Children’s Activities…A Hands on Experience!

At a recent training, our Program Directors and Transportation Coordinators had the opportunity to learn more about life span development  and how to assist in children’s activities. Part of the training was a hands on experience with an activity in one of the different age groups. Check out this month’s activities as performed by the staff!

Infants: Texture Box


  1. Cardboard box
  2. Different textures such as carpet, fabric, sandpaper, cotton balls, etc
  3. Glue


  1. Glue textures to the outside of the box
  2. Place box on ground level for infants to access or hold it in your lap and explore the textures together


Infants learn about the world by seeing, touching, tasting, and hearing. A texture box is an opportunity for touch sensory and language development. While your baby touches, describe what she is feeling!

Toddlers: Home Made Bubbles


  1. See here


  1. Mix materials as described above


Who doesn’t love bubbles? Toddlers love to explore their world and learn about cause and effect.

Preschoolers: Shape Shake


  1. String
  2. Cardboard
  3. Scissors


  1. Cut shapes from cardboard; cut a hole in the center of each shape
  2. Put shapes on string
  3. Tie string to a doorknob or have a friend hold the other end
  4. Try to shake the shape from one end to the other!


Preschoolers gain large and small motor skills, social skills (if done with a friend), and cause/effect skills by experimenting with center holes of different sizes, how fast/hard they shake the string, and how the incline of the string changes how fast the shape travels.

Middle Childhood: The Gift of Community


  1. The Gift (free, downloadable book)


  1. Activities can be found here


The Gift (and the matching activities) teach children the importance of a diverse community and respect for all interests.

Tweens and Teens: Healthy Body Image


  1. Teen magazines
  2. Scissors


  1. See activities here(we focused on Living in a Supersized World)


By analyzing media, teens will recognize the messages sent and how they effect self image and self worth.



Happy Heart Health Month!

February is American Heart Month, which is meant to bring awareness to heart disease, the leading cause of death.

Our Children’s Program Coordinators will complete heart healthy activities with children (and their caregivers!) at the Visitor Centers. If you’d like to see these activities plus many more, check out the education resource section of

The American Heart Association website,, has information and resources for people of all ages. We encourage you to check it out and share with others.


Research shows that physical and emotional activities directly correlate. When you exercise, endorphins are released and you feel better emotionally. The opposite is also true! When you have a rough day, your body feels tired and broken down. Both affect heart health; for the most part, happier, more physically active people live longer!

Holiday Wish 2011…A Heartwarming Success!

Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.

-Mother Teresa

In mid December, we had the pleasure of hosting over 60 children and their caregivers in a fun filled day at the Friends and Family Neighborhood Center. In addition to picking up their gifts, families were invited to snap a picture together, take part in activities, and share cookies and cider with each other.

Check out some of the photos from the event!

Friends Outside and all of the children sponsored this season give our deepest thanks and gratitude to everyone who helped make this season brighter for those impacted by incarceration. Thanks to our sponsors, over 60 children in our community received not only what money bought them but a wonderful memory to hold on to and the knowledge they are not alone and deserve more out of life.

Children’s Activities: November 2011

Each month, we send new ideas and activities to the Children’s Program Coordinators at each of the Visitor Centers. These activities address the unique needs of children impacted by incarceration and aim to give children ways to process emotions.

Preschoolers: Exploring My Pyramid for Kids

 Purpose: To expose children to healthy habits, including a balanced diet and exercise


  1. My Pyramid sheet
  2. Butcher or Construction Paper in various colors
  3. Magazines
  4. Glue


  1. Create a wall sized My Pyramid. Be sure to proportion and label each section
  2. Converse with children about My Pyramid. Ask them what they see!
    1. What types of food go with each group?
    2. What are your favorite foods?
    3. What do the stairs represent?
    4. Why are some portions of My Pyramid larger than others? (MATH CONCEPT!)
  3. Give magazines to children to cut out food items and types of exercise (on-going project…does not have to be completed in one day)
  4. Give children their own My Pyramid to take with them

***Note: if a wall sized My Pyramid is not possible, refer to empty My Pyramid sheet


Preschoolers love bright colors and group participation. With an on-going project, they can see what their peers before them have charted. They gain an understanding about healthy body habits such as a balanced diet and exercise.

Aside from the nutrition aspect, this is an opportunity for math skills. They will analyze information presented on a chart, conceptualize a complex item as a whole and then as parts, understand symbols, and use thinking skills to categorize.

Teens: Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic

Purpose: To create an Emergency Plan in case of Zombie Apocalypse (or a hurricane, earthquake, etc)


  1. Zombie Preparedness Comic
  2. Emergency Preparedness Checklist
  3. Pencils/Pens


  1. Refer teens to the Zombie Pandemic Comic
  2. Ask teens what their household’s Emergency Plan is
    1. If they have one, help them analyze it against the FEMA Checklist
  3. Give them an Emergency Preparedness Checklist sheet


The CDC created this campaign to raise awareness through a popular concept. The point is that ANY sort of emergency situation could arise and each household should have a plan on hand (just as each VC does). The goal is for a family to create and practice the plan together.

All Ages: Listening to Communicate and Barriers to Communication

Purpose: To discuss active listening techniques such as Open vs Closed Ended Questions and Paraphrasing


  1. None


  1. Ask children:
    1. How do you know someone is listening to you?
    2. How does it make you feel when you feel listened to?
    3. How do you know when someone isn’t listening to you?
    4. How does it make you feel when you aren’t listened to?
  2. For younger children, try:
    1. Put on Your Listening Ears – Say dramatically “I have something important to tell you. Can anyone tell me what type of ears we need to wear in the museum?” When the  preschooler says “Listening ears” say “OK, let’s put on our listening ears. I think that mine are in my shoe (or some other funny place).” Then dramatically pretend to pull them out of your shoe and put them on. Have the preschooler find their listening ears and pretend to put them on. You can also do this with walking feet or inside voice. The trick is to be as silly and dramatic as possible. If your child forgets their manners during the situation whisper to them “You must have put your listening ears back in your belly button when I wasn’t looking. Let’s find them again and put them back on.”


Children will recognize active listening skills, which will improve communication skills with others.

Helping Children Understand Incarceration

Did you know that one in forty children in the US has a parent who is incarcerated? That nine percent of the children in California have a parent in the criminal justice system? These children often face confusion, loss, grief, and poor academic performance and need support to understand what “incarceration” truly means to them.

Friends Outside partnered with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to give caregivers the words and ways to open communication about incarceration.




How To Explain Jails and Prisons to Children is an easy to read guide which helps define terms associated with incarceration, addresses emotions, gives resources, and has answers to a child’s commonly asked questions. It is designed to be read by the caregiver and child together.



As an agency who sees the effects of incarceration on families and communities daily, we are passionate about lessening the impact of incarceration on children and their caregivers. If you or someone you know could use this tool, please forward this post or download and distribute as necessary.

For additional insight, check out a similar project sponsored by 4theloveofkids: