Take Summer Outside


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Here’s a round-up of a few ways we played in the summer sun today, all with one common factor: the activity had to get us outside!

First up was a round of animal charades. The idea was to spot an animal and then move like it. Everyone else guesses what you are! Travis spotted a bee and loved buzzing like one.

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In fact he was so enamored with the bees that it was hard to get him to spot a second animal, but he could also crouch and hop like a squirrel.

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Little sister, meanwhile, loved pretending to fly like the birds she saw. Or getting down low to crawl like an ant bug.

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I loved that this simple activity really got them paying attention to how animals move.

Then it was time for a nature walk. As we strolled on a nearby path, we pulled out an oldie-but-goodie, searching out animal homes and guessing who lived inside each.

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This time, Travis snapped pictures with the instant camera, too!

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We also embarked on a leaf hunt! I challenged him to find 5 different leaves and then we used a nature guide to try to identify each one.

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There was such a thrill every time we found a corresponding picture. It was a great activity for talking about similarities and differences.

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Travis glued the leaves to poster board once home and we labeled them, making this a great approximation of an elementary school science project.

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He then drew the leaves, a pretty picture we decided to mail on to a friend!

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To end the outdoor fun, we repeated a classic activity: tracing an item’s shadow to see how it changed over the course of the day.

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Our intent wasn’t to make a full sundial, but just to watch how the shadow changed at intervals. We color-coded our markings for a pretty result!

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Shark Awareness Day

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Were you aware that July 14 is Shark Awareness Day? Neither were we until Highlights magazine clued us in. I was glad of it, knowing how misunderstood sharks are, plus I knew it was tailor-made for lots of fun activities.

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First up was some learning. I read Travis ten facts about sharks, and then he loved doing a few coloring pages and shark counting activities. He decided his favorite was the hammerhead shark and filled out a worksheet about them. Now he wanted to know more!

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We did a deep dive (and I mean deep!) into videos about sharks. By the end of the day, Travis was a graduate of this ‘Shark Academy’.

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We didn’t forget about little sister Veronika! She was in heaven watching Baby Shark cartoons, and happily shouting out, “Shark shark!”

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Now it was time for shark crafts! First up was a newspaper shark. Cut a piece from a magazine or newspaper in the shape of a shark nose coming out of the water, and glue to blue construction paper. Add eyes from stickers or wiggle eyes, then a black construction paper mouth. Travis liked snipping all the white triangles for the teeth!

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We added a strip of blue craft foam at the bottom for the ocean. I swear it is a complete coincidence that the text in the middle said “Brush up on table manners”. This was so perfect I have nothing else to say.

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Next we made shark puppets. If you have blue craft sticks, simply use those. I painted a few blue in a pinch, and let dry. Attach two sticks together in an X using a rubber band.

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We traced a shark puppet template onto blue craft foam and then cut out and hot glued onto the craft sticks. Push down on the stick with the lower jaw piece to make your shark chomp chomp chomp.

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Travis was mad for sharks all day as a result. He pulled out an old shark toy and staged a shark versus Lego battle.

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This prompted us to add one more STEM activity, constructing a shark from random Lego pieces!

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We hope you have fun celebrating Shark Awareness Day, too!

Summer Boredom Bucket List: Day 5

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Here we are on the fifth day of a week-long journey to bust summer boredom. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments!

Idea 17: How Far Can You Jump? The “I’m bored” whines were beginning moments after breakfast and I could tell the kids needed to get outside, so I immediately declared it a mini Field Day. I laid a yardstick down on the ground and notched off the starting point with chalk. Mommy jumped first, the full 3 feet!

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Seeing this made Travis want to take a turn. He landed at 26 inches the first time. But could he beat it? Wow, 32 inches!

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He was so proud. Meanwhile it was not even 9 a.m. and I was pleased the kids had already had some sunshine.

Idea 18: Make a Salad Kabob. Travis loved threading food onto a skewer for a recent project so now I challenged him to make his lunch salad in kabob-form. I suggested a pattern of: tomato, cucumber, cheese (we recommend chunks of mozzarella from Miyoko’s kitchen!). But he declared, “I have my own pattern.” Many slices of cucumber and mozzarella followed.

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We drizzled with non-dairy ranch dressing for the perfect salad on a stick!

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Idea 19: Memorize Five Things. The concept of this one was tricky for Travis (i.e. memorizing five X of any category, be it words in a new language, poems, etc.). I helped him narrow it down to memorizing 5 jokes. Four were Knock Knock jokes, but we threw in one of my corniest favorites from childhood:

Q: What’s gray, and has a trunk?

A: A mouse going on vacation!

Rim shot. We even recorded these onto my phone for little sister Veronika to listen to in the car. 

