Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Bubbles
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

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Posted in Education, Family, parenting, Uncategorized

Help I’m Stuck and Can’t Get Out…side

If you didn’t see my playing in the rain post, I will just say I’m all about getting outside and getting dirty. However, sometimes (like when there’s a severe winter storm heading your way) you have to be prepared for being stuck indoors, possibly for more than one day. So here are some ideas I’ve come across for dealing with babies, toddlers, kids, tweens, teens, and even significant others when you can’t get out…

Hot Lava Game- Best for toddlers and kids

Put pillows on the ground and spread them out (but not too far apart). Have a starting point at one end, and something that needs to be rescued at the other (a favorite toy maybe?). Then tell your child the ground is hot lava! They can’t touch anything but the pillows to get from one end to the other.

 

(Photo source linked)

Play Ball!- Best for Toddlers, kids, and even tweens

Well…not really. But there are a lot of fun things to do with balloons while stuck in the house and you don’t have to worry about everything breaking around you. The website above has some great ideas like this easy to make paddle game.

Yoga- For everyone

I realize this may seem like a lame idea compared to the lava game; however, everyone can do yoga. You can find resources for Mom/Baby yoga, Mom/Toddler yoga, yoga for teens, and yoga for couples.

Hide and Seek- Toddler and kids (and some babies as well)

I think you know how to play hide and seek by now. If you have a baby in addition to your toddler you can just take him/her with you to your hiding spot. They usually get a kick out of their older siblings being able to find them. Also, if the game starts to get boring (there are only so many places indoors to hide) then make it a silly game. Let your toddler hide somewhere really obvious but pretend you don’t see them anyway.

easy pretend play ideas

(Photo source linked)

Pretend Play- Babies, Toddlers, and kids

I’m a huge pretend play fan and advocate. When you’re stuck inside just pretend you’re not. Be a pirate, a doctor, a one legged baker, come up with really crazy characters. The website linked above has some great ideas and more than likely you have things in your home already. Paper towel rolls, laundry baskets, boxes, etc.

 

Mandalas- Tweens, Teens, adults

Coloring mandalas has been proven to be a stress reliever. If you have a printer at home find some that speak to you, and your kids, and get to coloring. The intricate designs may be too hard for younger kids but there are websites available that have some more simply designed versions.

 

Board Games- Kids, Tweens, Teens, and adults

If you have them, use them. Cards, Uno, and dominoes can help pass the time as well.

 

Glow in the Dark Ring Toss- Everyone

If you’re stuck inside finding games to play in the dark can sometimes be the most fun. Make a ring toss game from glow in the dark bracelets. Use a paper towel roll and something to steady it, like a shoe box. Cut a hole so you can push the paper towel roll through. Then toss the glow rings and try to get some on.

 

(Photo source linked)

Picnics- Everyone

I love indoor picnics. Get on the floor, spread out a blanket, and eat some snacks like you would on a picnic. Cater it to your guest.


 

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, Uncategorized

Playing in the Woods

I’ve had several posts about getting outdoors, and playing, and how they positively affect intellectual growth (and bonding!) of a child. I was reading up and found some great play ideas for being out in the woods and with the cold season approaching (still hasn’t hit us quite yet) I thought this would be a great time to get some ideas out there.

1) Journey Sticks

Journey sticks have a rich history, most popularly attributed to Native Americans. Journey sticks are to represent someone’s individual experience. Along the way of a long expedition or important travel, the person creating the stick would gather pieces of nature to attach to their stick. Then they would return and tell of tales of their journey.

To create a journey stick find a good sturdy stick during the beginning of your hike through the woods (you can also choose to just accumulate items to take home and make the stick once there). As you go through the woods look for special items- a brightly color leaf, a feather, a special flower. Bring along some tape, string, and straight pins to attach them to your child’s stick.

 

 

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(Click on photo for link)

2) Nature Photography

Being out in the woods is a great place to get your children to appreciate photography and beauty of nature in general. You can do this in a few different ways. If your child is older, you can let them use your digital camera or phone if you feel they are responsible enough. Give them a list of things to try to get on photo: a bird, two different colored leaves together, a tree that looks like it has a face. If you have a younger child, you might not want to trust with anything expensive, so get them a disposable camera. Make sure before heading out into the woods that you explain there are only a certain amount of photos on the camera. Teach them to take one photo at a time and learn to use their eyes and ears to find new and exciting pictures to take.

