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.

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.

Summer Science Games for Kids

Summer is here and so are lazy afternoons and loads of playtime. Most kids look forward to unstructured summer schedules and you definitely don’t want to take that away. But it’s important to remember that learning is a year-long activity and summer break is no exception. In fact, you can put the hot weather to good use by linking it to simple science concepts that can be taught without investing too much time and do not require special equipment. No matter how old your child is, they are sure to enjoy these fun science games for kids. 

Reading Shadows

Reading Shadows

Photo Courtesy – dvs

Invite your child outdoors to enjoy the sunny weather. Have him observe his shadow at different times of day. Explain how the length of his shadow is related to the sun’s position in the sky. Use chalk or a stick to trace his shadow and ask him to measure and chart it. Why does it grow and shrink at different times?

Grow your own Veggies

Summer is a great time to encourage your child to grow something in the yard or garden, or a pot on a windowsill. Let him grow flowers or herbs or veggies you can use later in the kitchen. Take an empty egg carton, fill it with water and use last night’s avocado pit to grow a houseplant. Explain that not all plants need soil to grow and why.

Stargazing

Stargazing

Photo Courtesy – vincent.limshowchen

Stargazing can be a fun science activity for kids and is perfect for clear summer nights when you can easily spot the stars and planets in our solar system. Camp out in the yard or any open space and ask your child if he can identify the North Star, various constellations and the phases of the moon. Take your child for an outing at the beach and discuss how the tides of the ocean are affected by the moon.

Go Butterfly-Watching

Watching butterflies can be a fascinating pastime. Go to a local park where they have different kinds of flowers and ask your child to observe which ones attract the most butterflies. Discuss how butterflies go through different stages of development and what they look like during each stage.

Make your own Bird Feeder

Bird Feeder

Idea via Pinterest

Spread peanut butter on a roll of toilet paper with your fingers and roll it in bird seed. This is your homemade bird feeder. Hang it on a tree branch, get a pair of binoculars and watch those birds flocking hungrily! It’s a great way to meet the birds that throng your neighborhood and observe their habits.

What have you got in store to prevent the dreadful brain slide?

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