Picnic-Perfect Basket

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This fun basket is a great way to involve kids in the planning for a summer picnic. It’s perfect for holding utensils and napkins: a mini basket to put in the big basket!

To assemble, Travis helped cover an empty snack box with brown cardstock. We trimmed it to fit and glued on, then let dry.

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Meanwhile, I showed him how to weave a few additional strips of brown cardstock together.The weaving was a little beyond his ability but he helped use a glue stick at each intersection I showed him to complete the weave.

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Leave one strip extra long to be your handle and glue that down on the other side of the “picnic basket.” Meanwhile, glue an empty toilet paper tube into the box. Once dry, add plastic utensils!

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We colored in a watermelon slice on pink cardstock for a touch of whimsy. I colored in a green rind and Travis added black seeds with crayon. Glue to the side of the basket.

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Finally, we colored in a piece of white cardstock as the “blanket.” Travis’s choice of gray and black seemed a littler, er, dark, so I added a few pink stripes! To make it sturdy, glue this cardstock onto corrugated cardboard, and then glue the basket onto the “blanket.”

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For the final touch, we tucked in some paper napkins. This craft makes a great caddy for kids to use all summer long, easily able to reach utensils and napkins when the family dines al fresco. Or bring it along to the next true picnic! You could even tuck in salt and pepper or a few other light items.

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Frosty Bites

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It’s been 90 degrees all week and Travis had fun experimenting with which frozen snacks were his favorite, an idea out of his latest Highlights magazine..

First up, we tried a few different kinds of fruit. Frozen watermelon was hard to bite into, but almost like a watermelon popsicle! That got a big thumbs up.

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Frozen banana got big smiles, too…

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…but not so much frozen grapes.

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Frozen non-dairy yogurt and frozen pudding were too hard straight from the freezer, harder than ice cream, and needed time to thaw before he could dig in. Neither was declared a winner.

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Frozen applesauce got laughs because as it thawed enough to come out of the tube at the top, it kept squirting us!

His favorites? Frozen chocolate bars…

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…and frozen Dandies mini marshmallows – these he could eat like sweet little frozen chips out of the bag!

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What does your child like to eat as a frozen snack on a hot summer afternoon? Please share in the comments!

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Backyard Bean Bags

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Travis and I made these adorable homemade bean bags this morning before his first day of camp; I wanted to send him off in high spirits after quality mom and son time!

To prepare the bean bags, spoon about 1/2 cup dried beans into small zip-top bags.

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Squeeze out the air and seal tightly.

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Insert each bag into the toe of a small sock (or an old, longer sock that you’ve cut just above the ankle). Twist the top of the sock into a knot to tie.

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These were so cute (Travis loved that they were circular instead of square like ones from the store) and have great heft. Already they were fun to play with, just tossing or juggling!

But now we needed to play with them! First we set up a classic Bean Bag Toss with buckets.

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It was mommy versus Travis for a few rounds to see who could get it in!

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Next up: Target Practice! I drew three different colored circles of different sizes and labeled them as worth 10, 20, and 30 points.

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Travis not only loved it, but made up a new rule. If you hit this blade of grass, you were instantly out.

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In the evening, we found a few more ways to play with the beanbags. First, a round of Stuck in the Mud. With this game, you run with a bean bag on your head. If it falls, you freeze in place until another person returns the bean bag to your head.

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This was a highlight of our day, getting the whole family out running around in the new yard! But keeping the bean bag on our heads proved very tough, so Travis changed the rules: you simply had to pelt another player with a bean bag to make him or her It.

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Luckily the bean bags are the perfect soft item for a game like this.

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Soon we were all silly and rolling around in the grass.

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Baby sister loved just watching!

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As a final game, we played Tower Toppling, a riff on a classic carnival game. We only had one rinsed and empty can to play with, but will be repeating this game with a whole tower for sure!

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For our game, the goal was to see who could knock over the can first.

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If you have a full tower, see who can knock down all the cans with the fewest throws to declare the winner.

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Any and all of these games would be fantastic with a crowd; consider them your next summer gathering, whether a barbecue, block party, or family get-together.

Sunshiny Art, Three Ways

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Baby it’s hot outside! But instead of lamenting the fact, Travis and I are using the sun as our accomplice in art.

