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
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

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)


Posted in Education

Learning Letters

As you can imagine as a writer and librarian I have a strong passion for literacy at a young age. I read to my daughter everyday and have ever since we brought her home. She now understands which way to turn the page, recognizes pictures and characters, and recognizes reading as a way to relax. When we get home after a long day of errands or from playing outside one of the first things she usually does (after throwing her shoes across the room) is grab a book.

Learning letters is the next step so I’ve started thinking of good ways to introduce and expand your child’s understanding of the alphabet.

Go Slow- Don’t just give them the alphabet and say “here!”. Pace the learning. Maybe do a letter of the week? So for the first week point out everything that you do or have that starts with A whenever in conversation. To give them a visual you can color different pictures of the letter A. This site has the alphabet available to print for free in English and Spanish.

Matching Games- There’s a lot of different ways to do this but the concept is the same. You are trying to get your child to recognize the visual characteristics of different letters. One option is using toilet paper rolls. Write letters on the outside of the roll. Then get some ping pong balls and write the same letters. Then have your child put the correct ping pong ball in the toilet paper roll. Once they get a little more advanced you can ask them to put the next letter in the roll. For example if the roll says “A” you would say, “which ball would go after A in the alphabet?” Then they would put in “B”. Another way is using beans, rocks, or large beads and a cupcake tin. Same idea, label the items and the tin and have your child match the letters.

Dig!- This blog had a great idea for getting boys and girls active in their alphabet learning. This is also a STEM activity! Use foam or plastic letters and hide them either outside in your yard or in a sensory bin. You can hide them under leaves, dirt, rocks, beans, whatever you want (the blog has a whole list). This activity can get dirty 🙂

ABC Game great for early letter learners! Use the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!


There are plenty (PLENTY) of kid’s books out there to help you along the way of teaching your child the alphabet. My all time favorite is an oldie but goodie Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. That book alone has so many crafts and activities you can do inspired by it it’s a whole new post.

Posted in Education

Explore the Senses

It’s been said that kids are sponges and the more I watch my daughter grow up the more I realize that statement to be true. I will say I think some of the initiatives for teaching for one to three-year-olds are a little…drastic. I don’t think my one-year-old needs to know French. However, I do think introducing fun activities that teach them useful terms and skills which will help them once they get into school is definitely important. Some easy learning subject matter: the five senses.

Reiterate words as much as possible: ears, hear, head, hair, eyes, see, eye color, blink, nose, smell, mouth, tongue, taste, hands, fingers, touch, ect.


For hearing you can do easy activities that show your child different sounds (also you may want to take an Excedrin prior). Make instruments out of old formula cans and metal bells or pots and a plastic spoon. Let them experiment with different sounds. If you have some old plastic Easter eggs fill them with different items and let your child shake away and hear the different sounds. Of course, music party dance time counts too I think. Give your child some scarves or something like this:


For sight, peek-a-boo is actually teaching them the basics of sight. You can also show them pictures of other people either in books or magazines and ask them to point out the person’s eyes. Ask them what color the eyes are. Play a version of I Spy. Say things like bring me your cup, your shoes, your blanket. Flashlight shadow puppets introduces the idea of light and dark. The cup game is great too! Just get three cups and something small that fits under them. Flip the cups over with the item under one of the cups. Then move them around and let your child try to pick with cup has the item under it.

For taste, lunchtime can always be a learning experience. Give them something salty like a cracker and explain “salty” then give them something sweet like fruit and say “sweet”. If they are a little older you can take a green apple and a red apple. Peel the skin and cut them up but remember which is which. Then give your child a piece and ask “do you think that’s the red apple or the green apple?” They will learn that the sweeter tasting is red and the more tart is green showing the same food can have different tastes.

For touch, a great tool to use are water beads. You have to watch closely on this one (and all of them) to make sure your child doesn’t use the beads as a snack. Most are nontoxic but still. You can put them in a plastic tub that has a little bit of water in it and watch the beads expand. Let your child feel the textures. Cooked noodles are also a favorite to play with. As you can probably tell touch may require the most clean up.


For all the senses a great, mess-free, way to let your child explore is using sensory bottles. Any sort of clear sealable bottle will work. Make sure your child can’t get the bottle open.  My daughter can open about anything so I had to break out the duct tape. Fill the bottles with little colorful beads, seeds, or thick glitter. Throw in a few larger objects like dice or larger beads. Then watch as they study the materials getting tossed around while they search for the larger items. You can also make some with liquids like oil and water. Use color in the oil so your child can really see the separation.

Posted in Education

Ms. Frizzle Help Us!

I just read this article published in the Washington Post and had to share it. As I will bring up quite a few times I’m sure, and as you may have already seen/heard in the news, women are left behind in STEM careers and college degrees. Well, this article makes the claim that bringing back “The Magic School Bus” might help our girls out.

Before STEM was even an acronym, Ms. Frizzle was rocking science garb and telling girls (and boys) to “take a closer look”. The show has been off the air since the late 90’s but, like a lot of other discontinued cartoons, Netflix has purchased 26 episodes which will bring it to a whole new group of viewers. They are creating a new version of the show with computer animation and also streaming the old version. The books are also still in print, and when I was working at the library I can honestly say they were checked out pretty regularly.

Maybe bringing Ms. Frizzle back will spark some new interest in children to pursue science. As I was reading I started thinking of other shows that used to be on which were science related; “Bill Nye the Science Guy”, which ended in 1998; “Science Court”, ended in 2000 which was one of my favorites (if you haven’t seen it view an episode here.) Maybe we need a revival of these kinds of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind listening to the “Bubble Guppies” theme song a dozen times a day and they do talk about some science topics. But maybe we need to bring back some late 90’s styled TV shows for kids, which mainly focuses on science.

You can read the full article here.


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