Tag Archives: Children

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Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

I am very excited about the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count. It takes place Friday-Monday, February 14-17, all over North America. It’s a great family activity. Anyone can participate, even if you only have 15 minutes and are completely new to birding.

Here’s how it works: You can pick a spot to go watch birds (a backyard, a park, a trail, a marsh, or anywhere you think birds might be) or you can join an organized event. You can download a very thorough check list of birds that are likely to be seen in your area. You record the birds that you see and then go home and either send in your checklist or enter the names and numbers in online.

There are lots more tips about counting and recording birds, tricky identifications, binoculars, and much more on BirdSource’s Great Backyard Bird Count page. The site also features recordings of bird sounds and more activities for kids.

The All About Birds site has beautiful photos and information that can help you identify birds. These are the top birds that were reported during the count last year.

So, why count birds in the first place, and why now? The Cornell Ornithology Lab, the Audubon Society and others use the information from the annual February count to track the health of various bird species over time and, in some cases, take steps to protect them. Mid-February has proven a good time to count, as it occurs just before the major Spring migrations. If you find you like counting, you can actually help year-round on various projects.

Last year more than 17,400,00 individual birds were reported by more than 104,000 people. This year you could be part of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Read about and see pictures of the 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count.

Make a valentine feeder for the birds.

Get ideas for other great citizen science projects like Project Feeder Watch.


Photos: Painted Bunting and Green Honeycreeper by Doug Janson, Flame Colored Tanager by Jerry Oldenettel, Blue Jay: Creative Commons, Northern Spotted Owl by Susan Sachs Lipman

June is the New December: 10 Ways to Calm End-of-School-Year Frenzy

As a parent, I’ve always found the end of the school year to be a mixed bag. It can be an exciting time to look forward to summer plans and the relaxation, fun and family time they portend. It can offer meaningful rituals and warm celebrations with family and friends. It can also be ridiculously busy and packed with obligations and graduations (from pre-school on up), not to mention parties and ceremonies for every classroom, team and group.

This time of year definitely got easier for me with the passing years. There seem to be less scheduled events now that my daughter is a little older, and the events themselves seem to be more relaxed — I always thought all-day picnics at rented pools, with transportation and activities and awards and lots of necessary parent-volunteer help were too much for smaller kids anyway. Likewise, endless award ceremonies and graduations for tiny children who would rather be playing. And, for that matter, a too-busy calendar.

One special year (over objections from some parents – is that who these parties are for?) the kids in my daughter’s class all walked to a teacher’s house because they had wanted to play with her dogs. They had picnic lunches and played games in a park and walked back to school for the end of the day. It was probably one of the simplest, most memorable year-end parties of all, because it came from the hearts of the teacher and the kids, and not from another adult’s idea of what a year-end party should be.

So, how can you keep year-end frenzy at bay, for yourself, your family, and possibly a class or group?

Check in with yourself and others. Ask yourself and your family members if you’d prefer some down-time to attending one more activity, or taking part in just one segment of a multi-part event.

Give yourself permission to sit some events out. You probably know if an event is too much for your child or your family. Try to honor everyone’s limits. There will be ample opportunity for more celebrations in the future. Also, look at each event practically. If younger siblings can attend, if everyone is fed — these things might make an event more palatable, workable and fun.

As a parent, You don’t have to volunteer for every task. It’s nice to do your part, and volunteering can be a lot of fun. It can also allow you to make the most of each activity and not feel as if they are flying by. However, do listen to your gut if it tells you you’re taking on too much or the wrong thing. Sometimes well-meaning parents create very complicated activities and projects that ultimately don’t have a lot of meaning for the kids (or for you). I wish I would have extricated myself from a couple of those.

Create some unstructured family time. It will take some extra effort when things are especially hectic, but that’s just when you need some unstructured time the most. As counter-intuitive as this may sound, if you need to write it in your calendar, do so. Take an afternoon to lie on the grass and watch the clouds, or take a family walk in your neighborhood. Pull a chair outside at twilight and watch the first stars come out. Eat a simple dinner as a family. Let yourself get so bored that time actually seems to slow down, or keep a free day open to do whatever you really feel like that morning.

Spend time in nature. Nature truly does have a way of relaxing and rejuvenating both body and spirit. It can be just the antidote to a hectic schedule. Children and adults can experience awe in nature in a deep, profound way. It’s also often a great place to run around and let off steam, or, conversely, to be contemplative and quiet in the midst of a busy season. Nature also provides a wonderful perspective and a place of fresh wonder that has little to do with the busy-ness of modern life.

