Mosquito Badminton

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Are you kids sick of swatting away mosquitoes this summer? Then this quirky take on backyard badminton is sure to have them giggling!

To make our “mosquito”, we first inflated a balloon. Any color would work, but Travis chose blue.

I twisted together a mosquito body out of black pipe cleaners. Certainly there is some imagination at work here, but it featured two antennae, a proboscis, and wiggly arms and legs.

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Cut eyes from cardstock or poster board and then tape the mosquito body and eyes to the balloon.

Use flip flops as the “racquets”! Travis thought it was hilarious to bop the mosquito around outside.

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We didn’t make it a true competition, but if you want to keep score, try this: If the balloon lands on the ground on your side, that’s a point for the other team or person. First side to reach 5 points wins!

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7 Fun, Wet Water Balloon Activities

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Because we don’t have a hose and a water balloon nozzle, this summer staple of fun is not something Travis has enjoyed very often. Cue the water balloon hand pump! Now that I’ve invested in one (from Amazon), there are so many backyard games to play with our little water balloons. And some are even educational!

First: Sort by Color. Purchase a few buckets from a local dollar store in a variety of colors and have your child fill the correct bucket with the correct balloons.

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Easy for Travis!

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Second: Number Race. I numbered 10 balloons with sharpie and Travis’s job was to move them from one bucket to another in the correct order.

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This one involved a few slippery balloons running away before the task was complete.

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If two or more kids are playing, make it a race!

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Third: Target Game. Now we got a bit messier! I drew a bull’s-eye and we each had three balloons to toss.

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The person with the highest score wins, extra points for a big splash!

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Travis adored this.

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Which led us to…

Fourth: Balloon Toss! You can’t go wrong with this classic. Just toss back and forth and see who gets wet.

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It meant lots of exploding balloons and lots of giggles.

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Fifth: Relay Race. If you have a group, make it a true relay; balance a balloon on a cup and make it from point A to point B. Since Travis and I were playing just the two of us, we timed ourselves to see who could do it faster.

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Sixth: Balloon Sensory Tub. Float a few balloons in a baby bathtub. Even baby sister Veronika got to enjoy a (supervised) feel. Travis loved throwing the balloons into the tub for a big splash, of course!

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Seventh: Balloon “Parachute”. Place a few filled balloons on a sheet or large towel and pop them like popcorn.

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And with all those games said and done, Travis really just loved splatting them onto the ground for maximum splashy fun!

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Add your own favorite water balloon games in the comments!

DIY Star Wars Sun Prints

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Travis has been obsessed with Star Wars lately, so we used a favorite summer art activity (sun prints) to make DIY room decor!

Print out templates of your child’s favorite characters heads. Favorites around here include Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, but many of the character’s heads or helmets will make iconic shadows.

Cut out the templates and place on colored construction paper. Set in the sun for at least a few hours – the longer the better!

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Travis loved the shadowy images we achieved and proudly hung them in his room.

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Don’t forget you can play this game with plenty of other objects, too. Cookie cutters make cute decor for Veronika’s side of the room.

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Summer Baby Field Trips

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If it’s your baby’s first summer, you may be hesitant to get out and about in the heat. But here are a few of my suggestions for places that – yes! – you can take baby. Veronika is 9 months old for all of the ideas below, but you can adapt them for your child from birth on up.

Head to the Pool:

Ideally, there will be a kiddie area with shallow water where you and your baby can sit together. Worst case scenario, camp out on the shallowest step.

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Veronika loved hanging out here, kicking her feet and dipping her hands in the water. Bigger kids brought her a few pool toys, which made fantastic teething rings.

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Tips: Make sure to stay in the shade as soon as you’re out of the water and dried off, and come prepared with plastic baggies (for wet bathing suits), swim diapers, regular diapers, a change of clothes, and snacks or milk (depending on age).

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If you’re inclined to go deeper, take baby in your arms to swish around; babies love this feeling of weightlessness.

Butterfly Garden:

We stopped by a small butterfly garden that’s been in our local area for almost 30 years. The wonder in Veronika’s eyes was immediate as she watched the butterflies swirl and dance above her.

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One landed on her shoulder and it was pure magic. She looked over at me after watching this one, as if to make sure I saw it too.

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She also loved just touching the plants and bright flowers.

