkey who he can’t seem to go away. They work together to save a princess for the Prince of the town Far-Far-Away. Their journey is quite an ordeal but it is an excellent movie.

Why it’s a great choice:

This is by far my favorite family film; I have watched this movie just me and my boyfriend because I love it. It brings out the child in me and it’s

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Family and Careers Do Not Mix

“After all I’ve done for you the least you could do is put your family first instead of that miserable medical career first!”


How many times has every one of us heard a line to that effect? If you think about it, family and career, possibly even college, do not mix. Dropping your own life, or “putting it on hold” in lay terms, seems to be the prevalent mentality of a lot of people, especially the lower classes. Using phrases such as “different values” and “hang with your own kind” instead of attempting to cross the tracks which will get you shot down by those on your own side is what keeps you from establishing any individual achievements in life.

But it is not confined to careers alone in many cases. Some families even prevent their members from having any outside friends such as pen-pals who can surely influence one to betray family and strike out on one’s own, searching for fame and fortune. In drastic cases, some families may even prohibit their children from attending college or reading books, since books can fill all sorts of ideas in those tiny heads which may cause them to stray from the family. Talk about forced dependency! No wonder so many children wind up running away from home. They are being so suffocated they realize what is going on and cannot take it anymore. It is easy to be sympathetic to these young ones who escape, even if their families do the right thing and send the police out to look for them, only to find out their child has entered the army to receive an education and serve their country. Not surprisingly, the offspring usually grows up to be an upright citizen while the concerned parents are parked in front of the television set all day long, drinking beer and watching Jerry Springer. Yes, that is what being held down is all about. But at least quality family time is spent with Jerry Springer. Who else would you want to spend quality family time with? Certainly not Dan Rather.

Wasting your time trying to work on anything that might make a name for yourself is, then, futile when it comes to families like this. Any time you attempt to do so, they will find ways to take it from you, intervene, destroy whatever it is you have been working on, and cause you to take to your bed and start crying. You might even hear the thoughtful words from the next room: “That child is destroying our lives.” “That child has no business spending time with her friends when that time should be spent with us.” “Why oh why does that child of ours cause so much trouble?” “That child is destroying our family.” Of course there are many more possible comments that can be included here, but these get the point across. Keeping a child dependent and disarming its survival instincts is important in family values in order to keep that child obedient at all times. It does not matter if the child starts doing something harmful to himself or herself, which includes the taking of over the counter medications. Parents as such think they are doing their children a favor but in the long run, do extensive damage that can never be undone, no matter how many shrinks the adult child sees.

So if you look forward to valuing family above all else including college, careers, even jobs (because holding a job interferes with Jerry Springer time), make sure your kids have a bedroom that is void of books,

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Why Eating Family Style Meals is Important for Children

Young children are at the age where they are learning how to assert their independence. They want to make decisions for themselves, and rely less on adults. Serving family style meals is a great way to let children do things for themselves. A lot of families today are eating dinner in separate rooms, or at different times. Read why it’s important to eat together with your children at meal times.

At my daycare, we are required to eat at the table with the kids in our care. At lunch time, we sit down and let the kids serve themselves. We pass around bowls of food and let the kids take what they want. They can even pour their drink from a small pitcher. The older the kids are, the more freedom they have as far as serving themselves. Toddlers, on the other hand, need more assistance than the older children. Letting kids serve themselves teaches them that they can do things for themselves. When you are constantly serving foods to your children, they are not learning anything, except how to be lazy and let other people do things for them.

