Summer Boredom Bucket List: Day 3

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Welcome to the third installment of ways to bust boredom! Hopefully these suggestions are already helping you avoid the dreaded “I’m bored” in your summer of social distancing.

Idea 9: Math-a-Mowing. Want to trick your kids into mowing the lawn? Okay, maybe not really, but I’m not joking when I say that this activity kept Travis happily busy for almost an hour.

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The original challenge was to see how long it took to snip the grass in 1 square foot of our yard. Using school scissors, we calculated it took about 1 minute. You can then extrapolate from there. If your yard were 10 feet square, then it would take you 10 minutes. Just imagine how long it would take to do a full football field this way! (Come to think of it, sit your older kids down to solve that problem with math, for another boredom buster…).

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Now Travis had discovered the simple thrill of using scissors in the grass, and he couldn’t be stopped. He loved trimming clover flowers and blades of tall grass, and proudly showing me how neat he had made each patch of lawn. Plus he discovered lots of bugs as he worked, popping up from his work to tell me about the latest six-foot critter he’d found. So it turned into a morning of nature exploration!

Idea 10: Squeeze Fresh and Fruity Orange Juice. Start the day off right with this fun activity. First, make oranges nice and squishy by rubbing them under your palms. This will help get the juice out to the max in the next step!

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Squeeze out with a citrus juicer, or just squeeze the oranges over a bowl. Pour into a glass and watch your kids’ eyes pop at the freshest juice they’ve ever tasted.

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Idea 11: Learn to Juggle. Here was another suggestion that was a bit advanced for a 6-year-old. Highlights had broken the lesson down into three steps, and we took it one step at a time. First was just tossing one bean bag back and forth. Travis mastered this quickly. In fact, he mastered it with his eyes closed, standing on one foot, looking over his shoulder, you name it!

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I was glad he was so proud because step two was beyond his coordination: Toss up one bean bag, then toss the second up when the first one reaches its apex. At least now we have a goal to keep working toward! Even this mama wasn’t very good at moving to step three – 3 bean bags!

Idea 12: Make Stick Puppets of Family Members. As was the case with our doodles from fingerprints, this game started simple and became loads of silly fun. At first Travis didn’t understand when I said we should make stick puppets of our family on craft sticks. But I showed him that we were imagining the stick itself was the body, and we needed to draw on features.

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Now he caught on to the idea, filling in hair, eyes, clothing, and other details. He insisted we make a puppet for the cat, too! (Note: If your kids prefer to be craftier, try making these puppets from fabric or felt, instead!).

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We then acted out silly stories about our family. And I do mean silly! This brought out the little kid in me, acting out tales that had us swimming through swamps and giggling at family inside jokes.

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We’ll be back tomorrow with a new batch of boredom busters!

Nature Sensory Bags and Suncatchers

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I hadn’t made Veronika a sensory bag in a while, and she seemed due for some squishy fun.

Normally for a nature-themed activity like this, the first step would be a nature walk! But we needed to stay close to home this morning so ended up just walking around the neighborhood. The kids still found plenty of treasures!

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“I found a baby pinecone,” Veronika told me proudly, as she added leaves and pinecones and other finds to the bag. I also made sure to add a few pretty flowers, knowing I’d want them for the suncatcher.

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When we got home, I filled both a gallon-sized zip-top bag and a snack-sized zip-top bag with clear gel. (Either hair gel or aloe vera gel work well; use whichever you can find that is largest and cheapest!).

For the small bag, I added only the flower petals, spaced nicely apart. I then taped this to the window. An instant suncatcher!

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Veronika poked at it curiously, but I think the sun hurt her eyes because she didn’t linger as she has with previous sunlit projects.

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Then I added everything else into the goo of the larger zip-top bag. This version, a more classic sensory bag, received way more of Veronika’s attention. Through the gel, she could feel all the various textures.

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Prickly pine needles, hard pinecones, soft flowers. She needed to show it to her doll, of course!

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She loved picking it up and squishing it, especially around the firm pinecones.

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I love to leave bags like this out where a toddler can return to them over the course of a day or two, interacting with it slightly differently each time.

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For security, use hot glue along the zipper when you seal the bag shut, and you won’t have to worry about any unexpected messes disturbing the fun!

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Baby Soccer

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Veronika has shown an early interest in balls: bouncing them, catching them, kicking them, you name it! So today I decided we should play a classic round of baby soccer.

I set up orange cones as the goal posts then lifted her from under the arms and swung her legs toward a bouncy ball. “Goal!” I said with excitement.

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She squealed with delight! We continued to play, alternating kicks from up in my arms…

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…with chasing the ball around to kick it with her sturdy little legs.

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Each time she got the ball through the cones, I repeated “Goal!” earning more big smiles of excitement. She knew she’d done something right!

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Of course you can play this game outside, too. Simply set up a make-shift goal with sticks or rocks for markers. Your toddler will love chasing after the ball!

