Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

It’s Not Too Late for Gardening with Kids

Did your summer pass you by without giving you the time to garden with your kids? You haven’t absolutely missed your chance to garden with your kids!

Gardening with Kids
Photo by Flickr user kurtknock

Time spent gardening is an excellent time to talk to your kids about life, to teach them about science and growing plants, personal responsibility, and it’s a fun way to get them out of the house and into the sunshine with purpose. Get them their own pair of garden gloves and teach them to pull any weeds they can, but step in and help if a weed is too large or prickly.

The success of any summer gardening endeavor is dependent on fighting the sun. Keep the soil moist and soil temperature lower than 80 degrees Fahrenheit to keep plants healthy. This can be achieved through the use of drip irrigation bottles buried in the soil, shade netting over the plants themselves, and any natural shade from trees. Creating and installing the first two are enjoyable kids’ activities.

Growing their own vegetables is one of the best ways to get kids, especially picky eaters, to expand their palates; a child is more likely to eat something he or she is personally invested in. When choosing varieties of any vegetable for a summer garden, be sure to pick a winter-resistant variety that fits in with your climate zone (which you can easily find on the USDA website to check against seed packets). Add 14 days to the maturity date on the seed packet or seedling information tab to find your planting date.

Here are some things you can plant with kids now to get them out in the garden and interested in vegetables:

  • Spinach – This leafy green vegetable thrives in fall and is packed with vitamins and fiber. It’s recommended that you serve it to kids fresh for maximum nutrients—plus they’re less likely to eat a soggy, green mass than the fresh leaves they recognize from your time together in the garden.
  • Broccoli – Another vegetable that thrives in the crisper weather during which you’ll be harvesting it. It’s a nutrition powerhouse and a textural wonder for kids!
  • Lettuce – Choose winter-resistant varieties, such as bib lettuce, and have fresh in-season lettuce to pack in the kids’ lunches—they can proudly tell the other kids they grew it themselves!
  • Kale – This one is almost impossible to serve most kids, but you have a shot if you grow this green yourself. It’s perfect for fall harvest, and good for you and your kids; if they absolutely can’t stomach it, more for you (or you can find a sneak-veggies-in recipe)
  • Peas – You’ll want to plant bush varieties rather than climbing peas in fall. They’re a joy for all ages to pick apart and eat; a fresh snack and a delicious, edible object lesson on plant biology.
  • Shallots – These onion family members separate into clove-like segments similar to garlic, but are slightly milder than onions in flavor. Plant them in late summer and harvest pieces from the top down starting in spring
  • Leeks – These extra-mild green-and-white onion cousins are excellent served creamed, au gratin, with fish, or as part of sauces or dressings. Sow the seeds now and harvest your luscious leeks next year!
  • Carrots – Luckily, most kids love this crunchy orange root vegetable. They’re fun to plant now, and they’ll be even more fun to pull up by the tops this fall. And you can use them in practically anything, from soups to stocks or snack plates to stir-fry meals. They can even be juiced as a health bonus to smoothies (or juiced and drunk as-is if you’re hard core)

Once the fall harvest has passed, you can start planning spring gardening and getting your kids involved; let them help you pick out new vegetables, peruse garden shed plans, and maybe give you some flower suggestions! Now you’ve laid the foundations for an active outdoor with edible results for valuable time with your kids—and here you were thinking there wasn’t any time!

Kids want to dig more into the environment, wildlife, and nature? Check out our nature and wilderness camps and classes on ActivityHero.

 

Written by Leslie Mason, a homemaker and garden expert. Leslie enjoys writing, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and fixing up the house.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

5 Original (and FREE) Outdoor Activities for Kids

It can be tricky to plan activities with children–especially if they involve money or time. We all love to spend as much time as possible with children however, the washing and cleaning won’t do itself.

The main summer holiday is fast approaching and therefore, these are activities that are free and children can be left unsupervised (for a short time anyway).

1. Lucky dip with a difference

Photo by Flickr user Mannuli
Photo by Flickr user Mannuli

If you have a sandpit or small activity center that involves buying lots of sand, you will have probably discovered by now how much sand is chucked over the sides. This can be put back in the sandpit, but occasionally it can end up wasted if it ends up being mixed with general dirt. So use that sand to create a ‘lucky dip’ box. This can act as a rewards box, but contains children’s playing cards, small toys or anything with a plastic covering. The ‘lucky dip’ does not have to contain toys, but can often be toys you’ve kept from a kids meal, or even small household objects – a toddler simply loves finding things and getting hands dirty.

2. Draw on garden slabs

Photo by Flickr user Kimmel Kids
Photo by Flickr user Kimmel Kids

Chalk is a brilliant addition to any household. You can draw with it, but why not re-create games we used to play such as hopscotch or recreate a giant snakes and ladders board game. Anyone can draw on the slabs easy enough. We have even seen examples of drawing and coloring in using slabs.

3. Encourage learning

If you have younger children at nursery and the chalk is at hand, why not try and have a fun math or spelling lesson. It is different than paper and therefore children will not feel like they are at school or doing homework.

For more ways to learn this summer, check out ActivityHero’s listings near you!

4. Create sand art

If you have sand left over from filling up the sand-pit or have some sand no longer used why not create effective door-stops or book-ends. Sand can become heavy, so if you have a plastic container or empty washing bottles/household items –fill these to create your very own doorstop. This will provide a sense of achievement for your child. (if it is erm interesting, it can always be used to prop open the utility door or shed door.

5. Painting with a difference

Every child loves painting and you end up with a million pieces of paper to decorate the fridge with. So why not be a little different and get them to paint stones or rocks, maybe ones you’ve brought back from beach holidays. These are a great way to keep your child entertained as they can paint for their own room or make different and unusual family gifts even. Make sure you varnish it though, if you want to use the stone/rock outside.

Photo by Flickr user Cindy Thomas
Photo by Flickr user Cindy Thomas

Have you got any great outdoor activities that we’ve missed? Leave it below in the comments section!

