Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ideas for Kid-Friendly Summer Activities + Link Up Your Kid-Friendly Summer Activities!

Welcome to the first of our Fun in the Summer Fun event! Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon by Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here's the line up:
The 1st Monday of each month: link up your "Kid-friendly summer activities"
The 2nd Monday of each month: link up your "Kid-friendly summer crafts"
The 3rd Monday of each month: link up your "Kid-friendly summer recipes"
The 4th Monday of each month: link up your "How to stay cool in the summer heat"

Here are Harvest Moon by Hand's
"Kid-friendly Summer Activities"

This week, the girls and I did some fun activities as a kick-off to summer.  Since we homeschool year-round, many of these activities tie into different academic subjects - like math, science, health, physical education, and reading. 

Make a Summer Activity Bag

Before we get started with any outdoor activities, I wanted to make a Summer Activity Bag that would have things that would make our time outside more enjoyable.  The idea came from a past issue of Family Circle.

I picked a bag that we weren't using.  It's one that I got from a craft fair several years ago; and it's made from a felted sweater (a great way to reuse).  

Summer Activity Bag.

The girls and I collected the following items from around the home for the bag:   
- bug spray (handmade using a combination of essential oils from Wyndmere Naturals and water),
- all-natural bug lotion (no chemicals that are harmful to people or the environment),
- sunscreen (Burt's Bees makes one that is chemical-free),
- anti-itch cream,
- bandaids,
- antiseptic wipes,
- insect after-bite care,
- lotion, and
- ice-cream or special treat money.

In another water-proof bag, I put swimming-related items:
- spare flip flops
- towels
- swimsuits
- small broom, and
- baby powder.
The broom and baby powder are great for getting sand off feet and bodies. 

By putting together these bags, we can simply grab them on our way out the door and have everything we need for spur-of-the-moment fun. 

Start a Change Jar

We started collecting change in a jar on the first day of June.  On the last day of summer, we're going to estimate it, count it, and then plan a special purchase.  (Hopefully there will be lots of quarters...and significantly fewer pennies!)

The jar is simply a clean salsa jar.  I spray-painted the lid green, and added a hand-written label with the words "Spare Change."

Jar to collect change during the summer.
At the end, we can do something fun
with the money saved.

Create a Retreat or Fort

The July/August 2007 issue of Country Home had a picture of a hideaway in a forest of pine trees. 

Summer hideaway.
Photo from Country Home.

As you can see from the picture, red and white fabric was hung between the trees, and the ground had a variety of red and white throw rugs.  There were pillows, low chairs, and a table with a picnic set atop.  The girls thought this looked like such a fun idea, and they wanted to make something like that here.

Country Home explained, "To make a hideaway, either choose a location that has trees, use canopy poles..." or use an existing structure with at least three or four sides.  "Tie clothesline around the trees, and hang fabrics (e.g., blankets, quilts, tablecloths) on all sides using curtain clips or clothespins." 

The pine trees in the backyard have boughs that almost touch the ground.  So, we decided to use the arbor instead since it isn't being used for anything else. 

Arbor that we thought
would make a good fort/retreat.
We have the volleyball/badminton net set up
next to it...hopefully the ball or birdie
stays in the right area.

As much as I would have liked to go to the fabric store and purchase nicely-coordinated fabrics and curtain clips, I thought a more important lesson for the girls was to learn to make do and be resourceful with what you have on hand. 

So, I went through my fabric and found some rather large pieces - all in the blue/green/purple color range.  Rather than using clothesline that we didn't have on hand, we used twine since that was an item that we had a surplus of (thanks to bales of hay).

Sophia attaching two pieces of fabric
together with clothespins.

With a large piece of soft flannel, I made four pillows for the girls stuffed with wool from sheep I raised many years ago.  With the leftover fabric, I made a matching ground cloth/tablecloth for picnics, reading, or relaxing outside.

The girls wanted to use the pillows and ground cloth I made
as soon as I brought it out. 
When the pillows and ground cloth aren't being used,
I put them in a bin that can be left outdoors. 
This will protect them from the rain and sun.

Of course, once we had the hideaway set up, we had to do something have a an ice cream treat on an 82 degree evening. 

The girls enjoying their ice cream treats on a hot evening
in their new hideaway.

When it's cooler outside, the girls thought of some other things we could do in the hideaway:  have a picnic, play a game of cards, or read a story.

Hang Up a Hummingbird Feeder

We enjoy watching the hummingbirds that visit us; and providing food for them is a wonderful way to observe them up close and for longer periods of time.  According the May 2007 issue of Family Fun, "With wings that beat up to 80 times per second, these little birds literally buzz about searching for nectar." 

Hummingbird in Flight
Hummingbird in flight at the feeder
that we put up in the backyard.

