May 17, 2012

Making the Most of Summer Sanity Savers

If you're looking for more great FREE things to do with your children this summer, you can also check out my previous blog posts labeled SSSS (summer sanity savers series.)  Be sure to click read older posts to see all of them.

Extending the Fun

Very often, a trip to the park or a walk around the neighborhood or a stroll through the woods can be enough to keep kids entertained and active for a few hours.  We scatter these kinds of activities in with our "field trips."  Some of the trips listed in the previous post can be turned easily into activities that get kids thinking, using art, science, math, and reading skills without even realizing it.

Here are some things that we do to make our trips more meaningful.

Before the trip:
  • Predicting.  This is a great critical thinking skill for children to practice.  Maybe you're going to the same park you've been to a million times, maybe you're trying out a new place for the first time.  Either way, you can teach or practice predicting skills on the way.  Walking/driving/riding bikes--it doesn't mater.  This can be as simple as asking the kids "What do you think you'll see?"  It can be as complex as having the kids pre-write in a journal predicting what will happen on their trip.
  • Pre-planning.  Why should you have all the fun?  Ask your helpers to pre-plan the trip.  What do you need to take (sunscreen, hats, bat and ball)?  What do you hope will happen along the way?  Shall we pack a picnic?  What do we need to wear, based on the weather?  What mode of transportation should we take?  Again, this can be a short discussion before you leave or a writing or drawing project days before.
During the trip:
  • Don't forget that the getting there can often be as fun as the final destination.  What can you do along the way to make it more fun?  
  • Scavenger hunts are great fun.  You can make a list of things that you think you might find along the way.  This can be done as another pre-activity by the kids, or you can make up a list of your own or find one on the internet.
  • Don't want anything that structured?  Give the children bags and tell them to try to collect 10 items along the way.  
  • I Spy--we play this a lot.  It's more of a visual scavenger hunt, where we try to point out things that we see.  We also sometimes do themes--birds, animals, flowers, specific colors.  Ask everyone to find the letter C on something, then move to something else once it's been found.
  • Notebooks can be fun tools for extending the fun.  My older one writes a little "journal" of her activities, the little one just draws or scribbles.  I buy up tons of notebooks in the clearance section after school starts, and Target has cute little notebooks in their dollar spot.
  • Another way to track your activities is with a digital or disposable camera.  Allow the kids to borrow yours if you're brave, or buy a tougher kids' version of a digital camera.  The photo quality doesn't have to be great, but it sure is fun for them.
Post Trip/Summary:
  • These activities are great for a winding down activity or even to be saved for a rainy day or sometime when you don't have anything else planned.
  • On the way home, ask "what was your favorite part?"  Ask some leading questions, have them summarize the trip for a parent who couldn't come along, or call or write a letter about it to a grandparent.
  • Make a photo book.  These can be done with a few pieces of scrap paper or notebook paper stapled together.  Kids can draw or write about the activity and what they learned, what was new to them, what was their favorite part.  You can also use some of the great photo deals that are posted in order to make hardbound photo books printed out for use later, small photo albums or "brag books", and there are even blank book forms you can draw or paste pictures into.  These can be independent projects for older kids, cooperative projects for groups, or something you do for them if they are too young to do it themselves.
  • This is one we really like.  We use photosensitve paper and place the found items on the paper, then place it outside for a few minutes (longer if it's cloudy). The resulting "art" takes up a lot less room than keeping all the rocks, leaves, and pine cones. This kit is under $10 and has enough for several collages.

I hope this post can help with ideas to keep your children active, having fun, and learning all summer long.  Do you have a favorite activity?  I'd love to get more ideas from readers here. 

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