Category Archives: Play

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Top 10 Ways to Learn in Your Own Backyard

Many parents worry about summer slide, the learning loss that can occur while school is out for the summer. Great news: There is a hotbed of learning right in your own backyard. Science, math, art, history, and early literacy can come alive through the kinds of rich, hands-on, project-based experiences that make learning meaningful, all while you’re having fun exploring outdoors.

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Grow a Habitat Garden and Experience Citizen Science

Small creatures like birds and butterflies are always fun to watch. There are lots of ways to encourage them to visit your garden and linger a while, many of which provide fun and fascinating projects while benefiting your local habitat, your garden and the greater ecosystem of the Earth. You don’t need a large yard to have a habitat garden. Apartment balconies, window ledges, school gardens, and decks can all host local habitat.

Backyard creatures essentially need four things: Food, water, shelter and places to lay eggs and care for their young. Learn more and find resources about habitat gardening. Welcoming wildlife needn’t be complicated. One very easy way to start is by making a bird feeder.

Want to take it a step farther? The Great Sunflower Project is just one of many opportunities for kids to experience citizen science close to home. Citizen scientists are ordinary people of all ages who help scientists and organizations track the count and behaviors of birds, butterflies, bees and others. After all, researchers can’t be everywhere, and many of us have habitats in our backyards and neighborhoods that can help them gain important information about nature. If you have 15 minutes, you can count bees, which are vital for the Earth’s ecosystem, for The Great Sunflower Project. Other projects available year-round allow you to track birds, bats, butterflies, fireflies, wildflowers, meteors and snow, learning about each in the process. See a list of citizen science projects.

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Have Some Gardening Fun

Pizza Garden

You can grow just about everything needed for a pizza right in your own yard and then harvest and eat all the items baked in a pizza. All you’ll need to add is the dough and cheese! Pizza gardens teach design, planning, growing, harvesting, cooking and nutrition. Determine the shape of your pizza garden and decide what you’d like to grown and how you want to divide the space. Round pizza gardens, for instance, can be divided into four, six, or eight spokes, to resemble pizza slices. Mark off areas with string or rocks. Make sure to give plants like tomatoes plenty of room. In addition to tomatoes, try zucchini, eggplant, peppers, spinach, basil, oregano, onions, or garlic. Or grow flowers – red flowers to represent tomato sauce, yellow flowers to represent cheese, pink flowers for pepperoni, and some green leafy plants for spinach or peppers.

Seed Race

Why not make gardening into a game, and create a science experiment at the same time, with a seed race? Choose two or more types of seeds.
Plant them at the same time, in the same conditions, near each other in the ground or in similar containers, indoors or out. (Or plant the same seeds and vary one or more conditions as an experiment.) Water and watch which one emerges first and grows fastest. Stake them with a store-bought or homemade yardstick to measure their progress.

Growing Initials

Give your kids something they can claim as their own, and engage them in early literacy  at the same time by planting seeds in the shape of a child’s initials. Lay string in the shapes of the letters you like and dig a shallow furrow beside it. Plant your seeds – leafy greens work well for this project because they come up quickly and fill out nicely. These include lettuce, chives, radishes, cress, and various grasses. Most greens have fine seeds, which can be planted in a close, continuous line and thinned as needed.

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Make a Wind Chime or Music Tree

Kids love to make music and noise. What better place for that than outdoors? Hang old or recycled pots, pans, tin cans, lids, muffin tins, silverware, measuring cups and other items from tree branches. Group lighter items close together to create wind chimes, or place them farther apart to let kids make music with wooden spoons to experiment with different sounds or learn about the effects of wind.

Have Fun with Water

Outdoor time calls for water play, which allows even the youngest children to learn about the properties of water, as it allows things to float, sink, fill, empty, change textures and temperatures, and move at various speeds. Young children will enjoy a mud play area and lots of old cups and kitchen items for filling, scooping and dumping. Others may enjoy filling cups with water and making “magic potions” with food coloring, glitter and small found objects. Or fill a tub of water and make a fine sea-worthy vessel to play with.

Cork Rafts and Sailboats

You’ll need:
Corks
School or craft glue
Flat toothpicks
Construction or other paper
Ruler
Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
Scissors

Raft: Arrange corks in a square or rectangle, with long sides touching each other. Glue the sides of the corks together. Draw a small rectangle (approximately 1 x 4”) on the paper with the ruler and cut it out. Fold the paper in half, so that you have two rectangles approximately 1 x 2”. Draw your country’s flag, or flags from your imagination, on each outer side of the paper. Glue the toothpick into the inner fold on the back side between the two flags, and let the glue dry. Glue the two halves of the paper together to secure the flag. Affix the toothpick flags into one cork or several corks and set the raft in water.

Sailboat: Glue corks together, following the instructions for the raft, or simply use a single cork. Draw a triangular sail shape on the paper (approximately 1” long on the side that will be glued to the toothpick. Decorate your sail, if desired. Glue the sail to the toothpick on its 1” side and let the glue dry. Affix the toothpick sail into the cork or cork base and set sail!

Elementary and older children will enjoy making a paper boat and sailing it in a nearby body of water, alone or in a race with others.

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Create Garden Art

Artists and craftspeople have long been inspired by the garden. Just getting outside with art and craft materials can open a world of wonder and observation. Gardens, in all their color, variety and changing light, offer great subjects, as well as a place to clear the artist’s head. In addition, they often provide a place where one can get messier than inside a house. Bring tempera or finger paints and paper outside, for plein air painting, paint a flower pot that you can plant in, or make a pretty beaded spider web.

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Blow Bubbles

Bubble blowing may be one of life’s perfect activities. While providing endless possibilities and inexpensive fun, bubbles also illustrate properties of science. Each one is a thin skin of liquid surrounding a gas. The water molecules on their surfaces bond tightly together, because each is made up of two sticky hydrogen atoms and one oxygen one – H2O. More bubble science is explained here. Bubbles can be made using ingredients you have around the house. When the weather’s nice, I often make a bucket of bubble solution and leave it outside with wands and other fun equipment so my daughter and friends can make bubbles whenever they like. It’s always fun and magical to create bubbles and watch them trail in the breeze. Here’s a recipe for giant homemade bubbles and some fun bubble activities.