Let children be children. Consider which events have the most meaning for your children and prioritize those. Try not to feel pressured to participate in an event or a schedule that doesn’t feel right for your family. If you are in any position to help plan the activities, try to keep the playful, and the age-appropriate meaningfulness, in mind. Perhaps others will follow your lead.

Discuss your child’s feelings. Despite the celebratory nature of the events, some children will feel a tremendous amount of confusion or dismay about the passage of time or the possible change that it brings. Others may be overwhelmed by any celebration or attention. Try to allow some time and space for children to express themselves and their needs.

Get enough sleep. Force yourself and your children to go to bed at a reasonable hour (possibly even unwinding a bit before bed). Save some tasks for another day — they’ll still be there. Getting enough rest, eating well, and treating yourself well are fundamental tools in warding off the stress of a busy schedule.

Let go of perfection. The end of the year can mean houseguests or the hosting of meals. So, to our busy schedules, we add the task of making our homes appear perfect. Clean what you reasonably can and let the rest go. If people have come to celebrate you and yours, that includes your home in its glorious imperfection. Besides, most people don’t look at our houses with the same critical eye we do.

Charge up the camera batteries, bring some Kleenex, and Enjoy the rituals. If you are attending a full-fledged graduation or similar rite of passage or achievement, delight in the moment and the celebrant and enjoy the blessings of family and well-wishers.

And, if all this still doesn’t help, remember that things will be relatively quiet soon.

 

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

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

 

Have a Summer Nature Camp at Home

For many summers, my family divided the season into summer camps, vacation travel, and down-time at home, during what we called Camp MommyAnna. It seemed important to enjoy some of summer’s long days with adventures in our local nature and area and no set schedule. So I’m very excited to participate in The At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum, which offers tons of ideas to help you create your own at-home summer camp experience.

The At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum, from A Natural Nester, contains creative and easy-to-follow ways to keep kids engaged throughout the summer and to make the most of family time together.

The Curriculum includes 8 weeks of kid-friendly lessons, outdoor activities, indoor projects, crafts, recipes, field trip ideas, children’s book suggestions, and more in a full-color PDF you can read on your computer screen or tablet, or print out. The program is designed to be flexible and fit with your family’s schedule and surroundings, so you can incorporate the ideas any time it works for you.

Fun weekly themes to help kids discover and enjoy the natural world include:

An Edible Garden ~ The Night Sky ~ At the Beach 
 A Spot in the Shade ~ Ponds & Frogs
Rain, Rain ~ Wildflowers & Bees ~ Sun Fun

While designed primarily for children ages 5-11, the ideas are fun and adaptable for all ages.

These are the talented and inspirational camp counselors:

Sarah of Imagine Childhood ~ Kara of Simple Kids
Valarie of Jump Into a Book ~ Heather of Shivaya Naturals
Cerys of Nature and Play ~ Linda of Natural Suburbia
Leah of Skill It ~ Amy of Mama Scout
Erin of Exhale. Return to Center and More!
The eCurriculum will be available May 20, but you can pre-order a copy now.

I can’t wait for summer!

At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum

Small Wonders: Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth

I’m so pleased that Patty Born Selly, educational expert and consultant at Small Wonders, parent, Small Wonders blogger, and long-time advocate for early childhood nature play, has written a beautiful, inspiring and very thorough book, Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth.

After making the case for nature fun and offering tips for overcoming common obstacles to getting kids outside for exploration and play (“the kids are too wild”, “this is a logistical nightmare”, “we don’t have a nature area”), Selly dives into instructions for countless fun activities that inspire children’s exploration and care of nature and help them learn about weather, air, water, food, health and reuse. Each activity lists a recommended minimum age and offers detailed descriptions, as well as tips for further exploration. Many are very simple to do, such as a Sound Walk, a Color Search, a Seed Sort, or a Puddle Hunt, while offering windows to deep exploration and fun.

A few other wonderful projects include a Water Cycle Garden, in which kids create a greenhouse to observe the movement of water through plants and soil. Wind Ribbons, Kites, Rocket Balloons, and Paper Pinwheels are among the activities that help children explore air. Sunshine Sculptures, Shadow Tracing, and Raindrop Rainbows help children explore sun and rain. I love the Scent Chase, in which children experience their senses of smell with scent jars. I also love the Soap Making activity, which utilizes the melt-and-pour method and is part of a group of activities designed to help children think about healthy choices in cleaning and personal products.

Each activity includes the national science education standards that that activity meets. Each chapter includes information about the theme (such as “Weather, Climate and Energy”) suggestions for teaching and discussion of the impact of (weather) on people and of people on (weather), so that readers and the children in their lives can get a very clear understanding of the Earth’s ecosystem and their place within it. This is a very thorough, inspiring and fun book that will help parents, teachers, youth leaders and others spark children’s curiosity about and knowledge of the natural world.

