Celebrate National Video Games Day on September 12th. While the date and origin of this holiday are unclear, many Americans have decided to designate this day for video games. Why pass up the opportunity to celebrate with them? Here are three ways to enjoy honor this holiday.
Play from home.
Take a cue from gamers all over the world in 2020. Last year, millions turned to video games to have fun and stay connected during the pandemic. According to MarketWatch, video games became a bigger industry than film and North American sports combined due to the pandemic.1
While video games are now dominated by at-home gaming consoles like the XBox or Playstation, now is a great time to revisit the classics. Gather friends and visit an arcade to bask in the nostalgia of timeless games like Pac-man, Space Invaders, and Pong.
Create with your favorite video games.
Games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Animal Crossing have exploded again in popularity this year. These games all have something in common: the creative element. Within these games, players have the freedom to create their own mini-games, whether it’s roleplaying, designing your own worlds, or even coding your own add-ons. Collaborate with other players to use video games as a creative outlet, or even learn to code your own games!
The seasonal change from summer to fall for you and your family can be overwhelming. Here are some quick tips to help make the transitional period more smooth (and even a little fun) for everyone.
1. Bike, walk, or scooter to school.
If you live nearby, beat the morning traffic by walking, biking, or scootering to school together. Start the morning with some exercise and burn some energy before getting to the classroom.
Quick Tip: Find neighbors and classmates to walk with to make it fun both before and after school!
2. Keep a checklist on the door.
Create a picture “checklist” on your kid’s door to review before school each morning: brush your teeth, make your bed, check your backpack, get your shoes on, feed the dog, etc. It’s really helpful in building personal responsibility and will minimize your having to say reminders like, “put your shoes on!” a hundred times.
Download our checklist >
3. Wear school clothes to bed.
Here’s a hack not many people think of! For younger kids or kids who are especially slow in the morning, put on your school clothes the night before. As long as the clothes are comfortable to sleep in, your morning routine will be faster with one less step. Forget about pajama tops and have kids sleep in the t-shirt that they are going to wear to school.
Quick Tip: This works really well in pre-school and before kids could dress themselves.
4. Keep a common calendar.
Make sure everyone knows what’s happening each day. Keep a calendar or schedule somewhere where everyone can see it easily, like on the fridge or the front door. Plan out lunch schedules, after-school activities, and special school projects. Use post-it notes or a whiteboard calendar to easily make changes and add reminders.
Quick Tip: For older kids, have a family calendar on your phone that you can all update!
5. Separate pre-packed bags for after-school activities.
Do your kids have a jam-packed after-school schedule? Save time by packing go-bags the night before and leaving them in a designated spot, whether that’s at the front door or in the car. If you have time in the mornings, you can add snacks to this go-bag and make the scramble of afternoon activities so much smoother.
6. Let your kids choose their own school supplies.
You may be tempted to shop alone and save yourself the trouble of searching for supplies with your kids there. However, bringing your kids along will help them organize their belongings independently and increase the chance that they’ll use all their supplies.
“They’ll be more excited about using the cool stuff they get to pick out.”
Marcella Moran, PhD, coauthor of Organizing the Disorganized Child
7. Use a portable homework station. Once you have your supplies sorted, make a caddy or use a wheeled cart to organize all your supplies at home. Easily bring all your supplies between rooms or on the go.
Quick Tip: For DIY options, use a muffin tray to organize small objects or arrange old tins and cups to hold your writing utensils.
8. Have your kids make their own lunches.
Let kids choose their own lunches, and they’ll be more likely to finish their meals every day. This is a great way to teach your kids how to be independent and start choosing their food for themselves. To make sure they’re still getting the right nutrients, have a designated food drawer or refrigerator section that you fill with the dairy, proteins, veggies, fruits, and grains that they need! Designate a space in your refrigerator or pantry for your kids to easily reach their snacks for self-service.
Quick Tip: Give your kids input on the weekly grocery list to better minimize food waste.
9. Start a file bin now.
Instead of waiting for the end of the year, start organizing finished projects and old handouts now! Decide which papers and projects are important to keep as they complete work during the school year. At the end of the year, the decluttering of old school supplies will be much easier.