 

3) Story Telling

The woods are the perfect backdrop for so many stories. Fairy tales, ghost stories, adventure tales, and legends seem to be more believable when told surrounded by nature. If you live somewhere with a state park that allows fires try going on an afternoon hike and end the day with a story and some snacks by the fire. You don’t have to camp overnight to enjoy tales and s’mores. If you can’t have a fire just find a spot to sit under a large tree or a place to spread out a blanket and relax for awhile. Some great stories to tell are:

Little Red Riding Hood

Robin Hood

Hansel and Gretel

Rumpelstiltskin

Local tales- look online or at your local library to find myths and legends that relate to your area.

Just like wanting to read at the beach, this is also a great time to bring along a few books from home and just sit outside and read together.

 

4) Scavenger Hunt

If your child is old enough to read then make up a list of items to find while out in the woods. If they are not then just tell them one thing at a time as you go along your hike.

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(Click on photo for link)

5) Coloring and Art

Sometimes you can do the same thing you would be doing at home just while outside! Find a nice spot to set up; if there is a picnic area use that, if not find an area to lay out a blanket to play on. Don’t forget something hard to lean on if coloring on the ground (clip boards are great for this). You can color things you see, trace leaves off of the ground, or put leaves under your paper and color so you reveal the leaves’ stems.

 

6) Bubbles

I can find a reason to put bubbles on any list I make honestly. Bubbles in the woods are just pure magic. If you are creative try combining bubbles with another activity, like story telling. Make up a story about how fairies are attracted to bubbles or that in the woods you are currently in bubbles are supposed to reveal treasure. If you can, sneak a quarter or something they consider treasure, and hide it in the direction the wind seems to be going.

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This website (click on photo for link) has some great ideas for if you are camping and need activities for overnight.

Playing outside is a dying art form so any chance you get to get out there with your child do it. Here are some tips for starting a garden at home and getting your child involved. Rain isn’t always an excuse to stay in either.

Posted in Family, Gardening

Why Start a Family Garden

Remember that Lima bean experiment you did in school with the wet paper towel? You got to watch over time the roots grow and the bean start to sprout into a plant. Other than that one tiny bean I don’t recall any sort of gardening or growing of food education when I was in school. There are some schools now that have programs for this but most do not. That is why I am doing a four part post on why you should garden with your children, what the advantages are, how to do it successfully, and some fun activities to incorporate.

Chances are you have at least one place that you remember as a kid, which was outside, that you liked to go to. Maybe it was a relative’s garden, or the woods behind your friend’s house, or even the local farmer’s market. I remember a friend of the family had an old plantation. In his backyard was a small bush lined maze with four pockets. Inside were things like a bird bath, or a fruit tree, or different kinds of plants, but walking through there just transported me to somewhere else when I was younger. You can make a small magical area for your kids right in your own backyard. Don’t stop reading if you think your yard is too small or you don’t have the area that would be needed. Even window plants, porch plants, indoor gardens, and other small areas can work.

                                                                                               (Results may vary, fairy not included in all gardens, not typical outcome)

With STEM education still on the rise learning environmental science can never start early enough. Getting firsthand experience with nature and watching things grow can give you child an educational boost in the science department. Also getting kids outside and working in a garden starting a young age will make them less likely to become couch potatoes. Childhood obesity is no joke and is still, even with all the great resources out there, a major problem. If your child starts to appreciate the outdoors and everything they have to offer you can probably avoid this problem. They will be getting physical exercise while gardening and learn a sense of responsibility. If you are growing fruits and vegetables then learning good nutrition and becoming interested in eating these natural foods will also create healthier children.

On top of everything you will bond. You will start something that you and your children do together that will become almost a tradition. Something they will remember and (hopefully) keep up into their teen years when they are the hardest to reach.

Another huge plus to gardening and growing foods with your children is improving their self-esteem. Some signs your child maybe experiencing low self-esteem can range from not trying new tasks, cheating at games or on tests, becoming withdrawn, being over sensitive of other’s feelings about them, and even trying to be too helpful at home. Gardening can instill responsibility and also give them a sense of pride. They can show off what they have done and say “I made that grow”.

