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Free At-Home Kids Activities

Here are ten activities I plan to do with J (and some with C, if they’re age appropriate for him too) this summer that you might want to try with your kids:

1. Fun with shaving cream: I’ve totally taken this idea from J’s day care. I’m planning to set J and C up in their booster seats at the dining table and then squirt a big dollop of Brian’s shaving cream in front of them to smear around and play with to their hearts’ delight. I’ll probably put some spoons and cups out too so they can play with it like they do with bubbles in the bathtub. Speaking of baths, this activity may be followed up by one!

2. Homemade play dough: I’m planning to let J help me make this, too. I want him to feel comfortable in the kitchen and hopefully grow up liking to experiment in the kitchen like Brian and I do. I love the fact that making our own play dough saves money (we have all of the ingredients on hand already) and also that it’s all-natural. Here’s a recipe I plan to follow – found at instructables.com:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
  • food coloring

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a sauce pan and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken, and will eventually look like mashed potatoes. Watch for the dough to pull away from the sides and clump in the center. Be sure to keep cooking the dough until it is no longer sticky!
  2. Put the dough on a clean surface and knead it until it becomes smooth. Divide the balls into dough for coloring.
  3. Make a well in the center of each ball of dough and drop some food coloring in. Fold the dough over and work the dye through until you’ve achieved your desired color.
  4. PLAY! Have fun with the dough and store it in air-tight containers when you’re done with it. And if your kids do happen to eat some, it’s perfectly fine.

3. Story time at the library: I know not every town will have the same availability, but I encourage you to check in to what your town has to offer. Our program is great, especially in the summer. There are times for each age group, so we’ll go once a week for C and once for J. The time includes songs and, of course, stories. We usually stick around afterward to explore some books and play with puzzles. Our library also has a summer reading program, so each week children get a different prize for participating in story time. It’s important to us to encourage a love of reading to our children, and I hope they love going to the library as much as I did when I was younger.

4. Feeding the ducks: There’s a park here in town that has a pond with TONS of ducks, and I’m planning to take the boys to feed them. There are so many here that we’ll probably just stay in the car, roll the windows down, and toss bread out to them. You can usually find a loaf of past-date bread for a really reduced price at the grocery store, so this should just cost around $1.oo to do. We’ve done this before – J and C both thought it was a lot of fun!

5. Memory Game: I’m planning to make my own memory game for J to play – I’m going to cut 3×5″ notecards in half and then glue pictures to them (Note – if you do this, make sure all the cards are the same size). I’m going to put some family photos, and some images of Thomas trains or other characters J really likes. This is a really cheap project. I already have notecards, but if you don’t you can get them for $1.00 a package (or less). I think it’s fun to have the cards customized for your child’s interest, too. J actually really likes letters, so I may throw a few letters and even numbers in to make it more educational.

6. Rice Art: This is an alternative to sand art and is another fairly inexpensive project. Mix 1/2 cup (dry) rice with several drops of food coloring and 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar until the rice is evenly colored. Spread onto a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the rice has dried – check on it periodically to make sure it doesn’t dry out and burn. Once the rice is done, get an inexpensive container (find good plastic containers at Michael’s, or you could get a glass vase at Dollar Tree) and let your child pour in different colors to make designs. Use a straw to poke the layers for different designs. You can also use this rice to glue on to artwork.

7. Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt: Make grocery trips more pleasant for everyone by turning them into a game. When you come to items on your list that your child would recognize, go to the appropriate aisle and have them help you hunt for the item. I’ll probably do this and have us be getting items to make cookies – then we can get home and make them together. To make it more fun, you could have stickers and a chart for your child; each time they find an item, they get to put a sticker on the chart, and then you could have a small prize for them at the end of the shopping trip.

8. Homemade Placemats: This activity fulfills two purposes – a fun project, but also a potential way to make mealtime more fun. Get a large piece of construction paper (or even scrapbook paper, if you want a square placemat) and let your child decorate with photos, stickers, cutout shapes, markers – anything that is fairly flat. Then use clear contact paper on both sides to seal everything up, or take it to your local print shop to get it laminated. Most churches have laminating machines, so you could also see about paying to do it at your church’s AV room.

9. Bird Feeders: We did this when I was in Girl Scouts and I loved this activity. Get several large pinecones and tie yarn to the stem, making a loop that you can place over a tree branch. Using a spoon (for safety purposes; a knife would be easier, probably, but not exactly child-friendly!), spread peanut butter all over the pinecone. Shake birdseed onto a plate or other flat surface and then roll the pinecone, coating well with the seed. Hang the bird feeders in view of a window, then watch with your children for any visitors you get.

10. Bowling: We usually get soda in two-liter bottles, so I’m planning to start cleaning them out and saving them until I have ten saved up. These will be our pins, and then we’ll use a big ball we got at Target (for less than $3.00) as our bowling ball. If the pins seem too lightweight I’ll use dried pinto beans to weigh them down a little bit. I think this will be a game both C & J can play, since both the ball and pins are so large.

I hope you can use one or some of these to have fun with your kids this summer – and if you have any other ideas I’d love to hear them!

Christi

Word World Birthday

I figured I might as well keep the birthday theme going all week long – it ties in to my mindset right now in preparing for C’s party on Saturday, and it fits perfectly with all the blog partying going on with the Ultimate Blog Party!

Last year we chose to do a Word World theme for J’s 2nd birthday. If you have small children and have never seen this show, you really ought to check your listings and find out when the next episode is so you can catch one. Brian and I tried to really limit how much TV J watched (we’re not doing so well the second time around!) but Word World was a show we felt really good about. It’s comprised of animal characters that are made out of the letters that spell their name, like this:

J has loved letters for a long time (along with songs like Twinkle Twinkle and Jesus Loves Me, we sing the ABC’s each night before he goes to bed, at his request) and we really think part of it is due to him watching Word World.

As I was saying before I got distracted, we decided to do a Word World party. I got online to see what plates and napkins were available, and found something pretty amazing: FREE Word World birthday party resources. Continue Reading…

Grocery Store Bargains… and a Mess-Up

I’m getting better and better at the whole coupon thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a LONG way to go. I looked up ideas for organizing coupons, and some people put me to shame! I had been using a little accordion file with about 5 pockets in it, but I found it was really hard to view the coupons this way, and I ended up wasting some. I found this site that outlines some of the many ways people choose to organize, and decided that the binder approach would work best for me. I’ve bought the binder (and some tabs to separate different categories) but am on the hunt for the little baseball card sheets. Once I have everything together I’ll post about it so you can see the process. Continue Reading…