get kids to play outside: 4 tips for summertime playground fun

get kids to play outside teachmama.com

get kids to play outside  teachmama.com

 

Sometimes, getting kids to play outside is no easy feat, especially in the summer.

Because here in the DC Metro area, it’s hot.

It’s hot. Hot.

It’s muggy.

It’s oppressive.

When the sun’s beating down, the heat’s suffocating, and the last thing my kids want to do is go and play outside.

But last week, two friends and I got our big kids and little kids outside, playing, and having fun. Old-school style.

Free-bird, playing outdoors in the summertime.

We had some serious playground fun thanks to our friends at Clif Kids, and you can too. Get your kids to play outside, enjoying some summertime playground fun with these four tips.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Get Kids to Play Outside–Summertime Playground Fun: 

These days, it can be hard to get kids engaged in screen-free activities where their bodies are moving and where they’re using their imaginations and getting their creative ideas flowing.

However, it doesn’t take much to get kids to play outside.  These four things may help:

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

1.  Friends

Invite a few friends to join you!  Send an email, a text, or make a quick call.  If you have more than one child, reach out to 2-3 friends each.

Just a quickie invite will do:

Hey friend! Our family is planning on packing some drinks and snacks and will be heading to [insert park and location] on [date and time]. 

We’d love for you to join us for some old-fashioned outdoor fun! If your child needs a ride, I’m happy to pick her up! 

Let me know if you think this will work. We’d love to see you!

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

2.  Food

Food always makes an event, right? At least in our family it does.

Park playdate snacks don’t have to be elaborate or fancy. Really.

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

This is all you need: 

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

 

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

3.  A Few Simple Toys

Kids don’t need much, but if you’re having a hard time getting them out the door to play, then maybe some toys will help to kick-start the fun.

Go to the dollar store. Go to the thrift shop. Visit yard sales.

Don’t spend a fortune.

But consider grabbing things like:

Set the toys out and let the kids at ’em!

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

4. Fun, New Surroundings

You guys, there are so many parks, playgrounds and nature centers around that we don’t even know about. All it takes is a little bit of research, and I’m betting you’ll find a fun, new park to explore.

Send a note to a local moms club, a church, girl scouts or boy scouts, library, or preschool if you aren’t sure about it, and I’m betting they’ll have a list for you.

And if there’s nothing around, even a pal’s backyard can be a fun place to play and explore.

Really. Give it a go!

get kids to play outside  teachmama.com 2

Check out some cool ideas for getting kids outdoors, thanks to our friends at CLIF Kid!

Many of us have heard of CLIF Bars, but did you know that CLIF makes a line of healthy snacks for kids? I didn’t, either.

But they do.  CLIF Kid makes nutritious snacks for kids’ growing bodies with no high fructose corn syrup, synthetic preservatives or artificial flavors.  The snacks are really, really good.

And CLIF is all about getting kids outside and playing–moving their bodies, having fun, and exploring.

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

get kids to play outside | teachmama.com

And to do that, they’ve created some awesome resources for parents:

Our Summertime Spraypark Playdate got us all outdoors and unplugged here in the DC Metro area. 

Last week, my pals Jessica McFadden of A Parent in Silver Spring and A Parent in America, Stacey Ferguson of Life is the Party and the Blogalicious Conference, and I gathered a bunch of our friends together for some good, old-fashioned outdoor fun.

get kids out to play | jessica mcfadden, amy mascott, stacey ferguson

 

get kids out to play | jessica mcfadden, amy mascott, stacey ferguson

We simply sent out an evite to our neighborhood pals, pool pals, school pals, and work pals and invited everyone to join us for an afternoon at the Spraypark in Silver Spring. It was an absolute blast.

It was just a quick get-together where our kids were able to play freely, splash in the water, and enjoy some healthy snacks thanks to our friends at CLIF Kids.

Check out our photos:

 

Huge thanks to our friends at CLIF Kids for providing the snacks. Not a single thing was left–the kids and parents loved them, and for two straight hours, all our kids did was play. 

It was awesome.

 

How will you get your kids outdoors, moving, and refueling in a healthy way this summer? I’d love to hear it!

Share your ideas below, or continue the conversation with others by following the hashtag: #outtoplay

Check out CLIF Kids on whichever social media platform suits your fancy:  facebook |  twitter  |  YouTube  |  instagram

 

fyi: This post was written as a partnership between CLIF Kid and One2One Network. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little splash park splashers. 

summer swim team: an absolute MUST for families

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

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summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Summer swim has been a staple for our family for the last six years.

Ever since Maddy joined the pre-team the summer before Kindergarten, we’ve spent the first seven weeks of summer camped out at the pool in the mornings and have spent our Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings at swim meets and Sunday afternoons at dive meets.

We are grateful that our neighborhood pool is within walking distance from our home, and we definitely take advantage of it. But even if your family is not within walking distance to a pool, I cannot highly enough recommend that kids join a summer swim team.

It’s an absolute must for families for so many reasons. If you’re on the fence about it, I’m here to do what I can to push you in the ‘yes!’ direction.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Summer Swim Team–An Absolute Must For Families:

Our kids, 11, 9, and 8 years old, know that they’re on the swim team through middle school at the very least. But they really want to be. In fact, they’ve chosen to swim and dive, and the dive piece especially is their choice. They want to do it. They want to be there.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

They are counting down the days until they can be the pre-team coaches, until they can be the ‘big kids’ and until they get recognized at the banquet for being swim and dive seniors.

I, on the other hand, am just doing what I can to savor each season as it comes, knowing that the summer days may be long but the years are short.

Thinking about summer swim for your kids?

We love it for many reasons, but here are our top ones:

Kids learn to swim.

Really, they do. Yes, kids on our team must be comfortable in the water, but they don’t necessarily need to know the strokes. That’s where the pre-team coaches come in.

Our littlest swimmers learn water safety and basic strokes, and they become more confident in the water.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Kids try new things and are challenged.