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Play Web of Life

This is a powerful group game that teaches older children about the interconnectedness of living things. We encountered it on a school field trip to a vibrant marsh and have never forgotten it.

You’ll need:
A ball of string, yarn, or twine

Players form a circle. The leader asks them to name a plant or animal that lives in the area. When someone names a plant or animal, he or she is handed the end of the ball of string. When someone names another plant or animal, the string is unraveled and handed to that person. The game continues this way until everyone is holding the same piece of string. It can be very dramatic for everyone to realize that they are webbed together. Choose one of the players to illustrate what happens when there is change, such as when a tree burns down or an animal is eaten. Have that person pull his or her piece of string to see its effect on all the others.

Slow Tip: If people get stuck on what to say next, go backward or forward in the food and shelter chain. The bird eats a frog, the frog eats an ant, the ant crawls under a tree, the tree provides oxygen for the deer, and so on.

Cook with the Sun

Box ovens employ one of the oldest energy sources of all, solar power. But while people have dried food in the sun for centuries, it was French-Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure who harnessed it for cooking. He used glass to trap heat and create convection while his 1700s peers were still burning mirrors. Anything that can be cooked in a regular oven can be cooked in a box oven, though it’s best to stick with recipes that don’t require raw meat or eggs, until you’re proficient.

You’ll need:
Large sturdy cardboard box, with four sides and a bottom (no top or lids), such as a 10-ream paper box
Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Duct tape
Cookie sheet or large cake pan
4 tin cans, filled with water to weight them
Charcoal briquettes and fire starter
Disposable foil tray or pie tins
Small stone
Recipe and cooking items
Bucket of water for fire safety

Choose a hot day with full sun. Completely line the box inside and out with foil, shiny side out. Tape only on the outside of the box (to avoid fumes getting in the food.) Choose a flat surface away from flammable objects. Line it with foil. Use the tin cans as “feet” to hold the cookie sheet or cake pan, which serves as the oven tray. Fill the foil tray or pie tins with briquettes, approx. one for every 40 degrees of desired oven temperature, and start. Place the item to be cooked on the oven tray (ideas follow). Slide the briquettes under the oven tray when ready (white). Place the box oven down over the items, using a small rock on the least windy side to lift part of the box off the ground for ventilation.

Follow the directions for your recipe. Cupcakes, biscuits, English muffin pizzas, and other items that don’t require long cooking times all work well in box ovens. Try one of our favorites:

Box Oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake

You’ll need:
2 boxes yellow cake mix, prepared
1 ounce butter or margarine
1 8-ounce can of pineapples
½ cup brown sugar
Dutch oven or large cake pan
Second pan or cookie sheet

Place butter or margarine in the Dutch oven or pan and melt it in the box oven. Stir brown sugar and pineapples into the melted butter. Pour prepared cake mix over the pineapple mixture. Bake for 25 minutes or more, until the cake is golden brown. Remove from the box oven and invert onto a second pan or cookie sheet.

Slow Tip: Want to try some super easy sun cooking? Make sun tea by filling a container with water, adding tea bags, and letting the container steep in the sun.

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Enjoy the Night Sky

Backyard fun needn’t only happen during the daytime. Nighttime offers lots of opportunities to explore constellations of stars; meteor showers, like August’s Perseids; or phases of the moon. You can’t help but be infused with a sense of wonder, awe, history and mystery while contemplating the cosmos, as countless people, back to the ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and others have done before us.

Get to Know the Constellations

With 88 constellations and numerous other stars, the night sky can seem a bit overwhelming. Begin to get to know it by locating a few key constellations and orienting to those. After all, the constellations were themselves created to help the ancients better understand the night sky.

The Big Dipper, which is part of a larger constellation, is a great starting point, as it has an identifiable shape and is usually visible over much of the Northern Hemisphere. It appears like a ladle (bowl) and handle. Seeking the North Star, or Polaris? Extend an imaginary line up from the top corner of the ladle that is furthest from the handle. Polaris is in turn on the handle of the Little Dipper, which appears upside down and facing the opposite direction from the Big Dipper. Continue on from the North Star, away from the Big Dipper, for about the same distance and you will reach Casseopeia (the mythical Queen of Ethiopia), another famous constellation. In the Northern Hemisphere, Cassiopeia is shaped like an “M” in the Summer and a “W” in the Winter.

Consult a star map and continue to find relationships to these constellations.

Slow Snippet: What makes stars twinkle? What we see as twinkling is really the light from the star bending as it moves through layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. That trip takes billions of years, so that what we see is a snapshot of a time in the cosmos that is long past.

Keep a Moon Diary

Taking note of the moon’s phases and rhythms, as it moves through its cycle, is a great way to feel the rhythms of our lives and of nature. Observing the moon and keeping a moon diary can help younger children understand how long a month is.

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Have a Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are a great way to get everyone exploring and observing in nature.

You’ll need:
Pencils and paper

Create a list in advance or have players contribute to one list of 10-20 things they might find in the backyard or park. A list might include an oak tree, a pond, a red bird, a dandelion, a wildflower, a nest, a feather, an acorn or a hollow log. You or the hunters could also list more subjective items, such as something rough, something orange, something unexpected, or a heart-shaped rock. Teams or players go off to seek the items on the list and cross each off when they see it. One point is awarded for each item found. The person or team with the most points wins.

Make a Nature Bracelet

This is a fun and easy way to get kids to look around them and observe small items in their own backyards.

You’ll need:
1″ or wider Masking Tape, enough to go around each child’s wrist

Tear off a piece of masking tape, slightly larger than the child’s wrist. Place it around the wrist with the sticky side out. Go for a walk or hunt and look for small items in nature that can be stuck to the masking tape, such as leaves, twigs, seeds, acorns and pods. (Generally things that have already fallen on the ground are safe to pick. If in doubt, leave something.) Fill the bracelet by sticking the items onto it and wear it proudly.

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These activities are adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more fun family activities.

Want to take it further? Create your own backyard DIY summer camp with eight weeks of ideas from A Natural Nester and many others.

This post is part of the School’s Out Top 10 Summer Learning series. Be sure to read all the other great Top 10 lists!

