Get Moving

Physical activity is important for children – and adults! And whether it’s following a long day of schoolwork or keeping kids entertained on the weekend, getting bodies moving can be good for both physical and mental health.

START SMALL

Physical activity doesn’t have to be complicated. Taking a walk around the block is a simple way to get in some exercise. Start with a short distance, then encourage your children to walk a little farther each time (just remember that you’ll have to walk back, too, unless you’re going in a circle!). If basic walks are too tame for your kids, try hiking local trails or biking if you have bicycles handy. If you have a backyard or a park field nearby, just letting them loose to run around can help them burn off some pent-up energy.

Need to stay inside? That’s OK! Put on some music and have a dance party. Try yoga, or experiment with different ways to walk, hop, and crawl.

CHALLENGES

Whether it’s a competition or just a way to push themselves, adding in some challenges can making simple activities a bit more fun. How far can they jump? How fast can they run? Can they walk like a crab or hop like a frog? If you put some pieces of tape on the floor or mark off the driveway with chalk, can they jump from mark to mark? Can they hop sideways between the marks? Try hopscotch or other shapes to encourage different options.

Set up goals or targets and have your children try to reach them, whether it’s by kicking or throwing a ball, or tossing a bean bag or small rock.

To keep things interesting, try adding activity dice to the mix and see if your child can act like different animals or superheroes. Check out this list from the City of San Rafael for ideas and printables: https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/roll-the-dice-games/. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can just write out some challenges on pieces of paper and lay them on the floor or ground to instruct kids. Give them a space to move, then set up your challenges along a path. Some challenges can be “jump like a frog to the next paper,” “run backwards,” “hop on one leg,” “slither like a snake.” Use your imagination or the link above for more ideas!

ADD SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT

Printables aren’t the only thing you can add. Adding other supplies or equipment can also add to the fun, and it can be as simple as heading to the playground! Swings, slides, climbing equipment, and more can keep bodies moving in fun and interesting ways. Check out several playgrounds in your area and see which ones your child likes best. While many will offer similar options, some will have unique features that add an exciting twist.

Do you have any balls, cones, hula hoops, jump ropes, or other supplies at home? If so, bring them out! Play a game of catch. Twirl those hoops or hop from one to the other. Skip rope or try double dutch.

Don’t have traditional sports supplies? That’s OK! Set up an obstacle course using whatever you have available. Placing chairs, pillows, even rocks or sticks, around your play space can create a fun challenge. Invite your children to run between the items, jump over them, walk backward through them, walk like a crab through them. Time the challenges so children can aim to beat their time or complete the course before the timer runs out.

SPORTS AND GAMES

Formal sports and games, with rules and regulations, can offer more structured playtime. If you have sports equipment on hand, bring it out and see what you can do with it. Even a simple ball to kick around can become a game of soccer by setting up goals at opposite ends of a field. Some parks will offer goals already set up, or you can simply place large rocks a few feet apart to act as goal posts.

Non-sports games are a great, fun option, too. Musical chairs, for example, can keep bodies moving while also encouraging lots of giggles! How about a game of tag? Have you tried the floor is lava? What other games can you and your children come up with?

MEDIA THAT ENCOURAGE MOVEMENT

Looking for more ways to get your kids moving? Check out these other resources!

Book Lists:

YouTube Channel Lists:

And of course, the internet abounds with more ideas and suggestions to explore. Happy moving!

Celebrate Every Day

Yesterday may have been a holiday, but did you know there are actually holidays every day? Some are quirky and some are just fun – and you can embrace them all!

There are holidays we all know, or that hold particular meaning for us, such as religious holidays. But sometimes the more obscure holidays can be even more fun to celebrate! You can turn every day into a holiday by finding ways to celebrate the quirky and obscure. Not ready to commit to every day? You can also celebrate every week or every month and still have fun!

