Category Archives: Activities

3 Simple Halloween Science Activities

A post written by Maya.

Halloween’s a time of dressing up, scaring people and eating candy. Simple and straightforward. Most kids would have decided what they want to dress up as by now. If they haven’t parents must be getting nervous about last minute requests and running around. The candy must be ready and the decorations might be in place in many homes.

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Scary House by Randy Robertson

Halloween is a good time to try some science activities. Most celebrations are a good way to learn new things. Celebrations matter, for it’s a good opportunity to learn of new things. Something fun and simple for younger kids. Science Games listed on popular sites are useful for busy parents, but this year we wanted the kids to try some Halloween science activities. Here are three that we liked:

  1. Glow-in-the-dark Skeletons

What you need are ice cream sticks, card paper, some glow-in-the-dark paint, double sided tape and a pair of scissors.

Pull out some pictures of skeletons. Get the kids to assemble the ice cream sticks to resemble a skeleton. Use the double sided tape to stick them together. Find ways give them some movement. For the skull, use some card paper to cut it out.  Use the glow-in-the-dark paint to personalize the skeleton. Once your skeletons are ready have fun playing with them.

2. The Apple Experiment

What you need is an apple, some lemon juice, a plastic bag, water and salt.

Make a mild water and salt solution. Squeeze out some lemon juice into a bowl. Make thin slices of the apple. Leave some as it is in a bowl. Take a few slices And soak them in the salt water. Dab some lemon juice on a few other slices. Leave it for an hour or so. Now check the slices. Talk about why some slices are browner than the others. Explain oxidation. Speak of other food items which turn brown on keeping in the open.

3. Make Some Oobleck

Gather some water, corn starch, bowl and a spatula.

Pour some corn starch into a bowl. Let the kids feel it, the fineness of the powder. Then slowly pour in some water to make it a firm mass. Let the kids play around with it – dip their hands in it, squeeze it between their fingers, spread it thin etc. Get them to make it watery. Does it thicken with time? Is t solid? Or is it a liquid? Does it stay the same? Get the kids to drop small things into it. Ask them to observe if they sink or stay on top.

The idea of encouraging kids to enjoy such experiments is for them to get curious. To look at things with eyes which look beyond the obvious. To wonder. To think about such things. To talk things out. We might be parenting in the digital age, but the physical world is a wonderfully interesting place to live in. Such activities makes kids more observant about things around them and build a foundation for future interests.

 

 

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5 Activities For This Summer

Summers are a good time for kids to put away their devices and homework. Kids need to switch off from online games and explore non digital activities. After all human beings are a part of nature and it’s important to stay plugged into a system that we are part of. Being in touch with nature regulates well-being, keeps the senses sharp and gives kids a sense of cyclical continuity.

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Sprinkler Fun by Donnie Ray Jones

Many of the modern day lifestyle problems that kids have developed can easily be sorted out with a massive dose of Vit-N. Here are 5 summer activities for you to explore:

  1. Get the kids to explore the geography around where they live. Take the kids out to parks and open spaces close to home. Let them feel the soil and grass under their feet. Open up a map and talk about the contiguity of land. Spot rivers and other water bodies close by. Wade through the water and throw pebbles in. Talk of the source of drinking water. Get them to wonder where all our dirty water goes. Help them wonder about where our trash goes.
  2. Spot our fellow creatures in the world. If you live in an urban jungle watch out for birds which have found new nesting places. Help kids understand the importance of our little insect friends. Teach them to observe plants and insects. Spot the caterpillars, butterflies, wasps, bee hives or the many other signs of nature in our concrete hubs. In case you need to learn more to get your kids interested, many universities put out a lot of information about our fellow creatures on their departmental sites. There are a lot of dedicated scientists/commoners who love sharing their information on virtual and real world spaces.
  3. Get kids to photograph the same things through various parts of the day. When they see the same scene/thing photographed under various conditions of light, they understand the impact of the Sun, and how we fit into the astronomical world.
  4. Try Hapa Zome, a craft activity. Get the kids to collect leaves and flowers in various colors and shapes. Lay them out on a piece of clean white cotton cloth with no starch. Spread a piece of tissue on the plant matter and hammer gently on it. This will help release the pigments onto the cloth. Peel the plant matter off to see the prettiest of designs. Kids can hang their piece of art on the wall or on the refrigerator at home.
  5. Run a scavenger hunt in a park. This can be an intensely fun activity in a small neighborhood park. Make lists of things to be found. Distribute it among the groups. Help the kids find them. This will help them explore the park in ways you had never imagined. Give clues which will make them look for things from different perspectives. E.g. Spotting an owl home or a type of ant nest in the ground.