Fire and Flavor

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Travis has been exploring how to cook with different elements (air, ice) thanks to his latest Raddish Kids, and today we did a quick test: would the same ingredients taste different, if cooked using 3 different “elements”? We chose corn on the cob for the experiment and tested out the following: air (roasted in the oven), water (boiled on the stove), and fire (cooked on the grill). Unfortunately we weren’t truly using fire for the last, since I only have an indoor grill pan. But we still had interesting results!

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Of course first comes the fun of shucking corn. Then for “air”, roast the corn in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Boil the “water” version for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Grill the “fire” version over your barbecue or grill pan for about 10 minutes.

Once the three methods of corn had cooked, Travis first wanted to smell them. I had never realized how different these three cooking methods smelled, but it was so apparent when they were lined up on the plate! The oven method had roasted caramel notes, the boiled one smelled sweet and fresh, and the grilled one had a toasty aroma.

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Once they cooled, it was time for a taste test. Travis far and away preferred the sweet tenderness of the boiled corn. Air (oven) was his second favorite. “It’s sweet and tart!” he declared.

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He decided he didn’t like the grilled one, which may again be the fault of the grill pan versus a real grill. Which method do your kids prefer? Please share in the comments!

Grasping Objects

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Has your kid ever wondered why we have thumbs but most animals they see don’t? Or asked what the thumb is for? Travis sure has! This quick STEM lesson illustrates how useful the thumb can be, and how important it is for us as humans.

To start, I taped Travis’s thumb down against his palm. Our tape wasn’t that strong, so he also had to promise not to cheat, ha.

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Now I challenged him to write his name using only the free fingers. Wobbly letters followed, which made him giggle.

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Then we placed several small objects down on the table. Smaller and flatter will be more of a challenge for this activity (think keys or coins). It took some pondering on his part, but then he figured out he could pinch items up using the middle and pointer fingers. He was quite proud!

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If your child knows how to tie his or her shoes, that would be another fun challenge with the thumb taped down. To finish the lesson, we brainstormed other animals that have opposable thumbs.

Travis’s mind was blown realizing that yes, humans are animals (sometimes we forget what our kids don’t know yet!), and that our closest relatives are apes and gorillas with thumbs, too.

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Summer Boredom Bucket List: Day 2

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As promised, here’s a second day’s worth of ideas to combat summer boredom. If you missed it, be sure to read the first four ideas here!

Idea 5: Plant Seeds. This boredom suggestion came at just the right time, since Travis was assigned a summer library challenge to help “Jack” grow the beans for his beanstalk.

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We germinated dried black beans overnight in a little water. The next morning, place a damp paper towel inside a zip-top plastic bag. Add the beans and tape in a sunny window.

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It was fun to watch these sprout over the course of a few days, even though we won’t have a garden to transplant them to when all is said and done.

Idea 6: Create Doodles from Ink Fingerprints. This idea was so fantastic it nearly merits its own post. Travis was really in a mood, so we started out simple: If he made a fingerprint with ink, I asked him, what could it be? He decided on bugs. One fingerprint could be a bee or a beetle.

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Two dots together were a butterfly. Five in a row made a caterpillar.

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Now Travis was getting the idea! He started to add details, like spots to ladybugs or wings to flies.

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He loved adding 8 legs to my spider. Our “garden” was soon so pretty Travis wanted to do it again on a second sheet of paper. Hmm… How to keep the game fresh?

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We tried dragging our ink fingers in a line for worms. These ended up looking a little silly…

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Well so now we needed silly bugs! What didn’t we have in the glorious work of art and imagination that followed? There were wizard caterpillars with gentlemen bugs with pipes and tophats:

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There were wizard bugs with beards and wands:

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There was even a king and queen with crowns! Then we drew a cloud, with fingerprint “raindrops” coming down… and then the raindrops came to life with smiles and hats.

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Travis worked on the details for nearly an hour! By the end we even had fingerprint bugs spitting water at each other. Who knew a doodle fingerprint could lead so far.

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Idea 7: Write a Rap About Your Pet. This prompt was hard for Travis, who declared himself not a singer and wasn’t initially interested. Aha, but could he be the DJ in charge of the beat for our rap song?

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Pretty soon he was playing around with an old keyboard, testing out demo beats and drums. Travis discovered he could increase the tempo and get the drums exactly as he wanted them.

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The kids had so much fun mixing and matching melodies and drum beats. You’ll notice little sister joined in and did some dance moves!

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So did we exactly follow the prompt to write a rap about our cat? No, but this sure busted boredom! How’s this for a quick solution:

Krishna, Krishna he’s our cat,

And we think that he is all that!

Idea 8: Create a Code. Here’s another prompt that was tough for Travis, since he’s just learning to read English, much less create a code in it. Instead, I created a code he had to crack.

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Each letter of the alphabet corresponded to its number. Hunting through the code, he then had to search for which letter lined up with the numbered spaces.

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He was so proud to solve it, revealing the answer of “Jabba the Hutt”, of course!

