After-School Activities Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

10 Awesome Green Outdoor Activities for Kids

10 Awesome Outdoor Green Activities for Kids
photo by Flickr user Gypsy Forest

Our children are our future. The world will soon be in their hands.

Show them the importance of caring for their environment, recycling, and appreciating the luxuries of everyday life with these ten exciting green outdoor activities for kids.

Make a compost pile.

Did you know about 30% of the waste in landfills across the country is yard and food waste that could be used for composting?

A compost pile is a way for kids to watch nature recycle itself in action!

According to the EPA, the average American generates about 4.9 pounds of trash every single day—that’s over 1700 pounds per year! If every person turned their natural waste into compost, it would eliminate almost 500 pounds of garbage from going to the landfill! This project will encourage your kids to think twice about wasting their sandwich crusts or uneaten vegetables. Follow the step-by-step instructions on how to turn your trash into treasure.

10 Awesome Green Outdoor Activities for Kids
photo by Flickr user Daniel Magner

Start a worm farm.

Worms are basically nature’s way of recycling.

They munch on dead leaves and grass clippings and create pathways in the soil for plants to grow and breathe.

Not only are worms fun to watch squiggle and wiggle about, but I bet your kids didn’t know what a huge role they play in the environment. Making a worm farm is fairly easy and low maintenance; they are just about the easiest pet to have.

When you’re finished with the worm farm, you can set them free in a garden or compost area and watch them thrive in their natural environment! A worm farm is a great way to teach the responsibility of being in charge of another living thing—practice for a future pet perhaps? Follow the simple instructions here.

Plant a garden.

Kids love seeing the watch magical process of how food is grown and how much work goes into it.

They are also more willing to eat their vegetables if they’ve seen where they come from and put forth the effort into tending to them!

Have your kids to pick out plants or seeds of fruits and vegetables the like, and encourage them to pick out something they’ve never tried before like zucchini or sugar snap peas.

10 Awesome Outdoor Green Activities for Kids
photo by Flickr user Trey Pitsenberger

Recycled arts & crafts.

From toilet paper tube teddies to broken button bottle banks, just about everything old can be made into something new.

All you’ll need is some clean recyclable waste—such as Kleenex boxes, paper towel rolls, empty soda bottles, or plastic cutlery—and some craft supplies like glue, string, ribbon, etc. Turn empty baby food jars into memory jars, brown paper bags into puppets, and old tin cans into wind chimes.

Find a list of great recycled crafts. Once your crafts have run their course, snap a digital picture of them and place them back into the recycling bin to keep the use cycle in motion.

Make recycled paper.

A great project to show kids how much effort goes into making a single piece of paper. Perhaps they’ll think before wasting too many sheets next time!

All it takes is some old newspaper, water, and a few other supplies to make a brand new sheet of paper from old newspaper. Kids will need the supervision of an adult for this project as it requires the use of a blender. Follow the instructions here.

Make reusable grocery bags.

Teach your child how something seemingly small can make a world of difference.

It’s a widely known fact that most plastic grocery bags end up right in the trash, only a small amount are actually recycled. Paper bags aren’t much better and use even more energy to create and transport than plastic ones.

You’ll need a sewing machine for this project as hand stitching won’t quite hold up to the weight of the groceries. Gather a few pillow cases and as much “old” fabric as you can. All you’ll need is a couple of straps to stitch on and you’ve got yourself a bag!

Kids can decorate their reusable grocery bags with pieces of fabric or use fabric markers to personalize them.

Create a backyard habitat for neighborhood animals.

With expansion and construction on the rise, many animals’ habitats are being threatened or eliminated. Have you child help you create a welcoming environment for local wildlife and enjoy the views of butterflies, birds, and small mammals.

Set up a bird bath to attract a variety of local birds, plant local flowers and trees, and set out a few bird and bat houses and the will find its way! Kids will love watching the joyful wildlife enjoying the gifts they’ve provided them!

Go for a nature hike.

A growing number of kids spend most of their time indoors, and many don’t even make it a point to go outside every day.

Encourage your kids to explore the wide world around them and appreciate all the beauty that nature has to offer!

Visit a nature preserve in your area and take a long walk. What colors, animals, and plants do they see that they don’t see at home?

(Almost) zero carbon footprint day.