Redleaf Press is offering a 30% discount on Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth from now through June 30, 2013. To take advantage of this deal, follow this link and enter the coupon code GREENEARTH.

You might also be interested in:

Patty Born Selly’s Top 10 Tips for Teaching Kids about the Environment
The Simple Joys of Tree Climbing, Small Wonders blog
Hear Patty Born Selly on the Mom Enough radio show
Felt a Bar of Soap
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
Kids Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play
Children & Nature Network

New Book Helps Families Slow Down

Many of us want more joy and connection in our family and daily lives. We often don’t quite know how to achieve those things, and the process of even beginning to do so can seem daunting. Enter Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy, the beautiful new book from Slow Family Living co-founder Bernadette Noll.

Just reading Bernadette’s book makes me feel calm and confident that I can make the small changes necessary to have a more fulfilling family life. Her voice is reasoned and experienced, and her suggestions are each presented in short chapters that describe an activity or practice that can result in greater family closeness. The first step, according to Bernadette? Ask yourself and your family:

Is this working for us?

So often, in family life, we do things because they’ve been declared a “tradition” (Bernadette offers a funny tale about this), or because we feel obligated to take on an activity or do something the standard way. Once you’ve determined whether something is working or not, you can set about changing what needs to be changed.

The activities in the book range from practices like pausing, expressing appreciation, active listening, and letting weekends be half-full, to ideas for keeping family life fun like spontaneous game nights, family journals and billboards, lemonade stands, and making stuff together, which is the title and topic of Bernadette’s fantastic first book about art as a means of expression, fun and family and community bonding.

Community bonds also figure in this book, and I love the ideas for slowing as a community by having dinners together and playing sports together, as alternatives to every-family-for-themselves, on one hand, and over-organized league sports, on the other. In both cases, Bernadette illustrates how her community came together to provide something richer, and more fun, than the traditional offerings did. The community dinners involved various children and families in a novel way. The family “sports league” alleviated excess driving to various sports events for different members of the family and provided space for everyone to play together, adults included.

You will get a lot of ideas from Slow Family Living, both big-picture and everyday, that will make you pause and reflect, and will help you lead a more connected and joyful family life.

You might also be interested in:

Make Stuff Together, 24 Simple Projects to Create as a Family
The Blessings of a Slow Family
Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood into a Place for Play
Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count

I am very excited about the Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count. It takes place Friday-Monday, February 15-18, all over North America. It’s a great family activity. Anyone can participate, even if you only have 15 minutes and are completely new to birding.

Here’s how it works: You can pick a spot to go watch birds (a backyard, a park, a trail, a marsh, or anywhere you think birds might be) or you can join an organized event. You can download a very thorough check list of birds that are likely to be seen in your area. You record the birds that you see and then go home and either send in your checklist or enter the names and numbers in online.

There are lots more tips about counting and recording birds, tricky identifications, binoculars, and much more on BirdSource’s Great Backyard Bird Count page. The site also features recordings of bird sounds and more activities for kids.

The All About Birds site has beautiful photos and information that can help you identify birds. These are the top birds that were reported during the count last year.

So, why count birds in the first place, and why now? The Cornell Ornithology Lab, the Audubon Society and others use the information from the annual February count to track the health of various bird species over time and, in some cases, take steps to protect them. Mid-February has proven a good time to count, as it occurs just before the major Spring migrations. If you find you like counting, you can actually help year-round on various projects.

Last year more than 17,400,00 individual birds were reported by more than 104,000 people. This year you could be part of the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Read about and see pictures of the 2010 Great Backyard Bird Count.

Make a valentine feeder for the birds.

Get ideas for other great citizen science projects like Project Feeder Watch.


Photos: Painted Bunting and Green Honeycreeper by Doug Janson, Flame Colored Tanager by Jerry Oldenettel, Blue Jay: Creative Commons, Northern Spotted Owl by Susan Sachs Lipman

A Conference on Play? You Bet!

A conference on play? Yes, you read correctly. I will be attending the U.S. Play Coalition‘s Conference on the Value of Play in Clemson, S.C., in February.

I’ll be joining educators, parents, play professionals, health professionals, parks and recreation programmers, landscape architects, playground designers, psychologists, anthropologists, advocates, and more from around the world to discuss and learn about play.

I’ll learn about the latest research highlighting the importance of play as a crucial part of all of our lives, regardless of age or ability. I’m eager to share what I learn with all of you.

Read some of the latest news about play.