 

Sarah Edwards is a full time baby-sitter and freelance writer, currently writing for Topps Direct who supply stickers and trading cards for young children.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Get your Children into Nature and Wildlife Conservation This Summer

Photo by Flickr user davidsonlands

Photo by Flickr user davidsonland

What happened to the days when children had to be made to come inside for dinner, or told off for being covered in mud? Is it due to increasing technology or perhaps life inside a TV screen much much more exciting than life in the outside world?

It’s time we turned off those x-boxes and opened the curtains, to reveal the wonders of the nature and wildlife. This is a much needed guide for parents on how to spark a child’s interest of both nature, and wildlife conservation.

Why?

Firstly, we need to address why this is such an important issue. Not only for the children of today, but also to understand how our ignorance could be detrimental to both nature and wildlife. As Gary Synder once said; “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”

Here are just a couple facts to illustrate the point.

  • There are more than 1,000 endangered species worldwide.
  • A century ago some five millions wild elephants roamed Africa. Today fewer than 500,000 remain

It’s also important to get your kids to empathize with animals, and create a caring attitude when it comes to living things. This is likely to make them a more empathetic person in the future. It has also been shown that children who spend more time outdoors, discovering things about nature, are more intelligent, always a bonus.

How to get them interested?

Luckily all is not lost! There are numerous ways you can encourage an interest of nature and wildlife for your child. As long as you lead the way, your child is likely to follow.

Here’s a few examples:

Create a Treasure Hunt

Making a treasure hunt is a really simple way of getting your child excited about nature. All you have to do is create a simple treasure map or checklist of things for your kid to try and find. E.g. ‘find something really colourful’ or ‘look for somewhere an animal has made a home.’ This is really effective, as all kids love an adventure! And even if they go off track, it still gets them outside and enjoying what nature has to offer.

Bed Time Stories

The only thing about ‘bed time’ that children look forward to is the stories that come with it. You can use your imagination to tell an exciting, dramatic story about wild animals. This will also allow your child to associate personalities and strong characteristics with wildlife, and so will help them to understand the benefits of saving these beloved animals a bit more.

Build a Bird Box

What better way to try and involve your child with nature, than to create a bird box? Not only will this be a great bonding opportunity for you both, but your child will also feel in touch with the birds that they see coming in and out of the box every day. Take a look at this easy step by step guide to find out how to make one.

Fundraise

Raising money for charity can be really fun, and you can be as creative as you want to be… From something as simple as a cake sale to doing funny dares, there’s really no excuse to not get involved! If you can encourage an interest in charity for your child at a young age, it could really help make a difference. Maybe show them some achievements charities have already accomplished, e.g. WWF, Tiger Awareness and Act for Wildlife.

Adopt an…

Elephant! Well not literally. But by paying a small amount, each month, to charities like WWF, you can adopt any wild animal be it a tiger, a pandas, whichever is your child’s favourite. This could be a great present for a child, so they feel like they’re really helping in some way and feel a strong connection with an (almost) pet. And you get a cute cuddly toy, magazines and stickers included with your donation, what more could you want?!

Day Trips

One final, really easy, way of getting your kid to love nature and animals is to take them on a super fun day trip. A good example of this is the Eden Project. This is a great day out for anyone, any age. You can wander round the stunning gardens, go to music and art events, or there’s special events for kids, e.g. ‘wild days out’, build a den, water play, etc. On top of all that, your child will learn heaps of new stuff about the world, nature and the animal kingdom.

If you have any further tips on how to get children into nature and wildlife conservation, then please share in the comments below.

 

Written by Louise Blake, a freelance writer and mother, who specializes in health, family life and education posts. She writes for Candis including The Eden Project.

Categories
Guest Posts Sleep away camps

Is Summer Camp Really Like the Movies?

Sending your children to sleep away camp is an amazing way to ensure their summer is one of personal growth, enduring friendships and exciting new experiences. But this decision can be understandably scary for parents whose only camp knowledge comes from the movies.

Unfortunately, camp novices often have hazy visions of camp life as riddled with inattentive counselors, massive food fights, and “panty raids”, conjured up by painfully inaccurate pop culture phenomena – Wet Hot American Summer, anyone?

Photo by Flickr user Camp Starlight
Photo by Flickr user Camp Starlight

During the many summers when I spent eight weeks at a traditional all-girls sleep away camp, my “camp friends” and I often commiserated about the struggle to explain our love of camp to our “home friends”. Our girlfriends back at school just didn’t understand why we wanted to spend entire summers living in wooden cabins with no electricity, not interacting with any boys, and wearing – *gasp* – uniforms.  We all wrote on our camp yearbooks: “From the outside looking in you could never understand it; from the inside looking out you could never explain it.”

This problem isn’t limited to over-dramatic preteen girls; adults who didn’t attend sleep away camp may still see the experience as a bit of a mystery. So, as someone who considers herself a top expert on both real camp life and summer camp films, I’m here to answer your question once and for all: is sleep away camp really like the movies?

No.

No, sleep away camp is not really like the movies.

There are no hidden stashes of junk food or secret late night kitchen raids. There are definitely no food fights a la Camp Rock or It Takes Two. Harmful pranks or bullying like in the beginning of The Parent Trap would not be tolerated, and if anything like that ever happened, an “isolation cabin” would not be the solution.

Photo by Flickr user pineappleupsidedown
Photo by Flickr user pineappleupsidedown

To continue on a Parent Trap vein, girls never cut each other’s hair, nor pierce their own ears, nor discover they are long lost twins (even if we may have pretended once or twice). Unlike in Meatballs or Wet Hot American Summer, the male and female counselors don’t spend their whole summers – or a single minute – kissing all over camp. In fact, counselors never have inappropriate relationships in any way – though I promise you, as 13 year old girls, we wished they did so we could gossip about it.

Unlike the movies, campers don’t get left behind on overnight trips, left hanging upside down from the rock wall, or left operating a motorboat alone. And no, there was never, ever, a “panty raid”.  (What does that even mean?!)

But on second thought…

Yes.

Yes, sleep away camp is really like the movies.

