Here are three ideas from this week's news that you might like to add to your bag of tricks: Building a can sculpture, running a book swap, and bringing grandparents (and other relatives from far away) to family events via Skype.

Photo credit: Corona del Mar Today/Amy Senk

  • Blending school spirit and community service: Students at Harbor View Elementary in Corona del Mar, Calif., turned a recent food drive into art when they created a Viking ship sculpture from 1,232 collected cans of food. The sculpture honored the school’s Viking mascot and was helped along by parents who created a large dragon head and oars for the ship. The sculpture was on display for students to enjoy before the cans were donated to a local food bank. 

  • Who doesn’t love a good book? Try a book swap at one of your holiday events or family reading nights. It’s a great way for families to get rid of books they no longer need and get some new ones in return. You just need a few tables to set up at an event and a volunteer (or two) to monitor activity. Or borrow an idea from the PTA at Armstrong Elementary in Hoffman Estates, Ill.—set up a swap for kids during library hours at your school.

  • Person-to-person. Knapp Elementary in Lansdale, Penn., recently hosted a Grandparents Day and added Skype services for kids whose grandparents live far away so they could be part of the celebration. Very sweet, and a nice way to help all kids feel included in a special day.