The nice weather and the school year’s end mean kids and adults want to head outside to play. But playing the same old outdoor games over and over can quickly become tedious, and by the third week of summer break, you’ll likely be hearing, “I’m bored.”
So how can parents make outside play fresh and exciting without spending much money or constantly feeling like they need to entertain their kids? I’ve got a few tips to make outdoor play fresh and fun!
1. Take indoor toys outside. Simple no? Pack all the building blocks in a large plastic bin and set them in the driveway to play. Or, take the cars, animals, and people figurines to the backyard. The change of scenery will spark your child’s creativity and imagination because of the novelty of playing with an indoor toy outside.
2. Create a “Laser Maze.” This task takes some serious prep time. But once it’s up, it can provide endless fun for preschoolers and elementary kids.
Use string and trees, posts, or any heavy outdoor furniture you’ll not need in the immediate future, and you can create a laser maze for the kids to navigate. This activity is great if you have future spies on ninjas in your house.
If you want something less permanent and more colorful, check out this fun idea from KREAZONA using party streamers!
3. Make a giant sensory tub. Yes, sandboxes are fun and always a great sensory experience. But shake things up by making a giant sensory bin with something other than sand.
My favorite is water beads, but rice or dried corn are two other awesome alternatives! Toss in some exploration toys, and your kids will likely entertain themselves for quite some time!
A plastic kiddie pool is a perfect size – just cover it so animals don’t get in at night!
4. Create a camp in your backyard. I did this one summer when my boys were 10 and 7, and they loved it! We pitched a tent together and stocked them with snacks, flashlights, walkie-talkies, and a sprinkler for water play on one end of the yard and sent them out to enjoy on nice days!
Extend the camp theme by building a fire one night and making smores, telling ghost stories at night, or playing flashlight hide and seek!
5. Make an outdoor art studio. If you have a child who loves art, spring, and summer is the perfect time to take it outdoors! Set up an easel and use a large plastic bin to store all their art supplies and to keep them safe from the elements.
Let nature inspire their art without worrying about cleaning up the mess! You can also use a make-up storage case or tackle box to store supplies and make them easy to transport.
Travel and fun outings were a significant part of my childhood. Whether it was trips to a Phillies game, museums, visiting my grandparents, Disney World, road trips, or big trips to Europe, my parents excelled at exposing us to fun and adventure.
As a parent, I’ve tried to do the same for my two boys. It hasn’t always been easy or affordable, but I’ve managed to do some pretty fun stuff with my kids. Most recently, I had the pleasure of visiting a part of Maryland I’ve never traveled to before; Lusby, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay.
I’ve lived in Maryland for almost seven years, yet this was my first visit to this beautiful area only ninety minutes south of my home, but I hope it won’t be my last!
A friend recently bought a vacation home there with her husband and turned it into a peaceful escape for families available to rent on Air B&B. They named their newly renovated home The Waffle House, which lives up to its cozy vacation-vibe name. My boys and I were invited to stay there free of charge in return for blogging about my experience. So, while I have been compensated for this piece, the opinions are all mine!
The setting of the house is ideal. It is situated near other homes, which provides a sense of community, but nestled in a wooded area less than a 5-minute drive to the beach. The spacious yard has a volleyball court, a basketball net over the driveway, horseshoes, a fire pit, and hammocks!
And although the house provides a tranquil sense of isolation, the town center is a mere 10 minutes away and has everything you need. We utilized “the CVS and Weiss Supermarket for an “emergency” S’mores material purchase. In addition, we visited one of the local restaurants, Atomic Seafood.
The house itself is adorable, spacious, and beach chic. Robin and her husband have pulled out all the stops to ensure you and your family feel the beachy vibe from the get-go. There are nostalgic black and white old-fashioned beach photos, seashell decor, and my oldest son’s (and future zoologist) personal favorite, a fossilized 8-12 million old piece of baleen whale vertebrae. The Vertabae was a gift from the Calvert Marine Museum, which we also enjoyed visiting.