The identical cabins along the bunk line are all wooden, there’s no electricity, and The Parent Trap-esque green and white uniforms are a staple. Yes, the lake is usually pretty murky, and very cold, and the swim test is truly everyone’s least favorite activity (but braving the lake is worth it so you can learn to waterski for the first time). Yes, the campers sing silly songs and chants all day long, the campfire nights are the best, and s’mores are practically their own food group. And yes, there are plenty of counselors just like Bill Murray in Meatballs – counselors who befriend introverted kids and help them transform into more outgoing, happier children. Those counselors make sure you know that “it just doesn’t matter” if you win or lose any camp game, because you’ve succeeded just by trying your hardest.

Photo by Flickr user herbynow
Photo by Flickr user herbynow

Most importantly, it is the friendships from camp that are really like the movies. As evidenced by the tear-filled end-of-camp departures from the campers in The Parent Trap, the C.I.T.’s in Meatballs, and the counselors in Wet Hot American Summer, camp friends are true friends. Saying goodbye at the end of each amazing summer is sad, but camp friends know that the bonds of shared summers will endure long after the last campfire’s glow has faded away.

Find the perfect overnight camp >>

Author: Emily S. is a former camper, C.I.T., and counselor. She spent 8 incredible summers at an all-girls sleep away camp in Harrison, ME. She also is a blogger for direct4tv. She works with Adrian Rawlings, Senior Editor of direct4tv.com.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Finding Craft Summer Projects on Pinterest

Its summer time and the kids are home. Did you know that you can find an endless supply of innovative, adorable, and fun crafts to do on those rainy summer afternoons on Pinterest?

A quick search on the picture friendly social network will yield an ocean full of craft ideas. So many that you will be able to find some for every age and every kid’s taste too. Keep in mind many of these wonderful crafts are Earth friendly, inexpensive, and can double as birthday party activities and party favors.

Here are some of our favorite summer craft finds on Pinterest:

Sponge Ball Craft

spongball
Photo Credit:OneCharmingParty.com

This craft idea is great for summer time because it makes a wonderful pool or bath toy. Customize the sponge ball with your child’s favorite colors. This activity will require an adult cutting the sponges, but kids can help or participate by choosing their favorite colors.

What you will need:

  • Sponges
  • Scissors
  • Dental Floss

Instructions:

Three sponges are required for each sponge ball.

Cut each sponge long ways in half, and then cut each half long ways again making 4 strips.

Arrange the colors randomly and twist the sponges.

Have your helper tie the dental floss around the sponges and knot it.

Trim the extra floss away and fluff your sponge ball out.

Forever Sundaes

Photo Credit: CraftsnCoffee.com
Photo Credit: CraftsnCoffee.com

These fun ice cream crafts can make decorations or even Christmas Tree ornaments. You can choose between single scoop sundaes, double scoop sundaes, ice cream cones, or make a creation of your own.

What you will need:

  • STYROFOAM Brand Foam: 4″ balls
  • Acyclic craft paint in the ice cream colors you want
  • Scrapbook brads and decorations
  • Red pompoms
  • Plastic sundae cups
  • Thick, white craft glue
  • Tools: craft stick, pencil, or other pointed tool; sponge brush

Instructions:

Insert craft sticks into STYROFOAM balls so that the entire surface can be painted.

You can add “syrup” by drizzling paint over the balls after the first coat has dried.

Wait for the new paint to dry then add scrapbook brads and any other decorations to give the illusion of sprinkles, etc.

Glue red pompom to the top.

Let dry then remove craft stick and glue your ice cream ball into the sundae cup.

Painted Sea Turtles

Photo Credit: Spoonful.com
Photo Credit: Spoonful.com

These adorable turtles are easy and inexpensive to make. What a great way to keep the kids entertained and they will be thrilled to make their own special pet rock.

What you will need:

  • Roundish rock
  • Scissors
  • 3 wooden craft spoons
  • Tacky glue
  • Acrylic paint (Note: not everyone’s turtle has to be green!)
  • Googly eyes

Instructions:

Find about 1 2 inch wide rock that is as close to flat and round as possible and give it a good cleaning.

To make the turtle’s legs, use wooden craft spoons, cut them in half and use the tacky glue

Glue the rock on top of the spoons and let dry.

Paint and decorate your turtle and use your imagination. Don’t forget the googly eyes.

Paper Flower Leis

Photo Credit: TheCraftingChicks.com
Photo Credit:
TheCraftingChicks.com

What else represents summer like a flower lei? This is a fun craft you can make with your children just for them to play with or is the perfect favor for any summer party.

What you will need:

  • Large Flower Punch (or for less uniform flowers you can cut them free hand or trace them)
  • Thick Cardstock (choose the color or multi colors you want your flowers to be)
  • Drinking straws cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Scissors
  • Paper Hole Punch
  • Yarn or Thick String
  • Floss Threaders (important for little ones)

Instructions:

Cut out flowers with the flower punch or scissors. Punch holes in the center of the flowers.

Cut the straws into 1 inch pieces

Cut your yarn or thick string into the desired length for the necklaces.

Tie the Floss Threader onto one end to make it easy to thread the straws and flowers through in an alternate pattern.

Tie the string or yarn together and you are ready for the Luau!

Clothespin Mermaids

Photo credit: Disney
Photo credit: Disney

These cute handmaid dolls are sure to give your little one a sense of accomplishment. A great deal of creativity is allowed and many different choices can be made to make your very own mermaid. Make it as elaborate and ornate as you choose.

What you will need:

  • Fin Template
  • Straight clothespins, one for each doll
  • Acrylic paint, dark and light green, purple, black, red (or choose your own colors)
  • Paintbrushes, fine-tipped for details
  • Red embroidery floss
  • Low temperature glue gun
  • Green craft foam, adhesive backed

Instructions:

Layout newspaper or plastic to protect your table.

Hold clothespin so that the notch is at the side and the flat wooden surface faces up

Paint your mermaids body on the clothespin, add the bathing suit top, and be creative

Draw the mermaid face on the top using the fine-tipped brush and then let dry.

Add details to the tail like scales and other mermaid accents.

While that dries, print the template and cut two find pieces from the green craft foam. Cut two for each doll.

Stick the sticky sides of the two mermaid fins together and slide them inside the notched end of the clothespin. Use glue if it is not sticking.