Even though we do not want to cheat per say I found a great list of plants which are easier to grow. Seeing the end product and their plants be successful can be crucial to keeping their interest in gardening alive, especially in the beginning. There are also ideas for indoor and potted plants.

See list here. 

A good garden is something you can work on all year long, so don’t assume you can only use this as a way to bond in the spring and summer months. I will show you in the activities post how to make some of the garden excitement last throughout the year.

More on this to come…

Posted in Easter, Education, Family, Holidays, parenting

Educational Easter

The title may already sound a little boring, and I’m not one of those people who thinks kids should be learning all day, everyday; however, Easter is prime time for learning activities.

If you are Christian it is even more of a perfect time for educational activities. The resurrection is not an easy concept to grasp so the earlier kids learn the story of Jesus the better they will understand it when they are older. There are a lot of resources available now to help you tell and explain this story. One idea, give out coloring pages and explain what is happening in those pages while your child colors.

Ascension of Jesus coloring page

The Ascension of Jesus

Another craft idea that I thought was really cool was this silhouette painting of the Crucifixion. This can be for children, toddler through teen I think. If you click and follow the link it takes you to the site where you can print off the silhouette. Then your child paints with water color around it. They come out really beautiful looking. I am definitely going to do this next year.

printable water color crucifix

If you are not Christian or you just want some non religious educational activities for Easter, there are plenty.

For younger students anything involving plastic Easter eggs and matching can turn into a fun game. You can match rhyming words. Have words that rhyme on top and bottom and mix them all up. Have your child put the rhyming words together. Do not put the matches all in the same colors. That is too easy! You can do this with numbers as well. You can write a number on the bottom piece, for example 9. Then on the top piece write 6+3. Do this for all the numbers 1-15 and have your child match the right answers.

Another fun matching one for younger kids (toddler-pre K) is making emotions. Draw different mouths (sad, teeth grin, growl, tongue out, yelling, ect) on the bottom pieces and different eyes (wide eyes, squinted eyes, winking eye, ect) on the tops. Have you child piece them together to make faces and explain what they think that face is feelings and why.

Tool for teaching emotions in kids of all ages.   By Laughing Kids Learn

Another matching activity that doesn’t involve Easter eggs (and you can do this for any holiday or image really) is to use Popsicle sticks. Chose a simple image, lay out the Popsicle sticks flat and paint the image on them. Then mix them all up and have your child put them back in order.

Teens are a little harder this time of year. Of course they still want candy, who doesn’t. But as far as activities go there isn’t much geared towards older kids. Having them help with the activities for the younger kids is always a good way for them to stay involved. If you want to do something for your teen a scavenger hunt is the more complex Easter egg hunt. Still hide some eggs, fill them with what you want, and hide in really tough places. Now leave a list of clues. Here’s one example:

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt Clues | Storypiece.net

To this you could say, yes that’s cool but it’s not really educational. And to that I would say, you’re probably right. Although riddles and puzzles do definitely get the brain going!

If you want something a little more science-y then you could do the planets! Now that my favorite is gone, you would only need eight eggs for the eight planets.

Instead of dip dying the eggs try the shaving cream method to get the swirled gaseous look that most the planets have.

Shaving Cream Marbled Easter Eggs #Easter Eggs #Easter #Shaving Cream

Have your middle school or high school student color the eggs according to which planet they are supposed to be (ie Mecury could be red and orange swirled, Venus green and yellow, Earth blue and green, ect). Once they are colored mix the eggs up for them and have them put them in order.

Another cool science experiment you can incorporate into the Easter season thanks to the wonderful amount of things you can do with eggs, is to show air pressure! I know that sounds less than exciting but watch this short video involving a glass jar, a hard boiled egg, and some matches.

Investigating air pressure – more eggs!

If you can think more ideas feel free to leave comments below!

Posted in Christmas, parenting

Christmas with Teens

So now that I have a toddler I am reliving all the Christmas jitters I got as a kid (let’s be real I still got them before I had a toddler). But it is really exciting to find new family traditions to start.

