The Great Outdoors – Activities to transform your backyard!

It’s coming up to my favorite time of year. For those of you who have been reading this blog a while, you know that almost every time of year is my favorite time. I can’t help when each season has its own charm. This season, it is the joy of stepping foot outside of the house and not freezing into a life-sized ice sculpture. Aah the great joys of being outdoors!

I have been making lists, and you know how much I looove lists, of all the activities I could potentially participate in or host this spring/summer. Some of the activities I found online, they blew my mind. Here are some that I’m mostly definitely going to try or con people into trying. What’s great about these activities is that it is something that people of all age can enjoy without having any bones broken or muscles aching.

In no particular order, here are 10 insanely fun games that make you wish summer was a year-long affair.

Giant Beer Pong

Giant Beer PongIdea from kroqslightning

Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag

Glow in the dark Capture the FlagInstructions at Let’s Get Together

Outdoor Pictionary

Outdoor PictionaryInstructions at Tiny Sidekick

Dunk Bucket

Dunk BucketInstructions at The Happy Housewife

Cup Races

Cup RacesInstructions at All For The Boys

Sponge Launch

Sponge LaunchInstructions at How Does She

Lawn Twister

Lawn TwisterInstructions at One Good Thing by Jillee

Giant Jenga

Giant JengaInstructions at A Beautiful Mess

Water Slides

Water SlidesInstructions at How Does She

Frozen T-Shirt Race

Frozen T-ShirtInstructions at A Girl and a Glue Gun

Would you take any of these up? Do you have your own summer outdoor list? Let me know.

The Psychological Benefits of Games

I have an obsession with infographics. I have tried to steer away from reblogging all the lovely ones I keep finding. I think I have managed quite well. On my list of resolutions this year, however, I had written “Design my own Infographic”. I slaved over it for months and months. They never tell you how hard it is to narrow down to a topic. I have felt like a prospective PhD student, ideating pitches.  After all that hair-pulling and day dreaming, I’ve finally finished.

Here is the finished product. Feel free to share and leave your feedback.

The Psychological Benefits of Games

Coming Up with a Winning Science Fair Project Idea

So your child is participating in the school science fair, and you’re now trying to help come up with science fair project ideas. Irrespective of whether your child was forced to take part in the science fair or even if science is a much-disliked subject, you can turn the situation around with a winning science fair project idea. Here are six tips to share with your child to ensure (s)he enjoys working on the project, learns a lot in the process and maybe even ends up with a prize!

"Science Fair, 09" by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science Fair, 09” by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. Begin Early

The science fair is a long way away, and you figure you have more than enough time to come up with a good science fair project idea and see it through to the end. Great! That’s no reason to put off starting on the project. You never know what complications may arise once you actually begin. Even the seemingly simple task of coming up with a good idea may take a lot more time than expected. The last thing you want is to find out that you have only one week left for the project, and an understandably limited choice of ideas to choose from. With more time in hand, you have the liberty of choosing a topic that truly interests you, spending enough time to do research and understand the topic in detail, and collecting the necessary information in a well thought-out and organized manner. And if you’ve got your eyes on the prize, each of these factors will help differentiate your project from the other good ones on display. Believe me, the judges can tell.

2. Choose a topic that really interests you

The right way to go about finding a good science fair project idea is to begin with your interests. Don’t read through a list of ideas and see whether any of them appeal to you. Rather, take some time to think about what kind of topics get you excited. It doesn’t even have to have a direct link to science. What things make you sit up and pay attention? Sports? Cats? Building things with your own hands? Narrow your list down to a few of your favorite topics and spend some time thinking about them. Most probably you will have to do some additional reading on the topic to come up with a question that interests you. The Google Idea Springboard is a great tool to help you out in this area. You’re likely to spend a few weeks if not months working on your project, so having a topic that you love will keep you interested till the end.