Quick Tip: Organize for easy access: separate between long-term storage, frequent use (like a times table), and short-term storage (like handouts for each unit).
10. Sign up for online after school classes. Online after school classes are a great option for busy students. Instead of being shuttled from activity to activity, kids can join live online classes from home. Get access to the best instructors and classes that are available nationwide and have fun working with friends in online groups.
Create an account and profile for your kids to find personalized after school enrichment classes at ActivityHero.
Planning a summer road trip? These 5 podcasts can help keep curious kids entertained.
By Wendy Chou
Your bags are packed, the kids are strapped in, and you’ve hit the open road. As parents, we know all too well that having the right entertainment for a long car trip can make the difference between happy kids and hysterical ones. Whereas we used to have to spin the radio dial or organize our CD collections, smartphones can now fit hours of audio right in the palm of your hand. Podcasts just may be the best thing to happen to road trips since the cup holder. Best of all, more podcasts have come out that especially appeal to kids by offering engaging–and even educational–content. With topics ranging from self-empowerment to science, even adults might learn a thing or two while listening!
Start by Creating a Playlist
If you’re new to podcasts, you’ll need to use a podcast app to help you search for podcasts. Some popular podcast apps (also called Podcatchers) are Apple Podcasts and Instacast (both compatible with iOS), PocketCast (for Google Play, Android phones), and Stitcher (supports both platforms)
Download away! If you like a particular program, browse the archives and grab as many episodes as you want. They’re generally free. The only thing limiting you will be the amount of memory on your device.
A Few Caveats
Podcasts are free to listeners because they have regular sponsors who run advertisements. These ads can be off-putting to some. Another drawback to playing lots of podcasts is the danger of running down a phone battery, though with audio podcasts, this generally isn’t a big concern. If you’re worried, pack a spare source of power or plug into your car’s power source.
If you’re used to high-quality stereo sound, consider connecting your phone to an auxiliary input headphone jack, or (if available) even using a car’s Bluetooth capability to play your phone directly through your car’s speakers.
In every science-filled episode, host Molly Bloom is joined by a different kid co-host who helps interview scientists and field questions from kids across the country. It’s anything but textbook fare; there’s a good dose of silliness and fun. Recent topics have included the science of cooking, how paint sticks to things, and what causes allergies. My six-year-old loves to try to identify the “Mystery Sound” (stumpers submitted by kids across the country). Probably good for ages 6 – 13.
Hosted by Eva Karpman, current 2nd-grader, who brings refreshing energy and positivity to the show. Eva is also accompanied by her mom, Olga, while interviewing special guests–astronauts, entrepreneurs, artists, authors, and more–and learning about their passions and their life journeys. The message of the show: follow your dreams and do what inspires you. Suitable for all ages.
If you like a game show format, try this. Kids try to figure out which adult is truly an expert and which adult is only pretending. Hosted by Debra Goldstein and a sidekick “robot”, there’s quite a bit of musical and sound accompaniment throughout to keep kids interested. The topics are very wide-ranging with something to appeal to everyone. As a concept, it’s smart, creative, and smoothly executed. Probably best for ages 6 – 11.
Welcome to storytelling with a zany vibe. The “pirates” are actually actors, comedians, improvisers, and musicians who share a lot of enthusiasm and humor. The stories they tell are written by actual kids who also get a moment in the show to talk about themselves. This is great catchy fun for any age (my kid was hooked after one episode), though if you’re looking for something more educational, there are others more suited to that.
This new addition to the podcast scene amassed a listenership of 300,000 kids in 2017. The format: a rotating panel of middle-schoolers chats with host Kitty Felde about fiction and non-fiction books. Their conversations encourage introspection, touch on current events, spark the imagination, and more. Each episode also features a celebrity guest reader. This podcast will appeal to older elementary school kids and middle graders who love to read; the website also has a list of books recommended by peers.
Many parents understand the importance of always being there for their kids. But what about the flip side–learning to let go gracefully so kids can develop their own identity?
