To organize the activities for kids during our Family Nights (essentially battalion-wide Family Readiness Group meetings), our volunteers created "craft bags."  The craft bags contained a short note of instruction for the kids and materials for all of the activities for the night.  Gallon-size Ziploc bags worked well.  Here is an example of what was in our last Family Night bags ...

  1. Note of Instruction (see photo below)
  2. Booklet (see blog post: I Love a US Army Soldier)
  3. small book ring for the booklet
  4. snack-size Ziploc bag with a length of stretchy string and two heart beads (see blog post: The Invisible String)
  5. snack-size Ziploc bag with a ball of homemade red play dough
Note of Instructions for the kids
Snapshot of the kids' Craft Bags
It takes some prep work before the meeting, but really helps out the volunteers working with kids, and the large Ziploc bags give the kids an easy way to get all of their things home.

~ Traci Cook

The kids at our recent battalion Family Night completed a short booklet to explain more about where their Soldier is currently training.  It's a simple Word document that we printed in two columns then cut right down the middle.

The kids punched one hole in the top left-hand corner of the page then used reinforcement stickers around the holes (not essential but fun for the kids).  Then, they connected all of their pages with a small book ring.  Here are the pages:

If you'd like a digital copy of the booklet, visit me on SlideShare!

... Add your own unit crest and it's all yours!

~ Traci Cook

A wonderful story about the invisible string that connects loved ones. Whenever one thinks about another member of the family, the string gives a tug and you feel it.
Our battalion used this book at a recent Family Night event.  All the kids were together in one corner of the room with volunteers helping them with a few crafts.  One of the volunteers read this book aloud to them before crafts began. 

It's a sweet story; from the description:  Specifically written to address children's fear of being apart from the ones they love, The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message in today's uncertain times that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all, and, by extension, ultimately binds every person on the planet to everyone else. Parents and children everywhere who are looking for reassurance and reaffirmation of the transcendent power of love, to bind, connect and comfort us through those inevitable times when life challenges us!

After reading the book, the kids all made an 'invisible string' bracelet.  Here are the items we used (found at our local Hobby Lobby store, but also available at other craft stores, jewelry stores, even Wal-Mart):

Plastic heart-shaped beads

"Stretch Magic" Bead & Jewelry Cord, .5mm

We simply cut a length of cord for each child, added two heart beads -- one to represent the child's heart and the other to represent the Soldier's heart -- and tied the cord in a knot.  We trimmed any leftover cording afterwards.  One volunteer pre-cut the cord and placed one length of cord and two different-colored beads into a snack-size Ziploc before the meeting which made it very easy to hand out supplies to all the kids.

This was a simple, inexpensive, and fun craft to do for a large group of kids.  The kids really seemed to connect with this idea and were very proud of their bracelets.

Two boys with their red and yellow "Red Dragon" heart beads.

*One safety tip: be sure parents know you've sent their children home with the bracelet.  The beads are small and could be a choking hazard if the child removes the bracelet and takes off the beads ... not likely, but still worth mentioning to parents.

~ Traci Cook

This guest blog posts comes from the blog This Fabulous Army Life. The mock deployment described here was hosted by Fort Hood, but could be modified as an FRG event for kids as well. Let us know what you think ... and if you decide to plan one of your own!

Fort Hood hosts a "Mock Deployment" for children, an event designed to educate our kids on a little of what our Soldiers encounter when they prepare to deploy.  I was interested right away and signed up my two boys -- ages ten and seven -- for the event.  The kids were encouraged to dress in their best Army or camoflauge summer clothes for the event.  Our boys immediately took out their battalion t-shirts and camo shorts and were ready for the day.  After a flurry of sunscreen and final preparation, we were on our way.

Upon arrival, the boys checked in at the registration desk for their deployment packet ... a backpack full of fun stuff: camo binoculars ("bi-nos" for our experienced kids), dog tags, water bottle, and lots of great booklets and information for them.  They were given new identities for the day:  PFC Cook, N. and PFC Cook, J.  After being assigned to "Echo Platoon," we headed outside so the boys could fall into their formation.  A military roll-call ensued followed by a few quick lessons on right-face, left-face, about-face, forward march, attention, and at ease.

