What Can You Do With a Piece of Paper?

The simplest of supplies, likely to be floating around your home or easily accessible, and yet so versatile. What can you do with a simple piece of paper?

PAPER AIRPLANES

Paper airplanes are perhaps the simplest paper creation, known to kids everywhere. But did you know there are tons of different styles and designs? And each one will fly a little differently. Head to Fold’NFly, pick out your favorite design, then challenge family members to a race! You can also set up targets to see how accurate your creations are. Land them on a particular spot or have them fly through something. Let the fun begin!

ORIGAMI

Paper airplanes are, actually, a kind of origami. Origami is the art of paper folding. But possibilities abound way beyond airplanes. Animals, boxes, even hats! can be made by folding up a piece of paper or two. Check out these sites for ideas and instructions:

What will you create?

ZENTANGLE

Moving past folding, there are infinite uses for a piece of paper. For a fun, relaxing art project, try Zentangle. This drawing method is simple enough that young children can do it, but with the ability to be complex enough for older, more dedicated artists. It can also be a great quiet time or calming activity, as it is designed to help your mind relax and unwind.

TELL A STORY

To create art with words rather than images, try writing a story. (Or stick with pictures and make a comic!) A story can be about anything you want, and it can be however long you want it to be. For ideas and inspiration to help you, check out a post I wrote earlier this year.

MAKE YOUR OWN…

There are tons of paper crafts out there, and a quick google search will bring you more options than you could ever possibly want. Add some scissors and glue or tape, and you can make just about anything, especially if you have different colors to work with. Here are some resources to get you started:

Now that you have lots of options, what will you choose to create? Grab a piece of paper and find out!

Use Your Local (and Not-so-Local) Libraries

Libraries are treasure troves of materials, resources, and entertainment. And they’re free!

It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of libraries. I do work in two of them, after all! But it can be easy to forget all they have to offer, especially if you don’t visit them often (or at all). So consider this a reminder! If your local library is small or has limited resources, however, don’t despair. You can take advantage of libraries all over Connecticut and can even check out materials once you have a library card from your own town’s library. I encourage you to explore as many libraries as you can and see what you can discover!

Don’t want to spend time seeing what each library has available? The simplest, most time-efficient method I’ve found is to follow them on Facebook. Libraries will often highlight when they have something new or interesting to offer, and you can scope out their features without hours perusing websites!

BOOKS, MAGAZINES, CDS, DVDS…

Perhaps what libraries are best known for are their many shelves full of books. And, yes, books can be great entertainment for all ages. Board books for babies and toddlers, picture books for just about everyone, leveled readers for those learning to read, fiction and non-fiction for anyone looking to learn, escape, and explore. Some libraries will offer a “1000 books before Kindergarten” program that encourages parents to read to their children from a young age. Access to reading materials at home can help children not only learn to read, but succeed in many areas of life. (For some reading statistics that may surprise you, check out this article from Literacy Project.)

In addition to books, however, libraries also offer other media that is usually available to check out and enjoy: magazines, CDs, and DVDs. (And if you’re really old school, I know at least one library – the South Windsor Public Library – that still has some VHS and cassette resources!) With these resources you can add more entertainment options to your repertoire: check out Highlights for Children or Ranger Rick magazines for fun and educational stories and games to share, pick up a couple of CDs and have an impromptu dance party or sing-along, and snag some DVDs for a family movie night or binge session.

Some libraries will also offer video games that you can borrow. If you have a game console but are looking for a little variety, see what games libraries in your area have available by doing a quick search in their catalog. A few libraries will even let you borrow a game console! For younger children, some libraries will offer Launchpads, which are tablets pre-loaded with educational games on them. These are usually geared toward the preschool or early elementary crowd.

Don’t forget digital resources, too! Ebooks, audiobooks, and sometimes even movies and music, are available digitally through services your library subscribes to. Keep in mind, however, that for these services you can only utilize your own town’s library, as they are only available to that library’s cardholders. See what services your library offers by heading to their website. Some popular options are Hoopla, Overdrive/Libby, Freading, and more. Libraries may also link to other free resources that are available to everyone online.

TOYS, GAMES, AND PUZZLES

Though limited due to the pandemic, many libraries usually offer toys and puzzles in the library for little patrons to play with and use. More libraries, however, are starting to expand to items that families can use outside the library. From puzzle and board game swaps to backpacks filled with books and activities, many libraries are letting people bring even more fun home. Some, such as the Cora J. Belden Library in Rocky Hill and the Portland Library, even have oversized yard games like Jenga that you can borrow!

MUSEUM PASSES

If you’re looking for free or reduced admission to local museums, check out your local library first. Many will offer museum passes for assorted venues around the state, and some even offer print on demand passes, so you don’t need to go to the library to pick up a pass! If your library doesn’t have a pass for a museum you’re interested in, look around at other libraries in the area. Many will let you take advantage of their passes even if you’re not a resident.

PROGRAMS

From story times to STEM to crafts and beyond, libraries are known for offering fun, educational, and unique programs. And you don’t usually need to be a resident to participate! Check out all the libraries in your area to see what they offer. Some popular offerings many libraries will feature: story times (often for babies through preschoolers), take and make kits (for projects your child can complete on his own), magic shows, cook-along programs, arts and crafts, science or STEM-based projects, Skype-a-Scientist, book clubs, author talks, music and movement, and more! Check out libraries’ events calendars or follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on everything they have to offer. With the pandemic, many libraries are offering a mix of virtual and in-person programs, so you can find something that best suits your family.

COMPUTERS

If you don’t have your own computer, most libraries offer several for the public to use. Some will also have special computers designed for young children to use, loaded with educational games and activities. Libraries will also have printers available if you need to print something but don’t have a printer, though there’s usually a cost per page to print. Have your own computer but lacking internet? Some libraries will let you borrow a hot spot to get internet wherever you are! And that just opens a world of possibilities…

UNIQUE OFFERINGS

In addition to the more standard fare noted above, some libraries have expended their offerings to include more unusual options. These can include everything from power tools to telescopes. In the spring you may be interested in checking seed libraries. These mini libraries-within-libraries give you the ability to “check out” a variety of seeds (no need to return!), so you can plant a garden without that added expense.

Another feature that some libraries offer, though this, too, is limited to your own town’s library, is special online subscriptions. Some popular offerings are Ancestry, CreativeBug, language learning software, and historical resources. Head to your town library’s website to see what they offer.

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!