Use embroidery floss for hair. Trim to about 5 inches long, fold in half and glue on the top of the head.

 

For crafty camps and more inspiration visit ActivityHero!

 

Written by Amanda Greene, author and Brand Manager for RHL. She enjoys writing about college and education topics.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

How to Combat Kids’ Summertime Boredom

summertime boredom
Image by Jan Tik pursuant to the terms of her Creative Commons license.

School’s out, and while kids look forward to no classes, no schedules and freedom to relax hanging out with friends–vacation also means summertime boredom, time to get into trouble and challenges for many parents trying to find something to keep kids occupied for the next few months.

Encouragement, responsibility, and adult supervision are essential to preventing kids from getting bored and temperamental. With some resourcefulness and an imaginative spirit, summer can be fun, educational and enjoyable for parents and children.

Here are some ways to ignite curiosity and create a desire to learn more within your children this summer.

Volunteering

Volunteering doesn’t just help the community, it can also increase your children’s self-esteem and happiness while also priming them to volunteer in adulthood (see activities that teach kids compassion)

Volunteer activities provide excellent opportunities to build character, support family values, and learn about other cultures and customs. Millions of teens spend time repairing homes, planting community gardens and participating in neighborhood beautification projects.

Free Fun Stuff

You don’t have to pay big bucks to send your child to camp to enrich their minds. Here are some ideas for free entertainment:

  • Most communities have free concerts in the park. Try out a new genre for some cultural enlightenment. Festivalsandevents.com has a national search tool that provides details about rodeos, festivals and local concerts.
  • Practice communication skills, and learn about family history. Spend the day going through family albums. Write letters instead of using digital communication.
  • Take a walking or driving tour of the town. Exploring neighborhoods leads to the discovery. Cultural diversity, varied architectural design, decorating schemes and landscaping give clues to the people living behind closed doors.
  • If you have two or more children, encourage them to write a story together by switching turns writing paragraphs. They’ll be excited to read the whole finished product and might even bond together.
  • Empower your children to start their own gardens, which they can tend to throughout the summer. Research which plants grow well in your area during hot months, and designate gardening space for your little ones.
  • Give young children more responsibilities at home in the form of fun tasks, such as asking them to train your dog to do three new tricks by the end of summer. They’ll learn patience and hone skills that will translate well when they’re ready for a “real” summer job.
  • Check out ActivityHero’s discount section for free classes and deals near you

Financial Training for Teens

School is out, but learning should never stop. Teenagers old enough to work are old enough to learn management skills (not quite ready for a job? Check out leadership training for teens). Parents can help by teaching kids how to interact with merchants and understand product value.

Opening a checking account with dual-signature requirements ensures teens learn responsible spending habits. With parental help, teens should prepare a list of questions to ask the banker about the new account.

Learning the benefits of comparison shopping is instrumental in creating good spending habits as an adult. Spending the day on a virtual scavenger hunt will divert some time spent randomly surfing the net. Parents can challenge kids to answer questions such as, “What are the best cellphone plans for me?” and “What car has the best warranty?” Finding answers teaches children to look beyond the price of an item or service and consider the value.

Parents have an opportunity to challenge their kids to expand their horizons and try new things. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun, it just takes some creativity and flexibility.

What inexpensive ways do you prevent child boredom during summer vacation? Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

Written by Elizabeth Lopez. Originally from Detroit, Liz is an automotive-engineer-turned-full-time mom living in the Atlanta area.

Categories
Guest Posts Parenting Resources

10 Family Activities to Make Your Summer Great

Photo by Flickr user Asimetrica Juniper

Photo by Flickr user Asimetrica Juniper

When it comes to having fun in the summer your options are anything but limited. There are so many fun family activities you can do that it can almost seem overwhelming.

Here’s just a few that top our lists:

Water Parks

Water, water everywhere! In the summer sun there is no better activity than getting wet. Water parks are a great way to get wet and stay cool as a family. Slip down the slides, float through the rivers, ride the waves, or splash in the fountains. You can even get discounted season passes for some parks that can save you a bundle if you visit often.

Backyard Adventures

If a water park or other adventure seems too hard why not make your own backyard into a fun zone? Get a pool and let the kids splash around, set up a sprinkler water park, have a water balloon fight and other wet and wild games are a blast for kids, especially if the parents get in on the action.

The Beach

The sea shore or lake shore can be just the place to enjoy cooling breezes and get away from it all. Kids love building sand castles, playing in the waves, and even surfing. Just pack up your sunscreen and bathing suits and get going.

Park Visits

If a beach is not in your range then try out a local park. From the one down the street to the national park a few miles away there is always plenty to do. In local parks you can play on the playground, look around for new flowers and wildlife, and some parks even have a pond for kids to fish in.

Camping

Roughing it in the great outdoors is a wonderful way to bond with your family outside of the range of cell phones and computers. Reconnect with each other and enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer. Kids love to cook over a campfire, tell stories by flashlight, and watch as the millions of stars become visible outside of the light pollution of the big city.

Fishing

 Fishing is a great family activity because it can be as long or as short as you would like. Walk to a local pond to catch and release perch, find a river with trout, grab a few big mouth bass, fish off a pier down by the ocean, or take a ride out to the deep sea. Fishing takes patience but kids are willing to sit quietly for the thrill of catching a fish.

Hiking

Not only does hiking keep kids moving and fit but it also teaches them important things. Paying attention to their surroundings, basic rock climbing, how to follow a trail, using a compass, reading a map, and more are all a part of the hiking experience. Start out small with a walk around your local park and then move on to bigger and better hikes.

Bike Rides

Kids love bike rides. Whether it is from your house to the playground or weaving in and out of trees as they follow the trail marked on their map, bike riding is a great healthy activity for the whole family. Even little kids can pedal along fast enough to keep up with older ones–or use a child seat to keep your baby close as you share your love of the great outdoors.

Museums and Zoos

Museums are a great fun way to keep education up during the summer. From children’s museums to art museums to science museums, its great to learn together as a family. Children’s museums often have hands on displays where kids can get involved in learning.

Fairs and Festivals

Music, food, games and more have kids’ eyes lighting up in wonder. Many festivals are free too, so take this opportunity to check out a culture or cuisine you are not familiar with.