Julie Lythcott-Haims, a mother of two, former dean at Stanford University, and author of How to Raise an Adult, explains that parents can set their kids up for success by knowing when to step aside.
By Wendy Chou
Make “pitching in” an early habit
Kids age 4-7 often enjoy doing things for themselves and feeling helpful. Give them simple opportunities to contribute around the house by putting away toys, making a snack, and choosing clothes they’ll wear in the morning. (A side benefit: these things fall off your to-do list!) Practicing completing tasks now will prepare them well for more challenging expectations later in life.
Allow time for critical thinking
When a child talks about a problem she’s having, a normal parenting reaction is to quickly offer a solution. This might be efficient in the short run, but in the long-term the child won’t ever have the chance to problem-solve for herself. Also, allow kids moments to discuss current events or even a book or movie you just shared together to help them find their own voice.
Discover the pursuits that matter to your kids
Teach kids that hard work, grit, and dedication really pay off when it comes to excelling at sports, music, and other activities. But make sure you’re enabling their dreams, not yours. According to Lythcott-Haims, it’s best to offer lots of choices in activities, then step back and let kids lead with their own passions. Ask your kids what they love to do, and be supportive of those interests and hobbies.
Making a mistake is a fundamental life experience that can lead to growth. Lythcott-Haims lists several milestones that we shouldn’t shield a child from, including “being blamed for something he didn’t do”, “coming in last at something”, and “regretting saying something she can’t take back”. These kinds of mistakes can be very painful, but also represent opportunities to become more resilient.
As parents we all wish for our children’s ultimate success. Over-managing children, however, is probably counter-productive to this goal. The best definition of successful parenting, according to Lythcott-Haims, is when our children develop into individuals who can look out for themselves, without us needing to hold their hands.
Reference: Julie Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult
Sidewalk chalk was a childhood favorite of mine, and it seems to be a timeless pastime, as every child I know loves it. Instead of just grabbing a box of chalk at the local store, create a new family memory by making your own.
To create chalk: Cut a paper towel tube into 3- or 5-inch pieces, and use waxed paper to line the inside and cover one of the ends. (Hold the paper it in place with masking tape.) Mix 2 to 3 tablespoons of tempera paint, ¾ cup of plaster of Paris, and ½ cup of water. Pour the mixture inside the tubes and let sit for a few hours, until solidified. Peel off the waxed paper and cardboard tube, and you have your own homemade chalk for hours of decorating your sidewalk.
Dabble in Finger Paints
I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love finger painting, and rarely do I meet a child who doesn’t “accidentally” get a little paint in their mouth. Most finger paints are labeled “nontoxic,” but I still like to make my own paint because I know exactly what is in it. Plus, helping you make the paint can be a fun activity for a child.
To make finger paint: Use a ratio of 1 part flour to 2 parts water. For one child and a few colors, I typically start with ½ cup of flour and 1 cup of cold water. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat it on the stove, stirring until it becomes a smooth mixture and the lumps are gone. Then remove the flour mixture from the heat and divide it into bowls, one for each color you’d like to make. Slowly add cold water until the paint is at the desired consistency, and stir in food coloring. Add a pinch of salt, which helps to stop the paint from spoiling, and you can store it in the fridge indefinitely.
Whip Up Some Homemade Bubble Mix
Bubbles are another springtime favorite. While it’s easy to run to the store to grab a bottle of bubbles, making your own is super easy. And witnessing a child’s excitement when they see the bubbles they’ve made themselves is far better than grabbing a bottle at the store. However, I do recommend picking up some bubble wands to get the most fun out of this activity.
To make bubbles: Combine 12 cups of water, 1 cup of dish soap, 1 cup of cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons of baking powder. You can also add 1 tablespoon of glycerin, but the recipe works fine without it. Combine all ingredients, taking care not to create bubbles as you stir. Let sit for 1 hour, then enjoy an afternoon of bubble fun!
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Take a walk with your child and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Head through your neighborhood to the local park or, if you’re lucky enough to have access, walk along a creek bed. Encourage your child to explore and search for butterflies, salamanders, worms, frogs, birds, and other small animals. Ask them to count how many different types of flowers they see. Seeing nature “waking up” is the perfect introduction to spring.