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Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Kids Growing Strong (pizza garden), Public Domain (night sky), Pass the Cereal (nature bracelet)

10 Timeless Games to Celebrate Backyard Games Week

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The week before Memorial Day is Backyard Games Week, and there’s no time like the present to learn some tried-and-true games, some of which you or your parents may have played during childhood. So gather a few friends or simple supplies and go out and play!

Marbles (Ringer)

They can be called Plainsees, Peewees, Bumblebees, Clouds, Swirlies, Cat’s Eyes, or Beach Balls. They can be made of glass, clay, agate, or steel. Marbles have been used for game play since ancient times in Pakistan, Egypt and Rome, and people of all ages play and compete today. The U.S. National Marbles Tournament has been held on the New Jersey shore since 1922. The British and World Marbles Championship, played annually on Good Friday, goes all the way back to 1588, when two young men duked it out with marbles to determine who would win the hand of a local milkmaiden. While there are many marbles games, Ringer is the classic.

You’ll need:

13 standard-sized marbles and one larger shooter marble for each player
A flat surface
Sidewalk chalk or string and tape

Draw a chalk circle at least 3 feet (and as large as 10 feet) in diameter on a sidewalk or driveway, or tape a string circle in place on a carpet. The larger the circle, the more challenging the game. Place the 13 smaller marbles in the center of the circle, in the shape of an X, or scatter them randomly. The first player sits just outside the circle and shoots his or her large marble (or shooter) into the circle, aiming at one or more smaller marbles, with the intent of knocking the smaller marbles outside of the circle, while leaving the shooter inside the circle. To shoot, place one or more knuckles on the ground and flick the shooter marble with a thumb. If one or more marbles are successfully knocked out of the circle, with the shooter left inside, the player collects the marbles he or she shot outside the circle and shoots again from the place where the shooter landed. If the shooter lands outside the circle as well, the next player is up. The second and subsequent players do the same. Shooter marbles stay where they landed during each round. Players can also choose to shoot the shooter marbles of others further away from the circle, so that that player will have a more challenging place to shoot from during the next round. Play continues until all the marbles have been knocked out of the circle. Players count their marbles to determine a winner.

Slow Tip: You can make your own marbles, the ancient way, using polymer clay. Roll solid or multi-colored pieces of clay into the shapes of marbles and bake according to package directions. Don’t forget to make a few larger shooter marbles.

Jacks

This classic game never goes out of style and, while it can be challenging at first, players do get better with practice. Sets of jacks can be found in many markets.

You’ll need:

10 metal jacks and a bouncy ball (usually sold in a set)
A hard level surface, like a patio or driveway

Scatter the jacks onto the hard surface. Throw the ball up (approximately 6 inches, though this will vary) near the jacks with your dominant hand. While the ball is in the air, scoop up one jack along with the ball, which has now bounced. Put the jack aside. Repeat, this time picking up two jacks. Keep increasing the amount of jacks you pick up. If the ball bounces more than once on that turn, the play moves to the next person. When there are no more jacks left on the playing surface, players count their jacks to determine a winner.

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Pick-Up Sticks

It’s called Spillikans in Canada, Plockepinn in Sweden, Mikado throughout Europe, and Kau Cim in China, where the sticks were used as a fortune-telling device. Canisters of pick-up sticks can usually be found in toy and variety stores – or make your own from twigs!

You’ll need:

A set of pick-up sticks, or approx. 41 sticks
A flat surface

Hold the pick-up sticks in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. Players take turns trying to remove one stick at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. When a stick from the pile is disturbed, the next player takes a turn. Some players use a designated stick to remove other sticks. Commercial sets of sticks are often color-coded, so that some sticks have higher point values. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total either their number of sticks or the values of the sticks based on their colors, according to package directions.

Red Rover

Because it’s a game of strength, Red Rover should be played with a few precautions, which are noted. One benefit of the sometime-controversial game, is that the game ends when everyone ends up on the same side, so there are no winners or losers.

Divide into two teams. Each team forms a line, approximately 30 feet from the other. Team members all hold hands.
The first team decides who they are going to call over. They then call out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, Let ___ come over.”

The person named breaks from his or her line and runs as fast as possible in between any two players on the opposing team, in an effort to break through those team members’ arms.

If the runner breaks through, causing those opposing players’ hands to drop, he or she chooses one person for the opposing team to join his team, and they both go back and join in that team’s line.

If the runner fails to break through, he or she joins the opposing team’s line.

Each team alternates calling people over until all the players end up on one side.

 Note: To prevent injury, players should join hands, and not arms, so that they can easily unlink, and keep their hands at waist level. Players should be roughly the same size.

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Duck Duck Goose

South Asians know it as Kho Kho, Ghanaians as Antoakyire. German children play a version called Plumpsack, which involves dropping a handkerchief at one player’s spot. Young children play this timeless game around the world.

Players sit in a circle, facing each other. Choose a player to be It. That person walks around the outside of the circle. As they walk around, they tap each person on the head and say, for the first few or many, “duck”, “duck”, “duck”. Finally, It taps a person on the head and says, “goose” and begins to run around the outside of the circle. The person who is tapped as a goose gets up and chases It around the circle. If the goose is able to tap It before he or she sits down in the goose’s spot, then It goes into the center of the circle. If the goose does not tag It, then the goose is the next It and the last It returns to the circle. Players can only come out of the middle once a new player gets tagged and goes in.

Red Light, Green Light

Another game played around the world, Red Light Green Light has many variations. In the Czech Republic, it’s called, “Cukr, káva, limonáda, čaj, rum, bum!” (“Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!”)

One player is chosen to be the Stoplight. That person turns their back to the group, which forms a line approx. 10-30 yards away (depending on ages of players.) The Stoplight calls out “Green Light” and the players advance toward it as quickly as they can. When he or she wishes, the Stoplight calls out “Red Light”, at the same time turning around to see the runners. The runners must stop immediately. Any player caught moving after a call of “Red Light” has to go back to the starting line. Green lights/red lights are repeated until the first player reaches and tags the Stoplight and is declared the winner. If all the players are out before they reach the Stoplight then the Stoplight wins that round. The winner becomes the new Stoplight.

Slow Snippet: Many cultures count 1-2-3 in their language and then shout a particular word instead of saying “Red Light”. In Mexico, it’s “calabaza” (pumpkin), Israel “herring”, Italy “estrella” (star), and France “soleil” (sun).