My kids have been museum junkies since they were born. If there is one thing I, an educator, love, it is a good museum; so my two have visited their fair share, and both thoroughly enjoyed the Calvert Marine Museum.
They both enjoyed the exploration room designed for kids to play hands-on, but the museum trip’s highlight was the opportunity to watch the resident otters being fed their lunch.
Only three of us were on our trip, but the home could accommodate several more. There’s a set of bunk beds and a king bed in the master suite and two additional bedrooms with a queen bed each. The room I slept in was right off the dining room and had one of the queen beds and a loft designed as a kid’s area. And honestly, a teen on an air mattress could easily sleep up there. So there are several ways you could arrange sleeping arrangements depending on the ages and numbers in your party.
The living room was our favorite spot. The dual air hockey/pool table entertained my two off and on, and I enjoyed cozying up in the oversized armchairs to read. The candy machine was another fun novelty loved by my kids! I loved that nickels were provided, and I’m surprised they only used it twice each during our stay!
Lastly, one of the biggest perks of staying in this beautiful vacation home is its proximity to two beaches. On our arrival evening, we visited Driftwood beach, a mere five-minute drive, and witnessed a beautiful sunset.
The following day, the weather cooperated, and the temps rose to a whopping 62 degrees – a treat for February, so we packed up and headed to another local, private beach, Seahorse Beach, for a few hours before lunch and then went back for another hour in the afternoon.
My boys enjoyed searching for shark teeth and collecting seashells, playing in the sand, and exploring the beach and the water.
And despite the cooler temps, my eldest even got in the water! I enjoyed sipping warm coffee and reading to the sounds of the waves as my children played in the sand.
Beach chairs, toys, and even sunscreen (which I forgot to pack!) were at the house, making the trek to the beach a smooth experience.
Other amenities provided at the vacation home that came in handy include:
Keurig with k-cups, creamer, and sugar
Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
First aid kit and bandaids
Dishes, pots, pans, cups, utensils, etc.
Lines and towels
Olive oil and condiments
Roku TV & Wifi
Outside toys (basketball, frisbee, volleyball)
Attractions in the area:
Bike, running, and hiking trails
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
Cove Point Park and Pool
Cove Point Winery
Solomon’s Island Winery
Flag Ponds Park
Calvert Marine Museum
The World Famous Tiki Bar
St. Mary’s County
Several Farmer’s Markets
We ended our brief stay by making S’mores in the firepit, and my final half hour before getting ready to pack up was enjoyed sipping coffee as I sat by the dwindling fire.
Our stay was wonderful, relaxing, and refreshing. It’s the perfect spot for a short or long getaway for couples, families, or friends. There was so much to do in the area; I hope to take my boys back at some point to explore the area further.
The countdown to back to school has started, in some states, children have already returned. Regardless of whether your child is attending in person or virtually, things look a little different this year, but there is no reason it cannot be a fun and exciting event! In typical years, many children have anxiety and frustrations about the returning school year: no one wants to let go of the summer fun! This year both you and your child may be facing some extra emotions and obstacles, but that does not mean the new school year should be dreaded. Here are my top tips on how to make the start of the 20/21 school-year a positive one!
Back to School Shopping!
Every child loves back to school shopping: new clothes, new materials, new backpack. Even if your child will be attending school virtually this fall, there is no reason they can’t have a snazzy new outfit for the first day! They will be connecting with their friends again, meeting their teacher for the first time, and just like adults who work from home, getting dressed makes you feel better about yourself and makes you more productive! Giving your child the chance to pick out a new outfit and dress up is a guaranteed way to make them excited about school.
Talk to Them
Children have worries and fears just like we do, and even if your child seems completely relaxed and ready to go back, they most likely have a concern about something. It could be having to wear a mask all day, or their sport season being postponed, or how are they going to talk to their friends if they have to stay 6 feet apart? If your child is attending virtually, maybe they are concerned because their computer skills are lacking or they had a hard time reading the content in the spring, or perhaps they’re sad they still won’t see their friends face to face.