It’s not easy to walk into a pool on a cold June morning not knowing many people, but kids do it. And over time, those people on the team become good friends and playmates.

We all know how important it is for us to step out of our comfort zones every so often; joining a swim team–no matter the age–is a great way to do that.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Kids will learn:

  • the proper swim strokes
  • how far they can push their little bodies
  • how to play safely in the water
  • how to jump and dive into the pool
  • how swim meets work
  • sportsmanship
  • teamwork
  • listening skills
  • confidence
  • and more.

Older children and younger are brought together and support each other.

Swim teams consist of young swimmers, 8 years old and under, and older swimmers, up to age 18.  Swimmers are broken up into different age groups: 8 & under; 9 & 10; 11 & 12; 13 & 14; 15 & older.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

All children are on the same team, but they rarely swim together. Except for the medleys and the graduated relays, where one swimmer from each age group takes a section of the race.

One thing I have loved is that our kids interact with other children from different age groups, and everyone supports each other through practices, social events, and meets. It’s awesome.

Families come together.

Our swim and dive teams pretty much create our social calendar for the summer.

Families gather to make the meets work, and they put in their time to make the swim season fun.

We eat meals together, play bingo, enjoy raft nights, support each other through losses, and celebrate our wins. We host book sales and evening events, party it up at an end-of-season banquet, and decorate homes for divisional and all-star meets.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Communities come together.

We drive all around the area for swim and dive meets, making connections all around our community.

Friends from other neighborhood pools cheer for their school buddies across lanes, and pals who only see each other during basketball season or dance class compete against each other in the water.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins often join in the fun. Meets become a really great way to see tons of familiar faces and connect with new ones.

It’s. Just. Plain. Fun.

It’s fun. It really, truly is.

Though it gets to feel long by week six or seven–I won’t lie–swim and dive season really is one of the most fun times of the year.

summertime swim team | teachmama.com

Early mornings, long afternoons, and hot and muggy evenings are overshadowed by the laughs and memories created each season. I know for a fact that when my kids look back on the highlights of their childhood, summertime swim and dive will come to mind immediately.

Every child can have a strong foundation in water safety.

Really. Even if you don’t have a pool nearby, I’m sure that somewhere near you is a YMCA with a water safety or water survival program for kids.

Thanks to people like Justina Pratt who is a Safe Start Swimming Instructor at a Florida YMCA, these programs–and the people who teach our littlest swimmers–can change lives.  Actually, they can save lives.

Check it out:

I have totally loved the workforce appreciation series over at 1in100million.org. Share them with your kids. Share them with your friends. 

Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. They’re really cool clips, and they remind us to appreciate those people all around us every day who make our world a better place.

Check out:

teach kids workforce appreciation  teachmama.com

 

teach kids to thank everyday heroes teachmama.com

 

kronos: workforce appreciationfyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Find Your Influence, and as always, ideas and opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. Find out more at 1 in one hundred million. Subscribe so you don’t miss any of their videos and follow #WorkforceStories and #1in100MM!

 

kings dominion: family-friendly amusement park in the dc metro area

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

We did it.

We took the leap.

We visited Kings Dominion with our kids this weekend.

And? It was awesome.

My husband and I hadn’t been there in years, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  But we were pleasantly surprised.

Not only was Kings Dominion clean and totally beautiful, it was seriously more family-friendly than we expected. There was something for everyone, and my kids (11, 9, and 8 years old) are raring for a return visit–already.

Need a few reasons to take the trip to Doswell, Virgina–20 miles north of Richmond and 75 miles south of DC–to experience it for yourself?

Here’s the skinny. . .

Kings Dominion– Family-Friendly Amusement Park in the DC Metro Area

Here are my top 5 reasons families should take a trip to Kings Dominion this season:

 

1. It’s beautiful and clean.  

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

Really. Gorgeous flowers. Green grass everywhere. Fountains, shops, restaurants– and restrooms!– all super clean.

It was something that my husband and I noted multiple times–we’d look at each other and comment about how beautiful the park was.

And I don’t even think it was that we were so grateful to be outdoors on a perfect spring day; the park really, truly is beautiful.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

2. The color band bracelets make ride decisions easier.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

The minute we arrived, we walked into a Height Guide station almost immediately, and this sweet gal was handing out bracelets to kids based on their height.

I loved it–it made deciding which rides Maddy, Owen, and Cora were permitted to ride much, much easier.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

Turns out that our kids were able to ride just about everything they wanted, which made the whole day totally stress-free.

The height guide is available on the website, so you can even measure your kids at home and plan accordingly.

 

3. Super-fun concert and event series. 

We were thrilled that the day we went to the park, Debby Ryan (think: Jessie, from Disney channel) and her band, The Never Ending, was playing.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

Our friends at Kings Dominion arranged for us to even meet her, which was an absolute treat for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

They met Debby Ryan! And Debby Ryan was delightful. So sweet. So kind. So great with the kids.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

We had a blast watching the show, and it was a huge highlight of our family’s spring break.

And honestly, the concert was free with park admission. So it was cool–everyone kind of moseyed on over around 5:30 for the 6pm concert. Great outdoor venue. So fun.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

But this concert is just the beginning of the fun during the Spring Bloom Festival at the park; there’s a ton of other things planned this season:

  • Choo Choo Soul – For the younger ones, Choo Choo Soul is a children’s entertainment act featuring a hip-hop train conductor and her partner, a dancer and beatboxer dressed as a railroad engineer. The concert is free with park admission. Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Choo Choo Soul will perform at the Peanut’s Showplace Theater on Sunday, April 19 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Spring Bloom: An International Culinary Celebration – Take a culinary trip around the world with Kings Dominion’s Executive Chef! New food stations and restaurants will feature international food items from Switzerland, Italy, Jamaica, and many more! These delicious delicacies will be created using fresh spring ingredients from local Virginia farms.
  • Live Entertainment – Strap on your dancing shoes and enjoy toe-tapping entertainment from local Country and Bluegrass bands every weekend!
  • Happy Birthday KD! – Kings Dominion opened over the course of two years, with the official grand opening on May 3, 1975. Time to cut the cake and blow out the candles as the park officially turns 40 on May 3, 2015. The day will be filled with surprises, entertainment and more!