Let your children take part in meal preparation. For example, let your child toss the salad or put dinner rolls into a basket. What you allow them to do really depends on their age. I wouldn’t recommend giving knives to any child, and I wouldn’t recommend letting kids handle hot foods or raw meat either. Give them simple tasks to perform. When it comes time to eat, let them help set the table. After dinner is finished, let them help clean up

Family style meals also help children develop several different skills. Motor skills can be developed from picking up serving bowls and utensils, and serving food. Social skills, language skills and manners are developed through conversation at the dinner table. Make sure you set a good example for your kids by saying “please” and “thank you”. Whatever your kids hear you say, they will most likely repeat. Model good eating behavior. Wash your hands before you eat, chew with your mouth closed, use a napkin to wipe your mouth, and never talk with your mouth full of food! Also, you can also help kids develop language skills by talking about the food on the table. Even toddlers can learn simple food words like apple, meat, noodles, beans, milk and more.

One thing I love about eating family style meals with my toddlers at daycare is the fact that I can get my picky eaters to actually try foods! With a normal class of 5 kids, if one child is picky and doesn’t want to eat their green beans, I normally will say “Look, Ava is eating her green beans”. Once the picky eater sees their friend eating the green beans, the child may want to try them as well. This doesn’t always work, but it’s a good idea to try that has worked for me.

If you aren’t already eating family style meals, you could introduce this concept to your children by setting up a table with play food and plates. Let them use their imagination and see what comes of it. Start small. It takes time to develop family style service, but be persistent. Begin with family style snacks and work your way up to a full dinner. With time, your children will learn manners and how to be independent. This foundation in the early years will lead to a lifetime of good habits.

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Family Things to Do when Your Husband is Gone in the Evenings

Picture that iconic family meal together. Although research proves that families who eat together on a regular basis don’t have as many domestic issues, this may not be the most practical ideal for your family. See article.

Perhaps your husband has an evening job or is attending night school. When my husband went back to college, I wanted more than four kids and I staring at each other and missing Dad three nights a week for eighteen months. With a little planning this can be a great time for your family. At the beginning of “Dad’s school”, I made a “no moping rule.” The children could say “I miss Dad,” but only one time each day. Any more than once was complaining.

Here are some ways we made it special.

1. Food-If there is a meal the children love but your husband doesn’t, this is the opportunity to make it. (You should still have something available for your husband, even if it is leftovers from yesterday). Since spaghetti is a favorite meal for me and the children, but not the husband, we planned to have “Spaghetti night” on the night Dad went from work to class. We loved “spaghetti night”. Of course, once dinner is done and cleaned up, you still may have an hour or two to fill until bedtime.

2. Activities-We try to fill one of our “Dad’s school” nights with a going away activity. I signed the kids up for 9 week swimming lessons at the YMCA on Tuesday nights. The kids learned to swim. I relaxed in the hot tub. All four kids were showered and pajama-ed before we left the Y. When we returned home, it was “snack, brush teeth, and bedtime”. Those kids fell asleep quickly after all that swimming. You also may find a Wednesday night church program for all ages during the school year. Remind yourself that you can’t do everything, and do not plan to be gone three nights a week. It will most likely exhaust you and your family.

3. Books-(Yes, really). Pick a chapter book that will appeal to all the ages of your kids. I like the Chronicles of Narnia series or the Boxcar Children. Pick a book you cannot finish reading in an evening so they have something to look forward to next week. Have them get you a nice glass of water, cuddle up on the couch, and read until bedtime. Stop dramatically at the end of each chapter or at an especially exciting part so they can say “Please keep reading!” Thursday night is book night.

4. Movie night-While we do try to limit “movie nights” to weekends only, it is an occasional treat. (Actually, it is more appreciated because it happens rarely). Make popcorn and fill travel mugs with root beer or chocolate milk. We use travel mugs to avoid spills in the living room. Make “movie night” an occasion.

5. Games-One of our favorite things was to get out those battery-powered guns that shoot foam discs. We used the whole house and the “team approach” to dodge and shoot and surprise each other. We also used a “family team approach” for cleaning up all those foam discs. If you have a gaming system, you could use the evening for games. We also had racing tournaments on the Wii.