You can’t force a child to talk to you, but you can let them know the doors of communication are open. Asking a simple question like, “Hey, do you have any concerns about school you want to talk about?” lets your child know you are there to listen. Validate that it is ok to feel nervous or anxious or mad and that you are willing to listen if they decide they want to talk about ANYTHING.
This year will present a new list of challenges, so send them into battle prepared for success. Teach them how to wash their hands adequately and express the importance of it. This is important for little ones as well as teens who might brush it off. As the mother of two boys, my favorite response to asking them to wash their hands post-bathroom is, “But I didn’t touch anything.” For little kids, have them sing the ABC’s or Happy Birthday Twice through. Post reminders in the bathroom with pictures or invest in a timer or a flashing light to make it fun.
Go over mask-wearing, the proper way to wear it, and why we wear it. Treat it like any other article of clothing that is required for school like shoes or a shirt. Buy them masks that they want to wear! This can be an opportunity to let them express their personality. Assure them that all the other children will be wearing one too, so while it may seem odd at first, it will eventually just be another part of getting ready for school.
Get them outside and playing! Regardless if your child is attending face to face classes or virtual classes it is A LOT of sitting. Children in elementary school need AT LEAST 1 hour of active play every day. If they haven’t had the opportunity to run around and burn off some energy in an after care program or with a sitter, let them play when you pick them up. In fact, make it a rule that they play! Homework can wait, their brains need a break and their bodies need exercise.
Fun and Simple Outdoor Play Options
Baby Pool or Sensory tub filled with water, plastic measuring cups, large eye droppers, rubber ducks (or other floating animal) and small plastic watering can
Backyard scavenger hunt: provide them with a list of things to check off or find
Bikes, Trikes and Skateboards – if you have a safe area for them to ride and play then use it!
Sprinklers – While it’s warm enough hook up a sprinkler to the hose and let them run free
Hopscotch, Jump ropes, Bean Bag Toss, Ladder Golf, Soccer Ball (speaks for itself)
Create an obstacle course using ropes, stepping stones, a balance beam, log or 2 x 4
Beach Ball Challenge, how long can they keep it in the air!
Give Them Space
Give your child a dedicated area to work, especially if they will be doing virtual schooling. Consistency is key, so create a space for them to work and make it theirs (at least while they’re working). Make it comfortable and quiet, and add little touches that make it more personal such as a picture of their grandma, some figurines of their favorite toys, or a poster of their favorite movie. If you have the room to create an area in their bedroom, I highly suggest it, just make sure what’s in their room won’t be a distraction from their work! The idea is to provide a safe and consistent space where your child can get their work done with little to no interruptions.
If, like many parents, you will be working from home with your kids also home, set office hours. This can work with children ages 5 and up, but it will take some practice and consistency. Set your office hours for 2-3 in the morning and 2-3 in the afternoon and explain to your children that you are working. This is an interruption-free time, emergencies excluded (their brother taking their nerf gun is not an emergency). Create an office hours sign that you can hang near your workspace to let your children know you are not to be disturbed. Keep in mind, that this doesn’t mean the house will be silent. Instead teach your children how to use a respectable volume in their voice while playing. They are going to need reminders at first, probably for a week or two. Remain firm, consistent but not harsh. If you are going to be on a call or Zoom chat, give your children a heads up that you will be doing so, so there are no unexpected surprises. In-between your office hours lavish your kids with the attention they need and want. Play a game, go for a walk, or make and eat lunch together. You need to take a break just as much as they need some mom or dad time!
Expect the Unexpected
None expects the Spanish Inquisition, and no one expected COVID or for it to last this long. Be ready and willing to remain flexible. If your son is having a really rough day and could use some extra snuggles, cut your office hours short that afternoon. When your daughter has come home on the 5th day of school and lost her 3rd mask, don’t yell and berate, this is new for her too. If your kids consistently say they’re bored after school, look at what toys they no longer play with an consider investing in some new outdoor gear. As families, we have already spent the last six months adapting the way we do things, how we function as a family and how we are navigating this thing called life, and we will continue to adapt. You’ve Got This! You Are an Amazing Parent.