Sensory bins are a great thing to have around throughout the year. Essentially they are plastic bins, boxes, or similar containers filled with objects of various sizes, shapes, and textures. They are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers who are fascinated simply by the way things feel, and they are a great way to introduce children to new things. Sensory bins are particularly helpful during rainy days when the kids can’t get outside to play.
To create a spring sensory bin: Fill a plastic bin about halfway with dirt, sand, or pebbles. Then add things like flowers from the yard, miniature flower pots, kid-safe indoor gardening tools, plastic bugs or worms, and any other fun additions that you find around the house.
Craft a Few Bird Feeders
Making bird feeders each spring was a favorite tradition of mine and something I love doing with my children. All you need is a toilet paper roll and some peanut butter, birdseed, and string.
To create a bird feeder: First, put the string through the center of the toilet paper roll and leave at least 6 inches of string on either side of the roll before tying the ends together in a knot. This is how you will hang the feeder in a tree. Next, cover the outside of the toilet paper roll with peanut butter and roll it in birdseed. Make sure to cover the entire surface. Head out to your yard, select a tree, and hang it up. It’s fun to choose a tree that’s visible from the house so you and your kids can watch as the birds come to eat.
Mix Up Some Spring Goo
“Goo” is another great sensory activity — especially since this fun substance acts like a liquid and a solid.
To create Spring Goo: Mix 1 part water with 2 parts cornstarch. Stir in flowers, glitter, or anything else you think might be a good addition. Goo can also be turned into a fun science experiment: It’s a solid when cupped in your hands or resting in a bowl, but it behaves like a liquid when you pour it from your hand.
Spring is planting season. Why not allow your child the chance to have his or her own kid-size garden? If you already have a garden, dedicate a small corner to your child. If not, choose a sunny spot and create a new garden bed together. Allow your child to choose the seeds, help plant them, and then tend the garden as one of their daily responsibilities. It’s an educational experience that also gives children an opportunity to connect with nature … while getting a little dirty!
What kid doesn’t dream about becoming a pirate and digging up buried treasure to fill their chest? You may not be able to sail the bounding seas on your summer vacation, but you and your kids can enjoy nature while digging for buried treasure across the U.S. From gold and gems to actual dinosaur fossils, if it fascinates your kids, there’s a spot where they can discover it. These top-notch treasure spots are guaranteed to give your kids a great time and might even provide a valuable piece of treasure for a souvenir.
Hiddenite, North Carolina
Nestled in the hills of North Carolina, the Emerald Hollow Mine is the destination for thousands of gems seekers each year. Set in one of the most interesting geological areas in the country, Emerald Hollow Mine has produced dozens of types of gems, including amethyst, topaz, sapphires and valuable green emeralds. Your little treasure hunters might happen upon one of the 63 different types of gems that have been found here and they can turn any of their finds into cut stones or jewelry with the onsite lapidary shop.
In Crater of Diamonds State Park, diamonds can be found literally sitting on top of the soil, ready for treasure hunting kids to pick up. Sitting on top of an ancient volcano field, this diamond field produces already-smoothed stones in white, brown, and yellow colors. There are three different diamond-searching methods used here:
Walk the fields and, using a sharp eye, find stones laying on top of the soil
Dig shallow areas and sift the soil, digging through resulting gravel by hand
Dig deep holes, concentrating the resulting soil into a likely gravel mix
The first method is obviously the simplest, and has actually produced gemstone-sized diamonds for lucky visitors. Bring your own tools or rent them at the park. Rangers are prepared to identify diamonds from your pile of rocks, but leave the valuation up to your local jeweler.
Deming, New Mexico
In the desert lands of Rock Hound State Park, thousands of people have found geodes, also known as thunder eggs. These stones just look like plain rocks when you pick them up, but once you crack them open the insides show off lovely crystals in amethyst, hematite, or rose quartz. Make this treasure hunting outing a part of your camping or RV trip in the Western part of the country. Geodes can be found in washed-out piles of rocks or lying against wind-swept hills. Bring along small hammers to tap the rocks open to discover what’s inside the best of them.