6. Special Privileges-Since it was “Dad’s school night,” the young twins were excited to sleep in their brother’s bed on the top bunk. The older two children shared the bottom bunk. Yes, it took a little longer to fall asleep but it was only one

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One Family’s New Beginning

How I get more reading in


Being forced for economic reasons to use my noisy exercise bike along with my noisy elliptical glider got me thinking of ways to keep from being bored during indoor workouts. When I have the option I would rather be outdoors but when it is too hot or too cold, I am forced to exercise indoors.

My dilemma was, “How do I keep from getting bored while working out indoors?” Well, the first thing that came to my mind was watch TV during my workout. Unfortunately, that only works if you have enough volume on your TV to override the loud noise of old and I might add cheep exercise equipment. Now is definitely not the time for us to invest in expensive equipment so I did the next best thing, I decided to supply myself with books and magazines to read. I find that when I read, I can not only ignore the noise, but, I also loose myself in what I am reading. I get so engrossed in reading that a half hour workout turns into an hour workout before I can put the book down.

Treasured Books from my Mother in Law

Today, I picked another blessing in disguise! I received several books from my Father in Law that belonged to his wife, who currently is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. What a blessing it is to be able to read the books that she once read. This gives me the opportunity to get to know her better. She is a lovely spirit filled Christian who although she has Alzheimer’s, continues to be a blessing to everyone around here. She is filled with so much love for everyone in the nursing facility that they just can’t wait to see her every day when she does her daily walking throughout the Facility.

Today’s Reading

from the book entitled, “Those who came forward,” was about a man named Heintz and his family. Heintz managed to escape to West Germany after the war. He almost didn’t make it though because the dogs and the police were on his trail. He managed to go unnoticed when the police with machine guns were busy concentrating on a group of refugees trying to escape. Heintz just made it across the border at dawn.

Once he reached West Germany he married his childhood sweet heart, Gertrude, who had escaped to West Germany before he did. In their quest for success, Gertrude and Heinz studied thick books reading all the philosophies that flourished after post war Germany. They enrolled in evening courses in character building, positive thinking and even in astrology. When these failed to satisfy Heintz looked up other evening courses, so many that they merged and blurred, and still he came no closer to his goal. Next he turned to reading hour after hour, living in fear that someone would ask a question which he could not answer. With Gertrude he studied archeology, astronomy, art, evolution, physics — .

During this quest for knowledge they had two beautiful baby boys. Heintz’s dream was to become a famous wealthy chef but he had a language barrier which made it difficult for him to get recognized. At this time West Germany was becoming overly crowded.

An opportunity to move to Canada

One morning Gertrude’s sister appeared with rare good news. “Canada has opened the gates to German immigrants!” she said. “Who wants to go?” Their minds lightened with thought of escape from their gloomy, crowded city life. Canada was limitless with bright faced people, oil wells, cattle and land.

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Family Get-Together Menu

In my house, dinner ideas are tough. This is especially true when I am preparing meals for members of our extended family. I have a few go-to favorites, but they certainly do not fill a menu. After hours of internet searches and one test meal, I settled on the menu for Easter this year. Here is what I made (with some commentary), and I hope it is helpful the next time you find yourself planning a big family meal–holiday or otherwise.

Pineapple, Orange, and Honey Glazed Ham

When I decided to make ham as my main dish for Easter, I had only ever baked one ham in my life. Finally settling on this one, I felt my lack of experience with baking a ham required that I follow the recipe exactly. I decided to have a “test run” of my menu the weekend before Easter. The recipe says the ham needs to spend two and a half hours in the oven at 325 degrees. The practice ham burned after only an hour and forty-five minutes. My husband’s grandmother suggested baking the next one at 225 degrees for five hours. I followed her temperature advice, and the ham only needed four hours in the oven. Of course, exact baking times vary from oven to oven. The glaze, unlike the ham, was easy to make by simply following the recipe. Over all, the ham was a success.

Deviled Eggs

I love deviled eggs, and I never turn down an excuse to make them. Still, I have only made them a handful of times, and I decided to try out a different recipe this time around. I skipped the garnish. The eggs were good, and I definitely recommend using a recipe with pickle relish over one without–or at least adding diced pickles to a recipe.