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that was developed over 5,000 years ago by the Idus-Sarasvati civilization. Post-Classical Yoga, which was established sometime after 200 BC, was the beginning of what we in the west call yoga. As describe by Yoga Basics, “Yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment.”.
The Modern Period and popularization of yoga in the west happened during the 1800s and 1900s when gurus started visiting western countries and attracting followers. Today, many of us in the west use yoga as a form of exercise and wellness. We participate in stretches and poses to relax and strengthen muscles also creates flexibility and develops balance and core strength. While yoga has been primarily thought of as an adult activity, I am here to educate on how beneficial it can be for children!
Yoga provides the same benefits for children that it does for adults. A child who participates in yoga develops gross motor skills, core muscles, and balance. Yoga is an excellent tool to help children calm down and self-regulate. Most importantly, yoga is physical activity, which in today’s world of iPads, electronic devices, and sitting at a desk during school, is especially critical.
My hands-down favorite for children’s Yoga is Cosmic Kids. These yoga journeys are not only physical movement, but they provide mindfulness and are presented through a story, which means they promote literacy as well! Triple score! I have used these repeatedly in my preschool classroom, and my two children, ages 9 and 6, love them as well. They have a story for just about every character and storyline you could think of. Have fun with your children, and jump in alongside them. Children are the epitome of Monkey See Monkey Do, they want to be just like the important adults in their lives. The bonus is you get a workout too! Not to mention, it is a fun way to bond. Some of them include bursts of running, jumping, and other cardio making it a whole body workout! Making fitness and wellness, a family affair has benefits for everyone.
Statistic time! When children learn the importance of health and wellness at a young age, they are much more likely to continue those habits into adulthood. According to the CDC, 18.5% of children between the ages of 2-19 suffer from pediatric or childhood obesity. Those are staggering numbers. With the technology available at every turn, it can be difficult to entice children away from those devices. Therefore, I say make the devices part of the routine. Use sites like Cosmic Kids, GoNoodle, and artists such as Jack Hartman and The Learning Station to engage your children in an activity, movement, and song. Many of these videos are available free on YouTube!
Get up and get moving! Teach your child the healthy benefits of yoga and exercise, and have fun at the same time!
Ahhh summer, beautiful weather, swimming in the pool, ice-cold treats, trips to the beach, and MOSQUITOES! I have been blessed by what is known as “sweet blood,” the old wives tale way of saying you have the blood mosquitoes want. But what does that really mean? Why are mosquitoes seemingly more attracted to one person over another? And what can you do, if, like me, you are filled with that mosquito loving sweet blood?
My children, much like me, seem to be at the top of the mosquitoes menu every time we venture outside. I spent a mere 10 minutes outside the other day topping off our pool and came in with more bites than I could count on my legs, and I was wearing long (but loose) pants! I sent them outside to play one afternoon because, quite honestly, they were driving me nuts. A few minutes later, they were back inside, begging to stay in with legs that look like they have been used for target practice. No offense to the brand OFF! But when we use it, it’s like we never put it on.
All of this lead me to do some in-depth research about mosquitoes and ways to keep them at bay.
First the Facts
Only female mosquitos bite, so the next time you get bitten, just slap it away and yell, “Get off, bitch!!” It won’t stop the bugs from eating you alive, but it may make you feel better. The reason they bite is that they need the protein in our blood to feed their eggs.
Mosquitos are attracted to some over others, but not due to your blood, it’s your metabolic rate that really gets them excited! Drinking alcohol, being overweight, exercising, and being pregnant are all things that raise your metabolic rate. No wonder we all get bit standing poolside drinking a beer!
What Can You Do?
