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Tag Archives: things to do with kids

The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book (and a giveaway!)

KidsOutAdv_CVRMech.inddSo Stacy Tornio sent a copy of her (and Ken Keffer’s) new book to me a few weeks ago.  I’ve been reading through it ever since.  So many ideas (448 to be exact)!  So well organized!  She’s giving away autographed copies of this book, as well as kids CLIF bars (Zbars) through the end of April.  Having read through much of this book, I highly recommend you sign yourself up for the giveaway.

Why?

Let me tell you.

These guys get it.  Their book tallies up the essence of outdoor parenting blogs everywhere.  This is from the introduction: “Nature is a destination, but you don’t have to travel anywhere to find it.  Just open the door and step outside.  The tiniest of porches can house a flower container.  A backyard can provide a lifetime of natural experiences.  Nature is everywhere….”  This book is perfect for first time moms, as a really awesome baby shower gift, and for those who wish they did more things outside but aren’t sure how to start. (more…)

What tape is stickiest? Helping young kids in the science fair.

Just after Ari started back to school this last January, his teacher handed out a piece of paper outlining this year’s school wide science fair project.  I’ve talked before about what a wonderful and lasting effect the science fair had on my own life so I was excited to finally have the chance to share that joy with my own school-aged kid.

Olivia talked a few weeks ago about helping a fifth grader with his science project.  Just to help any mom’s who may still be grappling with their own fears of science, here’s another story–how Ari and I put together his project.

The real problem we (I) had was coming up with a question worth answering.  When I originally broached the subject, my ever-so-typical boy threw out the idea of farts, and testing what foods made him the fartiest.  I’ll be honest–I thought it was a pretty cool project, but I wasn’t so sure his teachers would feel as I did.  So we decided to do that one at home, and think of something else to take to school.

It took three weeks to come up with a new idea; I kept waiting for that spur-of-the-moment question; I kept listening for Ari to muse over some aspect of his daily life.  Finally, as Ari was helping me wrap a birthday gift for Joe, that special moment happened.  We were trying to wrap a box with a brown paper bag, and discovered that the tape we were using was horrible at holding it together.  I think it took us about 18 pieces. At some point Ari said “I wonder if we have any stickier tape we could use.” (more…)

Taking a lesson from Olympic athletes: how to lose gracefully when you’re eight

The Olympics are here! I love the Olympics—I like seeing people be the very best at something. It makes me feel good—happy to be a human. Each time they come around I decide that these are my favorite—last winter I decided winter Olympics were the best of all… now I’m thinking it’s summer.

When I was little my mom and a neighbor threw an Olympics for us. We had gymnastics, choreographed swimming, and running events. We were told about the Olympics a week in advance so we had time to ‘train’ and prepare our astonishing feats of physical prowess. The neighbor’s daughter and I prepared a perfectly choreographed swim routine, competing against the other ‘team’ of my sister and her sister. Our two moms watched our final performances and rated us on a scale of one to ten. Then they handed out medals, made from canning lids wrapped in tinfoil, and with a hole punched through for the ribbon. I still have them.

I also remember not winning. The disappointment and sense of something being wrong with the world when my little sister beat me at gymnastics (note my silver medal). I remember crying and pouting… and I remember my fellow eight-year old Olympians doing the same thing when they lost. Losing is hard when you’re small—heck it’s still hard for me. But it is an important skill to learn. (more…)

How do you “structure” unstructured play?

If you haven’t noticed, unstructured play is pretty en vogue these days.  Articles touting its importance, experts saying kids need more, that it’s becoming a lost art form, that without it your child may become a criminal—articles leaving you awake at night wondering a) what the heck unstructured play is and b) if you’re a terrible person because you haven’t scheduled it in to tomorrow’s agenda.  Ugh.

Never fear.  Unstructured play is just a new phrase for something very old.  Something that animals do, and that kids naturally tend towards in every activity.  For example, remember when they were two, and could be entertained with an empty Kleenex box and a gum wrapper?  When they used shoes as telephones?  Remember the last time you set them down to chutes and ladders and came back to find them using the board, upside down, as a slide and the pieces as a marching band?  That, my friends, is unstructured play—activities that are steeped in imagination and creation; activities that downplay agendas and end-goals.  Unstructured play is when no one is looking towards the finish line.  It is the zen-moment of free time.  And what’s more, all it requires are the natural gift every child has:  an imagination.

Why is unstructured play so great? Because it promotes exploration, creativity and independent thinking.  What’s more, it gives you, the over-burdened parent, a little break.  Leave them be and let them figure out what to do with a half an hour.

Easy. Right? Ummm… no.  At least not for me and my brood.  There are so many other factors that go in to getting a child to conjure up an interesting and attention-capturing activity all by themselves.  Assuming that I’m not the only one with issues in this realm, I hereby dedicate the rest of this post to how to achieve those unstructured moments.

How do you de-structure your kids playtime?  You fight the urge to entertain.  You turn off the t.v., the playstation, the wii, and the ipod.  You leave them with materials and let them create their own fun.  They’ll be bored to start with, but out of desperation, they’ll figure it out–this is especially true if you’ve got several children of the right age–they’ll feed off each other.

Here are, in my experience, the most common obstacles for children left to their own devices, and the methods that I have dreamed up for dealing with them.  I very much look forward to hearing from readers who have also tried to incorporate undirected playtime into their child’s daily routine! (more…)

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    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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