As the new troops stood in formation behind their platoon guidon, the Army Community Service (ACS) coordinators welcomed the troops and the III Corps Command Sergeant Major gave a brief overview of the day then taught the kids how to shout out a proper "HOOAH."  The formations then all marched into our first briefing of the day.  The introduction brief was all about what it's really like during deployment, complete with a slide show.  From there, the kids moved through several fun stations.

A first step in the process was getting throug the Medical station.  The kids all received 'shots' ("Thank goodness THOSE were fake," says one of the boys.) from medical personnel then moved through dental (receiving new toothbrushes and toothpaste) then taking an eye exam where their vision was deemed fit to deploy.  The next few stations were definitely among the most fun of the day.  First, all participants were face painted in camo then allowed to try on a variety of real Army gear with Soldiers standing by to assist.  The kids could try on:  kevlars, bullet-proof vests, protective masks, gloves, boots, and more.

Just like in a real preparation for deployment, the kids participated in several briefings throughout the day.  They heard the In-Country brief where they learned about the cultures of Iraq and Afghanistan, some "dos" and "don'ts" of dealing with the people of those countries, and saw lots of photos of what the area would look like when they got there.  The participants also talked about all the things they needed to do before they left the country, including age-appropriate descriptions of Powers of Attorney, financial requirements, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  They even participated in the Family Readiness Group (FRG) brief where they talked about things like "What is an FRG anyway?"  Next, the troops moved outside for a mini-road march complete with cadences then a training obstacle course.  The course contained tires to step through, a water grenade qualification range, low crawls, and a zig-zag speed course.  My boys had a blast doing this!

Water Grenade Qualification Range

Low Crawl

The Final Run

After the obstacle course, the military police from Fort Hood demonstrated their amazing working canines.  We watched some of their training techniques and enjoyed the dogs showing off their skills.  Once that was complete, each participant was given a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE, certificate of completion, and said farewell in a final formation.  After the event was over, we went back to the static displays of various Army vehicles and equipment.  Our unit had some Soldiers there showing participants through a Howitzer.  It was a huge hit with the kids and my own boys spent a good amount of time crawling in and out and asking a million questions.  All of the participating Soldiers were fabulouse ... informative, friendly, and eager to show off their prize equipment.  It was a great time.

Here, the boys spend lots of time quizzing Soldiers about the Howitzer.

Later that evening, my Soldier demonstrated the finer points of preparing MREs to the boys.  They opened up their packages and were eager to eat "just like Daddy does in the field."  We brought home Chicken & Dumplings and Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.  The boys were very good sports, trying all of the different items.  My favorite quotes of the night?  "Daddy, is this a chicken or a dumpling?" and, in response to me telling them that Daddy had eaten lots of MREs throughout his years in the Army, "Poor Daddy."

~ Traci Cook

Happy Military Monday to all of our service members and their Families out there!  Don't you just love all of the initiatives that have sprung up on social media sites to honor our service member heroes!

How can you celebrate "Military Monday," you ask? These are a few ways to get started!


If you're on Twitter, just add the hashtag "#militarymon" to any tweet about the military on Mondays ~ Honoring our military one tweet at a time each and every Monday on Twitter starting at 0001 Kabul. This is a non-partisan place to honor the military with no official affiliation to an organization or non-profit.

For a little more on the #militarymon hashtag, see:

Also, you can watch all the #militarymon tweets on:


Join the "#MilitaryMon" fan page on Facebook to keep up with all the great things happening on Mondays.

You can also participate in the Moment of Silence ~ Honor our fallen heroes from the week every Monday at 6 pm CST. Tweet out #militarymon #mos.

For more information, join the "Moment of Silence" Facebook fan page .


A wonderful Army wife has initiated a "Military Mondays Carnival" on her oh-so-fabulous blog, Army Wives’ Lives!

To find out how to join all the military spouses blogging about life in the military on Mondays, visit here:

Military Mondays Family and Spouse Carnival at Army Wives' Lives

Please let us know of other initiatives as you find them. We'd love to participate ... and help spread the word. Here's to a marvelous Military Monday to all of you!

This blog was created for the simple purpose of sharing ideas among leaders of Family Readiness Groups in the US Army.  Leading an FRG is a challenging job at any level ... and the hope is that sharing stories will result in shared support, encouragement, and ideas. 

Want to contribute a blog post?  Email:!

Greetings, fellow FRG friends!  This blog is designed to host guest bloggers from across the United States Army, discussing the best our Family Readiness Groups (FRGs) have to offer.  Jump in and share YOUR stories.  You're among friends!