Tag Archives: Outdoor Play

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7 Ways to Play in the Mud on Kids to Parks Day

When my daughter was in pre-school, we used to rejoice when she came home with dirty feet. Sand between the toes? Yes! Caked-on mud? Bring it on!

Why? While we weren’t necessarily enamored with long scrubbing sessions in the bathtub (though those were fun, too), we knew that muddy feet–and fingernails and knees–meant that profound play was happening. We since learned that dirt can even be good for your health!

The 7th annual Kids to Parks Day, Saturday, May 20, is a national day of play. You can register for one of more than 1,200 events around the U.S. and join the fun, get out with your family and friends, and win prizes at the height of spring.

You can also enjoy Kids to Parks Day, or any kids-to-parks day on your own, in your local playground or park. Here are a few suggestions for creating some memorable, and maybe a little muddy, experiences.

… Before you head out, don’t forget to grab some good sports shoes that are rugged enough for play; affordable enough that you won’t be afraid to let your kids wear them outdoors; and ventilated, washable and drainable for those times when a little mud happens, or is even sought out. These are from Kids to Parks Day sponsor, Northside USA. (Keep reading for a giveaway featuring Northside USA Shoes!)

Make a Mud Pie or Garden Soup

The perfect kitchen may be outside! Find dirt or sand and a water source and pour batter-like mud into used measuring cups, pans, cupcake and pie tins, and pails. Decorate with leaves, petals and rocks. Or pour water into cups and bowls and add flower petals, food coloring or glitter inside to make potions and soups. Make a bench or a tree stump your cooktop, and “bake” away without any of the typical kitchen clean-up.

Read more from Jackie at Happy Hooligans (where these fantastic photos come from):

Garden Soup
Mud Kitchen Activity

Adopt a Flower and Watch it Grow

Do you often return to the same park or garden? “Adopt” a flower for the season and watch it grow over time. Bring a ruler or yardstick or measure it against your own body. Have space at home to plant a flower? Get some large seeds that little hands can tuck into the dirt, and plant easy growers like nasturtium, pea, beans, sunflowers or gourds. Growing edibles? You might want to sing this song:

Dirt Made My Lunch

Dirt made my lunch,
Dirt made my lunch.
Thank you Dirt, thanks a bunch,
For my salad, my sandwich
My milk and my munch ’cause
Dirt, you made my lunch.

Read more:

Beginner’s Guide to Getting Your Garden Growing
11 Ways to Make Gardening Extra Fun for Kids

Make and Sail a Paper Boat

This is a timeless idea that we got from our friend, Curious George, who made boats from the newspapers he should have been tossing on his paper route. Make your own paper boat and sail or race it in a creek or other body of water. Some of these boats have strings attached, so they can be launched without actually sailing away.

Play Pick Up Sticks or Pooh Sticks

The original pick-up sticks were ancient fortune-telling devices, but you can play this game anywhere, indoors or out, without even attempting to see the future. Hold your sticks in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. 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 person takes a turn. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total either their number of sticks – each one is worth one point. Near a creek or stream? Try your hand at Pooh Sticks, a stick-racing game inspired by Winnie the Pooh.

Build a Sandcastle or Make Sand Art

It isn’t officially spring until you get some sand between your toes at a beach park or sandbox. Pack the wettest sand you can find into mounds to make castles or carve them into other designs.

Decorate your creations with flags, or twigs, shells or other found objects.

Raise your own tadpoles

What better way to explore the cycle of life than to raise tadpoles and then release the frogs back into ponds and streams? Kids won’t soon forget this fun project. Looking for more pond activities? Try making a collecting cattails, making a water scope, or one of these other activities for a day at the pond from KCEdventures.

Photos: Rainy Day Mum, KCEdventures

Explore a Tidepool 

When the ocean recedes, the mysterious undersea world is revealed, and creatures like barnacles, crabs, periwinkles and sea stars can be seen if you walk among them gingerly. Read how and where to explore tidepools and how to preserve tidepool habitats for the enjoyment of others.

See more photos from our trip to the tidepools.

How will you play outside on Kids to Parks Day?

Register to be counted on Kids to Parks Day and you may win one of many cool prizes, including a special camping package from The North Face (4 sleeping bags, tent, and duffel bag), or one of the additional prizes from CamelBak (family hydration pack), Eastern National (Jr. Ranger package including a park pass for a whole year), and National Geographic (a set of kids’ books about nature and parks). How great is that?