Mother/Father May I

This game has both random and whimsical aspects that speak to small children, in addition to requiring some creativity in thinking up and executing new steps.

One player is chosen to be the Mother. The other players form a line approx. 10-30 yards away (depending on ages of players.) The first player calls out, “Mother may I take _____ (number) _______ (type) of steps?” Mother answers either “Yes, you may” or “No, you may not,” and the player advances or stays where they are. (Some people play that Mother can offer an alternative number and type of step.) Players continue to inquire and take various steps. The first one to reach Mother wins and is the new Mother.

Steps can include:

  • Baby Steps – As small as possible
  • Newborn Baby Steps – Crawling
  • Giant Steps – As big as possible
  • Backward Steps – With back toward Mother
  • Bunny Steps – Hops on two feet
  • Scissor Steps – Feet cross or uncross on each step
  • Robot Steps – Stiff and robotic
  • Cinderella or Princess Steps – Ballet twirls
  • Umbrella Steps – starting by standing with legs apart and facing the side of the field instead of the front, each step begins with the back leg and makes a 180-degree arc so that the player moves forward and faces the opposite direction on each step

Capture the Flag

Another game from many of our childhoods, this one works in a backyard, field or neighborhood street.

You’ll need: 2 flags or bandannas. The games works best in an area with varied terrain, such as trees or other landforms.

Divide into two teams. Mark a line in the center of the play area. Each team’s territory, or base, is one either side of the line. Each team also picks a spot for its Jail, usually far from the flag. Determine a time period (5-10 minutes) during which each team hides its flag within its own territory, usually in the part farthest from the opponent. Once flags have been hidden, the teams meet in the middle. Each player tries to enter the other team’s territory and find its flag. In addition, the player has to bring the flag back into his or her own team’s area without getting tagged by an opponent. Tagged players go to Jail and sit out the game until tagged by a teammate, at which time they can rejoin the play by walking back into their own territory first. Players can only be tagged within the enemy’s base. If a player is tagged while transporting the flag, the flag is dropped at that spot. The game is won when an opposing flag is successfully captured and brought to the home base.

Kick the Can

My husband, Michael, has fond memories of epic Kick the Can games in his Pennsylvania neighborhood growing up. They’d continue for hours, as good games often do, with kids hiding behind trees in the conjoined backyards, strategizing and running, sometimes long after dark, on leisurely summer nights.

You’ll need:

A large can or bucket
Flashlight, optional

Place a can on the ground and designate an area near it as a jail. Choose an It, who counts to a high number (usually between 50 and 100) while the other players hide. When the number is reached, It moves away from the base and starts to look for the other players, who in turn are attempting to return to the can to kick it. If It sees player, It calls out that person’s name, (while shining a flashlight on them, if at night) and tries to kick the can first. If that happens, the player goes to jail. If the player reaches the can first and kicks it, then that player can hide again and any jailed players are freed. The game ends when everyone except It is in jail.

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Tag and its Variations

Based on the simple premise of chasing and catching, Tag is one of the most common and enjoyable games around the world. It’s great for giving players an opportunity to run around. There are tons of creative and cultural variations to Tag, which may be known as Tip, Tig, Dobby and Chasey. To play, simply choose an “It”, who counts to a set number before chasing others. When It tags a player, that person becomes the new It. Some play with a safe, tag-free Base.

Try these variations of Tag:

Freeze Tag

Once players are tagged by It, they are frozen and must stay perfectly still. They become unfrozen when another player runs up to them and tags them. If a frozen player moves before being unfrozen, and is seen and called by It, that player is out of the round.

Statue Tag

On offshoot of Freeze Tag – When tagged, players freeze in an especially dramatic pose, like a statue, and stay there until tagged again to be free.

Blob Tag

Once a player is tagged by It, the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play that when the blob reaches four people, one splits off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new It.

Octopus Tag

You’ll need: a soft ball or rolled-up pair of socks, optional, a playing area marked with two ends

Players all start at one end of the playing area. It, in the middle, calls, “Fishes, come swim in my ocean!” Players try to run toward the other side without being tagged or having a ball successfully thrown at them by It. Once tagged, players become tentacles, who stand in the spot where they are tagged, but stretch their arms in an effort to help tag others. Players who reach one side can be “safe” or can proceed back to the other side. The last person standing becomes the new It.

Slow Tip: Try Octopus Tag in a swimming pool.

Pizza Tag

Choose two players as It. The remaining players start at one end of the playing area and count off, in order, “Pepperoni”, “Mushrooms”, “Sausage”, “Olives” and “Cheese”. The two Its, or Pizza Makers, take turns calling a topping. Players who are that topping try to run past the pizza makers to the other side of the playing area, where they are safe. Once tagged, players sit or stand, and stretch their arms in an effort to help tag others. Players who reach one side can be “safe” or can proceed back to the other side. The last two people standing become the new pizza makers.

T.V. Tag

When players see It approaching, they must crouch down and say the name of a TV show to be safe. Show names can only be used once per round. If a player can’t think of a TV show in time, he or she is It. It must move once a player crouches down. You can also play with Girls’ names, Fruits, Animals, any category you’d like.

Everybody’s It

Everybody is It, meaning anyone can chase and tag anyone else. If a player is tagged, he or she “freezes” by bending over forward. Players can un-freeze the frozen by running through the hoops they make with their bodies. This game usually ends when everyone is tired.

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Looking for other fun backyard games and ideas? Check out the Backyard Games Series. I’m proud to be a participant with the following bloggers:

- See more at: http://www.pisforpreschooler.com/home/backyard-games-week-series#sthash.uwU1xYv2.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.pisforpreschooler.com/home/backyard-games-week-series#sthash.uwU1xYv2.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.pisforpreschooler.com/home/backyard-games-week-series#sthash.uwU1xYv2.dpuf

These activities are adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more fun family activities.

Backyard Games Week logo: Philanthropy in Motion

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, http://www.healthpostt.com/, wikimedia commons Rademenes777

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

It’s Time for Summer Backyard Family Fun
12 Fun Family Activities for Screen-Free Week
8 Fun Things to do While it’s Still Summer
Recess: Playground and Jump Rope Games
Slow Nature: Have a Cloud Race

 

It’s Time for Summer Backyard Family Fun

Summer is near, and with it usually comes longer days, less scheduled time and more time outdoors. Whether you have a backyard, front lawn, porch, driveway or deck, summer can offer the kind of simple outdoor family fun that you probably remember from your own childhood. Here are a few ways to welcome wildlife, play classic games, and enjoy the kinds of outdoor activities that get people together and create summer memories.