These are a few of our favorite summer activities. Try out a few and see if they become one of your top ten too! Whatever you do remember to have fun being together.

 

Written by Nancy Parker. Nancy provides feedback on all elements of the site “www.enannysource.com” helping us to really make sure that we are making it as easy as possible for caregivers to sign up and find work.  In addition, she spends quite a bit of her time on freelance writing tasks.

Categories
Guest Posts Parenting Resources

Summer Camp Packing: 8 Commonly Forgotten Items

Summer Camp Packing: 8 Commonly Forgotten Items
Photo by Flickr user theloushe

Summer has finally arrived, and for many eager kids, it’s time for camp.

Before you drop your child off at their camp for the summertime, make sure you pack all of the necessary camp items to ensure your little one has a comfortable stay. When packing for camp, save yourself an extra trip to drop off forgotten items by using this summer camp packing checklist: 

Bug repellent

Don’t let bugs dampen your child’s time away. At camps in wooded places, bugs can be a problem at all hours of the day. Include a bottle of bug repellent so your camper stays bite-free and itch-free. 

Disposable camera

Send your child to camp with a camera to capture all of their favorite memories. After they return, you can create a scrapbook together with the pictures they snapped. You may want to buy them a disposable camera since it will likely be exposed to plenty of wear-and-tear and outdoor activities.

Water bottle

Ensure that your camper stays hydrated by packing a reusable water bottle. This will be helpful during long day trips and excursions. Find a water bottle in their favorite color to make it easily identifiable – and to make them more likely to use it.

Raincoat/poncho

Expect the unexpected at camp, including poor weather. Keep your child dry by packing a water-repellent jacket or poncho. Outdoor activities in the rain will be much more enjoyable if your kid is warm and dry.

Extra shoes

Hiking, sports and other camp activities can lead to dirty – and possibly wet – shoes. When packing for camp, include an extra pair of sneakers so your son or daughter can participate in all activities without soggy shoes.

Prescription medications

If your child takes any prescribed medications, make sure you include them in clearly marked bottles. For younger kids, give medications to the camp counselor or leader to ensure that your child is given the appropriate dose.

Beach towel

Not only will a beach towel double as a bath towel in case your child needs a dry one, but it will also come in handy for spontaneous picnics or beach outings. It could even be used in a creative activity like fort-building in the cabin.

Memento from home

Whether it’s a photo of your family’s pet or a small stuffed animal, a small memento will show your child that you care and give them a piece of home while they are away. Just make sure it’s replaceable – touch football games and canoeing may lead to a muddy teddy bear or torn picture.

 

With this summer camp packing checklist of commonly forgotten items, your camper should be prepared for their time away from home.

 

Christina Miller loves to write, especially about business. She holds a B.A. in Marketing. Christina’s favorite things include traveling, reading and exploring new restaurants in Cleveland. Sponsored content was created and provided by Nationwide Insurance. Before you pack up the car to drop your child off, make sure you are both protected with auto insurance. Check out car insurance reviews for reasonable auto quotes before you say your goodbyes – and don’t forget the tissues.

Categories
After-School Activities Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Finding Kids Activities They Will Love (and Stick With!): 5 Tips for Parents

When it comes to keeping kids active, it can be quite a hassle to get them away from the screen.

However, one of the biggest challenges that I have found as a mother is not getting them off the couch, but figuring out what to do with them when they do!

They need constant engagement and it can be difficult to find kids activities that they will enjoy and stick with.

kids activities they will love

As a mother of two I went through a lot of summer camps and after school extracurriculars in the hunt for the “one”—that special sport or activity that would regularly occupy my energetic daughters.

After multiple failed attempts to get my daughters excited about these activities I was almost ready to surrender them to a life of computer gaming and television.

Relief finally came when I opened myself up to their opinions. I told them that they were allotted only a certain amount of time in front of the screen and that they could choose what activity they wanted to participate in.

My eldest daughter, Rory, indicated her enthusiasm for cheerleading, while my youngest, Amy, asked to join a craft club after school. While my husband was disappointed that they didn’t want to play soccer, we agreed to let them try, under the conditions that they commit to stay through the end of the season.

activities kids will love

Both girls are now enthusiastically engaged in kids activities that do not involve computers or televisions!

In my own crusade to pull my kids away from the screen I have learned some valuable lessons that I think apply to any parent. Here are five things I have learned about finding activities kids will love.

1.       Let your children tell you what they want

A major key to finding an activity that your child will stick with is choosing activities they enjoy. They are the best judgment of what their interests are. Listen to them.

2.       Don’t be afraid to try new things

While this applies to children, it also applies to parents. Don’t be afraid as a parent to introduce new kids activities (even ones you aren’t familiar with).

Just because you may have certain biases towards a sport or activity doesn’t mean it can’t be a great opportunity for your child. Don’t close the door to potentially rewarding experiences.

3.       Support your child’s interests

When your kid does express excitement for a particular sport, support them! Just because it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean it won’t be fun for your kids.

Be open minded and encourage them to pursue their interests.

4.       Be involved

Be involved in the process. Help your kids explore their interests and stay engaged when they find something they love.

Go to their games, talk to them about practices or rehearsals, and ask about their accomplishments.

Your enthusiasm will be contagious and help them stay excited.

5.       Don’t be discouraged

So what if your son doesn’t like football? Maybe he is a great sprinter or talented actor.

Don’t be upset if your kid doesn’t pursue the path you had envisioned. We all fantasize about what our kids will be like, but we can’t let our ideas get in the way of their real identities.

Don’t close the door to positive experiences just because they aren’t what you had in mind.

Melanie Hargrave is a wife and homemaker from Idaho whose pride and joy is her family. She is her daughters’ number one fan, always ready at a moment’s notice to grab her foam fingers and spirit shakers and cheer on her girls. In addition to spending time with her family, she loves being outdoors, playing sports, and sharing her experiences with others.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

3 Reasons Why Cooking with Kids is Great for your Family

cooking with kids
Photo by Flickr user Nestlé

With more and more people getting busier than ever, wouldn’t it be nice to spare an hour or two to bond with hubby and kids and enjoy the blessings that cooking together has to offer?