I love that there are things other than just rides to explore here.

4. Activities for all ages. 

It’s no secret that Cora is not a fan of big roller coasters. She, like her mama, prefers the lazy river type of rides. So when we discovered Planet Snoopy, we were both in heaven.family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

Planet Snoopy is a PEANUTS™ happy area filled with 18 rides designed for entire families to enjoy together. These aren’t all ‘baby rides’ mind you; a few were rated ‘moderate thrill’ level 3, and I thought they were a little crazy.  The whole area was well-organized, and I liked that after a while we started seeing the same faces of kids and parents. It gave this big park a ‘small park’ feel.

Maddy, Owen, and their dad enjoyed some crazy fast and furious rides while Cora and I were rolling more slowly, and they loved every second of it.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

They rode just about every big coaster they could, and after a while all the names started to sound the same to me. All I know is that they proudly survived the Intimidator 305, the ‘tallest, fastest, and most thrilling roller coaster on the East Coast’.  All I can say is thank goodness I wasn’t standing there watching them.

5. Great food choices. 

Food is huge for our family. We love food.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

And especially when we’re out and about, we like to have great food choices to keep us going.

Huge surprise to us was that Chick-fil-A® was there. Panda Express® and Rita’s® was there. Starbucks® and Subway® was there. There were a ton of really great options, and this is just the start–there were some super spots for sweet treats and sit-down meals as well.

Check out all of our photos from the day:

Do you want to get in on the fun, even if you’re far away?

Overall, we were impressed. It was an awesome, awesome day at Kings Dominion.

Have you been there? Have you tried it? Anything in particular that you loved or didn’t love? I’d love to hear it!

 

fyi: Huge and happy thanks to the team at Kings Dominion for extending an invitation to the park and the Debby Ryan Meet & Greet to our family and then asking me to write about the experience. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.

baseball game scavenger hunt: fun for kids during the game

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

I have a hard time sitting still during sporting events.

I won’t lie.

I love the tailgating and the food and the crowds, but sometimes. . . the games seem really long to me.

So we’ve been creative in the past with our kid-friendly learning during baseball games, and this year, we kicked it up a notch.

Now that I have three readers on my hands, we can do a little bit more.

Yesterday, we celebrated Spring Break at a National’s Baseball Game, and we rocked out a new-for-us Baseball Game Scavenger Hunt.

It. Was. So. So. SO FUN.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora all admitted that the Scavenger Hunt was a great part of the day (wooo-hooo!). So if I don’t say so myself, I think I hit it out of the ballpark with this one.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Baseball Game Scavenger Hunt–Fun for Kids During the Game: 

Our game was rainy, grey, and cold, so the Baseball Game Scavenger Hunt came in handy big time.

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

 

We got to the game around lunchtime and ate at our favorite ballpark cafe, one that allows you to sit at a table right on the far side of the field and watch the game.

I mentioned to the kids that I had a pretty cool scavenger hunt for them once we got comfy and ordered our food–I was thinking they’d want to start once we got back to our real seats, but as always, my boy was ready to roll.

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

He said, Hey Mom, this is cool. And he started checking off boxes left and right.

I said, Owen, the thing is, you have to actually see each thing before you check it off. You may not even see each one today–but we’re looking for it. And at the end, we’ll count each person’s checkmarks, and we’ll see who saw the most. 

Will we get anything if we win? Maddy wanted to know.

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

Maybe. I said. Maybe this is how you earn your ice-cream treat if it even gets warm enough to have one. 

Bam.

The Baseball Game Scavenger Hunt gets kids to read. For real. 

I wanted the scavenger hunt to be long and skinny so that it could easily fit on kids’ laps. And I wanted it to be easily folded and put into coat or jean pockets.

So that’s what I did.

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

 

I made it two columns with 45 items in each.

I wanted some things baseball-related and some things fan-related.

So kids are searching for 45 things including:

  • bat boy
  • announcer box
  • foul ball
  • crazy funny fan
  • crying baby
  • bunt
  • pop fly
  • Cracker Jacks
  • run down
  • and more!

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

 

It’s not for everyone. If you have a kiddo who loves the game and who is totally, 100% into watching each and every play, then let him or her watch. For goodness’ sake let that child watch and enjoy the game.

But if you have a child who needs a little bit of focus, who maybe isn’t so into the game, then the Baseball Game Scavenger Hunt is for you.

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

We had a lot of fun with it–Maddy couldn’t find a ‘homemade sign or poster’ so she made one on the back of her hunt sheet. (It’s hard to read, but it says ‘Nats WIN!’)

So funny. So, so funny.

And one of our kids had a bit of a breakdown when we first got to the field, so someone suggested that we call that the ‘crying baby’ and check it off the list.

Love it.

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

baseball game scavenger hunt _ teachmama.com

 

Here’s the Baseball Game Scavenger Hunt if you’d like to download it and use it for your crew: baseball game scavenger hunt _ teachmama.com

Please, if you choose to share it–and we hope you do!–link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

baseball game scavenger hunt | teachmama.com

 

Think you’ll use it?

Let us know how it goes!

Want a few more fun ideas for learning and having fun on the go?

Check out:

Or follow our pinterest board full of fun ideas:

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board neat-o, fun, NEW things for us to try on Pinterest.

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

reading under the stars  teachmama.com.png

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reading under the stars | teachmama.comSummer is in full swing, and what better way to really rock it out in the summertime than by camping?

Not for real camping, my friends–I’m talking backyard camping.

In my book, backyard camping counts. Especially if you’re not all that much of an outdoorsy family.

We have been talking about backyard camping for awhile now, so I decided to surprise the kids with a tent.  Not a huge tent, but a 6-person, easy-to-assemble, totally affordable tent.