First, we made suncatchers. This is a craft we’ve done before but it never loses its luster. Use markers to color over coffee filters – the more colors the better! Spritz with water to bleed the colors together.

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Once dry, we made paper frames by cutting rectangles out of white paper and taping around the filters. Place them in the window to catch the sun!

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Then we headed outside with a long roll of craft paper to make shadow portraits. Have your child stand so that the paper catches their shadow (you might have to lay it down a few times before you get the right angle). Trace around the shadow.

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Travis filled in his outline with a smile and clothes – all orange today!

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I challenged him to draw my shadow next. This task was tough, especially because he lost his place when the sun went behind a cloud, but it was great tracing practice.

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Finally, we returned to another oldie-but-goodie: sun prints. Place toys or other items on a piece of dark construction paper. Travis liked placing the items just so.

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Wait a few hours, then check and see if the image of the items remains on the paper. The longer the sun bleaches your paper, the more pronounced the effect will be.

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Thanks for helping out, Mr. Sun!

Postcard Journal

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Acting on a suggestion from Highlights magazine, Travis is beginning a summer-long postcard journal. We have no grand trips planned, but there’s no reason that should stop us (or you) from the activity; we plan to pick up a postcard at every place we go in the next two months, whether or local or further afield!

This is a neat way to introduce kids to postcards, which may seem like a throwback to another era in this age of vacation posts on Instagram and Facebook. Travis thought it was neat when we headed to the local bookstore and picked out a postcard just of our home town, our first summer location.

We also checked out one of the sights in town and made sure to scoop up a postcard there.

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Punch a hole in each postcard after the visit, and loop them together on a key ring (or thread them together on a piece of yarn.

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For each place we visit, we jot down the date and some memories on the back. These memories can be grand or ho-hum, the key is to capture a few details.

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And to remember your summer on one easy key ring. As with Travis’s Summer Memory Jar, we’ll be updating this all summer long, so stay tuned for an update!

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Summer Memory Jar

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School’s out for summer! 

My boy is officially a pre-k graduate, and we have two glorious summer months ahead before Kindergarten. To make the most of it, we made this summer jar to fill.

First, glue a ribbon around the top of a mason jar. I purchased a large jar, in anticipation of lots of little mementos.

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Use puffy paint to decorate the jar. I suggested to Travis that we make a yellow summer sun across the front, but Travis had other plans: big drippy blobs in lots of colors.

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It took forever to dry, but why not – it’s his summer!

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Once dry, I used marker to add “Summer 2019” across the top of the jar. We also tried writing “summer” with puffy paint, but this proved to be too drippy.

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Now we’ll fill it, moment by moment and experience by experience.

On the first full day of summer, we did a family walk at a national park, and Travis very carefully selected the best rock to add to our jar.

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I will post an update to this blog at the end of summer!

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What’s in your summer jar? Please share in the comments!

Whale Napkin Holder

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As we head into summer nights and summer dinners – whether poolside, seaside, or just out on the patio – this is a cute napkin holder project for kids to put together. Make as many as you want, whether just one whale to add summer fun to your child’s table, or a whole pod of whales for family dinners al fresco!

Cut a length of cardstock (we chose blue) to fit around a toilet paper tube, and attach with a gluestick.

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Travis thought it was so neat that the rectangle he cut out could be wrapped around in this way!

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While he worked on that rectangle, I drew a whale for him on a second piece of blue cardstock and cut it out (bigger kids can do this part themselves).

Travis added some belly lines with marker, and glued down a wiggly eye.

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Glue the whale to the tube and your holder is ready!

It was fun to show him how to accordion-fold a napkin, alternating folds over and under.

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Slip the napkin in the tube and your whale now has a water spout. Meanwhile, summer diners have a napkin ready when it’s time to wipe those buttery fingers from corn on the cob!

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Ultimate Lemonade Stand

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We couldn’t say farewell to summer without having a lemonade stand!

The inspiration for Travis’s first entrepreneurial venture came when we learned about Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and were inspired not just to help our neighbors on a hot day, but to send our proceeds to charity, too.