I have found two sites that are great resources for determining the significance of every day. I apologize in advance for the ads:

There are other sites out there, as well, but I found these to be the most complete. They have a lot of overlap, but sometimes one will have a holiday or two that the other doesn’t have, and vice versa. So if I can’t find a holiday I like for a particular day on one site, I’ll check the other!

My kids and I have done this, and we’ve found lots of different ways to celebrate. It all depends on the day and what it offers. On Chocolate Cake Day, for example, we had to eat chocolate cake! And on Splash in Puddles Day? I think you can guess how we would celebrate.

In addition to the obvious, however, there are other ways you can enjoy the day. The sites also offer the nice feature that if you click on the holiday’s name, they will give you background information on the holiday, if available. This can help pinpoint what the day is really about. My kids and I would then check out books from the library that pertain to the topic and ready them together. I tried to find picture books that would be more fun, but if you have a child who loves to learn, you can also find nonfiction books that would relate to the topic, too!

I have also found arts and crafts projects for just about everything, so you can break out the craft supplies and do a quick google search to find something that works for you.

Among the holidays today, for example, is “National Neither Snow Nor Rain Day,” and it actually pertains to the post office and the popular supposed motto postal workers embraced. How can you celebrate? Here are some ideas:

  • Set up a pretend post office in your home. Deliver “letters” and “packages” to different areas of the house (this may also be a great opportunity to put toys away to their proper places!)
  • See if your local library has any of the following books:
    • The Post Office Book by Gail Gibbons
    • To the Post Office with Mama by Sue Farrell
    • Seven Little Postmen by Margaret Wise Brown
    • What to Mail Carriers Do? by Nick Christopher
    • A Trip to the Post Office by Josie Keogh
  • Try some of these mail-related crafts from Handmade Charlotte
  • Leave a thank you card or treat for your mail carrier.
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member
  • Find a pen pal for your child(ren). Scary Mommy has a post on how to do that safely.

Kids can really get into this idea, and they will help you find ways to celebrate. Let them help pick which holiday to explore each day, and help choose the books, projects, etc. It can be a fun tradition that will make every day fun!

Tinker Time

Do you have a little scientist or engineer on your hands? Want to encourage creativity, problem solving, and outside-the-box thinking? Set aside some tinker time!

Tinkering can take on many forms, and it can involve building, creating, and experimenting. The best part is: you can use whatever you have on hand to guide you! There is no need to go out and purchase supplies. Challenging yourself (and your children!) to use what is already available can actually add to the fun.

BUILDING

Just about anything can be used to build. This includes actual building blocks or LEGO, but can also include boxes, plastic containers, books, and random items you find around the house. Gift of Curiosity has a list of great building challenges and ideas that can get you and your child started. It includes making a construction set out of cardboard, building with toothpicks and gumdrops, and more. Life over C’s also has some great challenge ideas that use items you have on hand. Ideas include building a bridge and stacking challenges.

You can also encourage creativity with specific building challenges that push kids to view things in a whole new way. Check out “Balancing Sculptures” and “Surprising Seesaws” to get started.

CREATING

Dump out the recycling bin and challenge your kids to make something. It can be a craft, a toy, a building – whatever they’re interested in creating. You can add to the challenge by saying they can only use items from the bin, or by adding only selected items such as glue or scissors. See where their minds take them!

You can also encourage creative thinking by giving them options or ideas. These projects for “Dancing Boxes” and “Spinning Tops” can get them started while also being open-ended enough to encourage imagination.

Another option is to put together a box or bin filled with random craft supplies or odds and ends you find around your home. Hand them the box and encourage them to make something! It may take them a few minutes to get started, but once they do, the results can be amazing.

EXPERIMENTING

Experimenting is all about trial and error, seeing what happens when something else happens, and looking at the world in a new way. One great way to experiment with items you have on hand is by creating a Rube Goldberg machine. These devices are really just a bunch of random items interacting with each other to get something simple done in a very complicated way, and they’re all about chain reactions.

