Outdoor Word Play

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You know that parks and playgrounds are great for fresh air and exercise, but it’s less obvious that they’re are also perfect locations to work on word games with your elementary school child! Travis tackled three word challenges outdoors today, each having to do with a different concept or part of speech. (And yes, little sister Veronika tagged along for all the fun wearing her Halloween costume a bit early!).


For a “rhyme-off”, have your child point to any object or action on the playground and then find a rhyme for it. Take turns saying a word that rhymes until someone can’t think of one. “Swing!” he said. “Ring!” I countered. “Ting!” Whoops, that’s not a word.

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Travis loved the challenge and got silly with real versus invented words thereafter.


Our next game was to search for opposites. One person would spot an action, emotion, or other concept and the other person had to find name its opposite. Little sister Veronika loved helping with this one, so for example if one person had to stop, the other had to go!

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Or if one child was up, the other was down.

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Finally, we took the play home to our backyard where we set up an obstacle course using plastic stepping stones. (Note: you can use natural elements, too, like clumps of grass or piles of leaves). The challenge was that Travis had to think of a new verb each time he went through the course, whether to tip-toe, to run, to stomp…

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or to jump!

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What word games does your family enjoy playing on the playground? Please share in the comments!

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Look What I Did!

Travis is learning about “Long Ago” in social studies this year, which has introduced him to the idea of a  timeline. One great way to make a timeline more tangible for young kids is to have them make their own… featuring events from their own life!

The activity started out with a trip down memory lane, to think of big moments in his life so far. This was a great excuse to sit and go through old photos together! Travis loved seeing himself as a baby.

Once we had the photos printed, I challenged Travis to put them in chronological order. We arranged everything on a sheet of poster board, first, before making a big line down the center. Trim the photos to fit, as needed.

As he glued down each photo, Travis also labeled it, including such lifetime highlights as:

Being born

First day of school

Becoming a big brother

and more!

Little sister wanted to scribble out her own “timeline” too!

The actual events don’t matter so much as the fact that your child will learn to see time chronologically along a line with this project. Not to mention he or she is sure to be proud of all the accomplishments so far!

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter

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Here’s a fun way to teach your child about all those little bumps on the tongue aka, your taste buds. With a little taste test experiment, your child gets to make a “map” of their very own tongue!

To start, I set out a plate featuring four of the five tastes (we left off umami, although soy sauce would work in a pinch). Our plate featured: lemon for sour, a grapefruit rind for bitter, a salted pretzel for salty, and a spoonful of sugar for sweet.

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Working with one food item at a time, Travis touched the food to the front, sides, or middle of his tongue. We weren’t entirely scientific about this, since probably he should have rinsed with water in between each touch, but he very studiously made a map of where he tasted each item the most.

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The activity was great for spelling practice, too!

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At the end, we looked up a map of the tongue online, to see whether what he had experienced matched up with existing maps. Adults might have fun joining in this activity for some tasty fun together.

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Apple Cider Shake

Summer might be gone, but that doesn’t mean ice cream float season has to be over. Swap out the soda for apple cider in this recipe, and you have the perfect fall treat!

Simply pour a glass of apple cider, then add two scoops of your favorite vegan vanilla ice cream and sprinkle with about 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon per serving. Bonus points for big milkshake straws.

Nate the Great’s Pancakes

Travis came home from school on Friday not only so proud to report that his class was reading Nate the Great, but also that he had a pancake recipe from the book for us to try over the weekend! We adapted the book’s recipe slightly for our vegan household. Brother and sister both loved mixing this up!


  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted Earth Balance butter
  • 3 cups vanilla almond milk
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder, stirring gently to combine.
  2. Add the Ener-G eggs, butter, and almond milk, stirring just until combined. Lumps are okay!
  3. Heat a griddle coated with additional Earth Balance and add aout 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Serve with maple syrup, and then you’ll be ready to tackle any mysteries in the day ahead!

Teach Your Child…To Memorize Your Phone and Address

Have you paused recently to make sure your child knows his or her address and phone number by heart? In this era of cell phone speed dial, a reminder on these necessary facts can be fun, thanks to these cute suggestions in Parents magazine.

The first two methods were just right for my toddler to learn the basics. While shouting out my cell phone number we clapped to the first three numbers, stomped to the second three, and clapped to the final four. Veronika thought this was a blast and was soon parroting along!

Then it was time to teach her our address. To the tune of Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone, we sang, “Where oh where does Veronika live? Where oh where does she live? At [insert address here] that is where she lives”.

Now it was Travis’s turn for some advanced learning! There’s no better way to learn a number than to dial it (remember all those old numbers you could dial from muscle memory?). So we played restaurant! He “called” my number on Veronika’s toy phone, and she was the restaurant owner proudly bringing our delivery.

Order up!

For a final challenge, I wrote the numbers of my cell phone on post-its and scrambled them. Travis got them in the right order on his first try. There’s great peace of mind knowing your kids can reach you in an emergency, so give these fun and important activities a try.

Take Learning Outside

Fall weather provides ample beautiful weather to get out in nature and toss some learning into the mix! Here were three fun ways Travis did just that with recent nature projects.

Nature Art

First up was a standard nature walk, equipped with a baggie to collect treasures. Travis took such pride in finding just the right leaf, stick, flower, and more to add to our collection. I loved how intent on nature he was on this particular afternoon, pausing to marvel at birds in the marsh or bees on the flowers.

By the end of your walk, aim to have a variety of textures, colors, and items, so your child can make a fantastic collage once home.

After sorting through the items, Travis left the process of gluing down to little sister Veronika…

…who happily obliged and wanted to add splashes of paint, too! I loved that this turned into a sibling collaboration

Grow a Plant

We don’t always have luck making things grow around here, since my kids are handicapped by mom’s lack of a green thumb. But a potting project with a dose of magic thrown in was one we could definitely get behind! I found a kit for “magic beans” (beans with words and images that show up after they sprout), which were the perfect seeds to plant after reading Jack and the Beanstalk.

To start, we needed to get crafty. Travis painted the provided white pot with bright paints.

Once the paint dried, it was time to set the magic beans to work. Travis filled the pot with soil, then each kid made a wish as they pressed a bean into the dirt. Add water until saturated, and set your plant some place that gets bright sunlight for at least half the day.

Three days in, the magic beans were sprouting. After a week, we had a beanstalk worthy of Jack’s attention!

Although there’s always something “magic” about watching a seed turn into a new plant, we loved the added wow factor in this project.

Nature Word Sort

Finally, we headed to the park, where Travis sat on a bench and I challenged him to write down everything he could see…but didn’t tell him why yet. He proudly scribbled in the dugout.

At home, we looked at his list and came up with three different ways to sort the words. One obvious answer was natural vs. man-made, but I was proud of Travis choosing to also sort them by color and sport.

This was a great quick activity to get him thinking about sorting.

What are your fall outdoor adventures so far? Please share in the comments!