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Idea 20: Learn to Draw a Chameleon. What a strangely specific suggestion this was from Highlights, but I took advantage of Travis’s recent interest in learning to draw Star Wars characters in order to pique his interest in a step-by-step chameleon tutorial.

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It was tough for him to understand at first how we were following along line by line. Then he began to grasp how each step made it look more like a chameleon than the step before.

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Here’s how mama’s attempt turned out:

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After he had mastered the chameleon, he even tried his hand at drawing Jabba the Hutt.

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Idea 21: Do a New Hairdo. Travis is hesitant about gels in his hair, so I wondered how this suggestion would pan out. So at first I asked if the kids wanted to set up a doll hair salon. That got a big yes!

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We pulled out safety scissors for pretend snipping, along with jars of pretend cream. Then Travis asked for a real hair product. Heck, why not? I let him work all the baby dolls’ hair into big spiky mohawks.

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He decided it was so much fun that he was willing to let me run cream through his hair and attempt a mohawk of his own. And of course needed to see in the mirror!

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Climbing Practice

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We couldn’t get to the real playground this morning because of rain, so turned the living room into an indoor playground instead! If you’re helping your toddler learn to climb and navigate playground structures (which can be tricky for toddlers!), pillows are an excellent learning opportunity.

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I set up all the couch pillows in such a way that Veronika could crawl from pillow to pillow and make her way up to the top of the actual couch. She was so excited she threw herself into the mix!

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Her favorite was the squishiest pillow from the back of the couch, which could be crawled up…

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…slid down like a slide…

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…and more. Then she said, “Let’s walk!” “Good idea,” I complimented her, and she was so proud.

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“Good idea!” she parroted, and danced and pranced from pillow to pillow.

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Amazingly, we had no bumps or bruises! I was really happy when she used the pillows as I’d intended, like stairs to reach the top of the couch.

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We did a big round of “hip hip hooray” to celebrate.

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You’ll notice big brother Travis wanted in on the action, too.

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A big heap of pillows is fun no matter how old they get.

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Edible Sno Cone Creation Station

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Here’s an activity that will a) cool the kids off; b) provide sensory play; c) fire up the imagination; and d) give them a yummy snack! I told the kids they were going to open up their own sno cone stand, and the excitement began.

I set out a tray of crushed ice (an easy task thanks to our fridge filtration system, but a blender can do this for you, too), then added ice cream scoops.

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For “cones”, we folded conic shapes from craft foam. These turned out to be very easy to break, so next time I would probably stick to little plastic bowls.

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All they needed now were fruit syrups to flavor the ice! For these, I simply pureed fruits in the blender. We had pink from strawberries and deep purple from a mix of blueberries and blackberries.

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If you have condiment squirt bottles, those would be perfect to use here! I gave the kids paper cups filled with each syrup instead, along with plastic spoons.

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As with a recent nature soup activity, I loved that this game could engage both my toddler and 1st grader in different ways. For Veronika, it was all about the sensory aspects. First she just loved spooning through the ice.

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When she tasted plain ice, she copied big brother and said, “It’s yummy!” but I don’t think she really thought so.

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“It’s cold!” she added instead, looking confused. So we showed her how to spoon the berry syrup on top of her ice. Well now she couldn’t be stopped!

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In retrospect I would have done this activity in just a diaper to avoid berry stains, but it was worth a few purple splotches. She was having such delicious fun I let it be.

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Travis, meanwhile, enjoyed the role-play aspect of the game. He loved using the ice cream scoop to properly fill a “cone,” and then asking me for my order, adding strawberry or purple berries on top accordingly.

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And of course he did lots of tasting, too!

Special Tree

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This post is really the beginning of an adventure that I hope will be with us for quite some time. I’ve long wanted to plant a tree with my children, but we’ve never had a yard of our own in which to do so. At last I found a solution: a bonsai cutting that can grow and bloom with our family!

You can plant a tree any time of course, but it’s also nice to time it around a special event or birthday. With our 9th (willow) wedding anniversary in July, planting a willow bonsai felt just right.

The kids loved helping scoop potting soil into a large pot and arranging the tree cuttings, root sides down. Veronika seemed particularly interested in the feel of the trunk, and we talked about the various textures (bark versus soil, etc.).

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Make sure to read a book about trees, too, like The Giving Tree, to round out the day.

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Watering the tree has already turned out to be a big hit.

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Both kids want a turn with the watering can!

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Here are some future plans we have for our tree: To compare the kids’ growth with the tree’s (who will grow more inches in a year?); to name the tree (right now we’re thinking Wendy); to play and sing around the tree; and to take lots of pictures along the way. Does your family have a special tree? Please share in the comments!