Science experiments are also a great way to tinker, especially if you encourage your children to go beyond the initial experiment. Add a second layer to the project or ask them what would happen if… Here are some sites to get you started:

LEGOS

LEGOs are great for tinkering, especially if you add challenges or a few extra supplies such as balloons or string. Here are some sources for LEGO challenges and ideas:

There are seemingly infinite sources for challenges out there. Just do a quick search for “LEGO Challenges” on Google, and you’ll have more ideas than you know what to do with!

FURTHER TINKERING

Searching online can yield a ton of results and ideas for further tinkering projects. One great source I’ve linked to above, as well, is The Tinkering Studio by the Exploratorium – a museum in San Francisco. Don’t underestimate the power of the imagination, however! Giving your kids a bunch of supplies and some free time can yield surprising results.

Make Back to School Fun

Summer is coming to an end, and a new school year is right around the corner. Make the transition fun for your family with these ideas!

START A TRADITION

What summer activities are special to your family? Take some time to have that fun one more time and make a toast to the end of summer. Take pictures of your family celebrating the end of summer or beginning of the school year. Make a scrapbook using pictures and trinkets from your summer excursions, or prepare a scrapbook to be filled with all of the fun memories from a new school year. Discuss what you’re looking forward to about starting school.

No matter what you decide to do, make it a tradition. Encourage your family to embrace the transition and learn to look forward to each changing season.

START NEW (FUN!) ROUTINES

Back to school often means back to typical routines of homework, chores, and drudgery. But while your family is shifting back into “normalcy,” add some fun routines to the mix.

Add a weekly game night into your schedule. If your family doesn’t like board games, try puzzles, sports, or even crafting. Take family walks around the neighborhood before school or after dinner. Or turn typical family dinners into fun occasions with games and conversation starters (check out these sites for inspiration: https://raisingarrows.net/family-games-dinner-table/ and https://www.thescramble.com/family-dinner/dinnertime-can-be-all-fun-and-games/).

Even if your family starts to grumble at the thought of less time glued to their screens, they will soon look forward to the time to connect. Encourage them to share things they would like to do together, or routines they would be interested in trying.

SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER

In the hustle and bustle that comes with the school year, try to squeeze in some time together as a family.

Turn homework into a family affair by having everyone work together in the same room. Even parents can get in on the action by doing their own work (paying bills? paperwork?). If you don’t have work of your own, take the time to catch up on your reading or a quiet project.

Try not to overschedule your family members. By limiting extracurricular activities, you’ll have more time to relax, connect, and have fun. Plan family fun days, when you can all partake in an outing or special activity together. Check out the events calendar, info tabs, or previous posts for ideas. Make these days important, and schedule them as you would a doctor’s appointment. Remind your family that spending time together matters. And have fun together!

What are your family’s favorite things to do for back to school?

Start a Family Book Club

Good books are meant to be shared. Connect with friends and family near and far by starting your own book club!

READ TOGETHER

Children of all ages enjoy being read to. Whether it’s at bedtime or in the middle of the day, it’s a great way to bond and share stories. Take things one step further by discussing what you’re reading. Ask your child what they think is going to happen next, or if they agree with a character’s decision. Pretend you’re in the characters’ position – how would you act or react? how would your child? You’d be surprised what kids will come up with!

This option is even great with family members who live far away. A grandparent, for example, can read aloud to a grandchild over Skype or Zoom, then share conversation and laughs over a book discussion.

READ APART

Older kids and teens may prefer this option. Pick up two copies of the same book (or more, if you have more children or family members participating). You and your child(ren) can read the book on your own time, then meet either at the end or periodically while reading to discuss what happened. Encourage them to discuss how the story made them feel. Teens may also enjoy discussing underlying themes or controversial topics that are present. Was the story engaging? Did they connect with the main character? Was the resolution satisfying?

This option is also great for family members – and friends – who don’t live in your household. Increase your book club members by reaching out to cousins or close friends who would enjoy reading and discussing the book, as well. Then meet on Zoom or Google Meets to share thoughts and conversation.