Pick one day to be the greenest family on the block!

When children see their parents setting an example and getting involved in a cause they are more likely want to get involved themselves. Spend the day biking to the grocery store, shutting all lights off before leaving the room, and conserving as much water as possible.

Kids will learn to appreciate everyday luxuries that are often taken for granted.

Make a milk carton bird feeder.

Your kids will enjoy watching the local birds flock to their backyard and enjoy a tasty treat!

Cut a hole in the side of the carton big enough for birds to come and go about 2 to 4 inches from the bottom of the carton. Cut a small hole below to add a dowel rod below the hole for birds to perch. Cut 2 holes in the top of the carton and thread twine through to hang from a tree.

Finally, using a pin, poke several holes in the bottom of the carton to promote moisture drainage as soggy bird feeders can cause illnesses in birds. Fill with a wild bird feed and watch the birds flock to your snack station.

10 Awesome Green Outdoor Activities for Kids

Written by Sarah Antrim

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After-School Activities Events Parenting Resources

10 Summer Activities that will Satisfy Bored Kids AND your Wallet

Summer: the ultimate free-for-all.

Instead of being entertained and engaged for 5 to 8 straight hours every day, kids are now looking to you with those big eyes that say “I’m bored.”

Here’s some fun and thrifty ideas to beat summer boredom that will keep both your kids and wallet happy.

Make a tire swing

A simple summer classic, tire swings can easily be put up and taken down as often as you’d like. On the days that the park is too crowded or it’s too hot to make the walk, hop on the tire swing and let the fun begin!

Simply hang a tire from a sturdy branch with strong rope and you’ve got yourself a swing.

10 Thrifty Summer Ideas Guaranteed to Beat Boredom, not your Wallet
Photo by Flickr user twred

Have a cooking day

For those days that the air conditioning is more comforting than the wicked heat, rally the troops into the kitchen and come up with some fun recipes to make as a family.

On those especially hot days where turning on the oven is a no-no, check out this list of no-bake desserts that are sure to beat the heat.

Cooking with Kids

Backyard obstacle course

Who is the greatest obstacle warrior of them all?

Have a competition in your backyard that will be sure to keep kids busy for hours. Make an obstacle course out of wading pools, tires, and ropes to test kids’ balance and agility. For some great obstacle course ideas visit here.

Scavenger hunt

Keep kids entertained and having fun by sending them on a scavenger hunt. Hide clues throughout the house and yard so that kids will have to follow clues to get to their final destination. Place clues underneath rocks, hide a message in a balloon, or even bury clues in the yard so kids will have to dig for them.

The final destination could be anything from a surprise ice cream cone to a special screening of their favorite movie.

geography for kids
photo by Flickr user artstreamstudios

Rainy day fort

What better place to set up camp than in the comfort of your own living room?

Grab some pillows and blankets and build a fort worth writing home about. Shut off all the lights and bring out the lanterns so kids feel like they’re really at camp. Kids can share ghost stories, eat s’mores, and play flashlight tag all just steps from their bedrooms.

Photo by Flickr user designerBrent
Photo by Flickr user designerBrent

Have a boat race

Toy boats can be made out of anything from wood to Tupperware—as long as it floats, it can be a boat!

Go to your local creek or simply fill up a pool in the backyard and let the races begin. Kids can use straws to set their ships sailing and see whose boat is the quickest. For some ideas on how to construct your own boat, check it out.

Photo by Flickr user Jon Olav Eikenes
Photo by Flickr user Jon Olav Eikenes

Tie dye

This is a great outdoor craft as it can get pretty messy!

Grab some white pieces of clothing such as socks, t-shirts, or dresses, and get ready to dye! Tie dye kits can be purchased at any craft store, or simple fabric dye will work just the same. Be sure to follow all the instructions provided to avoid too many stains.

Photo by Flickr user Karly Soldner
Photo by Flickr user Karly Soldner

Dress-up box

Kids love to pretend, and what better way to create a living story than with costumes.

Raid your closet for old bridesmaid dresses or bedazzled jean jackets that you knew would come in handy one day. Most thrift stores are a gold mine for dress-up boxes. Fancy hats, heels, and costume jewelry can be found at a fraction of their cost if you know where to look!