Plus, every person who signs up will receive a special promo code from Northside Shoes. Keep checking the list of Kids to Parks Day events as we get closer to May 20th. There are new park events added each week!

… And, remember how I mentioned the importance of having shoes you can feel good about wearing for mud and other outdoor play? I’m giving away a pair of Northside Shoes! To enter, take the pledge to play outside on Kids to Parks Day Saturday, May 20, and then leave a comment here, telling me that you pledged and how you plan to play outside. If you have a favorite mud-play activity, I’d love to hear about that, too. The giveaway will end Friday, May 19, 11:59 p.m. PST. A random winner will be chosen. The winner must reside in the U.S.

Good luck!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Public Domain, Happy Hooligans, Rainy Day Mum, KCEdventures

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.

(Read on for info about Galileo Camp and Natural Nester DIY Camp.)

BackyardLearn3

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.

summerbutterfly

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.

Saving Seeds

What better way for kids to learn about the process of seeds becoming plants than to collect, save, plant and grow their own seeds? Seed saving is fascinating, rewarding, frugal and fun!

DIY photo2

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.

boat_race_5

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.

beaded_spider_web

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.

bubble1

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.

suntea2

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.

shootingstar_big_o

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.

San Francisco Bay Area parents, want to find a camp that inspires summer learning and fun? Check out Galileo Camps, with over 40 Bay Area locations. Use code: 2014INNOVATION for $30 off.

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!

schoolsout-2ndannual-button-500

Thanks to our sponsor, Galileo Learning.

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

A Neighborhood Walk Turns into a Hike to the Muir Woods, Thanks to New Book

We didn’t initially intend to hike five miles from our house to Muir Woods National Monument and back, but the first day of spring arrived quite beautifully and, inspired by the new book, We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors, by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer (illustrated by Denise Holmes), my daughter and I set off on a pretty and hilly local trail. We loved the idea of welcoming the season with a hike, as well as the notion of leaving right from our house and walking to the trail head. We thought we’d walk one way, and had arranged for a pick-up at the end of the walk.

Keffer and Tornio are the authors of  The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book, reviewed here last year, and their new book, which delightfully arrived in time for spring, expands nicely on their theme of providing easy ideas that families and others can use to create their own nature adventures. The book serves as a journal, as well, with questions that prompt readers to think, write and draw about their nature time.

Our first-choice activity from the book? “Hike on a trail near your home and write about what you discover.” We added some photos as well.

Anna and me, setting off on our adventure.

Pride of Madeira plants were sighted while climbing our first hill out of our neighborhood.

A kind and creative homeowner shows the way to the Dipsea Trail, a trail that winds seven miles from a canyon in our town of Mill Valley, CA, to the sea at Stinson Beach. We will take the Dipsea partway.

We entered Mt. Tamalpais State Park.

Anna is at the precipice, eyeing the trail below.

We descended into canyons of ferns, redwoods and bay trees.

We spotted a spectacular Douglas Iris.

And a Beach Morning Glory.

We made it to the Muir Woods, about 2.5 miles from the start, feeling pretty accomplished.

Muir Woods has lovely creeks running through it that are home to spawning salmon.

Muir Woods is also home to thousands of old-growth coast redwoods, the tallest living things in the world. This redwood fell on Winter Solstice, 2012. A sign nearby told us that it was an elder that had had a good life and deserved respect.

Tired, but also reenergized from being in the beautiful woods, we traced our steps back toward home.

The hikers, five hours and a great adventure later.

Prompted by the book, and this hike, we immediately planned our next one! A few days later, we took the Dipsea Trail in the opposite direction than we had the first time and went into our town for a shorter (but stair-filled) loop walk. Later, we plan to keep going on the Dipsea Trail, past the Muir Woods to the ocean (and take someone up on that ride home).

Some other adventures we are eager to try from We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors this spring and summer include:

Design your yard and garden to be butterfly friendly.

Experiment with starting seeds.

Reuse an object as a garden container.

Find inspiration from nature, and then create a piece of art.

Swim with your family or friends at a local lake, river or pond.

Discover the night sky through stargazing.

Can’t wait!

Would you like to win your own copy of We Love Nature! A Keepsake Journal for Families Who Love to Explore the Outdoors and a pair of KEEN shoes? Enter the Destination Nature giveaway today.