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Tiny Treasure Hunt

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It seemed only fair to stage a toddler treasure hunt for Veronika today, since big brother Travis has enjoyed big kid versions lately! While she was distracted and busy playing, I placed a few small gems from our dress-up box in a cookie tin, and then hid the tin under a nearby bush.

I stretched a long length of yarn that led from the cookie tin back to our patio. Depending on where you play the game, you can make the yarn twist and turn, looping up and over bushes or playground structures, too.

“Look!” I told her with excitement as I handed her the end of the yarn. “Pirates were here in the night and left treasure!” (Travis immediately wanted to know if this was true).

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I showed Veronika how to hold the yarn and gather it with each step, following the trail.

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The more excited you act, the more your toddler will catch on to the thril of such a quest.

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X marks the spot! She spotted the little box waiting at the end of the trail and loved the jewels inside.

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Cucumber Tomato Salad

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Just a few simple ingredients come together in this vibrant summer salad. My kids love it plain, with chips for dipping, or served on top of fresh bread! It’s the perfect side dish with your favorite vegan chick’n or other easy protein.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Finely chop the tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion, and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and salt, stirring to combine.

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Teddy Swing

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Veronika’s favorite activity at the playground is the swings, so I thought for sure she’d enjoy letting her stuffed animals have a turn. It turned out this activity wasn’t nearly as fun as the real thing!

I tied yarn securely around the waist of two favorite stuffed animals, a teddy bear and a monkey, then looped the other end of the yarn over a low tree limb.

The animals were hanging right about chest height on Veronika so she could easily give them a push. But I think she got a little nervous seeing her animals dangling!

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It turned out big brother Travis liked this activity a whole lot more. He, at least, loved giving the animals big swings!

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Perhaps your toddler will enjoy it more! Let me know what your kids think in the comments.

Summer Boredom Bucket List: Day 1

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Highlights magazine had a great feature in its July issue of 30 ways to turn your kids’ words around when they come harping to you that they’re “bored” this summer. Yes, sometimes it’s good to be bored. But also: it’s summer; they’re kids; coronavirus means camps are cancelled or starting late; and you as a caregiver deserve to stay sane. I’m guessing you are as hungry as I am for ways to keep the littles entertained!

Tonight I’m kicking off a week-long series of posts, a full week’s worth of activities to stymie the statement, “I’m bored”. We’ve tested all of these in the past month, so I can guarantee they work!

Idea 1: Make a Jumbo Jump Rope. The first time I heard, “I’m bored”, I pulled out every scarf from my dresser and tied them into one long rope. A giant jump rope!

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Because Travis hasn’t had much practice even on a regular jump rope, first I encouraged him simply to work on his jumping skills, back and forth over the dangling scarves. This was a super fun challenge!

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Well then little sister grabbed on, and it became a shaking scarf for musical play. Use a rope like this to shake shake shake, then stop/freeze, teaching your child about pauses in music.

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Then Travis pretended he was climbing a rope up, hand over hand, like a ninja! And then mommy got captured. Uh oh, I hadn’t quite planned on that one.

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As you can see, one long line of ropes busts boredom.

Idea 2: Bake a Giant Chocolate-Chip Cookie. If kids announce they don’t know what to do and it’s only 8.45 in the morning, then it is definitely time for a giant cookie. “Let’s make a cookie as big as a pizza!” I said, and I instantly had two happy faces, even my toddler marching around the kitchen chanting “cookie cookie!”

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Luckily I had a mix in the pantry, making this easy for me too. The mix, a dash of almond milk, a little oil, and a little vanilla, and we were ready to pat our cookie into a circle on a pizza pan. After it baked, we even sliced it with a cookie cutter for a snack time full of chocolate smiles.

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Idea 3: Balance a Pen on One Finger. This little challenge turns out to be quite a moment of zen. What worked best? By trial and error, Travis and I worked out the following formula: elbow supported (either on one knee or on the table); pointer finger crooked back; cap removed from the pen; and then finding the fulcrum. Balance!

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I was proud of Travis not getting frustrated, too!

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Idea 4: Do Stuff with Tiny Stones. What couldn’t we do with tiny rocks? This boredom prompt filled a whole afternoon! First we headed outside to the driveway, where we knew there were just the right tiny pebbles near the garage, and the kids gathered them into a bucket.

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They then discovered the storm drain, and spent almost half an hour plinking rocks through the holes and watching the water ripple at the bottom!

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Okay, I got them inside, and now we had so many ideas. First we piled them up and built pyramids.

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Then we decided to get artsy. I hot-glued rocks to two pieces of paper and asked Travis what he saw to finish the drawing. He thought this one looked like a deep-sea anglerfish!

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I made a second into a stone wall in front of a house (meaning this was a boredom buster for mama, too).

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Then we decided to paint the remaining stones. For the blue, we put them in a cookie tin with blue paint and shook until coated. “Loud!” Veronika said. The orange ones we painted normally with a paint brush.

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We left them to dry, and then by evening we could play games that involved two sides, like jacks…

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…or tic-tac-toe (make that tic-tac-rock).

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