Devil Hills, South Dakota
The Badlands region of South Dakota is prime dinosaur-fossil hunting land. Kids who are dino-lovers will eagerly spend their days sifting through piles of rock and soil just to find a hint of dinosaur history. Gigantic pieces of bone from over 145 million years ago have been discovered here, and young hunters have had as much luck as older, more experienced explorers. If you find fossils in this area you have to report them to the authorities and leave them where you found them, but pictures with the fossil make a great souvenir. Besides, how many kids can brag about personally discovering their own dinosaur and have the pictures to prove it?
Central Florida Coast
Photo by Flickr user David Dawson Photography
11 Spanish galleons sunk off the Florida coast in 1715, dropping tons of gold coins, jewels, and other relics into the sea. The ocean waves have been washing this treasure up for the past 300 years onto the beaches between Cape Canaveral and Stuart. People have been finding treasure almost daily, even today, and the finds are so simple they’re great for kids to work on. Look on the high tide line, especially after a thunderstorm creates big waves and on the sand that’s still damp from the tide going out. Treasure has been found by looking with the naked eye but you may want to invest in a simple metal detector to find treasure buried in the sand. The entire eastern coast of central Florida provides abundant lodging for visitors so pick a small town for your best bet and look for your very own pirate treasure.
When you go treasure hunting with your kids, you’ll build memories and give them experiences none of their friends will ever have.
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.
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.
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!
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.
With so many summer camps to choose from, how do parents know what to look for in finding the right fit for their kids?
Written by Sarah Antrim
Not all children are the same, so what might be the right fit for one may not be for another. Never fear, ActivityHero is here to help!
We’ve put together some tips on how to choose the best summer camp programs for kids this year.
1. Think about what your child is getting out of the school year, and then consider what they’re missing.
A deeper connection to nature and the outdoors? An opportunity to build on the core academic subjects of the school year?
Determine what you think matters in your child’s development, and view summer as a chance to fill in the missing pieces.
2. Once you’ve narrowed down the subject matter, look for these things:
Adult supervision that both inspires your kids and keeps them safe.
A ratio of no more than 10 kids per staff member.
Age group divisions for kids that span no more than 2-3 years.
Positive reviews of the program’s effectiveness and
A Director who is experienced, passionate, and organized.
3. Ask as many questions as possible. Here’s a few questions that parents should ask about summer camp programs:
What is your program trying to accomplish with children?
Who is the director? How many years have they been directing the camp? What does he/she look for in the staff he/she hires?
Who is going to be working directly with my child? What is their education level? How are they trained?
How do you develop your curriculum? What are the learning objectives of the program?
Do high school students have direct supervisory responsibility for campers?
What are the age groupings and camper to staff ratios?
4. Focus as much on who the people will be working with your child as you do the content.
No matter what the summer camp program, the people will drive what your child takes away from the experience.
5. Seek out programs that offer consistency and minimize transitions in location, staff, and fellow campers.
Choosing the best summer camp programs for kids is only possible if you make kids as comfortable and educated as possible about the process. Set your kids up for success by not signing them up for too many different camps.
Find out ahead of time what the first day check in scene will be like, then describe it to your child ahead of time so they know what it will be like. You want to avoid a lengthy separation process on the first day.
With the thousands of summer camp programs available, choosing the best for your kids can sometimes feel like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. With these simple tips, you can help to set your kids up for success this summer.
Search all of our camp listings and find the perfect fit for your child, your schedule, and your budget at ActivityHero.com
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.
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.
Christmas break and other holidays can leave kids bored or blue. Beat cabin fever with these low-cost family-fun activities that kids of all ages enjoy.
By Jennifer Moore
The holidays are one of the best times of year to promote family bonding, and doing activities as a group can help strengthen those ties even more. Keeping your kids’ brains and hands busy also makes for fonder memories, since boredom and cabin fever are sure-fire triggers for sibling squabbles. The following are a few activities that cost little or nothing and can be enjoyed by children of all ages. With each one, think about your own favorite holiday activities from childhood, and use those fond memories to add your own special touch.
