Messy Wading Pool Play

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We’re about to store away the inflatable wading pool that’s been on the patio all summer, so it was time for a messy last hurrah! On a final hot morning, I dressed Veronika in her bathing suit and we headed outside for two games.

First up was Spaghetti Splash. The night before, I cooked up a box of spaghetti. You could even use two or three packages of spaghetti if you really want to make an impact with this game.

Toss the spaghetti into the baby pool, along with 1/4 cup vegetable oil and a few drops of food coloring. We chose blue! Mix it all up with your hands.

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Veronika loved getting her hands right into the mixture. She would reach for a big handful…

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…and then make it splat onto the bottom of the pool.

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And of course lots ended up on the patio.

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If your child wants to, encourage him or her to climb right in! Veronika was hesitant though, and much preferred using her hands for this game. So then it was time to segue-way to the next messy game: Jell-O Jumping!

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Out went the spaghetti and in went 4 packages of prepared vegan jel dessert (try Simply Delish). This time, not only was Veronika willing to put her feet in…

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…she loved it! She stomped through it and squished it between her toes.

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Before I knew it, she plopped right down. “I’m lounging,” she announced, and she sure was. She delighted in scooting her bare legs and toes all through the jello.

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Believe it or not, even the clean-up was fun because we pulled out the hose. Hose down the tub (and kids!) and then tuck that wading pool away until next summer.

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Beachy Creature Feet

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It’s just about the end of summer, which means by next year any current flip-fops are not going to fit your kids’ feet anymore. So here’s a fun way to transform those flippies as the season winds down!

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I had each of the kids select which kind of “creature” paws they wanted, care of a few suggestions in Highlights magazine, then helped trace and cut the shapes out on craft foam.

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If your kids truly won’t be wearing their flip-flops again, you can use tacky glue to adhere the foam, as well as additional foam dots or stripes for decoration. If you want a more temporary version (we still have a few beach days left!) use double-stick tape for a fun, reversible transformation.

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They loved stomping around as creatures for a little bit!

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I’d say these were the cutest critters on the beach.

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DIY Sprinkler

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Childhood + summer + sprinklers pretty much never gets old, but if you need a quick sprinkler reboot after the umpteenth hot day of the summer, here’s a homemade version that will delight toddlers and big kids alike.

Use a hammer and nail to make holes in the bottom of an empty gallon water jug. I worried the plastic would be too thick, but this is actually remarkably easy to do. That said, the nail made very small holes so we did then widen them slightly with a rotary tool.

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To then transform it into a sprinkler, insert a hose, turn on the water and the water will rain down through the holes.

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I simply held this by hand, but you could also rig it up for lasting fun; anything tall like a basketball hoop or tree branch would work, in which case you might want duct tape to hold it all in place.

The kids loved to take turns holding it, too, turning it into almost a watering can over the bushes…

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…and sidewalk.

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Veronika loved stomping in the leftover puddles!

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Travis was thrilled he could make patches of mud.

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And of course they loved catching the water drops as they rained down.

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My kids are hesitant about actually jumping right under a sprinkler, but yours might want to shower directly under the spray!

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Baby Pool Games, 3 Ways

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It’s late in the summer but still hot outside, so it didn’t feel too late to invest in a baby wading pool. Here are three ways Veronika has loved to play in it so far!

First up was a classic toddler fishing game. I had a pack of fish-shaped sponges that were perfect for this, although you can cut normal sponges into fish shapes if you’re feeling crafty.

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Attach a paper clip to each fish so it will be magnetic, then tie or glue a kitchen magnet onto a string and attach the string to a stick or dowel. I showed Veronika how to go angling for the little fishies!

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It turned out that the sponges were hard to lift once saturated with water, so next time we might play this while the pool is dry.

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After the fishing fun, it was time to make a splash! Simple grab a bouncy ball and toss it into a baby pool filled with a little water. This was fun from outside the pool…

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…or inside it! And it was equally fun whether with a small bouncy ball or larger beach ball.