Because we really rocked it out with our spring break trip to Disneyland, we are laying low this summer, and no biggie beach trip means that we’ve got to be creative with our summertime fun.

So creative we were.

We set up the tent, made some s’mores, and did some reading under the stars until we . . . decided to come back in the house and sleep in our beds.

It’s hard really roughing it with backyard camping.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard Camping and Reading Under the Stars–Summer Reading at its Best:

We invited some friends over during the afternoon for a playdate and a tent set-up. They loved it. Playing in the tent was a huge hit for the whole neighborhood crew.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

The afternoon was spent playing in the tent, so really the kids spent the greater part of the day excited about our ‘camp out’.

They played campout. They had snacks in the tent. They played games in the tent. After dinner, at about 6:30pm, Maddy, Owen, and Cora brought sleeping bags and pillows into the tent along with their EVEREADY® flashlights, lovies and books.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

They knew that part of the reason we were doing our serious backyard campout was because we wanted to have a chance to read under the stars, just like the Scholastic Read Under the Stars summer reading challenge they were doing.

Really, the reading’s been happening all summer. It was the camping that was totally new.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

We had s’mores. We danced a little. We were ready for a campout.

We were all cozy in the tent, teeth brushed, dirty feet tucked into sleeping bags, listening to the crickets and the owls and the distant barking dogs when all heck broke loose.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

The chaos began.

The storm had arrived.

The tides were a’ changing.

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

Cora started crying because the Maddy was too close to her and because the window panel was hanging down by her arm and it wouldn’t stay tucked into the wall.

And then Maddy started getting angry because Cora was not being nice.  And so when Cora yelled, I WANT TO GO SLEEP IN MY BEEEEEDDDDD! Maddy said she wanted to sleep in her own bed, too.

And then Owen said, I want to go inside to sleep too. I don’t want to sleep out here anymore.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

And so yep.

At 9pm, right after my husband had put his feet up and settled comfortably into a show and a snack, thinking his family was out back sleeping peacefully and that he had a quiet house to himself, the troops came marching in.

Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, flashlights, and books in tow, and a lonely tent out back.

Poor confused Brady was happy to have his family in the house again.  Cora was happy, Maddy was happy, Owen was happy, and I was happy. Back in the cool air conditioning, dirty feet in their own beds, flashlights on and open books in hands.

And? The kids spent the entire next day in the tent.

And what I realized is that we’re not failures or big losers for trying the backyard camping thing and not actually following through; we are winners for trying it. Right? I mean, we came close, didn’t we? We kind of had the experience and maybe we’ll try it again?

I don’t know. The cool thing? The kids were reading. Books and summer reading was a natural part of our attempted backyard campout, so that’s what counts.

reading under the stars

Logo

 

Huge and happy thanks to Scholastic for always coming up with cool themes and ideas for their Summer Reading Challenge and for partnering with us for this post series. This year’s Summer Reading theme is Reading Under the Stars, and is powered by EVEREADY®, the maker of batteries and flashlights, to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading outside this summer.

 

 

fyi: I am happy to share my experience with our backyard campout as part of a sponsored campaign.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little kinda-campers and summertime readers.

Affiliate links are used within.

backyard chopped challenge: creative outdoor fun

back yard chopped challenge teachmama.com

Many of my longtime readers will think I’ve officially lost my marbles after reading this post, and maybe I have.back yard chopped challeng

I just think it’s worth sharing because though there isn’t any serious learning going on, my kids were sure using their brains for this one.  And their creative juices were a’ flowin’.   And their bodies were moving. And there was a whole lot of laughing.

And they were outdoors, unplugged, and doing just what they wanted.

And really? It was so much fun.

It’s just a quickie reminder to get those kiddos outside and to see what happens. Because this afternoon? We were all totally surprised at where the day took us.

We had a backyard ‘Chopped’ challenge. As in, Chopped, the Food Network show, in our backyard.

Except where on Chopped the chefs compete using food, in our Backyard Chopped Challenge, the kids competed using plants, sticks, and flowers as food.

For realz.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard ‘Chopped’ Challenge–Creative Outdoor Fun:

My kids are huge, huge fans of  The Food Network and will watch just about any show they run.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challeng

Chopped is a fave; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is top of our list, as is Guy’s Grocery Games and Cupcake Wars and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Every single summer, we make the Next Food Network Star a fixture and the highlight of our Sunday evenings. We’re hooked.

And when Rachel v. Guy: Kids Cook-off was on, we were literally glued to the screen and watched each episode too many times to count.

I like most of these cooking shows because quite often, my kids want to cook. They want to try new foods, new recipes, and new dishes in the kitchen.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challenge  teachmama.com.png

 

A few days ago Maddy, Cora, and their neighbor pal were just hanging around out back while Owen was at basketball camp. The kids were just poking around the plants, playing with bugs and making designs.

I brought out a few recyclables for them to use—some popsicle sticks, plastic takeout containers, jars and yogurt containers.

I gave them a challenge: use anything in our yard to make a pizza.

They immediately got to work. They ran. They scrambled. They collaborated (Cora and our neighbor) while Maddy rolled solo. They wanted me to time them, and when they were finished, they wanted me to judge them.

back yard chopped challeng

So? I said, Okay. Let’s make it official. We’re doing a Backyard Chopped Challenge, then. Who’s in? 

They were.

So everyone decided to work individually, and they wanted some guidelines. They wanted five minutes for each round, and they wanted three rounds. And they wanted separate work spaces. (Clearly they’ve watched too much Chopped. . . ).

Anyway, that’s what we did. And I was amazed. Blown away. Totally surprised and excited by their dishes.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challeng

(from the pizza round)

We played three rounds:

  • kid lunch
  • fancy dinner
  • dessert

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

I judged not after each round but at the end. I knew I wanted each child to win one round. (Come on. You know I’m like that. . . )

The focus was both on their dishes and on their description. They had to convince me that their dish was the best and use clear and colorful words to describe what they made.