Note: This post is part of the Second Annual Backyard Barbecue Blog Hop.  I am so excited to be joining with my blogger friends to create a collection of fabulous ideas for family fun this summer. Be sure to visit all of our co-hosts (links below) to see their amazing posts and be sure to share yours at the end!

Feed the Butterflies and Birds

It’s so much fun to attract birds and butterflies to our yards and homes, while actually helping out local wildlife by feeding them. Plant butterfly-friendly plants this summer, or make this easy bird feeder, which will have you backyard bird-watching in no time. Experiment with different kinds of seeds to see which birds each attracts. Or ask for advice at a plant nursery or pet store.

You’ll need:

Cardboard
Heart or other template, optional
2-3 ‘ ribbon or string
½ cup vegetable shortening, peanut or other nut butter, suet or lard (plus, cornmeal or oatmeal, optional)
2 ½ cup mixture of birdseed (chopped nuts, dried fruit, optional)
Small mixing bowl
Plate, shallow dish or pie tin
Scissors
Spoon or butter knife

Cut a heart or other shape out of cardboard, using a template or free-hand.

Poke a hole toward the top and run the string through it. (If using a ribbon, you might want to string it after the mixture has dried a little, using a hole to poke through the hole, as needed.

In mixing bowl, combine peanut butter or other spread with meal, if using.

Spread that mixture over the both sides of the heart with the knife or spoon.

Pour the birdseed and feed ingredients onto the plate.

Place the heart into the seeds.

Hang your feeder from a tree branch or window eave that offers some shelter from wind and weather if possible, as well as a view of visiting birds.

Slow Tip: You can also use a toilet-paper tube, and either string it up or place it right onto a branch.

Play Pick-Up Sticks with Real Twigs

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You’ll need: Approximately 41 twigs.

Hold the twigs in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. Players take turns trying to remove one stick at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. When a stick from the pile is disturbed, the next player takes a turn. Some players use a designated stick to remove other sticks. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total their numbers of sticks to determine the winner.

Make a Beaded Spider Web

DSC_0089 - monkey1

This is an enchanting project that mirrors the intricate work of busy spiders, and provides a whimsical and colorful garden object when finished.

You’ll need:

3 bamboo skewers per web
Scissors or wire cutters
Ruler
Thin wire
Beads of your choosing. Make sure the beads and wire are a compatible size.

Clip the pointed tips from the skewers.

Put the skewers in a bundle.

Cut a 12” piece of wire and wrap half of it tightly around the center of the bundle.

Spread the skewers out until they all point outward like an asterisk, crossing in the middle.

Continue to wrap the wire to secure the new shape.

Cut a piece of wire approx. 18”.

Wrap one end of the wire around one of the skewers twice, about an inch form the center.

String beads along the length of the wire, and then wrap the wire twice around the next skewer. Continue until you are back to the first skewer. Wrap the wire to secure it.

Cut the next pieces of wire 24”, 30” and 36”, and string and bead them around the skewers, as above.

Place or hang your spider web in your garden.

Slow Tip: Beads can be strung tightly along the lengths of wire, or room can be left for the wire to show through.

Slow Tip: Try beading flowers, leaves, butterflies, ladybugs, or other garden features.

Gather a Group for Classic Lawn Games

vastateparks1

These fun, easy games require little or no equipment and have been creating memories for generations.

Duck, Duck, Goose

South Asians know it as Kho Kho, Ghanaians as Antoakyire. German children play a version called Plumpsack, which involves dropping a handkerchief at one player’s spot. Young children play this timeless game around the world.

Players sit in a circle, facing each other. Choose a player to be It. It walks around the outside of the circle, tapping each person on the head and saying, for each tap, “duck”, “duck”, “duck”. Finally, It taps a person on the head and says, “goose” and begins to run around the outside of the circle. The person who is tapped as a goose gets up and chases It around the circle. If the goose is able to tap It before he or she sits down in the goose’s spot, then that person is It again. If the goose does not tag It, then the goose becomes the new “it”.

Red Light, Green Light

Another game played around the world, Red Light, Green Light has many charming variations. In the Czech Republic, it’s called, Cukr, káva, limonáda, čaj, rum, bum! (“Sugar, coffee, lemonade, tea, rum, boom!”)

One player is chosen to be the stoplight. That person turns his or her back to the group, which forms a line approximately 30–90′ away (depending on the ages of players). The stoplight calls out, “Green light!” and the players advance toward the player who is the stoplight as quickly as they can. When the stoplight wishes, he or she calls out, “Red light!” while turning around to see the runners. The runners must stop immediately. Any player caught moving after a call of “red light” has to go back to the starting line. “Green lights” and “red lights” are repeated until the first player reaches and tags the stoplight and is declared the winner. If all the players are out before they reach the stoplight, then the stoplight wins that round. The winner becomes the new stoplight.

Blob Tag

There are so many fun tag games, you needn’t limit yourself to basic tag. Try this fun variation:

Once a player is tagged by the person who is It, the two join arms and become a blob, which chases players together to try to tag them. Other players who are tagged also join arms and become part of the blob. Some play a version in which, when the blob reaches four people, two split off to become a new blob. The last person standing alone becomes the new “it.”

Blow Giant Bubbles

bubblegirls2

Whimsical bubbles are a great addition to a summer backyard. They provide hours of entertainment at very little expense. In fact, there’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes at all. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days, or even a week or two, without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.

You’ll need:

6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Measuring container
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)

Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.

If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.

If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.

Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.

Here are some fun ideas for bubble play and experimentation.

Camp in Your Backyard

camp4

Camping out in sleeping bags is fun any time of year— in a backyard, on a porch or balcony, even on the living-room floor. Wherever you roll out the sleeping bags, enjoy some traditional camp activities:

Sing traditional or silly campfire songs like Go Bananas, She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, Boom Chicka Boom, and Rose Rose.

Make shadow puppets by shining a flashlight onto a tent or house wall. Hold your hands between the light and the wall in various shapes like these:

Rabbit— Make a fist with one hand. Place the other palm
over it and make a peace sign (for ears) with two fingers.