Unfortunately I could not be certain that the beneficiaries of Alex’s Lemonade Stand (in the realm of children’s cancer research) did not test on animals. To get in on the charitable act without harming any living being, I was thrilled to learn that the Children’s Oncology Group does not test on animals. We planned to send our donations to this charity, and then it was time to think about some lemon-tastic fun.

First up were a few recipes! To supplement a few bottles of store-bought lemonade, we also made this homemade version. In a blender, combine the following:

1 (5-pound) watermelon, cubed

8 ounces lemon juice

1/2 cup agave nectar

Process until smooth, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

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For a Lemonade Snack Mix to go with our beverages, Travis helped prepare this mix:

  • Melt 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter with 2 tablespoons sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract.
  • Drizzle the butter mixture over 4 cups multi-grain cereal (such as Barbara’s multigrain spoonfuls) on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20 minutes, stirring about halfway through.
  • Once the cereal mix cools, stir in 1 cup raisins and 1 cup dried cranberries.
  • Heat 1 cup chocolate chips in the microwave at 20 second intervals until melted. Transfer to a zip-top plastic bag and drizzle over the cereal mix.
  • Top with your favorite sprinkles (such as Let’s Do Organic). Let cool completely
  • Divide the mixture into zip-top plastic bags to sell.

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On lemonade stand day, it was set-up time! Travis helped make posters by drawing yellow “lemons” around my words.

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Big kids can definitely have fun with the decorations on their posters. Be sure to post them all around the neighborhood so those who might not otherwise pass your house will have a reason to come by.

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We adorned our stand with yellow crepe paper and a few yellow balloons; green construction paper “leaves” taped on the tops turn them into instant giant lemons!

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Travis took to his new business with more alacrity than I would have guessed, flagging down cars and passers-by, gleefully pouring lemonade from the pitcher, and proudly asking each customers how many cups they wanted.

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A couple notes for a hot day: Do try and set up your table in the shade, or your little seller will wilt fairly quickly.

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Don’t be afraid to take breaks! You might miss a few customers, but especially for the youngest business-owners, their interest may lag after about half an hour. Try again in an hour or so!

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Finally, charge a small amount for each cup and snack, but be aware that folks are surprisingly generous and will often pay you more, whether simply to support a young kid’s actions, or once they learn the proceeds will go to charity.

I knew this was a hit when Travis turned to me and said, “Mom, this was a great idea. Thank you!” And now to proudly send off our donation.



DIY Sundial – Two Ways!

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Summer is the perfect time to give kids a visual of how the sun moves across the sky during the day. Here are two ways to mark off the hours and watch the shadows move!

For our first sundial, we poked a straw through a paper plate, and set it securely between two planks of a back deck (alternatively, place in the yard with enough dirt around the straw to hold it firmly in place).

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It was early when we started, a long 9 a.m. shadow, which Travis helped mark off.

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We had to work around the sun a little bit (which disappeared behind the clouds a few times), but as we added hours, Travis could see how the shadow not only was shortest at mid-day, but also moved around the plate in a circle.

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For a full-body experience, turn your child into the sundial! Sketch their outline with chalk at various points of the day, noting both location and length.

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After a full day’s cycle, they’ll be able to see how shadows move.

Make Your Own Raisins

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Ok, you’re melting in a heat wave and hot sunshine… But that will be cause to rejoice if you harness the power of that sun and show your kids how you can turn grapes into raisins.

Two years ago, we actually tried a similar trick using an oven, and I’d been waiting for the chance to make a sun-dried version. Boil a bunch of whole green grapes for 30 seconds, then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Travis loved helping me make the ice water bowl!

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Place the grapes on foil pans, then cover with a breathable cloth and place somewhere outside that gets direct sunlight. Bonus points for weather that’s 85 degrees or above. Let the grapes stand for 3 to 5 days, then see how you’ve shriveled them into raisins.

By day 1, the grapes were definitely shriveled and wrinkly on the outside, although still the same size as regular grapes.

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As the days went on, they got smaller and wrinklier but – oh no! A bout of rain caught us by surprise, and our raisins turned moldy before we had a chance to try them.

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So even though we weren’t entirely successful, I can’t wait to hear your stories about sun-dried goodies in the comments.