 

back yard chopped challeng

 

Cora won the first round. Her sandwich was incredible, and she included a chocolate chip cookie! She had to win!

Maddy won the fancy dinner round. Her meal was a spin on a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with chicken (easy to forget.. . ) and cranberry sauce!

Our neighbor pal won the dessert round. His Hawaiian cookies actually had purple flowers on them! They were gorgeous!

 

It was fun. Seriously fun.

And the coolest thing? They’ve played it several times since then.

Woot! Three cheers for bringing the cool to the back yard and for crazy creative kids.

Now I’m off to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. . . 

how to keep kids hydrated in the summer: 6 cool ways

how to keep your kids hydrated | teachmama.com

how to keep kids hydrated in the summer: 6 cool ways

The following Rockstar Sunday guest post is written by smart and savvy Orlenad of Snotty Noses. Orlena is a mother of four and a doctor and she blogs.

What? How?

I wonder the same thing. I’m continually amazed.

Check it out!

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  • How to Keep Kids Hydrated in the Summer, by Orlena Kerek

Last week it was definitely still spring. A slight breeze, a cloud here or there, a slightly British mother living in Spain, complaining about the lack of sun. Ahem.

Then on Monday, summer arrived. The two clouds disappeared, the wind stopped, the weather man said “32 degrees (Celsius, which equals about 90° F), but feels like 42° (Celsius which equals about 98° F)”.

I’m not sure how that works, but it did. Even the locals were complaining.

My kids began to melt.

Since then I’ve been on “keeping the kids cool and hydrated” super power mum mode!

Small children, especially babies aren’t great at regulating their body temperature. It’s not difficult for them to become dehydrated if you don’t keep on top of their fluid intake.

how to keep kids hydrated in the summer: 6 cool ways

But there are lots of great, fun ways to keep them drinking.

1.  Drink mostly water. It’s the best fluid for you when you’re well. But yes, I know, I have 4 children. They drink quite a lot of water (when they get thirsty it’s what they ask for.) If they don’t want water, diluted fruit juice or squash is fine but not good for teeth so best with meals.

2.  Use straws as a great way to get your kids drinking. You can get super amazing ones now. Ones that go round and round, or do squiggly shapes, or really really long ones that my kids love. (The 2 boys drank the entire jug in the picture between them over an afternoon.)

3.  Bring in the ice. Kids love ice, either in drinks or by itself, or to play with. Get some fun ice cube trays and you’ll be filling your freezer five times a day.

4.  Eat fruit. Some fruits are very high in water content and are great source of liquid. Our favourite is watermelon. I put it in the fridge so it’s refreshing and cool. A great, hydrating snack.

5.  Freeze everything. Make home made popsicles. I mostly use fruit, so mashed banana, cooked apple or peach, anything you fancy really. My recent favourite was a bit of chopped up mango that was looking a little sorry for itself and milk. If you don’t have a popsicle maker you can use the ice cube trays. If you run out of fruit, diluted cordial freezes well too. My toddler twins walk up to the freezer and ask for them whenever they like and as they’re just fruit, they make a great snack.

6.  Make water readily available. Children will drink when they’re thirsty if there is a drink available. I leave the toddler’s sippy cups on the floor so that they can help themselves. The older boys have cups on tables that they can reach. And they have cups with lids on to take to bed.

Children can really suffer in the heat and keeping them hydrated is important. A great way to check is to look at their wee (sorry I’ve been a doctor and mother for too long to get squeamish about such things.). It should be a nice clear yellowy colour. If it looks dark yellow encourage them to drink more.

 

How about you? Do you have any great tips to share that get your kids drinking?

 

how to keep kids hydrated in the summer: 6 cool ways

Thank you, thank you Orlena! GREAT ideas!

Orlena is a paediatric doctor (that’s a british pediatrician) or at least she was until she moved to Spain with her 4 small children and started blogging about children’s health, parenting and fun things to do. You can find her at snotty-noses.com/blog. She offers great pdf bribes if you sign up to her newsletter My Baby’s Sleep and 30 Tips to Get your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables

 

 

Looking for more ways to create a literacy-focused environment? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

kid craft sale: supporting young entrepreneurs (with Astrobrights giveaway!)

kid craft sale: supporting young entrepreneurs (with Astrobrights giveaway!)

sponsored post

 

 

kid craft sale: supporting young entrepreneurs

We have always supported our kids’ learning here at home; in fact, that’s the very reason teachmama.com was started!

Big on learning in the every day, we’ve always done what we could to find cool opportunities for learning in the here and now.  Fun learning in everyday events.  Really doing what we can to be in the moment and roll with the adventures as they unfold.

So this weekend, we hosted an impromptu Kid Craft Sale.

No joke.

What started as Maddy and I learning how to make the brightest and most beautiful origami cranes, somehow morphed into Cora teaching us how to make fans. And then Cora’s fan-making turned into a Fan Sale which then morphed into a candy, iced-tea, and ribbon barrette sale.

And then with neighbors jumping in on the kid craft sale fun, the day took a whole new and exciting turn.

It’s about encouraging our creative kids and supporting young entrepreneurs, right?

And you can do the same–thanks to a rockstar giveaway: a customized package of Astrobrights Papers (you’ll love them!) and a $50 Office Depot gift card. Yay!

Summer fun, here. We. Come!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Kid Craft Sale–Supporting Young Entrepreneurs: I’m thrilled that the folks from Astrobrights hooked us up with a boatload of gorgeous, insanely bright and beautiful paper because that’s how this whole thing started.

The minute we opened our box of papers, Maddy declared, Mom I totally want to use this paper for origami. 

I said, That’s cool, Maddy, but first we need to learn how to do origami.

So that’s what we did.

support and encourage creative kids  teachama .png

 

support and encourage creative kids  teachama cranes.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama

 

Maddy did a bit of research on our little Acer C720P Chromebook and found an awesome how-to site for making origami cranes.