Cooking and eating with the family yields many benefits—not just for the body but for the soul, too. Aside from munching a nice meal, cooking together has a lot of advantages, not only in making the family closer than ever, but also warding off kids from bad influence.

Read on and find out more blessings that cooking with the family has to offer.

Introducing a Healthy Diet

Susan Moores, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, reveals that cooking with your kids can boost their desire to choose healthy foods.

According to Elaine Magee, MPH, RD who writes for WebMD.com, eating more fruits and vegetables, options for whole grains and beans, and cooking leaner fresh produce are what kids consider healthy foods.

Patience, team work & organization

Cooking with kids teaches you the art of patience and support. For example, you will need more time (and patience) to teach your kids the right way to cut fruits and veggies, beat the eggs, prepare the ingredients, follow instructions, cook meals and many more.

Cooking together also makes your kids feel that you are there to support them each time they make mistakes—or feel low. They may spill the flour or oil or cut the cabbage the wrong way, but you need to make them feel it’s alright.

Teach them the right way of doing things. And most of all, always appreciate their efforts.

Use polite words like please and thank you. Give them a hand whenever you see that they’re having trouble over something. Cooking together is all about teamwork and respect to the “team members.”

Cooking with kids also teaches them the virtue of organization—keeping things at their rightful places, like meat have to go inside the freezer and veggies on the crispers, and that dishes have to be cleaned right away.

Teaching kids to follow the recipes also enhances their skills to keep things organized.

Protects kids from harmful vices

According to Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, kids who spend time preparing and eating dinners with their three times a week on average are “less likely” to fall prey in drug addiction. A child who finds time to regularly bond during family dinner is 50 percent less likely to smoke tobacco or marijuana and 35 percent less likely to drink alcoholic beverages.

So, moms and dads, there you see the blessings of preparing and eating meals together. So, make it a habit of getting everyone in the family into the kitchen table every evening, if you can, and see the miracles that having a family that bonds together has to offer.

About the author – Manilyn Moreno writes for a catering software company. When not working, Manilyn Moreno spends most of her time cooking and baking. 

cooking with kids

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Super Activities for Super Kids

Yoga for Kids: 10 Tips for Flexible Fun

Yoga for Kids

Yoga can be as relaxing and beneficial for our children as it is for us; and what’s better is it can be an activity you and your child do together.

Perhaps you’re wondering if your child will stay still, or even be able to remain quiet enough to allow themselves to relax. The good news is that there are specifically designed poses for children that you can easily teach them.

By following a few of the simple guidelines below, you and your child can prepare for a joyous and relaxing yoga experience together.

Yoga for Kids

1. There really is no age limit (beyond toddler) as to when to start yoga for kids, however, children under six can usually do exercises that last for about one minute, with their session ending by the 15 minute mark.

2. Children over 6 can handle exercises that last up to 1 ½ minutes, with sessions maxing out around 25 minutes.

3. Try not to push too hard for perfection. Remember that they are kids learning these poses for the first time. Encourage them to breathe correctly and follow the pose the best that they can.

4. Always try to demonstrate the exercise before having your child attempt it. They will grasp the pose with the visual demonstration much faster than just telling them what the pose is supposed to look like. Playing follow the leader is a great way to do this.

5. Offer your child lots of breaks. Adults need breaks after strenuous exercise, so be aware of the cues your child gives you to signal they have had enough.

6. No one should have tummies that are too full when attempting yoga poses. Perhaps offering the lesson before lunch could ensure they will feel their best while exercising.

7. Don’t compare children to each other or to yourself. They will hopefully do the best they can to learn the poses as accurately as possible, but if not, turning it into a competition will ultimately defeat the purpose of learning yoga for kids.

8. Use descriptive language; turning the lesson into a storyline that can be fun and interactive as they try to stretch and lean a certain way to progress through the jungle or forest.

9. Let your child show you how they are learning the yoga poses, offering them positive feedback so they will be encouraged to continue learning and practicing.

10. When teaching the poses to your child, pick some of the easier ones, give them a cute name, and demonstrate that pose to your child before asking them to do it themselves. Almost any pose can be simplified for a young child, enabling you to exercise together without frustration.

Yoga for Kids

There are some neat benefits of yoga for kids learning at an early age. It can help promote flexibility and a health, improve concentration and calmness, boost self-esteem, and help children deal with difficult emotions.

So roll out the mats and enjoy a stress-relieving exercise that you and your child can do together!

Yoga for Kids: 10 Tips for Flexible Fun

About the Author

Christina Stoltz is a fitness instructor and Owner of Philadelphia Pilates studio named Ploome. She is a frequent author and speaker on all things fitness.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Screen-free Travel with Children

traveling with children in the car

Travel with children can be incredibly rewarding.

But as you work your way around the country with the wide eyed anticipation of a child, there are moments of hair pulling, teeth grinding, and blank stares that can be dispelled with a little preparation.

Try to see the journey through their eyes and plan around the inevitable lulls. Preparation need not be painful once you get into the headspace of your child.

Here are four tips that can make travel with children a little easier:

The Treasure Trove

traveling with kids keeping busy

Pack up a grab bag full of things your children have never seen before.

This need not be expensive nor take a long time to out together. Try:

  • a new pack of pens
  • some stickers
  • a travel game
  • a puzzle
  • an object they can hold, examine and ask questions about

Also, for mess free fun, consider aqua mats for the car, the children just need water to fill the pens and once tightly closed these don’t leak, spill or leave unsightly stains on the upholstery.

Snack Time

traveling with kids snack time
Photo by Flickr user mitikusa.net

Never underestimate the importance of feeding your child when on the go.

Adults can keep going on adrenalin and coffee, but children need regular drinks and snacks to stop them getting grumpy and hungry when their sugar levels drop.

Take a mixture of their favorite treats and some healthy snacks and use this travel time to talk to them about new flavors and tastes.

If you have a fussy eater you could use the trip to reward them for trying any new foods that they try whilst on holiday. At the end of the holiday if they have done a good job of trying new things they could earn a treat of their choice.