3. Come up with a good question that you can work with

A good science fair project idea begins with a good question. How do you define a good question? Firstly, it should not be a question that has already been answered by someone else. If you design a science fair project around the question ‘Which color light do plants grow best in?’, it is unlikely that you or anyone else will learn anything new from it. The experimental procedure and results for such a project can easily be found on the internet. Even if you do decide to do a project based on a science fair project idea you found online, make sure to change the question and ask something new so that you are experimenting and doing research on a slightly different area. Secondly, the question should truly interest you. Don’t adopt a question that someone else finds interesting or exciting. Use your ‘favorite topics’ list, spend time playing with different ideas in your head and only settle for a question that you would genuinely like to know the answer to. This interest will completely change the way you approach the project.

4. Consider the experimental procedure involved

Remember, while trying to settle on your science fair project idea, that you have to come up with a fool proof method for collecting data to answer your question. Consider the kind of time, energy and resources required to set up your experiment, and realistically evaluate whether it can be accomplished with what is available to you. Also check your experiment for any flaws. Is the data that you are collecting quantifiable? Is there any subjectivity involved? Have you considered and taken care of external factors that may affect your results? If you do not know the right answers to these questions, or how to design your experiment accordingly, you will need to spend some time understanding how to set up a scientific experiment.

5. Feel free to change your question based on your background research

It is entirely possible that as you go about collecting the information you need for your project, you realize that your question isn’t a very good one, or that you think of a better and more interesting one. Feel free to change your question according to your findings. This is where point #1 becomes even more important.

6. Make sure you understand all the concepts involved

Don’t worry about finding a topic that sounds highly complicated or scientific. In fact, the more simple your topic, the better you will be able to work with it. Nobody is expecting Ph.D. level research from you. More importantly, you will find the research and data collection far more difficult if you haven’t fully understood the topic yourself. Feel free to ask for help from an adult or the internet in order to learn more about the topic, but when it comes to the project, do all the thinking and analysis yourself. This will help you immensely when it comes to answering the judges’ questions about your project, and your in-depth understanding will show.

As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure to come up with a science fair project idea that will win you over, impress your audience and maybe even tip the judges’ scales in your favor.

4 Ideas to Keep Kids Occupied at Family Gatherings

For most of us, family gatherings are once-in-a-blue-moon events that take a lot of planning and coordination, just so we can spend a few precious hours with loved ones. If you are a parent, you definitely want to make sure your toddler is reasonably well behaved and productively engaged at the party. Here are four useful ideas to keep the kids busy and happy next time you host a family get-together.

Crafts and kids’ activities

Depending on the available space, have a dedicated craft/activity room where the kiddos can happily work on crafts, puzzles, building blocks, coloring, toy-making and other activities that require little or no adult supervision. If possible, enlist an adult helper to keep an eye on the kids. Easy-to-make crafts such as paper airplanes, necklaces, scrapbooks and doorknob hangers can also serve as keepsakes or goodie bag items. Whatever activity you choose, make sure there are plenty of supplies at hand so there’s no squabbling or whining.

Fun kids’ games

There’s nothing like a game or two to keep the youngsters occupied while the adults are having fun. For an indoors party, try classic children’s games such as bowling, Hangman, Duck Duck Goose, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Simon Says, and so on. For outdoor games, let the kids run loose with relay races, balance games, poolside games, hide and seek, etc. Consider the amount of preparation required for each game and as far as possible, do all the prep work ahead of time. Keep the kids’ ages in mind while choosing the game – younger kids enjoy simpler games with few rules, while older ones appreciate a certain amount of complexity. After all, the idea is to keep them engaged!

Preschool worksheets

While I do not recommend indiscriminate use of worksheets for kids, there are times when these free printables come in handy, especially when it comes to keeping tiny preschoolers busy. Online preschool worksheets cover a variety of interesting topics – healthy eating and physical activity, coloring, dot-to-dot, reading, alphabet, critical thinking, etc. Since preschoolers have notoriously short attention spans, you’d be better off downloading simple one-page worksheets that can be completed in a few minutes. The kids can then move on to a different topic or subject without getting bored. Like games, preschool worksheets combine fun and learning in one innovative package.