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There are so many colors and scents for a baby in this experience! Just make sure you help keep little fingers away from the delicate insects themselves.

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Tips: Go early (right at opening is ideal!). Many places like this will host camp groups in the summer, and I wanted her to marvel at the butterflies without lots of kids in the way. We were lucky to share the room with only two other families.

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Also, consider leaving the stroller behind. She was much more into it when she was out where she could swivel her head and take in the butterflies from all directions.

Admire New Construction:

Big trucks are fascinating to babies and for good reason! There’s noise, there’s movement, there’s lifting, there’s digging. Veronika and I stopped by a local street that’s been under construction all season. There goes whirly swirly cement truck!

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She had no idea what was coming around the corner, but grinned once she saw this bulldozer go by.

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Tips: If the noise is too loud for your little one, consider standing far back, or investing in Baby Banz.

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There will still be plenty of movement and excitement to observe from far back, without overwhelming the senses. Also, try to go on a day that’s not too hot, or when you can be in the shade, since construction sites tend to be sun-drenched dusty places.

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Botanical Garden:

Don’t think your baby will be bored in a place with no toys; as with the butterfly garden, the draw here is for all the senses.

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There are bold colors to take in visually; the feel of wind on hair or sunshine on skin or grass on toes; and of course the smell of pretty flowers.

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Many botanical gardens can be overwhelmingly large, so either find a small one or stick to a small area.

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If allowed, lay down a picnic blanket and spread out a few toys or books to read together and make a little afternoon of it.

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Tips: Just because you’re not at a pool or beach, don’t forget a big sunhat and sunscreen. Also make sure to bring along bug spray, especially if garden trails lead through wooded or shady areas.

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Animal Fun:

I don’t take my kids to zoos, but I love exposing Veronika to animals through local sanctuaries. Although we’ve visited such farms in the past, today she was very alert and focused on the animal’s behavior. She loved watching the chickens and roosters.

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Their crowing startled her a little, but she was fascinated watching them take dirt baths or roost up high.

She also loved the cows! For each animal we marveled at, I reminded her of their noises. “Moo moo!”

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The sheep were enjoying a morning munch on grass, which she seemed to love.

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There’s lots of great ways to expose your baby to new vocabulary on a trip like this, too. Barns and tractors come to life, instead of being abstracts in a board book!

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Tips: Go in the morning. Animals will be more active before the hottest part of the day, and your baby will notice movements more than sleeping animals.

Where have you taken your baby this summer? Please share in the comments!

Melted Crayon Suncatchers

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It’s so fun to harness the power of the sun when you make art in the summertime. Travis and I used melted crayons in a project once before, but that one relied on the indoor heat of a hairdryer. This time, we put the sun’s heat to work!

To set up, lay a piece of black construction paper on a baking sheet. The dark surface and the metal will help absorb as much of the sun’s heat as possible. Cut two equal sheets of wax paper, and place one on the black paper.

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The next step was a bit tricky: remove the paper wrapper from crayons and use the edge of a craft stick to shave off bits of wax. Travis found this to be quite difficult, and in all honesty, I did too.

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After he’d tried for a bit, I made sure our wax paper was covered with enough shavings. Cover that with the second piece of wax paper.

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Now place in direct sunlight (just like we did with a solar oven a few days ago)! Depending how hot the day is, your crayons may need anywhere from 1 hour to several in order to melt. You can press down, on occasion, to help the process along.

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To turn it into a suncatcher, cut the wax paper into rectangles or other shapes, and punch a hole in the top of each piece.

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Thread them onto a dowel (or attach with string), and hang up in the window to catch the sun.

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What beautiful sunshine!

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Baby-Friendly Ice Sensory Activity

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Here’s a way your baby can cool off while fitting in sensory play on a hot day!

I took Veronika outside before the sun was too high in the sky, along with a bowl of ice cubes and a few tools.

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First, I simply wanted to see how she would react to the ice. Some babies may want to grab it and really get in there! Veronika seemed a touch nervous about how cold it was but liked the sensation on her toes.

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For added fun, I buried two shape toys in the ice. She loved reaching in and grabbing them out.

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A wooden spoon added to the fun, too. She could “stir” the ice, or tap against the bowl. I put a few pieces on the hot patio and we watched together how quickly they turned to water.