LET CHILDREN LEAD

While reading or discussing a book, encourage your child to start the conversation, ask questions, and really get involved. Having an adult guide the conversation too much can make them feel as if their opinions are “wrong” or “silly.” If your child is reluctant to engage, share how the book made you feel, especially if your feelings are surprising. Young children may prefer to draw pictures about the book, particularly if the book was a chapter book with few pictures. The act of drawing can help them connect with characters and situations. Have them discuss what’s happening in their drawings to get a peek into their thoughts and feelings.

You can also encourage your child to take the lead by having them pick the book you read. Even if they pick a very short picture book, respect their choice and take it seriously. As they feel more confident, their choices will reflect this. You can also try alternating books, during which you pick a book, and then rotate among your children who picks the next book. This helps ensure everyone’s opinions are considered.

HAVE FUN!

The most important step is to have fun! Having a book club shouldn’t feel like homework. Keep the discussion lighthearted. Have snacks – themed to the book is even better! If the book warrants it, decorate the discussion space to match the topic or theme. Reading a book about animals? Bring all the stuffed animals you own into the room. Discussing magic? Give each participant a magic wand or fairy wings. Is there a particular item that plays a part in the plot? Set out an item that represents it. If you can’t find something similar, post a picture. Get immersed in the story, act like the characters, and enjoy the process. If the “meeting” ends in giggles, that’s perfectly alright. Sharing books together will bring you closer and help encourage a love of reading. Enjoy!

When the Weather Doesn’t Cooperate

There’s just something about yucky weather that makes the day feel different. So what do you do when the weather doesn’t cooperate?

Whether it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too windy – when the weather stinks, boredom somehow becomes magnified. Knowing that you won’t want to go outside can make even previously enjoyable activities just not enough. Here are some suggestions to keep inside play interesting.

AT HOME

You always have the option of crafts, and games, and so many other things. However for particularly active kids, especially, these may not be enough. To kick things up a notch, try these ideas:

  • Create an indoor obstacle course. From rope mazes to scurrying under tables to completing tasks before moving on, the possibilities are endless when it comes to obstacle courses. Challenge your child(ren) using some of the suggestions in these articles:
  • Build a crazy fort. Pick a room and add boxes, blankets, and more to create cozy nooks and secret hideouts. Let the kids use their imaginations to design and build the fort of their dreams.
  • Turn it into a competition. Whether it’s a dance off, a cooking contest, or a LEGO building competition, adding that extra element can make even humdrum activities more fun.
  • Bring outdoor activities inside. What do your children like to do outside? Is there a way you can bring it inside? Whether it’s playing soccer in the hallway (with, perhaps a lighter, softer ball), playing basketball with a laundry basket hoop, or creating a hopscotch board using masking tape, bringing some typically outdoor activities inside can make them even more fun that usual.
  • Play “the floor is lava.” My kids love this game, and there are many variations you can try out to add to the fun. Start with the simple concept that they have to move across the room and not touch the floor. Then mix things up by changing what they can and cannot touch – perhaps the lava is now spreading over the books or blankets they were using as stepping stones, or the floor is now the only safe thing. Ask your kids for suggestions on what to try next, and the game can keep going.
  • Break out the boxes. How many empty cardboard boxes do you have in your home? Give them to your kids! There are so many amazing things you can make with cardboard boxes, and sometimes the boxes themselves can be fun for kids. Boxes can become rockets, houses, forts, or cars. They can turn into maze tunnels, mailboxes, or pretend kitchens. The possibilities are endless! Here are some sites for inspiration:
  • Check out these articles for more great ideas:

OUT AND ABOUT

Unless it’s unsafe to leave your home, bad weather doesn’t mean you can’t go somewhere.