Books and movies

Visit your local library to find children’s storybooks and picture books. Once the party begins, have an adult read to the kids and encourage them to invent and exchange stories. Lots of hot chocolate (or iced tea) and munchies can keep them going. Or you could play a selection of kids’ movies (The Wizard of Oz, Toy Story, How to Train your Dragon) with plenty of popcorn and cold drinks doing the rounds. Either way, your party is definitely going to be a tantrum-free success!

A combination of or more of the above ideas will make your family gathering a smooth and stress-free affair.

Eco Friendly Ways to Use Water in your Preschool Activities

Preschool activities are a great way to have fun while imparting important skills to preschoolers. Because of their age and developmental stage, there are a wide variety of fun activities that are counted as educational for the young kids. Even simple games like playing catch or building with wooden blocks count as important preschool activities as they help develop fine and gross motor skills. This gives parents and teachers a great deal of freedom in choosing activities that they think their preschoolers would enjoy. Some activities seem to be a universal hit among preschoolers. A good example would be preschool activities involving water. Kids love playing with water, and there are many educational activities that let kids do just that. However, in all the fun and excitement of hosing things down and getting wet, it’s easy to lose track of how much water is getting wasted.

 

 

Also, many parents feel that the little water that goes down the drain in their own homes couldn’t possibly affect the world’s supply of water. However, it’s important to remember that it’s never a question of one house – the same preschool activities are repeated in hundreds of homes across the country, and together the water that gets wasted can indeed impact the water table. Further, people do not need to wait for a drought to start getting serious about water conservation. While Californians are tearing out their lawns to reduce their levels of water consumption, those of us in more blessed locations would still do well to keep tabs on how much water gets wasted at home.

On that note, here are four simple eco-friendly ways to use water in your preschool activities:

Use a container to control spills – Various preschool activities involve transferring water from one container to another. This may be done using a dropper, a sponge, by pouring the water directly from one container to another, or in any other way. When done by five and six year olds, spills are inevitable. Instead of just letting the spilt water go to waste, you can use a larger container to hold the smaller containers in. That way, the water that gets spilt can just be poured back into the smaller containers again.

Play with sprinklers rather than water guns – When playing with water guns, a lot of the sprayed water goes to waste. Even if the kids are playing over a lawn, the water distribution is uneven and doesn’t really substitute for actually watering the lawn. A simple way to work around this issue is to use water sprinklers in your preschool activities. The kids can have a great time jumping over, ducking under or running through the water, and your lawn gets watered at the same time!

Use food coloring to color water – Colored water is pretty cool. It makes simple preschool activities seem more exciting. Kids can pretend to run their own lemonade stand, or have fun mixing the colors to make new ones. But no matter what you do with the colored water, once the preschool activity is over, you need to dispose of it. As long as you’re using food coloring or some other dye that is safe for plants, you can dispose of the water in an eco-friendly manner by using all of it to water the plants.

Choose activities that involve minimum wastage – The next time you search for preschool activities involving water, remember to use one more criterion for shortlisting – how much water is getting wasted. Sure your kids may enjoy hosing down letters or numbers written on the sidewalk according to the questions you call out, but is there absolutely no other way you can revise the numbers with him? It may take a little more effort to find the right activities, and maybe even some creative changes of your own, but if means wasting less water, why not?

As you make these small and simple changes to your preschool activities, you have a great opportunity to discuss water conservation with your kids. By being more environmentally conscious in the way you carry out the activities, you are giving them a valuable lesson in water conservation, and being a great role model that they can emulate as they grow older.

Fairy Tales Learning Games and Activities for Kids

All it takes to entertain a three-year-old is an illustrated book of fairy tales. But fairy tales are more than simple entertainment – they are learning opportunities to impart a variety of skills to their young audience – language, math, creativity, cultural awareness and even cooking! Here are some interesting learning games and activities based on some of the most beloved fairy tales of our times.

Hint – Remember to adapt them to the age and attention span of your child!