Photo by Flickr user mooshoo {littlepapoose}
Photo by Flickr user mooshoo {littlepapoose}

Backyard water wonderland

This is a great activity for those unbearably hot days. Drag out the inflatable pool, sprinkler, water guns, and even water balloons and have an all-out water blast–bored kids no more!

For an extra cool dip, float some ice cubes in the pool and call it the “cool off zone.” When kids get overheated from running around they’ll get a quick chill of relief.

Photo by Flickr user jennyhud
Photo by Flickr user jennyhud

Fly a kite

Check your local forecast and plan for the next windy day. If your kids have never flown a kite before, I recommend picking up a cheap starter kite. You can find them at any super store or even some dollar stores.

Keep in mind they probably won’t last long, but it will teach your kids the basics of kite flying. Once they’ve mastered it, consider purchasing a good kite that will last all summer.

Photo by Flickr user Vironevaeh
Photo by Flickr user Vironevaeh
Written by Sarah Antrim
Parenting Resources

10 Ways to Instill Healthy Eating Habits in Your Child

Encouraging your child to develop healthy eating habits is not an easy task. Throw in a few busy schedules, after school activities, and fussy eaters and you’ve got your work cut out for you. With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, instilling healthy habits in your child are more important than ever. Here are a few things you can do to help your child have a healthy future.

1. Try as many new foods as possible. If kids are used to a regular regimen of chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and French fries, they’ll grow to expect that and become picky eaters. In order for their taste buds to develop, they have to try new things. Keep your kids guessing at dinner time and it will be exciting for everyone. Try to have a few side dishes with every entrée so that if they don’t like one thing they won’t go to bed hungry. Once you discover some favorites, you can create a dinner rotation filled with tried and true meals as well as new recipes.

2. Avoid saying “you wouldn’t like this.” First impressions are everything. Once kids have an idea in their head that they don’t like something, they are not likely to forget it. If they’re not allowed to try your spinach, they may write spinach off altogether and refuse to eat it. Let your child explore and be their own judge of what they do and do not like. You may be surprised!

3. Educate your child about their food. Did you know that carrots used to be purple before the 17th century? What do you think a purple carrot would taste like? What animal is famous for loving carrots? What do they look like when they eat their carrots? Ask your kids questions and learn some fun facts about food to encourage curiosity and eagerness to try new things. If kids insist they don’t like something that they’ve never tried before, such as carrots, ask them to show you how a rabbit would eat a carrot. Think Randy’s piggy mashed potatoes from “A Christmas Story,” only less messy. They may just find out that they have loved carrots all along!

4. Lead by example. Most kids are more willing to try foods if they see their parents enjoying them. Don’t be afraid to let the “mmm’s” and “ahh’s” flow at the dinner table to encourage your kids try the dreaded broccoli. Try to bring as many new tastes into the home as possible and let your child observe you enjoying them. Liking the same foods can create a bond that only you and your child can share. Perhaps everyone in your house hates kiwis, but you and your daughter love them. You can share your love of kiwis by creating recipes together and finding out what other tastes you have in common.

5. Grow a garden. A garden is a labor of love and a great learning experience for any child. Once kids see how much effort goes into growing a garden, they’ll be less likely to waste their food. They’ll also learn responsibility and how much a garden is affected if not watered for just one day. If your family lives in an urban setting where gardening is not an option, try growing herbs in pots. Most herbs can easily be grown inside and will open your child up to new tastes.

6. Let kids help in the kitchen. The more involved that kids are with the cooking process, the more excited they will be to indulge in their finished product. If kids are presented with a mystery dish again and again, they’ll be quicker to turn it away or pick apart the pieces that they don’t like. Encourage your child to help prepare dinner by doing simple and safe tasks like washing vegetables and measuring ingredients. If they’re interested, allow them to taste each piece that goes into the meal before it’s a finished product to appreciate every aspect of it. Try a sweet pea before it goes into a shepherd’s pie or a bit of green pepper before tossing it into the pot of chili.

7. Don’t use negative reinforcement with food. “If you don’t finish your vegetables, you won’t get dessert.” How many times have we heard this phrase? Forcing kids to clear their plates can result in overeating. If they are constantly rewarded for eating everything in front of them no matter how hungry they are, they’ll stop paying attention to the voice in their head that tells them to stop when they’re full. In addition, your child may begin to dread meal time and see it as a punishment if they simply aren’t hungry.