Hawk— Link your thumbs together, with your hands facing
away from you. Stretch out your fingers and hands and flutter
them like wings.

Make s’mores, banana boats, hobo popcorn and other classic camp treats.

 

These activities are adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more fun family activities.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, VA State Parks

 

Be sure to visit all of our Backyard Barbecue Blog Hop co-hosts to see their amazing posts and be sure to share yours at the end!

Co-hosts

All Done Monkey
The Squishable Baby
Creative World of Varya
Discovering The World Through My Son’s Eyes
Twin Falls Mommy
In The Playroom
Slow Family
Adventures of Adam
Adventure in a Box
Planet Smarty Pants

Now it’s your turn!


Backyard Barbecue Blog Hop 2014

Seven Ways to Make Summer Last Longer

While many of us are preparing our kids to go back to school, the calendar and weather still signal summer. The days are longer, our to-do lists are less crowded. Even if you never let go of frenzy for summer, or you’re feeling it now as you gear up for fall, there are a few small shifts that can really help you lighten up to match the remaining summer season, while also helping squeeze more true pleasure from this joyous time of year.

Make a Summer Bucket List

For many, summer conjures beach days, county fairs, gazing at the stars, planting flowers, playing flashlight tag, or making simple crafts. What else would you and your family really like to have done by the time Labor Day comes around? Make a summer bucket list of ideas and hang it where you can see it, or write each idea on a piece of paper or a popsicle stick and place those in a bucket. Have one family member choose an activity once or more per week for the rest of summer. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on the list – you can do many of your favorites another time.

Watch the Sun Rise or Set

The day naturally slows when we take the time to witness a dramatic and beautiful sunrise or sunset. Get comfortable, pay attention to the changing colors and light, and make a point to either greet or say goodbye to the day. This small act can be very grounding and gratifying to people of all ages, as it truly takes us out of the artificial time of clocks, calendars, emails and to-do lists, and into the rhythms of nature and the comforting, yet awe-inspiring, turning of the Earth.

Make Time for Down Time

Many of us are uncomfortable with empty spaces on the calendar. As difficult as it may be, and as enriching as many choices are, try to resist the urge to schedule every moment of summer. Kids actually need play time, down time and family time in order not only to recharge, but also to fully thrive. In addition, they don’t need to be constantly entertained. Free time, and even boredom, has produced wonderful innovations and insights. It is often during quiet time that many children make unique discoveries, including the directions of their own inner compasses. If down time doesn’t come naturally to you, schedule some into your calendar. This can be especially important as everyone gears up for a busier season.

Be Present and Do One Thing at a Time

Have you ever noticed that kids are usually not doing and thinking about multiple things at once? This is one area in which we can probably learn from them. Many of us parents would be surprised by how much our kids just want to be with us, and how our multitasking makes them feel. In studies of hundreds of kids over five years, Dr. Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, unearthed countless stories of children feeling neglected by their parents for media.

Try to compartmentalize your work and other tasks, so that they don’t invade precious time with your family. Because of the allure of electronics, we often have to turn our devices off as well, so that we can devote our attention to the people we’re with and the activities we’re doing without being distracted by alerts and the occasional itchy-fingered desire to check in with the electronic world.

Give Your Electronics the Day Off

Electronic media is so incredibly seductive for people of all ages that sometimes we need to take things a step further and formally unplug for a period of time in order to experience our families, selves and time. Follow the direction of most of the world’s religions and cultures and call a scheduled day of rest each week, for a day, a night, or a few hours. If you’re constantly plugged in, it can be very enlightening to see what happens when you get quiet, and also when you do get back to media. It is usually emergency-free and easier to get back into the flow of work and communication than we envision.

In addition, many TV shows contain anxiety-provoking images and messages. Try cutting out one or more TV shows per week and substituting them with a family walk or game.

Be a Tourist in Your Town

We often think we have to engage in awesome (read expensive) summer vacation travel, when sometimes the simplest experiences can prove the most delightful, especially for younger children. Get up early one day and watch the stores and businesses in your town receive their deliveries and come alive. Visit your nearest large city and partake in a true tourist activity that you’ve never done before. Walk or ride bikes as a family in a new neighborhood. You may be surprised by just how much fun everyone has, trying new things and seeing local surroundings with fresh eyes. If you have younger ones and do have time when others go back to school, that can be a great time to explore a city without the summer tourists.

Enjoy Your Family

Summer often means extended time with your family and with that inevitably comes some days that are more trying than others. Try to keep in mind that this phase will pass, summer only comes once a year, and the kids will only be this age once. If having other parents around helps, participate in group activities, either with a buddy or through a structured program. Relish the good times and the memories you’re forming now. Chances are that summer’s smallest moments will be the ones you regard with the most fondness later.

A version of this post originally appeared in Dot Complicated.

These tips were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ tips and fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer
Summer Family Fun: Make and Experiment with Giant Homemade Bubbles
Tidepooling with Kids: Explore Undersea Creatures
Stir Up Some Triple Berry Jam

Tech/Life Balance? It’s Dot Complicated!

For all the ease and wonder that technology has granted us, how many times have you lamented that it’s also made life more complicated? We deal with tremendous amounts of email clutter to rival our closet clutter. We wonder if our kids are experiencing too much technology too soon, and at what expense. We find ourselves bleary-eyed and twitchy-fingered as we check various online news outlets and events one more time, for fear of missing something important. We reveal a little too much to our co-workers and about ourselves and our significant others.

For fleeting moments, the life of a few decades ago appears so much simpler. People had time to compose long letters at writing desks; to visit with friends, make lovely meals, and play simple games by a lake or a hearth. Of course, it’s easy to romanticize such a life as well. When so much of the world is literally at our fingertips, it can be tricky to choose which aspects of technology and modernity to embrace and which to let go of to make room for that which is simple, personal, tactile and ultimately leads to a fulfilling and connected life.

This is the spirit with which Randi Zuckerberg launched Dot Complicated, an online community that aims to help us explore and untangle our modern, wired lives — together. I had the great fortune of meeting Randi and a few like-minded fellow bloggers at a lovely luncheon, and then I got to return to the Zuckerberg Media Studios, to chat with Randi, Beth Blecherman of TechMamas, video blogger Lizzie Bermudez and Veena Goel Crownholm of Tiaras to Babies, The conversation was wonderful and warm, ranging from our attempts to unclutter and manage our lives and households to the ways in which we find happiness and take care of ourselves.