She and I step-by-step folded our Rocket Red paper into a cool crane. (We did a lot of pausing and rewinding along the way.)

They were not easy, and we were pretty much just happy making one each. We’ll revisit origami again this summer is the plan!

 

support and encourage creative kids  teachama crane.png

 

Then Cora jumped off of her swing and decided she wanted in. But she didn’t want to make a crane–that took too long.

She wanted to make some fans.

So she showed us how to make the ultimate fan, and then she said she was going to sell them.  In our front yard.  Today.

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.pngsupport and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

She got to work.

Cora made signs advertising her Fan Sale and set prices for each fan.  She knew she wanted small fans and mini fans and super mini fans.

(Minis are perfect for dolls, you know.)

support and encourage creative kids  teacham

 

She assembled her money jar, her tray for her fans, and a tin that held all of her fans. And Maddy and I even let her sell our two origami cranes.

We dragged three chairs to the front yard–one for Cora, one for me, and one for the fans. And then we waited.

 

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

Meanwhile, Maddy and Owen pulled a table out to the curb along with iced tea, Maddy’s barrettes, and candy. They, too, made signs, set prices (though admittedly they were quite high. . . ), and they waited.

Before we knew it, a few neighbor kids joined in on the fun, and we waited together.

They flagged down passing cars, called to neighbor friends who were watering flowers or cutting the grass, and surprisingly, both sale tables made about $3.00, thanks to a few generous friends.

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

 

Bottom line? Our kids were outdoors, using their brains, getting all crafty and creative, and having fun.

And all I had to do to support my young entrepreneurs was encourage them to go with their ideas, carry a few chairs out, make a few fans, and remind them to use their manners before and after sales.

So fun.

 

Please note: Though we all want to support young entrepreneurs, it was brought to my attention that in some areas of the country, kids have been fined for having Lemonade Stands. Holy moly. Please do a bit of research before you go this route; a $500 fine is pretty hefty if you ask me.

Consider:

————————————————————-

GIVEAWAY: A customized package of Astrobrights paper and a $50 Office Depot gift card.

Do you want to win your own customized package of Astrobrights paper and a $50 Office Depot gift card??!  Yes, yes you do.

——————————-

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with theOfficial Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, June 20, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 06/20/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

——————————-

But wait. There’s another giveaway coming! #ColorizeYourClassroom Contest

  • Astrobrights is helping teachers in every state get started with a Back to School #ColorizeYourClassroom contest!
  • The skinny: Teachers share a photo of how they colorize their classroom on the Astrobrights facebook page from July 7-September 12. Winners will have Astrobrights Colorize their Classroom all year long! One winner per state plus a Grand Prize winner will be awarded. 
  • Find all of the details here: facebook.com/Astrobrights

fyi: This is a sponsored post but as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little crafty-crafters.

Affiliate links are used for Acer C720P Chromebook.

fun, kid-friendly learning at baseball games

learning at baseball games teachmama.com

Originally published June 6, 2011 but republished today because, well, it’s worth it.

 

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blankThis past week, we experienced something totally new and exciting–a rite of passage of sorts.  We walked into a new chapter in our lives, and I can hardly believe it: we watched six innings of a baseball game.

Live and in person.  On a Friday night.  With two of our kids. And it was really, really fun.

We’ve tried it before–all three kids on a sunny summer afternoon, in the sweltering heat.

And it was not fun.

And the games we attended when I was pregnant, and I tried–unsuccessfully–to sit comfortably with a kid (or kids) on and off of my lap, it was even less fun.

So this time, with two kids who were a bit older–7 and 5 years old–it was a lot different.

We missed Cora–for sure–but at 4, she’s still pretty much done by 7:30, which is when our game started on Friday. So she had a blast at a National’s game last weekend with her Dad and instead got to hang with her grandparents on Friday night.

Every now and again–in between eating french fries, pistachios, and ice-cream and cheering for the O’s–we did a few things that got our kids’ brains moving and eyes focused.

In doing so, we realized that it’s very easy to sneak in some kid-friendly learning at baseball games.

Yes, Maddy and Owen could sit for a whole lot longer than they were able to in the past, but my husband and I still did a little bit of entertaining to keep the kids focused during the game–very natural, totally low-key, no-stress learning that involved reading, numbers, and games.

Here’s what we did:

  • Watched the Game: Okay, not the whole time. Not even the majority of the time. But that’s what we went for, so that’s what we started out doing. But seriously, the Orioles aren’t ranked even a little bit in the league, so it’s no wonder that things started to slow down almost as soon as it began.  So yes, we watched the game.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

 

Maddy and Owen understand the basics because they played t-ball last spring.  So teaching the game wasn’t absolutely necessary.  But if they didn’t understand it, of course that’s where we’d begin.

  • Players’ Numbers: Just asking, Which player is on first base? What’s his number? or Which guy has the largest number on his shirt? Can you find the player with the smallest number? Who’s wearing a larger number–the guy on first base or the first base coach? gave Maddy and Owen a little something to look for during down-times.

Just talking about the numbers–and having kids recognize them and identify them–is a great learning opportunity for younger kids. Often kids don’t have many opportunities to identify double-digit numbers; this is a fun place to have them practice.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

 

talking about the numbers on uniforms helps get kids familiar with double-digits

 

  • Keeping Score: I remember my dad scoring the Yankee games I attended with him as a kid, and I loved how the numbers and symbols fit inside each box–and how the whole thing could tell the story of the game.

Though admittedly I’m not a major sports fan, keeping score–along with eating ballpark snacks–may be my two favorite parts of baseball games. It’s not that difficult, and it’s actually easy to teach kids how to keep score at a baseball game–though I do think Owen is on the young side for it.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

I taught him the basics, but the great thing is that there’s really no wrong way; like keeping track in Running Records, you can make it your own because you’re doing it for you.