It’ll fill their imaginations for a while.

Jumping Up and Down

traveling with kids break time
Photo by Flickr user mr.macnology

The idea of stopping and starting might make it feel as though you will never get to your destination.

But it is surprising how often a quick stop, run around and a sniff of fresh air can save a family melt down. Make it fun by counting down to the stop off and creating a fun challenge that the family must do before getting back in the car.

A few ideas:

  • find three different leaves
  • run around the car five times
  • alternate star jumps with bunny hops for two minutes

Sleep

This could be one of the single most important aspects of any journey to get right, especially if you have small children.

Keeping your children in a semblance of their normal routine when traveling can help them to adjust to their new surroundings once on holiday.

Plan your trip around their normal nap times so they aren’t sleeping at strange times and will wake up ready to spend the rest of the day up and about but more important ready to go to bed at a normal hour.

The last thing you need is a baby who wants to party at 3am or a toddler who doesn’t wake til midday.

Photo by Flickr user Hotel Dei Tigli
Photo by Flickr user Hotel Dei Tigli

Kelly Quance is a busy mum of two who lives and works in Devon in South West England and writes for Holiday Cottages a holiday cottage letting company with properties all over the UK. Kelly regularly travels with her six year old and 18 month old all over the UK and her highlights include, Devon, Cornwall, the Cotswolds and Mid Wales.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Need Indoor Kids Activities? Try An Indoor Obstacle Course

indoor kids activities obstacle course 4
Photo by Flickr user embank

Right now, the Northeast is snowed in, the Midwest is bracing for a storm, and the south is being pummeled by a tornado. While even adults feel stir crazy in these conditions, children need indoor kids activities to get through the boredom.

Taking your kids outside to play is one of the best parts of parenthood. But sadly, sometimes inclement weather, allergies, or other factors keep everyone inside. And finding indoor activities to engage, entertain, and exercise small children can be challenging.

But we did find one winning activity, something that requires no special equipment and can be different every time you do it: the indoor obstacle course.

The Indoor Obstacle Course

indoor kids activities obstacle course 2
Photo by Flickr user wsilver

Our daughter (now 3) absolutely loves these. We design a course that will take her all around the house, combining physical tasks with puzzles, treasure hunts, and other mini-challenges. When her brothers are a bit older, we’ll add some excitement with time trials, but for now, she’s content to just go through and do it.

In my experience, the execution of an obstacle course is just as important as the planning. We want to make it a special, exciting, and urgent experience but let her have some fun with it too.

  • First, we keep her sequestered while setting up the course (to build the anticipation).
  • Next, we do a little walkthrough so that she knows what to do at each stage. A 3-year-old is never going to remember on her own.
  • Then, we cheer her on as she goes through.

Planning the Course

indoor kids activities obstacle course 1
Photo by Flickr user Mr Conguito

The first thing I do when designing an obstacle course is lay out the path the course will take through the house.

Then I dig into the toy box or play room for the obstacles: ride-on toys, jigsaw puzzles, dolls, balls, tea sets, anything.

Every course includes several key elements:

  • Physical exercise. Running, crawling, pushing, or riding toys between obstacles helps burn off some of that near-limitless energy. For example, our daughter might have to load a bunch of blocks into her Vtech Alphabet Train” and then ride it through the “tunnel” made by pulling the chairs out of our dining room table.
  • Mental challenges. She’s getting a bit old for toddler jigsaw puzzles, so we’ll mix it up by hiding some of the pieces, or having her match certain colors. We might also have a guessing game, a word game, or have her draw something on paper.
  • Dexterity skills. Some of the obstacles require speed and/or hand-eye coordination. A row of balls has to be speedily tossed into an equal number of buckets. Blocks need to be stacked, loaded, or unloaded. One of my personal favorites is having her reassemble her play tea set (tray, saucers, cups, spoons, etc.) and carry it to the next part of the course.
  • Interaction. Even though it’s just one child doing the obstacle course, everyone else is involved. At any moment, the course might call for her to run and kiss mommy, pull one of her brothers in a wagon, or run and “serve tea” to one of her dolls.

Extra Credit

indoor kids activities obstacle course 5
Photo by Flickr user vblibrary

For an extra bit of fun afterward, she usually likes to design an obstacle course for me. And that, if possible, is even more fun!

Have you ever tried to design an obstacle course for (or with) your children? How did it go? Does it seem like something they’d like?

Guest blogger Dan Koboldt spends most of his time picking up toys, but also writes about baby sleep training and parenting twins and multiples.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Why It’s Physiologically Vital for Kids to Play Outdoors (and 5 Easy Ways to Do it)

kids play outdoors 1
Image © Kassandra Brown

When parents call me for parent coaching services because the are having trouble with disrespect, inattention, poor behavior, poor follow-through, and poor listening, one of the most common questions I ask is “What’s your relationship to play outdoors?”

The Importance of Movement

Getting outside and playing builds balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination. When we don’t practice, we lose these skills. (This is true for adults as well as kids.) I’m amazed at how after a day on the computer, I’m not really in my body. I’m more likely to bump into walls, trip over my feet, and make poor word choices.

I’m not used to interacting with human beings if I’ve been typing all day. It takes effort and concentration for me to shift back into my body. When I get outside and toss a ball with my girls, I have to exert effort to track it. And I’m an adult with my brain wiring largely in place.

For kids big muscle and outdoor play may be even more important since their brains are still forming neural connections so rapidly. If they don’t practice moving their bodies and connecting with the earth while they are young, it will likely be harder for them to develop coordination later.

Movement makes people happier and healthier in more ways than just cardiovascular fitness:

  • When we move we breathe more deeply, bringing in more oxygen and cleansing our bodies more fully of carbon dioxide.
  • Our joints get lubricated through movement, our muscles get stronger, and our proprioception (felt sense of where we are in space) gets better.
  • The horizon is farther away and our eyes get to focus up close and far away, making the eyes stronger and less likely to need glasses.
  • Running, jumping, walking and playing take the focus off of small muscle tasks like writing, art, computer work, computer games, and crafts, letting those fine motor skills muscles relax and recover while giving the bigger muscles a chance to get stronger and engages different parts of the brain.