Beth, Me, Randi, Lizzie, Veena

You can see our four video segments.

I also had a short session with Randi, in which I shared How to Make a Paper Boat, one of the 300+ projects in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World which are designed to give families ideas and instructions for simple activities, many of which can be done spontaneously and with little equipment on a free afternoon or during a low-key gathering. The paper boat was one of our favorite things to make as a family and sail, either in a local creek or a bathtub. I recently got to share origami boat making with a younger generation of boat-makers, which was delightful, and which I recounted for Randi.

Watch the video here:

Often us parents think we have to plan unusual, elaborate or expensive activities for our kids. Many of us would be surprised at the simple activities and small moments that instead become our children’s fondest memories. Sailing paper boats is one such example for us. Others include picking fruit on long summer days and coming home and making jam, mixing a bucket of bubble solution and enjoying giant bubbles for days, playing tag in the park, making and eating homemade soft pretzels, keeping a moon diary, and watching the night sky for meteors.

I believe that the more technological our lives become, the more we yearn for tactile activities like crafts and cooking, as well as activities that help us gather in families and communities to experience the wonder of the seasons and the natural world and to bond through important play time, down time and family time.

For more simple, fun and memorable things to do with your kids this summer (and a couple of attitudinal changes that might help make summer go more smoothly and joyfully) see my Dot Complicated blog, 7 Secrets to Make Summer Last Longer.

Looking for still more simple, even retro, family fun? See 8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer.

Thanks again to Randi and everyone at Dot Complicated for being such an important voice for simplifying our lives and for bringing together so many wise and passionate people who desire the same thing.

Beth Blecherman, Hillary Frank and Veena Crownholm on the set

Lovely fellow bloggers and Dot Complicated staff

 

 

Enter the OgoSport PlayRefuel Contest

Outdoor Play Equipment from OgoSport

Where do you and your family like to play and eat?  Share your tips and take part in OgoSport‘s PlayRefuel Summer Contest! The contest is designed to help families discover places to eat and play in cities and towns across the U.S.  Share your favorite playgrounds, parks and outdoor spaces (Play), and/or places to grab a bite with kids (Refuel). You’ll be entered in a drawing for a $250 OgoSport gift basket and other fun prizes. The contest runs through August 31. Winners will be announced in fall.

Here’s how to play:

1. Enter OgoSport’s Twitter or Facebook contest page: playrefuel.com/2013contest

2. Click on either Twitter or Facebook.

3. Submit the name and location of a favorite place to eat or play and two brief descriptions of what you like about it.  If on Twitter, use the hashtag #playrefuel; on Facebook enter the contest link for details.

You can also send submissions via a postcard or letter to:

OgoSport, LLC
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bldg. 3 Suite #408
63 Flushing Avenue, Unit 137
Brooklyn, NY 11205

4. Each submission – up to 10 – will enter your name in our raffle drawing for a chance to win a $250 OgoSport gift basket in addition to other prizes.

Get inspired by OgoSport’s disks, darts, bits, kits and other fun sports equipment for outdoor play.

I look forward to playing, refueling, and sharing my top spots for both.

The OgoSport Mini Disk FORA

 

This post is sponsored by OgoSport. The opinions expressed are my own.

Photos: OgoSport

 

 

Bubble Day at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

The San Francisco Bay Area’s Bay Area Discovery Museum recently held a Bubble Day, the first of many special hands-on events at the museum this summer. As a longtime fan of the magic of bubbles, it was great fun for me to see a new generation of children discovering simple bubble wonder and fun.

You can make your own bubble mix at home with simple ingredients. (Recipe below.) A bucket of mix will last a couple weeks. Leave it out in a yard or on a porch for spontaneous summer play!

Recipe for Great Bubbles

There’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes. The best mixes come from ingredients that are inexpensive and easily available. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.

You’ll need:

6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Measuring container
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)

Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.

If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.

If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.

Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.

Learn lots more fun bubble experiments and activities.

Enjoy making your own bubbles!

This activity adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Enter the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Contest

If you are age 6-12 and you have an original idea for a backyard game, you could win a $10,ooo scholarship, or enter a game as a group and win a $15,000 donation to the non-profit of your choice. Now in its third year, the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Contest fosters creativity and outdoor play by encouraging innovative games that don’t require any special equipment, but rather sports and other items one would typically have around the house.

One of last year’s winning games, North Pole South Pole (pictured above), encourages players to be “persistent penguins” who gather fish from a fishing hole before depositing them at their North or South Pole. The equipment? Hula hoops, pillowcases and water balloons. Download instructions for North Pole South Pole and other winning games.

The entry deadline is June 17. The finalists will receive a trip to San Diego for the July 27 Backyard Game playoffs. Download a complete set of rules.

As a bonus, the 2013 judges include Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, co-authors of the fantastic Kids Outdoor Adventure Book, which I reviewed on this blog, and which also encourages outdoor play and discovery throughout the year.

So, what are you waiting for? Put your thinking cap on and get ready to innovate and play.

Photos: CLIF Kid

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Kids Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play
NFL Play 60 Invention Contest (and jump rope games)
American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids (with playground games)
8 Fun Things to Do While it’s Still Summer

Summer Family Fun: Make and Experiment with Giant Homemade Bubbles

The mere sight of a bubble floating by overhead can make even the most harried person stop and smile. Part science, part wonder, a bubble is simply a thin skin of liquid surrounding a gas. But you needn’t know any bubble science to enjoy this fun and inexpensive activity. Best of all, bubbles can be made using ingredients you have around the house. When the weather’s nice, I often make a bucket of bubble solution and leave it outside with wands and other fun equipment so my daughter and others can make bubbles whenever they like. It’s always fun and magical to create bubbles and run around to watch them trail behind you in the breeze.

Recipe for Great Bubbles

There’s no need to spend money on commercial bubble mixes. The best mixes come from ingredients that are inexpensive and easily available. A large batch can be left in a bucket or tub for days without losing its ability to form bubbles. Bubble mixes are best made at least ½ hour before you need them, so they can settle.