Not only is there counting and number-writing, but there’s also writing with the names of the players. It’s a great way to stay focused during the game and get familiar with the players.

 

 

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

This fastball was 91 mph. 91 MPH?!!

 

  • Watch the Pitch Speeds: Once I showed Maddy and Owen where the pitching speeds were, they were in awe.  And for a good long while they watched and squealed when every pitch speed appeared.

We’d compare numbers, talk about which was the highest, and sigh deeply when speeds were in the 80’s. When we saw the first ‘curveball’ come up, we got all excited, and we talked about why the speed might be lower for the curveball vs the fastball.

It’s insane to think about how fast these guys are throwing balls, but it’s something that kids probably won’t understand for a good long while.

 

  • Snacking: I know, the total obvious. But snacking was a great way for us to pass time at the game. There’s an unwritten rule about having to stop at the vendors before you enter the stadium and buying waters and peanuts (or pistachios), and once inside the stadium, how can you pass up ballpark dogs, pretzels, and ice-cream? You can’t. I can’t. We didn’t.

There is a tiny bit of reading inside Cracker Jack boxes. . . does that count for learning? Okay, I thought not.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

 

Mmmmmm, ice-cream at a ballpark? Sure. Even if it’s that crazy dot-kind.

 

  • Lefties vs Righties: My Maddy is a leftie, so after we did a close examinatio n of her baseball glove, smiling big about the ‘Girls Rule’ written inside it, we counted the players who were left-handedThen we counted the ones who were right-handed. For a while we kept an eye on the batters’ swings to see if one inning would have more lefties than righties batting, but then we lost count and moved on to something else.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

 

How many lefties were on the field? Not nearly as many righties. . .

 

  • I Spy–Words in the Park: There are SO many words to read in a ballpark, it’s nuts. From the ads on the fence to the names on the scoreboard, to the words on the concessions, words are everywhere.

So when the kids started squirming, we played a few rounds of ‘I Spy–Words in the Park’. We’d say, I spy the word, ‘win’. And we’d squint and search until we found it.  Sometimes, we’d say, I spy a word that begins with the letter ‘g’. . . and we’d go from there. Either way works.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

Either way gets kids looking for words, searching for letters, and at least looking (kind of) at the field.

  • Kid Program: I was totally impressed to see that Camden Yards–an extremely family-friendly ballpark to begin with–added yet another awesome  feature to its gig: a kid program.  I happily paid $3 for the program because I knew that if there was one teeny-tiny word search in there, Owen would be a happy, happy camper.

And there was not only a word search–a HUGE one–but there were easy-to-read articles, mazes, and a kid score card. Woot!

I plan to pull this pup out during homework time this week; we didn’t finish it all and still need to read some articles.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

My happy O-man: rockin’ the word search

  • Take a Walk: Walk around the stadium, let the kids look at the people, the stands, the workers, the restaurants, the different levels.

We luckily scored a great spot at the ‘O’ pretzel window, so Maddy and Owen got to watch soft pretzels being made into huge ‘O’s before they sank their teeth into one a little later.  There’s a lot to talk about in a stadium, a lot of great spots for people-watching and game-watching on the many tv’s planted here and there.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blankThe pretzel-makers were so nice!!

Camden Yards–and most major league stadiums at this point–has a great spot where kids can

play, so we spent some time there on our way out. Maddy and Owen had their picture taken in front of a wall-sized stadium photo, they played on the park equipment, and they tried to throw some fastball in the speed cages.

  • Play the Games: If you’re into the silly games on the scoreboard, your kids will be into the games, too. So we cheered when I (somehow) managed to keep my eye on the crab hiding the baseball in the mix-up cartoon, and we sang and danced along with the ‘Fans of the Game’ who were featured on screen.

Try to catch the t-shirts they throw in the air, play the word scrambles on the screen, and guess the player trivia–even if you don’t really know the players that well. It’s all for fun, and being a part of the experience–an active part–makes it more fun for everyone.

Seriously, if you’ve got a big voice, start the wave. Your kids will think you’re the bomb.

learning at baseball games | teachmama.com blank

  • Catch a Ball: If you’re close enough, and you plan well, catching a ball can be a highlight.

My husband had Maddy and Owen ready when the O’s were on the field and made their second out; and the second the third was made, the three of them ran down to the dugout and waved and hooted and hollered until a player tossed them a game ball. WOO-hoo!!

Now sure, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but with some planning and prep, it’s possible–and it sure makes the game fun!

 

And that’s it. With a very busy week of no preschool, lots of deadlines, lots of great things in the works, and a lot of time spent on the summertime learning eBook–that’s about all we could muster.

We are very thankful to our neighbors who share these special tickets with us every so year; we could never afford these kind of insanely fabulous seats, and we are very grateful for their generosity.

fyi. . . Some sites I plan to check out in the next few years that may be helpful to some families now:

 

summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids: tabletop surprises calendar

summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids tabletop surprises calendar

summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids tabletop surprises calendar promo.

I have been working and working and working and working and working on this calendar for weeks now, and I’m finally ready to share it. Woot.  No really. Woooot!

In fact, I’m so happy I’m literally dancing around the living room.

Why? I just mapped out the bones of our summer.

Ten weeks.

Ten weeks full of summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids.  It’s our tabletop surprises calendar, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora will totally dig it.

We’ll still start out the summer by making Summer Fun Cards so that we are sure to remember to fit in everything we love to do during the long summer months, but then we’ll rock out the #tabletopsurprises.

This year, my kids are 10, 8, and 7 years old. They’re getting older, but they still love games. They love to create. They love to play with the old standbys that we’re too busy for during the school year but that they look forward to in summer months.

They still have playdates. They still hold my hand. They still want hugs.  (Most days.)

So I’m milking this for as long as I can. Though learned the hard way last summer that because they’re getting older, we’re not all on the same schedule. Where I once used preschool mornings or rest time hours for games and learning, now we’re not on as strict a schedule.