Sounds great, right? Moving around outside generally makes people happier, less frustrated, and healthier. Here are some simple ways to practice right now. No toys or accessories needed.

5 Easy Ways to Play Outdoors

kids play outdoors 3
Image © Kassandra Brown

1. Visit Local Water

We have a pond we like to go to for swimming, playing in the mud, hanging out with friends, and challenging our ‘ick’ factor. Catching frogs and crawdads gets us closer to nature. Watching the snapping turtle and water snake give us a better respect for the non-malevolence of nature and how to co-exist with it.

2. Engage in Winter Fun

Making snow angels, cracking ice at the pond, and sledding are good winter activities. Broom ball, hockey and ice skating are good for slightly older kids. It’s so vital to get outside, get some sun and fresh air and feel free of the confines of indoors in the winter.

3. Volunteer at a Local Farm

We like to visit our friend’s farm. They have three daughters close in age to my own girls. These three girls are responsible and helpful on their farm. They do not just play with the animals. Children also need to learn responsibility, and taking care of animals or plants outdoors is a good way for them to learn to care for another living creature. The best way to teach them this? Have them see other people their age being responsible as well as seeing you volunteer, help out, and learn even if you’re not good at it yet.

4. Take Quiet Time Together

Familykids play outdoors 2
Image © Kassandra Brown

Try going for a walk together at sunset. This is good for babies in arms (wear them) and older children. As a quiet bonding activity that the whole family can take at their own pace, evening walks can help with the transition from daytime frenzy to nighttime quiet. Bikes or scooters allow bigger kids to go a head at their own pace. To make it more special, you can have a shared destination or even a dinner picnic at the end of the walk.

5. Relish Spontaneous Moments

My daughter and I chased the trash truck for a half hour around our neighborhood. We were both barefoot because I thought we were just going out onto the porch for a moment to watch the truck at our house. Instead we enjoyed lots of laughing and fun watching the arm come out of the truck over and over again and pick up the trash cans. We made the driver’s day too.

What do you like to do outside? What activities bring you together with your kids? Let us know in the comments.

Kassandra Brown is a parent coach and yoga teacher living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in rural Missouri. She coaches through Skype and phone and commutes with her two feet while walking outside.

Categories
Guest Posts Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Learning Games for Kids: Turn Off the TV and Turn on the Brain

Amidst the quickening pace of daily living and the ever-expanding influence of technology in our children’s lives, it’s easy to see how “family time” could become a thing of the past.

Where we once spent time with our siblings and parents, in today’s rapid society we are often so focused on what’s happening next (or trying to tune out in front of a box) that we often forget to take in the moment and enjoy each other’s company.

With President’s Day and February break on the horizon, now is the perfect time to plan ahead easy and inexpensive ways your family can enjoy each others’ company together at home – namely learning games for kids. Try these fun yet educational kids’ activities to keep you all entertained, bring you closer and help improve your children’s growth and development.

Family Game #1: Silly Stories on the Spot

learning games for kids silly stories
Photo by Flickr user woodleywonderworks

For many, specified “family time” with activities and learning games may be too much of a change to the normal routine. But this simple game is a great way to get started. Finish a meal together with this fun yet creative game.

Each family member contributes to an ever-evolving story. It’s easiest if an adult member of the family starts with either a sentence or a few paragraphs, introducing a potential story line. Then, one by one, go around the table each adding just one sentence to the ongoing plot.

The story can go for as long or as short as you like, but by having each person contribute, all members of the family feel involved. The learning game also promotes creativity, listening and speaking skills.

Family Game #2: DIY Scavenger Hunt

learning games for kids scavenger hunt
Photo by Flickr user Jonahhonahhandmade

If your family likes to get out and about, a great way to build up excitement about and interest in family time is to create a scavenger hunt.

Build a list of things that must be found and hid them in your house or yard (or make note of where they are). Ask your children to create their own basic map for the hunt that they can then track their findings on, and let your children start collecting.

A great way to build further upon this activity is to encourage the children to write a story about their findings and share it with the rest of the family over dinner.

Family Game #3: So, How Was Your Day? (With a Twist)

Learning games for kids alphabet
Photo by Flickr user Laineys Pepertoire

Write the letters A – Z on individual pieces of paper and throw them into a bag. Have each member of the family pull one letter from the bag. Now, any and all words starting with that letter are off limits for that family member.

Then, go around the table and each making one statement about your day. At no point can a word begin with the letter chosen from the bag. For example, if you choose the letter ‘W’, you cannot say anything in your sentence that starts with ‘W.’ (i.e. “Today I went . . . ” would have to become “Today I travelled.”)

Each round, you can increase the stakes by taking more letters out of the bag each round. Or cut family members from the circle if they accidentally use their letter until you’re left with one winner.

Family Game #4: Make-Your-Own Bingo

learning games for kids bingo
Photo by Flickr user Nikkorz

Bingo is a great learning game for kids for even the smallest of family members as they angle to have the winning grid. Create your own home bingo for a family night of fun.

Outline a grid on paper and choose numbers from a bag to keep things simple. Learning to match numbers to their spoken names is a good challenge for early learners.

To increase the stakes for slightly older children, add an additional challenge to be the first person to reach a certain score (thus encouraging addition skills).

Family Game #5: Jumbo Hangman

learning games for kids hangman
Photo by Flickr user rightee

A popular game through the decades, the classic “Hangman” remains a fun and engaging learning game for kids that encourages word use, spelling, and patience!

Create a large-scale game on butchers’ paper and pin up on the wall. Let each family member pick a topic and their own word for guessing. To boost morale or balance out different age groups, you can also play in teams.

You can also couple up with a drawing game like and have team members guess what the artist is drawing through the hangman framework. By combining the two games, you can create ‘rounds’ and add more of a game-show feel to the evening.

Ngaire Stirling leads one of Australia’s largest parenting communities and is among the most respected names in fun and educational kids activities in Brisbane, Australia. Her community, Brisbane Kids, has over 30,000 members. Ngaire believes in everything in moderation (especially screen time), except quality time with kids; she has as much as she can, as often as she can.

Learning Games for Kids