Although there is pre-packaged hummingbird food (which I choose to use at least for a few times at the beginning of the season), you also can make your own by stirring 1 part of white cane sugar into 4 parts of water.  If the hummingbird feeder has red on it, there's no need to add red dye to the water-sugar mixture. 

Go on a "Mystery Trip"

My parents use to coordinate "Mystery Trips" with a senior group to which they belonged. About a month before the Mystery Trip, they would go on a drive to explore different sites that they thought the seniors would enjoy. 

I thought this would be a fun idea to do with the girls, except I don't have the luxury of going (without the girls) a month ahead of time to plan a trip.  So, I told them on a Saturday morning that they had a half hour to get ready because we were going on a "Mystery Trip."

"A Mystery Trip? What's a Mystery Trip?" Olivia asked.

"It's like a surprise...I know where we're going, but you don't."

"That sounds like fun!  Do I need to bring my swimsuit?" she asked.

And so began the many questions from the girls:  Have I been there before? Is it far away? What should I wear? Do I need to bring some money? And so on.

The first stop was at a bakery that we use to go to periodically.  It reminded me of times when I was growing up and taking a walk to the bakery a few blocks away on a Saturday morning.  It was always such a treat to pick out something special for breakfast. 

First stop on the Mystery Trip:  the bakery.
The girls enjoyed a treat for breakfast.

After that, we did a few errands (living 14 miles away from the closest town makes it necessary to group errands and activities together).  Then, we began driving on a road that we normally don't go on. 

"Where are we going?" Olivia asked. 

"To the next surprise," I answered.

"Is it far from here?" Sophia asked. "Have I been there before?"

"Maybe...maybe not. And, yes, you went here many years ago," I said. 

They had no idea where they were going.  Even pulling into the Wildlife Science Center for their annual Canine Carnvial didn't immediately bring back any memories since the girls were only about 3 and 5 years old at the time (they are 8 and 10 years old now). 

By the time we walked in, however, parts of the previous visit did come back to them.  "Oh!  I remember this!" Sophia said.

The girls examined pelts from different animals
including this wolf as well as a black bear, and mountain lion.

However, it was what they saw at this visit that interested them even more:  a spotted skunk (who was descented), a fox, gopher snakes, wolves, wolf pup, coyotes, bear cubs, red-tailed hawk, and screech owl. 

The girls were able to observe the animals up close,
and the animals watched them closely as well.

They enjoyed watching the Minnesota Search and Rescue's dogs go through an obstacle course; and met one of the dogs named Olive. 

Olivia picked Olive's information card (kind of like a baseball trading card), and thought she recognized her as one of the dogs at the event. She asked the handler if his dog was Olive.  Sure enough, she was Olive.  Needless to say, Olivia was very happy to be able to pet the dog on her trading card.

One of the Minnesota Search and Rescue dogs going
through the obstacle course.

The girls learned some new facts about wolves.  One they they learned was that wolves are inefficient hunters (thus, being part of a group is a good thing, even though they have to share their food).  On the average, a wolf catches only 6 in 100 deer.  Not a high success rate.

Five week old wolf pup at the Wildlife Science Center.
It was very playful...and
looked like it had incredibly sharp teeth.

The girls both had a lot of fun, and got to see some wild animals they normally wouldn't encounter on a daily basis.  It was interesting to see the screech owl and red-tailed hawk at such a close distance.  Normally we see them flying overhead or perched somewhere. 

So, to be able to see the patterns and colors of the feathers; to have the owl follow the girls as they moved slowly around it, and to see their size up close rather than seeing them in the distance or in a picture in a was a real treat for us all.

A screech owl. 
It weighs about as much as a stick of butter.

Doing a monthly "Mystery Trip" to some place within a 50 mile radius of home would be fun to do.  Next time I'm going to add a few more surprise destinations within the trip and stretch it out a bit more.


Mama to 4 said...

great ideas - love the fort! I may have to borrow your idea - my boys would love that!
Thanks for joining us for the summer!

Jill said...

Love all the ideas....esp. the fort!! They look as though they love it, too! =)
Blessings to you,
Jill @ Sweet Diva

Ticia said...

I love all of the ideas. I didn't even think to share our going out bag, it's just what I always carry. Thanks for sharing yours!

Rita said...

Great ideas!!

Susan said...

I'm not sure if this is along the same lines but I've linked up my 100 days of summer ideas. We are really hoping to accomplish many on this list this summer (between homeschool activities too). I love the idea of a mystery trip too.

Online GED said...

Great Ideas, In this summer i will love to do this my family will like it, & see your suggestion its quite impressive.

Snuggly Monkey mama said...

Stopping by from EtsyKids Team :) What a great idea, I'm always looking for ideas on what to do with my girls. Thanks!!

joelle said...

What great ideas! I am your new follower.

madebymari said...

Looks like the kids had a blast. Good ideas!