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“Splash!” Veronika cried out happily each time.

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For extra ball fun, we didn’t just use one ball; I poured in our whole bag of soft play balls.

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This made for lots of extra splashing, sitting on, tossing, and otherwise playing with the balls in the pool.

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One thing is for sure: this girl is keeping cool in the pool!

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Outside Summer Learning

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If you want to squeeze in a little learning even on vacation, here are three quick ways to hone observational or STEM skills, in the guise of simply having fun!

I was actually excited to wake up one vacation morning to a rainy day because I wanted Travis to observe… raindrops! Stand someplace protected with your child and watch them fall down. I asked Travis his guess as to what shape the droplets would make.

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His hypothesis was an oval, so I played devil’s advocate and guessed a circle. We decided they were more circular but some were larger in diameter than others. They also made neat beads on the screen doors. Throughout the day, we watched them make big puddles on the car sunroof, or diagonal streaks on the patio when the wind whipped harder.

If your budding scientist wants to, record any findings in a notebook using words or pictures!

The next day we had sunshine and squeezed in a quick mapping exercise, in the guise of a treasure hunt. Travis decorated a bag with seashell stickers (you could also use an old shoebox) and hid a few pieces of “pirate treasure” inside.

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Travis hid the treasure to be guarded by a sleepy gnome. Now, his job was to direct a family member to the booty using only three clues. I was so proud he devised these on his own: there was a dirt path, there were steps, and someone was sleeping nearby!

Finally, we returned to a classic sort of color hunt, but this time Travis had to spot five colors from inside the house first, and then find those same five colors outside. A huge art kit full of crayons was the inspiration. Outdoors he matched beige to a mushroom…

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…and vivid reds and purples to the flowers.

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There’s nothing like the palette of a vacation spot to inspire some learning!

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Toddler Beach Day

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It might seem daunting to take a toddler to the beach, but here are a few tips I’ve found that make it easy, even during the summer of coronavirus.

First up, of course, are the essentials. Definitely pack a kid-formulated sunscreen in SPF 50 or higher, plus a sun hat. If your toddler hates having cream formulas rubbed in, consider an easy spray.

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Veronika has a tendency to pull her hat right off, though, so for added security, I bring shade: an umbrella that is. I find that an umbrella is plenty, without having to lug along a pop-up crib or tent.

Now for the activities! We have a dedicated bag of sand toys they can be played with right at the edge of the blanket…

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…or brought down to wetter sand at the water’s edge when she wants to cool off.

When it comes to snacks, think ones that won’t get sandy. Applesauce pouches are ideal, but I also stash granola bars, juice boxes or water bottles, and easy chips like veggie stix.

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Veronika stayed safe, entertained, hydrated and fed. And it was as easy as a day at the beach!


Shark Ball Toss

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Here’s the perfect sport to bring along to your family’s next day at the beach. The homemade charm has a leg up on all the koosh ball competition!

To assemble, cut about 2 inches off the ends of two empty (1 L) soda or sparkling water water bottles. The edges were rough, so we sanded them until smooth with squares of sandpaper. Travis thought this was neat, wondering if the roughness of sandpaper can ever be completely worn away.

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Paint the bottles with two coats of blue acrylic paint; let dry overnight.

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In the morning, we drew shark features on craft foam, including jagged teeth, dorsal fins, and eyes.

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Because our wiggle eyes had long lashes and our foam was pink and purple, our sharks had a decidedly feminine appearance!

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Now simply head to the beach (or another outdoor location) and bring along a tennis ball. Toss back and forth, catching the ball in the shark “mouths”.

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A word of caution: This is hard! The players really should only be a few steps apart and it takes some practice to give the ball the right toss out of one shark’s mouth and into the other.

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So don’t worry if kids just end up rolling the tennis balls into the shark bottles. That was fun, too!