8. Start with small portions to avoid waste. We’ve all heard the phrase, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” This is especially true for kids. Serve small portions of meals with equal amounts of each dish on the plate to begin with. If they decide they’d like more of something, they can take more once they’ve finished their portion. This reduces the amount of wasted food and encourages kids to clear their plate without using negative reinforcement.

9. Create a good balance. According to the USDA, a meal should consist of almost equal portions of vegetables, grains, proteins, and fruits with a smaller portion of dairy. Try to include as many healthy and diverse options in every meal as possible. Even pizza night can get a healthy makeover with some diced broccoli and peppers. The more kids are used to seeing different food groups the more willing they will be to clear their plate.

10. Try to make family dinner time as regular as possible. With varying work schedules and after school activities, most families have very diverse schedules making family dinner time a thing of the past. When everyone eats at different times, it often results in too much snacking and not eating a full balanced meal. Try to clear your schedules to arrange a time that your entire family can sit down together for a meal. Even if it’s only once per week, family dinner time is sometimes the only time that the entire family can be in the same room and have a conversation. Kids may even look forward to the structured bonding time.

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20 Do’s and Don’ts When Your Child Is Bullied

DO tell your child it’s not their fault. When someone is put down repeatedly they are likely to begin thinking something is really wrong with them. A bully often chooses a target at random and sticks to victims that react in the way that they desire. Assure your child know that it is not their fault they are being bullied.

DON’T take the situation lightly. Although making light of certain situations and joking around can ease stress, a child may see this reaction as not being taken seriously. There is nothing funny about your child being hurt.

DO communicate the issue with the school. Let the school know of the problem and see what their policy and consequences are for bullying.

DON’T blame the school or educators for not addressing the issue sooner. Keep in mind that educators and school staff deal with many children on a daily basis and are not always aware of what happens at all times.

DO encourage your child to write down bullying instances and how they made them feel. It’s important to know how the words or actions of a bully are affecting your child. Are they simply being teased or are they experiencing serious psychological damage? Constant bullying can lead to problems later in life such as eating disorders and drug problems.

DON’T encourage your child to fight back. Although confidence and standing up for oneself is an important lesson to learn, it may not always be the best choice in every situation. Your child can get seriously hurt or make themselves more of a target for bullying.

DO encourage your child to build a support system. Every kid wants to feel like they belong and bullies make kids feel rejected from their peers. If you child has trouble making friends, try enrolling them in extracurricular activities such as a youth group or sports team. Having good friends will help them build confidence and learn that healthy relationships are about being treated equal and with respect.

DON’T ignore the problem or encourage your child to ignore it. It’s a common misconception that if you stop reacting to the actions of a bully they’ll lose interest and move on to the next target. It may deter it for a short time, but the problem is not solved. Address the issue head on and come to a conclusion.

DO empower your child. Let your child know that with your help, they will put an end to this problem. Let them know that it takes a strong person to ask for help.

DON’T try to handle the problem yourself. Your instinct as a parent is to protect your child, but having mommy or daddy run to solve a problem can make matters worse for both of you.

DO stay calm and offer your support. Kids might be afraid to tell their parents about bullying because they are ashamed and think their parents will be disappointed. No matter how angry you are, try to stay calm and comfort your child.

DON’T criticize your child. Maybe they didn’t handle the situation the same way you would have liked them to, but remember that everyone reacts differently under pressure. Children are learning all the time and having the support of their parents is extremely important.

DO remove incentives from the bully. If your child is getting his lunch money or any sort of material object stolen, simply remove them from the situation and it may help the situation. Pack a lunch for your child and leave all valuables at home.

DON’T get the bully’s parents involved. This is often a parent’s first reaction, but it will likely make matters worse. Let the school handle the bully and the parents.

DO expect the bullying to stop. Check in with your child and the school to make sure that the appropriate measures are being taken to stop the bullying.

DON’T force your child to talk about things they don’t want to. Kids might be embarrassed of how bullies treat them and don’t want to open up to their parents about it. If you think your child has been hurt or bullied and refuses to speak to you about it, consult a school counselor or teacher and see if they can talk with your child.