  • Museums. Connecticut has a wide variety of museums available to suit all interests, and several offer free days to help you take advantage of what they have to offer. A few are even free all the time – USS Nautilus Submarine, National Helicopter Museum, Yale Art Gallery. This summer, the state is also offering Summer at the Museum, to get Connecticut children 18 and under and one accompanying adult free admission to many museums within Connecticut. Your local library may also offer museums passes that can get you free admission to museums in the area. Most libraries that offer museums passes don’t limit their use to just that town’s residents, so if your library doesn’t offer one that you’re interested in, check other libraries in the area for availability.
  • Libraries. Most libraries are now open at least part time, and, while toys and games are likely still safely tucked away, just getting out of the house can help against cabin fever! While you’re there, snag some books for a story time or DIY book club, DVDs for a movie marathon, or CDs for a dance competition.
  • Play outside anyway. Even if you can’t do the activities you normally would, working with the weather instead of complaining about it can make a typically dreary day an extra fun one.
    • Too hot? Put the sprinkler on or have a water balloon fight (or try these other activity ideas from Namco Pool).
    • Raining? Splash in puddles, make mud pies, and hunt for worms (or try these other rainy day activities from Very Well Family).
    • Windy? Make and fly a kite (or try other suggestions from Creative STAR Learning).
    • Too cold? Bundle up and explore anyway (and check out these ideas from Happy Grey Lucky).

Possibilities are truly endless! What does your family enjoy during less-than-ideal weather?

Learn Something New

Beat summer slide and have fun as a family by learning something new!

EXPLORE A TOPIC

Tap into a passion by taking an online course or exploring on your own. Whether your child is into dinosaurs or art, math or magic, you’ll find something to enjoy. Here are some great sources for free educational content:

LEARN A NEW SKILL

With the World Wide Web, information on any topic is easily accessible. That means learning a new skill is right at your fingertips. Check out the sites below for some ideas.

What is your child interested in learning? Let me know, and I’ll find some great resources!

VISIT A MUSEUM

The Connecticut Summer at the Museum program has opened the doors for many families to explore new and interesting places this summer. Children 18 and under, plus one accompanying adult, can get free admission to a wide variety of museums and educational sites around the state. To learn more about the program, visit their website.

You can also take a tour without leaving your couch! Check out this list of virtual tours and field trips.

Never stop learning, and never stop having fun! Stimulate your brain, and you’ll always find something new to discover.

Explore and Investigate

Kids love to explore the world around them. Encourage this exploration with activities and suggestions, or by taking them to new places to discover.

IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD

You don’t have to go far to find an amazing, exciting world. Check out these interesting activities (and websites that can help you get started) that can be done right around your home. Don’t worry about buying any equipment if you don’t have it already on hand. Encourage children to use their senses, and perhaps any items they find around your home.

Don’t be afraid to let your children take the lead. What is captivating their attention? What do they want to explore or learn more about? The library can be a great resource for investigating a new subject. You can also search the web for more information on any topic that strikes their fancy.

GO SOMEWHERE NEW

The “Summer at the Museum” program that was introduced this month is a great opportunity to check out local (and not-so-local) museums around the state. Heading to a new location can offer new ways to explore – and new topics that you and your children may have never otherwise discovered. Museums that cover animals, science, art, history, and more are included in the program. Try something new and see what sparks an interest in your child!

Parks, trails, and other natural areas can offer opportunities to explore and investigate, as well. Even a visit to the local splash pad can be educational, as children learn what happens when water comes shooting out of the ground! Bring a bucket or ball for the water to interact with, and see what your children discover.

KEEP IT OPEN-ENDED

Sometimes the biggest discoveries happen by accident, or simply by asking yourself “I wonder what would happen if…” Rather than preparing “lessons” or structured activities, encourage your children to be scientists and see what happens. Give them supplies and ask questions, or just suggest that they find new ways of doing things, or new purposes for items. Ask open-ended questions to get them thinking, such as:

  • How many uses can you find for a spoon, other than scooping up soup or ice cream?
  • What items would float in water? What items would dissolve?
  • What shape would make the best paper airplane?
  • Can you combine two things to make something new?