Three Bears Dinnerware

In the tale, Goldilocks enters the Three Bears home, eats off their china and sleeps in their beds. You can use this simple story to teach your child sorting and classification skills. Place dishes, glasses and silverware in three different sizes on the table and invite him to sort them by size – small, medium and large. He could also sort them by category or material used. This entertaining learning activity is suitable for four to six year olds.

Act it Out

This fun game puts the “act” in “act”ivity! Just create a variety of cards featuring popular fairy tale characters and invite the kids to perform an action. For instance, one card could say “You’re Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf is chasing you. Run as fast as you can!” Or, “You’re Karen and you’ve put the magical red shoes. At a word from the old soldier, you must dance.” Apart from building your child’s literacy skills and gross motor skills, this fun learning game also allows them to give free rein to their imagination.

Make Your own Fairy Tale

Place small objects and pictures in a bag and invite your child to make his own fairy tale, using the contents of the bag. For instance, he could start off with “Once upon a time, there was a gnome who loved to dance in the rain. One day (pulling out a picture of the sun) it was bright and sunny and the poor gnome couldn’t dance. So he (pulling out a toy car) went for a ride in his car instead.” The story goes on until he has incorporated all the objects into his story and brought it to a conclusion. Your little story teller is sure to enjoy this creative learning game!

Cook up a Tale

Here’s a great learning game to keep your child engaged on a rainy day! Read a fairy tale together and do a cooking project based upon the story. For instance,

  • Make porridge after reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Make gingerbread cookies after reading The Gingerbread Man
  • Make apple pie or apple strudel after reading Snow White
  • Bake a cake after reading The Little Red Cap

As adults, we relive our childhoods by reading fairy tales to our kids. Now it’s time to make your child an active learner rather than a passive listener. If you have more ideas for turning fairy tales into learning games and activities, I’d love to hear them!

Subtraction game ideas to teach the concepts of ‘difference’ and ‘take away’

Before I start, I’d like to apologize for my blog silence. I tried to schedule as many posts as I could but some of them got lost in the maze that is the internet. I was away on vacation with the family to England (Photos up soon I promise!). What I have learnt in the past few weeks is that clichés are clichés for a reason. You know when people say they need a vacation to recover from a vacation? Oh boy is it true! Meanwhile, I have been able to write this post on Math because homeschooling doesn’t have terms. It’s an ongoing process! :) Hope you are all well. I will catch up with all your blogs soon! 

Experiencing difficulty in learning subtraction is a very common problem early in schools because students fail to move beyond the not-so-foolproof counting strategies of subtraction taught at kindergarten level. A simple solution lies in explaining the concept of subtraction to kids as both ‘take away’ and ‘difference’, helping them to understand the concept clearly. ‘Difference’ can be explained as comparing two numbers while ‘taking away’ can be explained as ‘removing numbers from a larger series of numbers’. M&M candies, cookies, chocolate squares, buttons, cookies, Lego blocks, cheerios, and marshmallows have always been very efficient tools in teaching kids the ‘difference’ and ‘taking away’ concepts. However, when I am not time bound and the kids are eager to learn, I play a few subtraction games with them in order to help them master the concept.

Flip flop math explaining ‘difference’

I stumbled upon this cool subtraction game on Pinterest when I was researching for general math game ideas for my 2 1st graders at home. I improvised on the game suggested by The Teacher’s Cauldron and came up with my own! This is a subtraction game that will help them understand the idea of ‘difference’. You will need a fair collection of sea shells, card stock, plastic laces, glue, scissors, markers, and 2 large sheets of construction paper. Distribute the shells unevenly among the kids and make multiple teams of 2 children each. The idea is to compare the number of sea shells and make a flip flop craft out of their ‘analysis’. If two girls in a team got 6 and 1 shells respectively, they cut out two flip flop bases and write their names on them. Next, have them write the number of shells they got on the flip flop next to their name. Paste the flip flops on the large construction paper and write the ‘difference’ in the space between their flip flops. Follow the image and replace the names with the answers and the addition problems with the number of shells each girl/boy got. Make several such pairs of flip flops for each team. Help them make the straps with the plastic laces and their flip flop craft is ready to go on the soft board.

