Icy Summer Favorites

This summer we’re recycling a few old summer favorites, but with a fresh spin on each!

The first repeat was ice pop painting, which Veronika loved last year… but she also was tempted to eat the paint popsicles! This year we solved the problem with one key twist: using food coloring (phew, edible!) instead of paint. I filled popsicle molds with water and generous amounts of food coloring, then left them to freeze overnight.

In the morning, we headed out to the patio with the pops and thick white paper. Sure enough, the food coloring made beautiful swirls of color, and the hot sun meant our efforts were quickly rewarded with smudges of “paint” on the paper.

Equally sure enough, Veronika soon requested to eat one. This year, I could tell her to go ahead! Green was her particular favorite.

Our second repeat was freeing dinosaurs, but this time from ice instead of jell-o or sand. This time, I set up an excavation site in layers, first placing a few plastic dinos in a loaf pan and then filling it halfway with water. Let freeze.

I then added a few plastic Egyptian mummies and filled the loaf pan the rest of the way with water. My little archaeologists would be able to dig down through history!

When I set this out the next morning, both kids were ecstatic. Spoons, salt, and warm water to pour helped them unearth the buried treasures. Paintbrushes, chisels, or spritz bottles would be fun, too!

Travis and Veronika ended up flipping the block of ice over, which meant we freed the dinosaurs first.

They were so proud to “discover” their first species!

The Egyptian mummies were uncovered at the end. I was impressed with the kids’ diligence and patience, sticking with the task until the last sarcophagus came free.

What are your favorite icy summer games? Please share in the comments!


Bath Time Alfresco

No doubt you’ve taken advantage of summer to dine alfresco, but have you ever used it to bathe alfresco? This is the perfect treat to end a scorching hot summer day!

Early in the day, I filled the kids’ wading pool with a layer of cold water, knowing that by bath time the sun would have made that water just the right temp for an outdoor soak.

The kids could hardly believe it when I announced that bathtime was going to be outside! Hop into swimsuits if you’re worried about neighbors’ eyes and then jump right in. We brought out all the bells and whistles including favorite tub toys like ninja rubber duckies

…and bubbles!

The biggest hit, though, was adding bath bombs.

The kids absolutely adored the way these foamed and dissolved in the water.

All this fun meant bathtime was much longer than usual, but that’s no problem at all when you’re sitting on the patio and watching the setting sun and the glee on their faces. Just remember to have fluffy towels at the ready for when they climb out!

Tree Texture

I love working natural science into everyday outings. To wit, a walk in the park today was the perfect chance to review all the different parts of a tree, with a little art thrown in, too!

The tree in question was our family tree, for Travis’s tree journal, and we stopped by to see how it was looking in midsummer.

Then Travis went on a search to identify all the tree’s parts. For each one, he held a piece of paper to the tree and rubbed with the side of a crayon. How neat to see the different prints that emerged for each, including bark:


And leaves:

You can have your child point out features they can’t reach, too, including branches, flowers, or fruit if any.

Don’t forget to give that tree a hug before you go!

Write a Mystery

Here’s a fun way to keep your kids’ writing skills fresh over the summer, even during the months away from school. To set up, I went through a magazine and clipped intriguing images in three categories: people (characters), places (setting), and objects.

I arranged the piles for Travis, and his task was to select one image from each category. He chose a baby as his character, a forest for the setting, and a motorcycle as the random object to come into play. Now his task was to write a mystery story involving all three.

I was thrilled when he immediately went racing for paper and said, “I know what I’m going to write!”

Admittedly his story was short, as he’s still building his story-writing stamina. Older kids can run with this idea and write a whole mystery chapter book! Simply have them add images and prompts from the magazine pile any time their creativity falters until they’ve finished a full-length mystery.

Meanwhile, I was so proud of Travis for his one-page short story and he was proud, too.

Sprinkler Fun, Six Ways

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Sometimes all you need to occupy those long summer days are an old-fashioned sprinkler and a hose. To wit, we headed outside today and found so many ways to get wet and wild!

First, I used the hose to fill up the baby pool with an ankle-deep layer of water. A toddler slide aimed into it plus a few hula hoops to jump through, and voila, it was an instant teeny water park-slash-obstacle course!

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The kids were hesitant about the splashy finish at first…

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But soon this was like their own mini trip to Disney World’s Splash Mountain!

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Then we set up the sprinkler on the lawn and tested out Freeze Dance. Just crank your kids’ favorite radio station from the car or a speaker, and turn down the volume now and then. Freeze!

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Next up was acting like an animal. Travis hopped through the spray bravely like a frog…

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…and trotted like a horse!

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Veronika was a little hesitant to run right through the spray, so we took it down a notch to try out some toddler-friendly games. She wasn’t brave enough to put her whole body in, but she was brave enough for the Hokey Pokey!

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“You put your left arm in, you put your left arm out…” Simon Says is ideal, too, for coaxing little kids to get wet one body part at a time. We ended with some final big kid fun, taking out our Twister mat but making the game extra slippery and tricky. Left foot on red everyone!

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What’s your family’s favorite way to play with a sprinkler? Please share in the comments!

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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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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!

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.