While many of these activities are more science-themed in nature, they can also lead to artistic creations. However your child chooses to explore the world around them, encourage them to keep thinking outside the box to investigate and discover. And don’t underestimate the power of lying on your back, staring at the sky, and making shapes with clouds. Looking at things in a new way can be a great way of opening your mind to new possibilities. Have fun exploring!

Turn the Page

Most kids love stories, whether they’re in book format, recited, or acted out. Take advantage of this love to create some fun activities for your family.

TELL A STORY

If you are creatively inclined (or even if you’re not!), make up a story. It can be simple or complicated, short or long, serious or silly. Ask your child for prompts on what should happen next, or what the characters would say or do. Take turns adding a scene. Stuck for ideas? Try using story cards or cubes to get the creative juices flowing. With cards and cubes, you let luck and the pictures inspire you to create or add to your story. Here are some sources for free printable cards and cubes:

If you create a story you’re particularly fond of, write it down and illustrate it with your child(ren)!

CREATE YOUR OWN STORY WALK

You may have seen or heard of story walks in parks nearby. Story walks are a way to encourage families and individuals to enjoy reading a story while also enjoying a walk through nature. Pages from a story book are encased in plastic, mounted, and spread out along a path. As families walk down the path, they can stop and read the next page of the story.

You can create your own story walk in your yard or nearby space. While organizations who create story walks seek for something durable and semi-permanent to mount their pages on, you don’t need to worry about that part. Instead, you can simply spread out the pages and hold them down with rocks or stakes.

While you can certainly take apart a book that you own, you may have better luck with one of these printable stories:

  • DLTK Mini-Books – a variety of short stories, perfect for preschoolers
  • Fun-a-Day – more mini books for preschoolers and kindergarteners
  • Love to Know – printable books for toddlers through eighth grade

You can also use the stories you wrote using the story cards and cubes and share them with friends and family!

MAKE A READING NOOK

Small or large, having a space in your home that’s designated for reading can encourage a love of books. Turn a closet or corner into a reading nook with some pillows, blankets, and stacks of books! If you don’t have books of your own, visit your local library periodically to borrow a selection, or print out some of the books linked to above.

Make a Summer Bucket List

Summer is here! Take advantage of the warm weather and school-free days to have some extra fun!

Whether your kids will be hanging around the house or spending their days and weeks at camp, summer can be a magical time. No school can mean laid-back days or evenings, extra family time, and an added dose of fun. But how does your family want to spend the summer?

One way to maximize your time together is to create a summer bucket list. A bucket list is just a list of things you want to do – and anything goes! To start, gather your family together and explain how you want to have as much fun as possible this summer. Then ask what they would like to do. Keep a list of all their suggestions, even if they won’t make it onto the final bucket list. Be sure to get everyone’s opinions. It’s important that all family members get a say, so they can enjoy their summer, too!

To ensure you don’t break the bank, challenge your family to come up with as many things as possible that are free or close to it. Use the website for ideas or inspiration, or let your imagination run wild. Throw out some free ideas as suggestions – watch a sunset, catch fireflies, dance in the rain, etc. Items can take place outside or inside, alone or as a family, at home or away. Maybe there’s a local event that you always attend, such as a fireworks show or concert series. Perhaps there’s a lake nearby that you like to visit as a family, or something new you’ve always wanted to try. Or maybe you just want to try playing as many board games as possible.

Once all of the suggestions have been compiled, discuss them as a family. Which ones really sound like fun? Which ones could actually happen? Review your options and decide which ones should be on your final summer bucket list. Once you have your final list, write everything on a large piece of paper and post the paper where everyone can see it. Use it as motivation to take advantage of free time (and as inspiration for those “I’m bored!” moments!). Check items off as you’ve completed them.

I’ve included a sample summer bucket list below. I do not know where this graphic originally came from, but you can use it to get ideas or as an example of what I’m referring to. Personalize it to suit your family’s personalities. There is no “right” or “wrong” list of activities. Just have fun and enjoy your time together!