Expert advice also recommends wearing lighter colors as mosquitos can’t see well and are more attracted to dark shadows. Another idea is aiming a small fan at you as they can’t fly in winds faster than 1 mph.
Mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk, although I seem to get bit no matter what time of day, so avoiding outside around those times could prove helpful.
Wearing bug spray, citronella candles, and bug zappers may be enough for some. But for me, one step outside and ZOINK! I’ve been hit.
Since I love essential oils, I decided to look into which ones work best against mosquitos. Turns out, I had everything I needed already in my home! Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, Peppermint, and Rosemary are just a few of the scents that these little bugs hate. So, yesterday afternoon when I went out to watch my kids splash around, I dropped a few drops of each onto a cotton swab and rubbed my ankles, neck, and arms. Viola! Not one new bite!
These same scents are also anti-inflammatory and can help soothe those itchy bites once you have them. So what did I do? I took about a quarter cup of coconut oil and added several drops of lavender, rosemary, and tea tree oil and rubbed it all over my bug-bitten legs. It wasn’t instantaneous magic, but about a half an hour later I noticed, I wasn’t itchy anymore. That and I also smelled fabulous.
Tea tree oil also discourages ticks, and after finding one on myself last week and one on my son this morning, I am ready to bathe in that stuff. I have a large leafy backyard that is attached to a nature preserve. Ticks happen. And as much as I love attempting to detach a tick from a screaming 6-year old who happens to be deathly afraid of bugs, I want to keep them at bay.
Peppermint oil is also fantastic at deterring ants and spiders. I use that inside my house around windows and door frames. It is a safe and natural solution you can use inside without all those nasty bug fumes.
Since I would like to continue to enjoy the outdoors, I am going to keep playing around with the recipe for my own natural bug deterrent and hopefully make it through the summer with my legs still in one piece!
I would love to hear from others who have had success with homemade remedies either as a deterrent or as a relief for bug bites!
Summer is just about upon us, and with the stay at home orders lifting all around the country, parents and kids alike are ready to get out and have some fun! If cabin fever has your boiling, here is list of easy, low cost and fun ideas for everyone!
Make popsicles! Fresh fruit slices and juices make a delicious and healthy treat that everyone can participate in and enjoy. All you need is a pop mold, sticks and your choice of fruits and juices. Moms and Dads make your own special adult ones by adding some vodka or rum!
Create a water and ball pit for the kids to splash and play in. All you need is a large plastic kiddies pool, water, some beach toys, and those small plastic balls known and loved by children for generations.
Watch science sites for news of any meteor showers, lay out a blanket in the backyard and catch some stars. Or, you can simply sit outside and star gaze and look for constellations.
Have a movie night in the backyard! Buy a plain white sheet and a movie projector and enjoy some family fun outside. Home movie projectors go for about $120 on Amazon.
Learn a new game! Purchase a croquet or badminton set and have fun honing your athletic skills. Bean bag tosses, ultimate Frisbee, Cornhole, Ladder Toss and giant Jenga are all great options too!
Find a nature center and take a hike. You can use this opportunity to do a nature scavenger hunt, pack a picnic, or go wading through some streams.
Have a bubble party. Bubble machines make it easy to have bubbles go every direction. Pick a beautiful breezy day, stock up on bubbles and bubble machines, and have some fun!
Have a tie-dye session! Tie-dye kits are sold at just about every major retailer and online, add water and some white cotton clothing, and go for it! You can tie-dye shirts, bandannas, skirts, shorts; you name it!
Participate in a service project together. Many shelters and organizations that are collecting donations. Community parks and neighborhoods also have projects also need volunteers too. Contact a local group and teach your children the value of helping others.
Support a local farmer’s market. Small businesses need support more than ever. Whether you are looking for the freshest strawberries, local honey, or hand made candles, your purchase will help those struggling to keep their business thriving.
Big ideas or small summer is the time to get outside and enjoy family fun, and after being copped up for so long, we are all in need of a little sunshine and fresh air!