Burning game explaining ‘take away’

This is a magic math game for kids of 2nd grade. It’s a twist to regular boring games, but must only be tried with necessary precautions in place!

You will need a mix of 3 portions of lemon juice and 1 portion of water, cotton swabs, a candle, a matchbox, papers, and markers to play the subtraction game in the class. Write an addition problem, like in the image, on strips of construction paper.  The only thing that you need to do differently here is write the number that’s hidden under the orange paper with cotton swabs dipped in the lemon juice and water mix. Ask the kids to calculate the number by ‘taking away’ the first digit from the answer, ‘taking away’ 7 from 10 in this case.

Hold the paper over a lit candle for the missing number to gradually reveal itself! The kids will be thrilled to bits to see their prediction appear magically on the paper! Please make necessary precaution and follow safety rules in the class while lighting the candle and holding the paper over it.

Benefits of Outdoor Games for Kids

With each passing day, more and more youngsters are getting sucked into the virtual world games for kids. I do this quite often myself – get wrapped up in all the wonderfulness of technology and overlook, rather conveniently, the benefits of playing outdoors. Is it important at all? At that young age, kids should be encouraged to explore nature as the world outside is still very new and exciting to them. If we aren’t ensuring that our kids are spending enough time playing outside, then it’s a sign that we probably aren’t aware of the benefits of outdoor games for kids.

There is so much that kids can do outdoors. Jogging or running; playing tag, blindfold games, hopscotch and other fun games; swinging and playing in the park; participating in sports events – everything that requires your precious little ones to stay outside and move about is a fun outdoor activity or game that they can engage in.

How do Outdoor Games for Kids help?

 

Interacting with nature –

Being out in the fresh air and open space gives kids the opportunity to interact with nature one on one. Nature is a wonderful teacher and kids must be given a fair chance to learn from it. Allow them to venture out and explore independently so that they discover natural phenomena on their own – flowers blooming, leaves falling, ants making their shelters, and so on. They’ll soon know more facts than text books can ever teach them.

Interacting with other kids –

Besides interacting with nature, another great advantage of engaging kids with outdoor games is the freedom from constant parental supervision and the opportunity to play face-to-face (not virtually!) with their friends. Research has shown the calls, rhymes, taunts and jeers that go on in the field help children understand complex speech and language patterns like phonology, lexis, grammar, and syntax, besides developing their social skills and encouraging friendship and bonding. So, the next time your child is all ready to hit the comp, you know where to send him off to!

Developing physical fitness –

Children are rapidly growing little things! They need physical exercise and activities to help their muscles to develop and become stronger. Outdoor games and activities for kids such as swinging, skipping, skating, or riding help them use their whole body and therefore promote healthy growth and development. Using a swing makes children work on all their muscles while holding on, balancing, and swinging back and forth helps them understand the concept of cause and effect. Skates, scooters, and bikes require kids to balance and coordinate constantly, thus making their mind and body work in tandem. Each outdoor game for kids teaches them important skills.

So, go ahead and think of activities that will take your kids outside the confines of the house. Take them to beaches, zoos, forests, and mountains and let them play, because it’s a wonderful day!

Educational Games Kids Can Play During Their Spring Break

It’s mid March already (can you believe it!) and you must be scratching your head trying to come up with fun ways to engage the kids during their spring break! I know I was and while in the process, started compiling a list of  educational games that the kids could get busy with. I’ve come up with what I’d like to think of as a cool mix of educational games that will keep the little ones on their toes this spring. Sit back, and enjoy!

Educational Game #1 – License Plates Scavenger Hunt

This educational game is a treasure trove of fun and excitement! Play it to practice some geography.

You will need –

  • Checklist with the abbreviations of the U.S. states
  • Pencil

How to play –

  • Print out a checklist with all the 50 U.S. states and have your kids keep their eyes open to see how many license plates from different states they can find.
  • Name the correct state capital before checking off a state.
  • You can also color in an unlabeled U.S. map instead of using a checklist to test your child’s knowledge of national geography.
  • The game is over when all the states are checked off.