Green Bean Casserole

I have made green bean casserole several times, and it is so easy that I feel I do not need a recipe anymore. I love this dish, and it tends to be a hit at my family gatherings. Some of my family members dislike mushrooms, so I skipped them. I also added some shredded cheese and fried onions before baking it initially, and I still added some to the top at the end.

Sweet Potatoes

This is another dish I have made before. However, for the first time, I used a recipe that called for fresh sweet potatoes instead of canned. This make the sweet potatoes take longer to make, but it is a healthier option. Of course, any dish topped with marshmallows is not going to be remarkably healthy no matter what recipe a person follows. The most important thing to remember when using fresh sweet potatoes for this casserole is to boil them until they are soft and easy to mash. I used very large sweet potatoes, and they took closer to half an hour to boil (compared to the recipe’s fifteen minute suggestion).

Twice Baked Potatoes

I am confident in my twice-baked-potato-making skills, so I did not use a recipe at all. In fact, I did not even measure my ingredients. However, I have found a recipe to share. Personally, I just use sour cream, shredded cheese, and bacon. As my husband says, it is pretty difficult to mess up a twice baked potato.

Roasted Asparagus

This barely qualifies as a recipe at all. It is so simple that I am embarrassed to admit I needed it, but I had never made asparagus before. It is very easy, and I think anyone who likes asparagus would approve.

Dinner Rolls

The dinner rolls 

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Outdoor Game Ideas for Picnics, Family Reunions and Parties

Getting together with family and friends is always fun, but why not make it even more memorable by adding some active outdoor games to play. These games are not only fun but the perfect entertainment to go along with all the great food and conversation.

Mix up the outdoor games at your next family gathering by adding one of these fun games along with the traditional tug of war, kickball, and softball games to create something new.

Outdoor Game Ideas

For large picnics or family gatherings, the All Up Relay outdoor game is a fun game for people of all ages.

To play this fun outdoor game, the following materials are required: Long jump rope or piece of rope, two hula hoops, 3 plastic toy bowling pins or empty 2-Liter plastic soda bottles and whistle.

For starters, it is easy to turn your park or backyard into a relay zone for this fun game. Use a jump rope or spray paint to indicate the starting line. At the opposite end of the relay running space which should be twenty to fifty feet long, place the two hula hoops side by side. Place three of bowling pins in one of the circles.

To play, divide players into two groups of equal numbers behind the starting line. Blow the whistle to indicate the start of the relay. The first person in each line runs forward and with one hand only, moves the bowling pin from one circle to the other. Each club must stand and none can touch the outline of the circle. Once finished, the relay participant runs bag and touches off to the next person in line by touching them on the hand. The second player runs forward to the circles and changes the pin back to the other hula hoop ring. The relay continues and the winning team is the one that has their last player cross over the finish line first.

Another fun game for your next family reunion or company picnic is the Arrow Chase. Materials needed for the game are just sidewalk chalk and a stop watch.

Ideal for a park or large outdoor setting, this fun game combines hide and seek and tag.

The group is divided into two equal groups, one will be the running group and the other the hunting group. Each member of the running group should have a piece of chalk. The object is to lead the hunting group on a wild path with twist and turns so they can make it back to the starting line without out being caught by the hunting group.

At every ten feet, the running group draws an arrow at some point along their path. The hunting group begins at the at the starting place and waits two minutes prior to starting to give the running group time to get a head start.

The running group should use all possible finesse in making it difficult to find their arrows, although the arrow must be in plain sight, though not necessarily from the point of view of the course taken. It may be marked on the farther side of a post, stone, etc., or at a considerable height, or near the ground, but never under a ledge or where it might not be seen plainly by any one standing in front of it.

The running group will naturally take a course that leads them back to the starting point, the hunting group, however, trying to overtake them before they can accomplish this.

Other fun outdoor games to bring along to your next family gathering or company

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