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You can also use measuring cups as scoops. These were fun for her to reach into the bowl with. Or just nibble on!

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Don’t forget about sound! Put a few pieces of ice in one of the measuring cups and shake it for an auditory sensory experience.

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And when you’re done, clean-up simply means dumping out the ice to melt in the grass!

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Solar Oven S’mores

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Happy National S’mores Day! Travis and I celebrated with a STEM take on this classic summer treat: s’mores cooked in a solar-powered oven made from one of his recycled Kiwi Crates!

To start, cut the flaps off the top of the Kiwi box (or an old shoebox). Line the entire inside with aluminum foil, and secure with clear tape.

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Place 4 graham crackers on the bottom; we love the vegan and gluten-free grahams from Kinnikinnick.

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Top two of the graham cracker pieces with dark chocolate squares and the other two pieces with Dandies marshmallows.

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Cover the top of the “oven” with plastic wrap and tape down; you don’t want any bugs in there! We placed our oven on the patio in hot sunshine.

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82 degrees ought to do it!

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After 20 minutes, we took a peek. Our chocolate was so hot and melty and perfect.

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The Dandies had softened up, although they didn’t melt all the way down. But these made fantastic s’mores!

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Paint-Popper Art

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If the kids aren’t in camp and need to get out some crazy summer energy, then this project is for you!

To make the popper, cut an empty toilet paper tube in half. Tie a knot in two balloons, and cut off the tops. Slip one balloon over each half of the empty tube and secure with tape. Bright and colorful tape isn’t necessary, but does add an element of fun.

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Because we knew we were going to make a mess, Travis and I headed outside for this one. I put an old sheet on the ground and covered it with thick craft paper. We filled each paint popper with a separate color and I showed Travis how to pull back on the knot of the balloon and splash the paint forward.

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Now this was fun!

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He loved selecting which color to use next, and sometimes just dripped the paint out of the popper for big thick blobs on his canvas.

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The one drawback is that the poppers didn’t last long. After a few colors, the tape and balloon came lose and the cardboard roll lost its shape.

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But it was more than enough time for him to produce fantastic splattery art.

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And get some sunshine in the process!

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Bring Out the Baby Bathtub

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The title of this post means exactly what it says: don’t use the baby bathtub inside this summer… Bring it outside!

Being outdoors in hot summer weather and trying to keep baby cool can be tricky. Even many kiddie pools are toddler-sized, and can be large and intimidating for a baby… Not to mention for the parent who has to keep a double eye on things when water is involved.

The perfect hack? Use the baby bathtub! It’s much smaller, and Veronika loves sitting in this even dry outside while we play But today I filled it with lukewarm water and added a few of her favorite bath toys.

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At first she just seemed amazed ato be in water outside, quickly followed by delight. She played with the toys…

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Kicked her legs…

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And loved when I showed her how to pour from funnels and cups.

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She also loves when I splash my fingers in the water to make “fireworks”!

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In sum, this is the perfect way to keep baby cool in the pool, whether it’s just the two of you or if big siblings are playing outside, too.

Bug Movie

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Travis got to stay up extra late tonight to watch a special movie. Not one on TV… a real live bug show!

Before it got dark, we headed outside and put up two sticks (actually, a stick and one toy microphone stand!) and I tied a piece of string tight between them. Then we carefully draped a pillowcase over the string.

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(Note: for a “big screen movie” version of this, tie a thicker rope between branches on two trees and use a whole sheet instead of a pillowcase).

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As the sun set, we headed outside. Set a toy lantern at the foot of the pillowcase or sheet to illuminate it. And now sit back and wait!

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Travis was so excited and couldn’t stop asking questions about when it would be dark enough, and if the bugs were sleeping, and what kind of bugs we might see.

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The waiting and anticipation, honestly, were the most magical part about this activity. Travis felt so special staying up late with me, and watched the darkening sky as much as he watched our glowing lantern.

I wish I could tell you we saw something spectacular like a moth or a giant beetle against our sheet. The results were more ho hum: mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies.

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But Travis wasn’t disappointed in the slightest! He was so thrilled with each insect that found our lamp and hummed around. We loved this activity so much we’ll definitely do it at least once more before summer is out.

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What bugs came to your “movie”? Please share in the comments!