My Slow News archive also contains a lot of information about the value of play to every area of our lives.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids
How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let them Play

 

American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids: try these games!

Even as some parents and schools try to schedule as many academics and extracurriculars into their children’s lives as possible, at times to the detriment of even the briefest school recess, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a policy statement that recognizes the value of recess to every aspect of children’s lives. The AAP wrote:

Recess during school offers children cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits they don’t get through academics alone.

According to the AAP:

  • Recess is “a necessary break in the day” and “should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”
  • Recess offers important breaks from concentrated classroom work, which allow children to be “more attentive and more productive in the classroom.”
  • Recess “promotes social and emotional learning and development” through “peer interactions in which they practice and role play essential social skills.” Children learn negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving, as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control.
  • Recess offers benefits that are “unique from, and a complement to, physical education — not a substitute for it.”
  • Recess can help offset risks to childhood obesity.

The AAP also noted that some schools cite safety issues as a barrier to recess and free play and offers steps to protect children while offering free and unstructured  play.

The AAP statement provides a large boost to those who have been advocating for recess and free play, in the face of calls for more academic and scheduled time for children. Last year, an important study published by the AAP revealed that pre-school children are far too sedentary for their physical and psychological health. The recent policy statement notes that “even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home.”

Read the complete AAP Policy Statement on The Crucial Role of Recess in School.

Many of us grew up with free play and recess games, some of which were made up on the spot, and some of which we learned from others. Here are a few games that kids (and even parents and teachers) may not know, which can add to recess and other fun and play. Many more playground and other game instructions can be found in my book, Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

Playground Games

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.

Four Square

Not sure what to do with that four-square court painted on your school playground? This classic game couldn’t be easier or more inclusive. If you don’t have a four-square court, you can easily draw your own with chalk.

You’ll need:

A standard-size rubber playground ball
A court, or chalk to draw one

If there isn’t a court, draw a large square, approximately 16′ × 16′. Divide that into four squares, each 8′ × 8′. Letter the squares clockwise, from A to D. The player in the A square begins by bouncing the ball once in his or her own square, then hitting it underhand so it bounces into the D square. The receiving player then hits the ball into another square, with play continuing until the ball bounces more than once or goes out of bounds. When that happens, the player who didn’t hit the ball in time, or hit it out of bounds, moves to the D square, and the other players move up in the alphabet. If there are more than four players, a waiting player in line replaces the one who would have moved into the D square, and that player goes to the back of the line. Play continues without anyone having to permanently leave the game.

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.”

Jump-Rope Games

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 singsong games and rhymes. Many of these are passed down through the generations like oral history, with different regions using different chants. I learned many of these from my mom and passed them down to my daughter.

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 take 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 the following 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: 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, which makes it easy to compare how far each jumper gets, and choose new names.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

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

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!

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.

I hope you all take the AAP recommendations to heart and enjoy recess and play!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Let the Children Play

For more information see:

Resources about Play and Slowing
News about Play and Slowing

You might also like:

How to Prepare Kids for Kindergarten? Let Them Play
Slow News: Let the Kids Play
Pre-school and Kindergarten Graduations: Too Much Too Fast?
Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum
Children Opt for the Box Over the Toy
Babies Learn By Playing
New Childrens Book Reminds Us to Play

 

Rhythm of the Home: The Blessings of a Slow Family

I am thrilled and honored to have a piece, The Blessings of a Slow Family, in the Autumn edition of Rhythm of the Home. I have been a fan of this beautiful magazine since its inception. (I have a piece in the Autumn 2010 Rhythm of the Home on Making a Fall Leaf Placemat.) It never fails to fill me with inspiration and beauty — photos are stunning, projects and tips are inspiring, and the contributors are uniformly engaging, wise and warm.

This is a hint of my story, which outlines many of the ways my family has found to honor the changing seasons, the rhythms of each day, and the community around us, through ritual, craft, nature and more.

When my family made a conscious choice to slow down, and reduce modern life’s typical pace, what we really did was get better in touch with rhythms and practices that have more in common with the turning wheel of the day and the year than with the artificial markers of the typical school and social year, not to mention the standard expectations about children’s development that don’t always fit our own children.

Because our modern culture can be poor at creating space for and then honoring life events and the movement of time, we have to create those rituals and activities for ourselves. Fortunately, my family found many ways to do that.

You can continue reading The Blessings of a Slow Family.

There are far too many delightful pieces in the Autumn Rhythm of the Home to list. I hope you will explore the issue for yourself. As for me:

I can’t wait to make these Reusable Sandwich Bags. I also love the Autumn Watercolor Crafts. And this is a very easy and original idea for a Shadow Puppet Show.

