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Who didn’t love staying up late as a kid to see the stars on summer nights? Tonight, Travis got to do just that, and to learn a little about constellations, too!

As night was falling, we fit in a refresher course on constellations, talking about what they are and then projecting a familiar one (The Big Dipper) against the wall. For this, simply poke holes in the constellation’s pattern in the bottom of an empty oatmeal container with a pen or pencil. Shine a flashlight into the container, and your stars appear!

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Now it was almost dark enough, but still not quite. I challenged Travis to make up his own constellation, to name it, and then to make up a story about it. The idea was to highlight the long tradition of oral folklore that accompanies the patterns in the stars, among so many cultures.

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After my example of a cat constellation, he drew a dot-to-dot boy and we wove a tale of how the boy had ended up in the stars. Next he drew a smile! I loved this childlike but beautiful idea of what images we can see among the stars.

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Now it was time to spot the real thing. We headed out to the back patio and waited for final dark to fall. And then it was right to bed!

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Small World Forest Play

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I’ve always loved those detailed fairy houses that kids (and grown-ups!) craft from found items in the woods. Veronika is too young for it, but here’s an activity that’s suitable for a toddler and a precursor to that kind of imaginative play down the road.

First up was a quick sortie into nature to gather all the sticks we could find. She helped collect a handful, and a few tiny pinecones, too.

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Inside, I wanted to fill the bottom of a shoebox with play dough, which would be the base for all the “trees” in our forest. I did have play dough on hand, but it was in vivid shades of purple and blue and I wanted something more realistic. Here’s a quick recipe that literally takes 5 minutes and cooks up like a charm:

In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon oil. Heat over medium heat, until warm, but not boiling.

Meanwhile, stir together 1 cup flour and 1/4 cup salt. Add the flour mixture to the hot water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls from the sides of the pan and is no longer sticky.

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Let cool on wax paper. Once cool enough to handle, pat into the bottom of a shoe box. Now we arranged all our little sticks like trees!

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We added Veronika’s Duplo people to be the little forest inhabitants. She loved that they left footprints behind in the play dough!

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She also liked rearranging the sticks in various patterns, or scooping up bits of play dough with the sticks as shovels.

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This was a great activity for engaging the senses and the imagination.

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Break Out the Sprinkler!

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I was reminded today that often the best activities are the simplest. And when it’s almost 100 degrees, “the simplest” can only mean one thing. It’s time to break out the sprinkler!

Just turn it on, sit back, and watch what your kids do.

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In truth, both my kids are reluctant to run and jump through the spray from our flower sprinklers, although this is the most obvious use of it. But they do love the following:

Splashing in the puddles it makes on the driveway;

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Watching for rainbows that arc through the spray of water;

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Washing dolls or other toys in the stream of water;

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Running chalk under the water (which then makes for dark, rich colors in our sidewalk drawings);

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And standing close enough to get misted with water…but not soaked!

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What do your kids love to do with the sprinkler? Please share in the comments!

Create a Driveway Mural

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Here’s a suggestion if your kids are tired of making hopscotch boards with their sidewalk chalk. Suggest they create a full character mural instead!

One way to do this activity would be to trace each other’s shadows, then fill in the details: clothing, hair, accessories, props, and more. I knew it would be hard to get my kids to stand still for shadow tracing, though, so suggested we trace their dolls!

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Travis loved the way the chalk outlines looked as soon as I made the first tracing.

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Immediately he was filling in the details. The first one was Yoda, with a light saber and cane!

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The Star Wars theme continued, including an Ewok, Darth Vader, and more. And some of them were just silly monsters!

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Older kids can be more serious and true to life in their mural. Challenge them with the following: Can you make the tracing look like yourself, or a friend? What would it wear? What props would it have?

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For kids who are almost 6 and almost 2, I’d say our turned out pretty nicely! I’d love to hear your results in the comments!

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