However, it seems that as the holidays approach teens seem to get left out as far as activities go. Besides asking for new electronics or a thousand new name brand shoes there isn’t always a lot for them to do. I think it’s important to keep them interested and excited about the holidays. If they don’t have a younger sibling this may seems a little daunting so here are some ideas:

Make gifts: You are never too old to make homemade gifts. Half of what I am giving out this year are homemade gifts. Try to focus on a special family member like grandparents or close aunt or uncle. They can create photo gifts, jewelry gifts, ornaments, candles, there’s dozens of ideas out there. Check out this site for some ideas.

Spa Day: If you have a daughter doing a Christmas spa day might be a great way to bond. I am not the “salon/spa/beauty day” type but I always take a day right before Christmas and right before my birthday to do an at home beauty day. Try doing one at home with your teen. Get some fun nail colors or stickers that go with the holidays. Beware you may end up looking like this-

Make some homemade beauty recipes like a super easy sugar scrub or a face mask (this one is anti acne and anti aging). My personal favorite homemade face wash that I just started using is:

1 Lemon, squeezed into a jar with a lid

20 drops of grape seed oil

5 drops of olive oil

1/4 cup oatmeal

Mix the wet ingredients together in jar. Put the oatmeal in a different bowl and slowly add the wet mixture to it using dropper. Also add some water in between. You should get the oatmeal to a mushy texture but not soaked. Now rub your face with it! It definitely is weird washing your face with oatmeal but my skin feels awesome after doing this.

Charity: Remembering those in need is something that is always important around the holidays. This can be as simple as working at a soup kitchen, doing a clean out day where you and your teen go through your closets and find things to donate, sponsor a grandparent or child from one of the local churches nearby. Or if your teen is really creative, why not pick something to raise money for and try a t-shirt fundraiser. Check out Bonfire Funds for help and ideas.

Baking: You are never too old to bake Christmas cookies…enough said.

Ask them! Maybe they know of something a friend of theirs does as a tradition or they’ve seen something online that they thought would be cool to try. Sometimes it’s just as simple as asking them what they want to do to better enjoy the holidays.

Posted in Education, parenting

We All Fall Down

I. Love. Fall. I can’t express to you how much I love fall. The colors, the smells, the foods, Halloween, cooler weather; everything about this time of year makes me happy. I burn pumpkin candles pretty much everyday and eat candy corn like it’s not available all year round.

Fall is also a great learning time. Even though students are just getting back in school this is a crucial time to really get them interested in things at home. This is also such a great time to be outdoors. I know there’s a lot to do outside in the summer but personally, taking a walk in the woods on a fall day just can’t be beat. I am also a sucker for photography. I used to freelance when I had the time but now it’s pretty much just me and my Nikon and my poor baby that I make model for me all the time. Well fall is prime photo time! Get your kids out playing and snap some photos.

100 Ways to Enjoy Fall

For toddlers and elementary school aged kids this is a great time to get them outside and exploring nature. Have them collect leaves and make a collage. This is also good for more than one child, the younger one can collect and the older one actually do the gluing. Or have a scavenger hunt. Use a board (or just a piece of paper) and write out a few things for your child to find (a red leaf, an acorn, a beetle, a bird, ect). Whenever they see that item they can check it off. Using a pile of leaves as a cushion to jump on is never a bad idea either. A great book for fall is Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy.

Middle school and high school students also have things to do this season. Scarecrows are a great STEM learning activity. Engineering, construction, and design are at the root of creating a sturdy and usable scarecrow. Check out your closet for old clothes or go to your local Goodwill and let them pick out whatever outfit they may want to use. Here is a good site for instructions on building a scarecrow.

Scarecrow Hawk Deterrent from Farmhouse38

 

Taking your teen to a farmer’s market or apple orchard is another good way to get them outside and learning. If you have any experience with canning foods or creating preserves this would be a good time of year to teach your teen. With Thanksgiving around the corner having your teen help make some nonperishable food items for charity would benefit them and others.

Don’t forget fall is a great time to throw a party! Whether it be a back to school thing, a birthday that is in the fall, or just because, teens have a lot of options. Here is a great list of ideas for a fall party.

Scarecrow (Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)