You’ll need:

6 cups (or parts) water
2 cups (or parts) Dawn dishwashing detergent
3/4 cup Karo or other light corn syrup
Measuring container
Large tub, bucket or pan (large enough for the wands to fit inside)

Use Dawn brand dishwashing detergent, if you can find it, for large, firm bubbles. Joy is second-best.

If you’re using the same container to measure both the water and the detergent, measure the water first to prevent detergent foaming in the container.

If your water is very hard, you may want to use distilled water.

Stir the solution gently. It should be smooth, not sudsy or foamy.

How to Blow Big, Strong, Long-Lasting Bubbles

Choose good wands or materials.

Ensure that the bubble and bubble tool only touch wet surfaces.

If the day is too windy for big bubbles, seek a windbreak and form bubbles near that.

Make sure the bubble mix is inside the wand or tool.

Blow or wave the wand gently, just enough for the film inside to catch some air. Blowing too hard can cause a bubble to break, or can create many small bubbles instead of one big one.

Make Your Own Wand or Bubble Maker

There are wonderful commercial wands with very large openings in whimsical shapes, available at toy stores and fairs. You can also make your own large homemade wand.

You’ll need:

Two or more wire hangers

Bend a clothes hanger into the shape of a circle.

Unfold a second hanger as straight as you can and attach it to the first to form a handle.

 Create a Bubble Window Maker

You’ll need:

Cotton string with some absorbency

Plastic straws cut in pieces

Run a length of string through the straws in a continuous line.

Leave some string between each straw and knot the string ends together.

See what shapes you can make with the straws.

Try a “bubble window”. When making the window, lift the solution out of the bucket or pan in one plane and at an angle, which will help the film remain within the shape. Put two wet hands through a bubble window and shake hands!

 Slow Tip: Search around your house for other good bubble makers. Six-pack rings, plastic strawberry containers, funnels, cookie cutters, mason-jar rings, rubber bands, pipe cleaners, strainers, even fly swatters can all make fine bubbles. Often items with many small openings will produce masses of fun bubbles. Your hands are another wonderful bubblemaker — especially if they are wet.

More Bubble Fun

Bubble Clusters: Put a small amount of bubble solution on a pie tin or cookie sheet. Blow into it with straws to create multiple bubbles in clusters.

Bubble Within a Bubble: Blow a bubble with a straw. Remove the straw from the bubble. Making sure the straw is wet, gently insert it into the top of the bubble, so it enters at a 45 degree angle. Blow gently to form another bubble.

 

This activity is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains this and 300+ more fun family activities.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

NFL Play 60 Encourages Kids to Be Active, Prizes Awarded for Original Games

The National Football League has announced a new campaign to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. The NFL Play 60 Program encourages kids to be active for 60 minutes each day through school and community events. They are also sponsoring the NFL Play 60 Invention Contest, to inspire kids 6-13 to invent their own game, activity, piece of fitness equipment, football-themed innovation, or training device for a chance to win $5,000, a 3-day/2-night trip for two to the Grand Prize Event, and an NFL Prize Pack. Two finalists and 12 semi-finalists will also receive prizes. The contest site offers brainstorming tips and inspiration to get you started.

Many NFL players and other athletes utilize a simple and extremely inexpensive piece of fitness equipment to help them stay in shape – a jump rope. Jumping rope has gone in and out of fashion since ancient Egypt, when both men and women jumped over vines. It wasn’t until the 20th century that jumpers incorporated the sing-song games and rhymes that many of us associate with childhood and particularly girls.

As a fan of simple and inexpensive games and equipment, as well as the origin and continuation of playground games that are passed down through the generations through oral history, I love everything about jumping rope. As inspiration, here are three fitness benefits to jumping rope. It can be easy to fit jumping rope into your 60 minutes of daily fitness. Below are some fun jump rope games that will keep you singing and laughing as well as help keep you fit. They are games my mom taught me and I taught my daughter. Who knows, you might invent the next jump rope or other fun game.

You’ll need:

One regular jump rope for one person, or a longer jump rope for two turners to turn, while a jumper (or more) jumps.

The jumper jumps over the rope each time it hits the ground. Jumpers can jump in one jump each turn or one big jump followed by one smaller jump each turn. A turn ends when the jumper fails to jump over the turning rope. The following are classic, easy jump-rope games. They don’t have tunes, so much as chants, so they are especially easy to pick up.

A My Name is Alice

This is a fun add-on game that also calls for a little creativity and is different every time

The first jumper starts with the letter A, and fills in the blanks in this sentence, however he or she chooses:

A my name is ____ and my husband’s name is ____ and we live in ____ and we sell ____.

For example: A my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Al and we live in Albuquerque and we sell Apples.

If the jumper hasn’t tripped up, he or she moves on to the letter B, such as:

B my name is Betty and my husband’s name is Bob and we live in Boise and we sell Beans.

Jumpers move through the alphabet as long as their turns last. New jumpers usually start with A (that makes it easy to compare how far each gets) and choose new names.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

This jump-rope game is a little more advanced, as it requires player to pantomime the activity they are singing about (to the best of their abilities) as they are jumping.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, tie your shoe,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!

The following games involve counting as far as jumpers can get during each turn.

Mabel Mabel

Mabel, Mabel, set the table,

Do it as fast as you are able,

Don’t forget the Red. (pause) Hot. (pause) PEPPERS!
On “Peppers”, start turning the rope doubly-fast, counting a point for each turn. The jumper jumps until they miss and are out.

Cinderella

Cinderella, dressed in yella

went downstairs to kiss a ‘fella.

By mistake she kissed a snake.

How many doctors did it take?

1, 2, 3, ..  (Count each turn of the rope successfully jumped.)

 Apples, Peaches, Pears and Plums

Apples, peaches, pears and plums.

Tell me when your birthday comes.

January, February, March, .. (Count one month for each turn of the rope successfully jumped.)

Have an idea for a NEW way to get active? Encourage your kids to enter the NFL Play60 Invention Contest! Enter today!

Want a free NFL Play60 poster? Email info@bkfk.com with your mailing address to request one!

These jump rope games were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains this and 300+ more fun family activities.

This post is sponsored by NFL Play 60. The views expressed are my own.

Jump rope photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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