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Octopus Bottle Buddies

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Travis has been a little bit homesick at camp, so we made a “buddy” to go along with him today… attached right to his water bottle!

The first step was to draw an octopus outline on craft foam, and this was tricky even for me.

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I copied an example in Highlights magazine and still needed a few tries, so I didn’t expect Travis to master the shape. But he sure loved drawing on extra craft foam (little sister, too!), making this a great art session even before we moved on to assembling the rest of the craft.

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As you draw, make sure the top two arms of the octopus reach up over its head and nearly touch; you’ll need to glue them into a loop that will hold on to the water bottle.

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Once you’ve drawn the octopus shapes, cut them out. Next, draw accessories on additional craft foam and cut out. These shapes will be simpler for kids to help with. We included a surfboard, sunhat, and a little ukulele. Think anything beachy and tropical!

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Use tacky glue or hot glue to add wiggle eyes and the foam accessories to each octopus, and glue the top two arms into a ring.

Once the glue dries, your new “buddy” slides right onto a water bottle.

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Travis chose the blue one to take to camp!

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Summer Gross Motor Skills

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In these last few days before Travis starts summer camp, we’ve been doing lots of gross motor skills here at “Camp Mom“. Here are a few great ways to get moving in the heat!

Hula-Hoop Workshop:

Forgot traditional twirls around the waist; hula hoops are a fantastic summer boredom buster even if your kids haven’t mastered the hip swirling yet.

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To wit, today the kids decided to pretend they were the rings of Saturn with hula hoops!

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Simply put a hula hoop around your waist and spin!

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You can also practice rolling a hula hoop along the ground. Or jumping from one to the other. Hula hoops are fun any way you spin it!

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Jumping Bee:

Even if your child doesn’t know how to skip rope yet, you can turn it into a prop for a spelling bee. We laid the rope down on the ground and I had Travis think back to some of his kindergarten sight words. For each letter in a word, he jumped back and forth across the rope.

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He was so proud recalling sight words. “There is a sight word of the day and the sight word is ‘the’,” he sang to the tune of BINGO. T!

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After we’d gone through sight words, little sister Veronika started shouting out silly words for him to spell. Bigger kids, of course, can do this activity with longer words and while truly honing their jump rope skills. Last person still spelling without getting tangled in his or her rope wins!

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Dribbling King:

Some cheap bouncy balls from the grocery store were the perfect prompt to work on Travis’s dribbling skills. Take this activity to your nearest park and hop on the basketball court (or just outline a large area with chalk) and show your kids how to dribble.

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If you want to make it a competition, have the kids dribble with one hand while trying to knock away an opponent’s ball with the other.

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Travis got very protective of his ball when we played this wat though, and preferred to hone his new skills solo.

Play “Spud”:

If you need a reminder on this classic, here are the rules: The player who is IT tosses a ball in the air and shouts out a number. Other players can take that many steps away.

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Now, IT tries to hit another player with the ball (choose a relatively soft one). If IT misses, he or she gets an S.

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If IT makes the shot, the other player gets the S and is now IT. Play continues until someone spells out S-P-U-D.

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I hope these ideas get you moving!

Beach-Themed Sensory Bag

Beach-Themed Bag (6)Here’s the perfect way to bring a bit of the beach home for your toddler after a day at the real thing. It’s a great way to extend the sensory play while remembering a day of fun in the sun!

While you’re at the beach, make sure to tuck aside shells or other little treasures.

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Once home, I filled a gallon-sized zip-top bag with hair gel. Either leave the gel clear, or add a few drops of yellow food coloring, if desired. Then add your beachy treasures!

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We had some beautiful finds, including a mussel shell, a razor clam, snail shells, and one that was nearly translucent gold. Veronika loved the contrast between the shells and the gel. “Bumpy!” she said first, followed by “squishy”!”

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It was fun to watch her move the shells around within the bag. Next time, I might bring home a little bit of the beach itself and add sand, too!

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Perfect beach house fun.

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