Start making holiday crafts, tree ornaments, wall ornaments, and frames. You’ll get keepsakes you can bring out every Christmas, and your kids will get a kick out of seeing their crafts on display for years to come. (Be sure to have your child add their name and date to each item.) Even if Christmas is over, creating decorations is a great way to keep kids busy during the break. Plus, you can see what areas of the house could use some extra adornment next year, then make items just for those spots. This is also a great time to do minor repairs and touch-ups on decorations from years-gone-by.
Stir Up Some Fun
Kids of all ages love to cook, and the holidays are the perfect time for parents and kids to bond while baking. Get out the cookie cutters, icing, and edible decorations (such as sprinkles and candy letters), and create unique cookies, cupcakes, and candies. If you’re not much of a baker, purchase a gingerbread house kit and have fun decorating it. Clean-up tip: If you’re not planning on nibbling on the gingerbread house later, you can adorn it with old candies that are left over from Halloween or school goodie bags.
Don’t forget family movie night! A dreary or cold day is the perfect time to pull out all of those must-see holiday classics. Or break out the new DVDs that the kids recently received as presents. This is especially great when siblings are tiring of each other or when they don’t like to play the same games. Having the “shared experience” of watching a movie will provide siblings with an enjoyable interaction. Plus, they’ll have something to discuss later, such as favorite scenes, lines, and characters from the film. If they tend to bug each other, be sure to have them be bookends, with you sandwiched between them as a buffer.
The best way to get rid of extra Christmas cookies is to invite some of your kids’ friends over. This may seem like a lot of work when you’re already trying to amuse your own children all day during break, but it actually may give you time to regroup while the kids show friends their new toys and games. You and your spouse can take turns supervising the play date, while the other does chores … or relaxes with a good book.
It’s easier to get rid of cabin fever if you don’t spend the whole break in your “cabin.” If you live in a place that gets winter weather, then go out and enjoy the snow. Building snowmen, making snow angels, having snowball fights, and even constructing snow forts or igloos are all classic family activities because they just never stop being fun. But if you live in sunny California or Florida, winter is also the perfect season for a family walk in the neighborhood, a sing-along with the local kids, a hike in a local wildlife refuge, or a sight-seeing trip to a local tourist spot. Check out local travel guides and newspapers to see what family-friendly events are coming up.
Boost Kids’ Brainpower
School’s out, but that doesn’t mean your children have to stop learning. For kids who love tech, sit down together and check out interactive games on websites like ABCya.com, PBSKids.com and DiscoveryKids.com. Or plan an educational family outing to a nearby planetarium, zoo, children’s museum, or state park. Many such locations offer free talks from experts, guides, or rangers. (Kids don’t need to know that they’re educational!) You can also document the visit with photos, then research fun facts on wildlife or relevant subject matter when you return home.
When you ask adults what they remember most from their childhood, many will place “family game nights” among the “best nights of their lives.” Though kids will love playing against you on some of their video games, they’ll also get a kick out of playing those “old-fashioned” games from your childhood. Get out the Monopoly board or play Clue. Even a game of Scrabble can be fun when you divide the family into teams — particularly if your teens are obsessed with Words with Friends.
Burn Off Some Kid Energy
Many public parks set up ice-skating rinks for the winter, complete with cheerful Christmas lights and skate rentals. Or simply grab some hot cocoa, soak up the holiday music, and sit and watch the skaters twirl by. Not a fan of ice? Hit the roller rink or ski slopes instead. Or try a physical activity that requires less athletic talent, such as bouncing at a trampoline park, or a different kind of skill, such as playing laser tag. These latter options may be less holiday-oriented, but they’re just as good at burning off holiday-cookie calories and kids’ excess energy.
Jennifer Moore is a mother of three, juggling work, kids, and family time. Promoting family time is usually a job that falls on Mom’s shoulders, but the benefits are long-lasting, keeping a family united over generations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 charitynavigator.org where kids can choose a charity to donate to.
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.
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.
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.