I have an early riser and I have a night owl. And I have one kiddo whose mood is dictated by the weather, by the day of the week, or by the direction of the wind. So I’ve got to be flexible.

All I know is that what really, truly worked for us last summer was Tabletop Surprises because the activities ‘fit’ into our daily schedule. The kids headed to the table when they felt like it, sometime throughout the day.

And every day was kind of like Christmas because there was a surprise Every. Single. Day.

So we’re rockin’ them again this year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Activities for Thinking, Curious, and Creative Kids–Tabletop Surprises Calendar:

What are Tabletop Surprises? Tabletop Surprises are invitations to learn, play, create, invent, and think–on their own time. 

Little fun activities just waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

tabletop surprise 2014 a summer of fun and learning from teachmama.com

this year’s tabletop surprises calendar 2014 teachmama.com, ready to download

How to I get the kids to actually sit down and do the activities?  A few ways:

1. The activities are fun and they want to do them;

2. At any given time, on any given day, I have been known to toss a few gems into the gem jars of people who have been spotted doing the activity. Not every day, but some days.

3.  I’ll join them. Kids–I truly believe–like to hang out with their parents. Especially if their parents are kinda cool or funny or at least act like they’re cool or funny. I like to hang out with my kids, so when they sit, if I can, I’ll join them. 

tabletop surprises calendar 2014 teachmama.com

What are the ideas and what makes them so fun?

Simple. They’re hands-on. They’re cool. They’re creative and crafty. They’re unusual. They’re familiar. They’re old and they’re new. They’re digital and battery-free. They’re indoors and outdoors.  

It’s a mix, and that keeps them going. And it’s only ten weeks. That gives us one week for vacation and one week to totally pound out math packets and summer school assignments.

I’m busy. I don’t have time for this. 

Yes. You. Do.  I’ve got every single thing you need right here. Ten weeks.  Links to resources and everything.  Just print out a few things, gather supplies the night before and set it out so it’s all there when the kids wake up.  They’ll do it when they’re able. 

In fact, I’ve so got this covered, that if you subscribe to teachmama.com via email (only a few emails a week–full of awesome for you and your kids!) you’ll have access to every single thing you need for the entire ten weeks. Every link. Every printable. Bam. 

tabletop surprise 2014 a summer of fun and learning from teachmama.com

Cool. So now what?

  1. Print out the calendar: tabletop surprises calendar 2014 teachmama.com
  2. Subscribe to teachmama.com via email. 
  3. Download the Tabletop Surprise Resource Guide (you’ll get it when you confirm your subscription, yo!). 
  4. Give your kids the skinny on Tabletop Surprises. 
  5. Start learning, playing, creating, inventing, and thinking alongside your kiddos!
  6. And? Share your #tabletopsurprises via instagram or twitter  just for fun.
  7. Have the summer of your dreams. Well. . .

tabletop surprise email promo teachmama.com

Give me a look at this stuff. 

Sure. Check out last year’s Tabletop Surprises to get an idea about what we’re doing: 

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

Here’s to an awesome summer filled with fun learning and memory-making!

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines

keep kids busy on the sidelines teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

keep kids busy on the sidelines  teachmama.com

 

Many families spend a good chunk of time bussing kids around town, from dance class to music, from soccer to t-ball.

And though it’s awesome that our kids are busy, burning steam, and having fun with their friends, all these activities often mean that siblings are in tow, trying to stay out of trouble on the sidelines.

If their little buddies are there, that’s one thing. But if they are stuck for an hour or more just hanging around, with no park or playmates, it’s tough.

Many of us know that sideline entertaining isn’t always the easiest thing, especially for busy and tired parents.

Sure, we can all hand our kids a cell phone, iPad, or tablet to keep our kids busy, but what to do if you want to keep kids busy but unplugged during their siblings’ activities?

What if we want our kids to (gasp!) be unplugged while their siblings are having their activity?  I have some ideas. Tried, tested, and true.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Creative Ways to Keep Kids Busy on the Sidelines:

When you’re heading out to practice or a game or the dance studio and you know you will have kids in tow, grab a bag and throw in a few essentials.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

You always should have a blanket, a bag of snacks, and some paper and a few pencils or crayons. Always. With only paper and a pencil, you can play:

  • Tic-tac-toe: Mix it up by using letters, numbers, or simple pictures as your markers. So fun. And so old school but so great for early writing and thinking skills!
  • Guess the picture: One person draws a picture and the other person guesses what it is. Challenge yourselves by setting a timer or allowing only a handful of steps in drawing the picture.
  • Silent conversations: Super-simple conversations composed on paper, with no talking permitted. This game is great for quiet hallways during music lessons.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

  • Strike it out: Fun math game that builds skills and requires no set-up or space. Critical thinking along with computation skills are practiced and kids have no idea!
  • Keep score: Teach your kiddos how to use tally marks by keeping track of each team’s score. Or keep track of the number of blue cars to red cars in the parking lot or the number of moms to dads on the sidelines.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

Or grab these few items to make your sideline entertainment even more fun:

  • Melissa and Doug Sticker Collection – Fashion: The amount of hours Maddy and Cora have spent with this set is unbelievable.  They’ve made fast friends on the soccer sidelines with these sets; a few sticker sets, a big picnic blanket, and a bunch of kids make an hour long practice zip by.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

  • Pinball Arcade – ON the GO Travel Activity: My kids love this. Yes, it’s a little loud with the bouncing ball and the snaps of the pinball handles, but with a background that can change and the math fun that can happen if you challenge your kids to keep score, Pinball Arcade is a winner.

The possibilities for sideline fun is endless, and really–unplugging isn’t as difficult as you may think!

What are your favorite ways to entertain your little loves while big sisters or brothers are at practice? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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fyi: This post was written as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program. All opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and longtime toy lover. Huge and happy thanks to Melissa & Doug for their willingness to work with bloggers in this way and for always creating awesome, meaningful products. 

Affiliate links are used in this post.