Even or Odd Race

You can help kids keep math skills sharp this summer with this fun chalk game. To start, Travis drew a circle on our patio, and then a line to divide it in half (see how we were sneaking in geometry already?).

We labeled one half of the circle “even” and one “odd”. Next, toss an object into the circle (such as a pebble or shell). Depending which half it lands on, the tosser chooses a number that is odd or even. This was great review for Travis, as well as a chance to practice skip counting.

His first choice was odd (5). Pick a nature object (like sticks, rocks, or leaves) and set off on a race to find the correct number of that item. First person back to the circle wins! Travis ran back with 5 clover flowers in the first round, and 7 blades of grass for our second round.

Keep going and reviewing those evens and odds until your kids tire of the game! Note: For more of a challenge, make a rule that the number has to be between 10 and 20.

Treat Kids to a Car Wash

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You can cross two items off your to-do list on a summer day with this fun activity: Clean off the kids’ ride-on toys and cool off!

The goal is to get out the hose, put some soapy water in a bucket, and well, just get everything wet. To start, Travis was in charge of spraying the hose over all the kids’ vehicles, including a battery-powered car, scooters and bicycles!.

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If your kids are game, a grown-up can hold the hose in an arc and kids can ride right through it… just like the automated car wash!

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Next up was a round of scrubbing and sudsing. The kids eagerly reached into the basin for soapy sponges. Note: I used baby shampoo for the soap, for suds that would be gentle on toddler skin.

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That car was soon sparkly clean.

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So were the scooters and bikes!

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As the final touch, run the hose for a second rinse, bonus points again for anyone who rides right through the water stream.

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Of course you’ll want to end the festivities with a parade. Veronika proudly took off on the scooter…

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… and Travis took the wheel!

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Zucchini Yachts

We’ve made simple boat recipes before, but today we got even fancier with zucchini yachts!

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow summer squash, chopped
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh from the halves to form two shallow shells; save the flesh for another use.
  2. In a bowl, combine the yellow squash, mango, red onion, cilantro, and olive oil, tossing to combine.
  3. Spoon the mango mixture into the zucchini shells, and sail these to the dinner table!

Treasure Hunt

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You can sneak a little summer learning into your next jaunt to the playground with this neat map project!

To start, I tucked a small ball into my purse as we headed off to play, and when we arrived, I told Travis his goal was to hide it some place sneaky while I wasn’t looking. Then he could draw a map so I could find it! Note: You can do this with just about any object other than a ball of course, but I don’t recommend small toys that could easily get lost.

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He quickly took up the challenge, although his map turned out quite differently than I imagined. He stood in one spot, drew arrows for the steps I should take in each direction, and then X marked the spot!

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Following his drawing, I retrieved the ball.

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Now it was Travis’s turn to be the seeker instead of hider. I drew a very different map, with representations of slides, platforms, tunnels, and other playground structures. Sure enough, he quickly followed it to the hidden “treasure”.

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Two friends can also take turns playing this game, or two siblings, simply alternating back and forth. Chances are that kids will want to play until the map paper runs out!

Fill ‘Er Up

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How many ways can your toddler fill a bucket? Here’s one fun way to find out! Grab two summer beach pails and do some experimenting on a day that’s too rainy to make it to the real beach.

To start, I set out a basin of water for Veronika, along with two small beach pails and a few kitchen sponges. Her first instinct was simply to dip the pails in the basin to fill them. And of course this worked just fine!

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She also spent some time transferring water from one pail to another, a second method that worked quite well.

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But next I showed her how to saturate a sponge and squeeze it out over a pail. Each big squeeze would fill one of her buckets about 1/4 of the way.

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Note: Older kids might enjoy the challenge of filling a big pail with the sponges (how many squeezes will it take!), but I liked using small pails for Veronika so she was rewarded quickly for her efforts.

From here she took over with dipping the sponges, squeezing, filling buckets, dumping them and starting all over. Of course soon she discovered that it was equally delightful to squeeze the water out on the floor and scrub.

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So as a bonus, my kitchen got clean, too!

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Paint in a New Way

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This project is the exact opposite of those times you give your children a direction for painting. Set out all your painting supplies (including some that might not be obvious painting supplies!) and let your children lead the way.

Our paints included dot paints, watercolors, fingerpaints, and regular tempera paint.  Our supplies included paintbrushes, craft sticks, sponges, pom poms, a rolling pin… and fingers of course! I simply set all of this out, along with lots of thick white paper.

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Veronika was first most interested in the fingerpaint, wanting to use her fingers.

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But then she loved moving the rolling pin through the blobs of paint.

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The resulting artwork on this sheet was so beautiful and shimmery!

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Next she loved using the sponges (I had both shape sponges and makeup sponges), which she pressed and swirled through the paint in such lovely ways.

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Soon she was dotting all over this masterpiece with dot markers!

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Finally, she moved onto the watercolors. It quickly became clear, though, that the water was more of a hit than the hues!

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Meanwhile, this hodgepodge of painting supplies even enticed big brother Travis over. Although he normally likes to color in coloring books these days, he decided watercolor might be fun, especially if tied into favorite TV show characters.

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What interesting shapes or creations will your children paint when you set them loose? Please share in the comments!

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Better Than Water Balloons

My kids love water balloons but there’s lots about these tiny water bombs not to love; the painstaking process of filling each one; how quickly they pop; and all those plastic bits that pose a hazard to animals, just to name a few.

So this summer we’re making “sponge balloons” instead! Okay so they’re not actually balloons, but these sponge bombs are equally icy cold and wet, making them perfect for summer games.

To start, I snipped kitchen sponges into 8 strips each, then secured in the middle with a rubber band. On vacation, a hair elastic worked in a pinch to cinch the strips together, without access to our craft bin. Veronika loved sorting the finished bundles on top of sponges in corresponding colors before we even took them outside to get wet.

I then set out a bucket of water…

…and it was sponge bombs away!

Travis’s favorite way to play was to see who could get the most sponge bombs into a bucket for target practice.

The bundles are also perfect for an old-fashioned game of Sponge Tag! Thanks to their soft texture and light weight, the sponges are perfect for tossing and tag with even young toddlers.

Summer Guacamole

Guacamole is the perfect nosh any time of year, but this chunky version is best in the summer, when you can choose the ripest farm-fresh tomato and herbs!

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocado
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  1. Peel and pit the avocados and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Mash to desired consistency.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir gently to combine.

Grilled Summer Vegetables

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These veggies are super simple to grill up, even if you’re a grilling novice!

Ingredients:

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 yellow summer squash, sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian dressing
  1. To start, wrap all the vegetables in aluminum foil to form packets. Grill for 7 minutes, or to desired tenderness.
  2. Arrange the vegetables on a platter and drizzle with the dressing just before serving.

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Spritz Away

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We’ve used water to make art before, but today we used water to wash away art, the perfect activity for a summer morning!

To start, I drew a garden of flowers for Veronika with chalk, including brown dirt below and blue sky above. Her task was to “water” the garden with her toy watering can!

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She loved the way the chalk washed away with each pour. Note: You could also use a spritz bottle for more controlled, slow dissolving of the chalk, but Veronika loves her watering can.

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Of course then there was lots of fun stomping in the resulting puddles!

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It all looked like so much fun that big brother Travis hurried out to join us! Pretty soon we were making big abstract shapes with the chalk and then pouring the water over them. You can then use a thick paintbrush to swipe at the resulting swirls of color on the pavement to make abstract pictures.

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Near the end, Travis filled a cup with water and was splattering “paint” against the patio door with a big flourish. So we did make art with water after all!

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