I am also eager to Have a Butterfly Celebration when the Monarchs return to their winter home.

This Autumn Pizza with Roasted Fig and Apples looks fantastic, and I’ve long wanted to try making Homemade Ricotta Cheese. I also really appreciate and believe in Using the Kitchen as a Place to Bond.

I am deeply inspired by The Story of an Apple, Nature Lovers, Four Fall Simplicity Seeds, 10 Steps Toward Getting the Break you Need, and A Season of Rebirth.

I am always moved by Erin Goodman and her thoughtful work and am thrilled that the issue features an Interview with Erin Barrette Goodman.

Even with all that, I have only hinted at the goodness in this issue of Rhythm of the Home. Do yourself a favor: Brew your favorite cup of tea, settle into a cozy spot and see for yourself.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

8 Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Although school has started or will soon start for many, Fall doesn’t officially begin until September 22. That still leaves plenty of time to get outside and enjoy some of summer’s simple pleasures.

Whistle with a blade of grass

This classic pastime is fun to do when sitting in the grass with friends or family, or even by yourself.

Find the widest blade of grass you can. It should also be long and relatively thick.

Hold your thumbs upright, so they face toward you and touch at the knuckles and tips.

Place the grass between your thumbs, holding it so that the piece of grass is taut and there is a little air on each side of it.

Purse your lips so that a small but strong bit of air comes out of their center and blow into the opening where the grass is.

Make a daisy chain

This is a charming activity to do while relaxing in a grassy meadow or field. If you’d like, make your chain into a necklace or crown.

You’ll need:

• Small daisylike flowers (pick only from grassy fields where they are in profusion, as it may not be okay to pick flowers in some protected areas.)
• Pin (your fingernail will work as well)

Carefully prick a pin or fingernail into the daisy’s stem, approximately
1/3 of the way down from the flower.

Gently thread a second daisy stem through the hole, taking care not to break it. The second flower head now rests atop the first stem.

Continue to add daisies to the chain, until you have achieved a length you like. Attach the ends, if desired.

Catch fireflies

They’re called fireflies, lightening bugs, glowworms, and moon bugs. They wink at us with their intermittent glow in darkening skies on humid nights. For many, seeing and catching them is the ultimate summer nature experience.

You’ll need:
• Flashlight
• Net
• Clear, lidded jar, with a few holes punched into the lid, using a hammer and nail— if you don’t have a lid, use plastic wrap, punched with small holes and secured with a rubber band
• Leaves or a moistened paper towel, placed at the bottom of the jar

Find a humid environment— the best are fields or forests with bodies of water nearby, although fireflies are also found in parks and backyards. Though fireflies live all over the world, they are rare in the western United States.

Turn off all surrounding lights, if possible. Let your eyes adjust to the dark.

If you don’t see fireflies, turn a flashlight on and off in a flashing motion to attract one.

When you spot a firefly, place the net over it and gently transfer it into the jar.

You may be able to catch it right in the jar. Fireflies are not dangerous to touch, but be careful not to crush them.

Keep your fireflies for a short time, releasing them again the same or the next night, to ensure their survival.

Skip a stone

Learning to skip stones takes a lot of practice and perseverance, but it’s an impressive skill once you master it.

Find a calm body of water.

Find a smooth, flat, lightweight stone. The flatness will allow it to skip; the lightness will allow it to be tossed a long way.

Balance near the water and fling the stone with the wrist, as you would a Frisbee.

Try to have the stone enter the water at a 20° angle. If the angle is smaller, the stone will bounce but lose energy. If the angle is bigger, the stone will sink.

Keep practicing!

Play tag in a park

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

Blob Tag

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.”

Camp in your backyard

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.

Gaze at the Stars

With its possibilities for clear skies and warm nights, summer often offers the best opportunities to get out and gaze at the stars. Begin to get to know the night sky by locating a few key constellations, like the Big Dipper (visible over much of the Northern Hemisphere in summer) and orienting toward those. The Big Dipper appears like a ladle (bowl) and handle. To find the North Star (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. (In the Southern Hemisphere, orient to the Southern Cross.) If possible, buy a portable star chart or get acquainted with the major constellations in your area and season. Consult your chart to find other stars and constellations, based on the ones you’ve already found.

Make summer fruit jam

Head to a farm, backyard or market while summer fruit is at its ripest, and pick your favorite peaches, apricots, plums, figs or berries and then make them into jam. If you’ve never tried canning, you may discover a terrific new hobby as you make family memories and lovely jars of jewel-colored jam that you’ll be able to give as gifts or open in the depths of midwinter to remind you of sunny summer.

These activities and more can be found in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Public Domain

 

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