How it helps –

Recollection of state abbreviations

Educational Game #2 – Counting Coins

Play this educational spring game with the kids while traveling.

You will need –

  • Plenty of coins

How to play –

  • You can play this game with the kids only if you’re in the passenger seat.
  • Pull out as much loose change as you can find.
  • Ask him/her to count the change. Throw in another task by asking him/her to guess the total amount before counting it!
  • After he/she counts it once, remove a few coins and ask for a recount.
  • Can your son or daughter guess which coins are missing?

How it helps –

Counting, recollection power

Educational Game #3 – Lunar Tags

Let’s just imagine that the backyard is the night sky and a football is the moon. The objective of the game is to be the first to get the football, “the moon”. This game has to be played after the sun sets. The darker, the better!

You will need –

  • Backyard
  • Friends
  • A football
  • Flashlight

How to play –

  • Choose one player as the ‘astronaut’.
  • Have him stand anywhere in the backyard with a flashlight in one hand and the football in the other.
  • Ask him to close his eyes and count till 29 – the number of days in a lunar cycle.
  • While he counts, the other players have to run and hide themselves all over the backyard.
  • He has to call out “full moon” as soon as he finishes counting till 29.
  • Once he calls out “full moon”, players try to run to him and grab the ball without being caught in the flashlight’s beam.
  • The ‘astronaut’ can turn off the light between tags and sneak up on players to catch them!
  • Whoever reaches the ‘full moon’ first is declared the winner and becomes the next ‘astronaut’. And, when a player is caught in the light, he’s out.

How it helps –

Hand-eye coordination, knowledge of the lunar cycle

Cooking games for kids and their advantages

Cooking is fun and educational too! Introduce the little ones to this essential skill with some wonderful cooking games for kids that will not only get them hooked to the culinary pastime but also improve their hand-eye coordination, measurement skills, and other fine motor skills.

How do cooking games for kids help them learn and develop new skills?

Many online cooking games for kids help them develop their time management skills by throwing tasks at them which need to be completed within a stipulated time frame. Players are penalized if they fail to meet their target and are rewarded if they successfully achieve them. Café World  is one such cooking game for kids where they will have to make a dish in real time, example – if the player is cooking turkey, it will take around 24 hours for the dish to be completed and the rewards reaped. Players will have to go back to their virtual cooking world in the interim to check if the dish is properly made or not. Not only do kids develop their time management skills, they also learn how to multitask and manage tasks in a virtual world.

A few cooking games for kids reward them with game currency which can be redeemed any time to purchase kitchen tools, accessories, furnishings, or to even skip levels. Along their way, kids learn to manage their hard earned virtual money by using it wisely. They have to invest in the necessary purchases only after carefully weighing the pros and cons so that all of the cash is not used up at one go. Such activities improve kids’ money management skills.

Cooking games for kids break traditional gender barriers and encourage both boys as well as girls to play. They give players detailed knowledge of the ingredients used in the kitchen, time taken to cook, kitchen etiquette, how to operate kitchen appliances, and running the kitchen efficiently by the time the game is over.

Some cooking games for kids that you can play at home –

Invite a few of your kid’s friends over for a fun session of cooking games! Tell them you’re about to make cucumber and cheese sandwiches . Spread slices of cucumbers on a tray and keep the cheese, butter, pepper, and salt ready. Don’t allow them to use knives. Ask one of them to pass you four triangles of bread, another one to spread two teaspoons of cheese on a triangle slice, sprinkle half a teaspoon of pepper and close it with another triangle. Ask the last one to put a toothpick through a slice of tomato and into the bread to seal it. Besides improving their hand-eye coordination, kids will also learn and develop essential math skills from this cooking game. And, in the end, they will have creamy cheesy cucumber sandwiches! Play cooking games with kids such as ‘who can make lemonade the fastest’, ‘who can make the yummiest sandwich’, ‘who can make the best hot chocolate’, etc., during their stay-over.
Cooking games for kids can be great stress busters and a source of endless fun too! Come, explore the world and be a part of it!