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Join Project Feeder Watch and Other Fun Citizen Science Activities
How to Save Nasturtium and Other Seeds
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
Nature Activities to Celebrate Spring

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

 

 

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

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

Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book Makes You Want to Go Out and Play

“Nature is a destination,” write Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, the authors of The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up. “But you don’t have to travel anywhere to find it. Just open the door and step outside.” That idea of fun and adventure in “nearby nature” infuses their entire delightful new book. This is an especially important concept at a time when kids are spending much more time with electronics than they are in the natural world. The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book offers a perfect counter-balance to indoor time, with activities that are easy for even the busiest families to enjoy.

The book is wonderfully, and helpfully, arranged by seasons (each of which is declared “the best season”.) Each season features an array of fun outdoor activities, so that a reader might be inspired to tap a maple tree or find a turtle in spring, catch a firefly or find fossils in summer, go owling or conquer a corn maze in fall, or go ice fishing or whittle a branch in winter. In addition to all the activities, which are presented in a fun check-list fashion and have guidelines as to the “adventure scale” of each one, there are plenty of larger-scale projects, outdoor games, destinations, and foods to make, so that families and others can be kept very busy doing the book’s activities over many years.

The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book  is very rich. It features a range of activities, from those that are simple to do, but might have escaped notice, such as “Roll down a hill like a log” (something my daughter loved to do) to more exotic ideas like “Go spelunking” in a cave. Rachel Riordan’s extremely cute illustrations complement the breadth of ideas in this  jam-packed, fun-filled book. Tornio and Keffer, who are judges in the 3rd annual ClifKID Backyard Game of the Year Contest, have captured the joy of being alive and the rhythm of the seasons and the natural world. Readers of this book will surely be inspired to open the door to their own outdoor adventures.

Want to get your own autographed copy of the Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book? Enter to win the CLIFKid ZBar and book giveaway.

Other Slow Family posts you might like:

Join Project Feeder Watch and Other Fun Citizen Science Activities
8 Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer
Have a Cloud Race
Keep a Moon Diary
American Academy of Pediatrics Advocates Recess for Kids

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

 

CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Playoffs Sat. 7/14 in San Francisco

For the second year in a row, the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Contest inspired kids from 6-12 to create the ultimate slow games, ones that can be played outdoors with simple or minimal equipment, like hula hoops, balls, or household items.

Last year’s winner, 9-year-old Sara from Plaistow, N.H. (shown here with Julie Foudy, three-time Olympic soccer medalist) created a Sponge Ball Fill-Up Game. You can even download instructions to play!

This year, there are six finalists in the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Playoffs, and the public is invited to Marina Green in San Francisco to play their six imaginative games: North Pole South Pole, Footloose Derby, Dance Tag, Tortoise and the Hare Ball, Sidewalk Chalk Adventure and Zombie Hunt. The finalists will be competing for a $10,000 educational scholarship, among other prizes. The Playoffs will take place Saturday, July 14 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The games will be judged by an expert panel that includes Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle and Founding Chairman of the Children & Nature Network, Olympic Gold Medalist Jonny Moseley, and Emmy Award-winning CBS 5 journalist Dana King.

The event is free to the public and the first 200 kids will receive a free T-shirt. There will also be live entertainment and organic snacks from CLIF Kid.

Marina Green is in San Francisco at Marina Blvd., between Scott and Webster Streets.

Here are some photos from last year’s Playoffs. And here’s to playing simple, original games outdoors!

Photos: CLIF Kid

 

Slow Down for Summer: Fun and Simple Outdoor and Seasonal Activities

I had such a great time on the Slow Down for Summer webinar that I did with KaBOOM! and with the many participants. We shared tons of Slow Summer ideas that emphasized fun and ease over equipment and preparation. These include old-school playground games that are ripe for a comeback and can be played most anywhere, crafts to get you outside on a nice summer day, activities to help kids observe and enjoy their surroundings (be they nature or city), and garden and harvest projects to help kids appreciate the cycles of nature and of life. There was so much information and so many wonderful ideas, that we just skimmed the surface in the time allotted. I think it got everyone thinking about the possibilities for wonder and fun and how to create more of each in their everyday lives. I know I came away with some great ideas!

You can visit the webinar anytime to get an idea of some of the things we discussed. And, of course, many of them can be found on my blog, on in future blog posts, as well as in my upcoming book, Fed up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.

Enjoy your Slow Summer!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Make this Easy Tie Dye Project
Loom and Finger Weaving
11 Ways to Make Gardening Extra Fun for Kids
How to Save Nasturtium and Other Seeds
Blueberry Tuesday: Summer Triple Berry Crisp

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