DO practice role-play and safety strategies with your child for when they feel threatened. Ask them which adults they will report to when the bully approaches them.

DON’T encourage your child to get the bully “in trouble”. There is a difference between seeking help and tattling. There are many reasons that children become bullies. They may come from an abusive home or have psychological issues. A victimized child asks for help in hopes that the bully will stop bullying altogether, not just stop targeting them.

DO follow-up with your child. Ask them questions about school every day, not necessarily about the bully but about how they enjoyed their day. If they respond with things like “I hate school” or “I have no friends,” you’ll know that the issue has not been resolved.

DON’T get angry if the issue is not resolved immediately. Sometimes these things take time to fix. As long as your child is not hurt, the most important thing is to be there to support and comfort them. Maintain communication with the school to stay updated on the progress of the situation. The most important thing is to stay calm.

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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Kids and Money: 10 Ways to Help Them Jive

1. Lead by Example

It’s a fact that most Americans are in debt. Sometimes it is not easy to avoid, especially once you have your own family. Set a good financial example by living within your means; if you can’t afford a new television don’t buy one. Your kids won’t care about shiny new toys and gadgets if they live in a happy, healthy home.

kids and money 1

2. Make Kids Earn Their Money

Instead of handing over an allowance to your child every week, make them earn it little by little. Simple things like brushing their teeth, picking up their room, and doing their homework on time will get them a full allowance. If they want more money, offer chores to be done around the house like washing dishes or dusting cabinets. Kids will be more likely to appreciate their hard earned money.

kids and money 2

3. Encourage Kids to Save

A savings account can help your child see a bigger picture, set goals, and plan for the future. If your kids aren’t too keen on saving their money, offer to put a small amount into their account each time they make a deposit. Don’t discourage your child from withdrawing money from their account or it may discourage their wanting to save altogether.

kids and money 3

4. Don’t Let Your Children See You Stress About Money

The number one reason that most couples argue is financial troubles. It’s hard to live in a happy, peaceful household when you’re constantly worried about how the bills will get paid. As hard as it may be, put on a happy face for your kids. Worrying or stressing will only make the situation worse.

kids and money 4

5. Set Financial Goals with Your Child

Does your child want something pricey like an Xbox or a new bike? To learn and appreciate how valuable big purchases like these are, sit down with your child and set a goal. Let’s say that your child’s allowance is $5 per week. If they save half of their allowance and put it in a savings account that pays interest, how long will it take to get what they want? If they are diligent with their saving, you could offer to match their savings to get to their goal quicker.

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6. Teach Kids to Be Smart Shoppers

The grocery store might seem like a bore to many kids, but it can be a lesson waiting to be learned. Let’s say your child’s favorite snack is $2.50. A similar product of a different brand is on sale for 2/$3. Show your child the difference in what being flexible can buy you. Would they rather have one box of their favorite granola bars or two boxes of a similar kind for almost the same price? Luckily most super markets make it easy and do the math for you and post the price per ounce on the sale tag. You could even create a “treat fund” for your child and see how wisely they spend their money. Give them a $5 allowance to get whatever snacks or treats they wish and see how far they can stretch it.

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7. Talk to Kids About Giving

It’s important to teach kids to appreciate the value of their money. While their allowance of $5 per week could buy them a bag of candy and a toy, a single dollar could feed a family in a starving country for a week. Check out where kids can choose a charity to donate to.

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8. Teach Kids About Investing

Stocks and bonds can be purchased online with a small fee. Encourage your child to pick a stock of their choosing and buy a share. They can watch as the stock grows or falls and learn the power of investment. It’s also never too early to start a 401K and saving for retirement.

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9. Communicate the Differences Between Needs, Wants, and Wishes

Allow your children to make their own spending decisions, but encourage them to think hard before they spend their money. If they want to spend their allowance on a toy, ask questions about the toy beforehand. Do they NEED this toy? How often will they play with it? What else could they buy with that money? Kids are quick to act on impulse so raising questions may just change their mind.

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10. Involve Kids in Spending Decisions

Holding your child’s hand through every financial decision or simply making them for them will never teach kids to be financially independent. Kids have to learn from their spending choices whether they are good or bad. They must learn the discipline and rewards of good decisions and consequences of poor decisions.

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