These are just sample activities. Parents and kids can get more inventive. Use the parks and public spaces. Frequently our memories define us. Summers are a great time to make some great memories. Spot your fellow beings on the planet. Help your kids understand how everything in nature is woven tightly together. Enjoy the summer!

 

Put Away Those Reading Games

Yes, get the kids to put away those reading games and pull out their walking shoes. Spring is officially here 20th March on. As new life blooms in nature, it’s time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

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Sakura tunnel by akaitori

Spring’s in the Air

After the miserable cold, spring is welcomed with open arms. This is celebrated across the world in many different ways. Some are new age celebrations, while others have a history of thousands of years. Vitamin-Nature is something which kids need massive doses off. As our lifestyle changes, lives are getting busy and kids as well as adults spend very little time outdoors. This is not a good sign for younger kids. Hit the park or the playground. Younger kids need to spend a lot of time in nature. This is crucial for their sensory development.

Getting a big dose of Vitamin-N

Kids need to run about with shoes and without. They need to jump, tumble, hop, skip and spin with abandon. This helps in their health and development.Movement is crucial in the developing years. Many of the problems associated with kids’ development and health, like childhood obesity and sensory processing disorders, can really be helped with large doses of nature. Interestingly in Washington DC, children are prescribed doses of spending time at the park! Yes, it’s called Park Rx and it’s a communtiy initiative.

Swinging by themselves – basic playground stuff

Many kids much beyond preschool do not know how to swing by themselves. Parents rarely give pumping on a swing any thought. It’s complicated and crucial to developing musculature and coordination. Once the child is confident to sit in a regular swing and they are ready to follow your direction to hold the chains tight, start them slow. Coach them to stretch their legs and fold it as the swing starts up. Before you know it, they’ll get into the rhythm of swinging, and you’ll see the kids jumping off in mid-air and 2-3 of them swing all at once on swing! Make sure they are careful around others swinging high.

Enormous benefits

The benefits from nature are enormous for the development of kids. This does not mean going and living in a forest with your family. It just means increasing association with natural environments. Apart from parks, families can start small gardens. Watching something grow can fascinate kids. Get a pet. Buy fresh ingredients to make a meal and involve the kids. Soon they might be involved in cooking a Thanksgiving meal!

Encourage them to enjoy the rain, wind, sun and the snow. Do some activities which involve nature – hapa zome, flower drying, planting seeds, vegetable printing or anything that interests the kids.

Winding Up

My parents have always told us stories about the simple things they played with – cartons, tins, pieces of wood, bottles, sticks, newspaper etc. With massive doses of imagination, they got really inventive with their playtime. From such open ended play to the high levels of structured play that kids get, the move has been rapid and not fully beneficial. It’s time for a prescription of Park Rx!

 

Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas

We decided to help the kids make Valentine’s Day gifts at home. Our extended family enjoys  giving gifts and this year we decided to make them ourselves. Not all, at least a few of them. We are not very craft oriented, but we frequently get ambitious!

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Crafting with Kids by Suzette – www.suzette.nu

Here are four crafts we tried:

  1. Making a Snowflake

We made this snow flake with ice cream sticks and stuck the ends together to make a snowflake which could be hung up. The kids loved this craft – simple and it involved glue!

2. Toss the Shell

We collected about a dozen eggshells before we got ready for this one. Trust me when I say, think it through before you attempt this – leaves quite a mess! Fill the empty shells with different colored paints. Now stand up your canvas at 4-5 ft distance. Throw your shells at the canvas. The patterns created by the breaking shells can be spectacular. Let the canvas dry. Trim the edges neatly and stick it onto a nice thick sheet of paper, and voila you have your art piece ready for gifting!

3. Googly Shades

This one now is a recycled craft. Maya donated an old pair of sunglasses, the kids got their glue and googly eyes out, and soon we had the googly shades ready. Now they are arguing about who gets to keep it!

4. I Spy Bottle

This was made with a recipient in mind – a young relative, who loved playing with little things. His parents were always hesitant about giving him small objects to play with, and this was a solution our kids found for him. They took many small objects and dropped it all into a transparent plastic bottle and added some free flowing uncooked rice, and sealed it tight. This could get thrown and tossed around safely.

Advantages of crafting with kids

The point about making crafts is the unadulterated fun kids have. We also like to think it gives kids a good opportunity to think independently, explore materials, combine odd materials, break open things and seal things in. They explore opposites even as they find things which go together. Kids learn how to make do with things they have – we ran out of glue and Maya’s mother rustled up this flour based glue in a jiffy.

Maya and I had some wonderful hours bonding with the kids as they spent time making these crafts. Our kids have gamed with their grandma and crafted with her. The silly laughter, chit chat, glue spills and messes are unforgettable. Even the cleaning up after helped our kids understand the importance of handling materials with care(who likes cleaning up anyway!). We make memories which come back to help us in difficult times.

Well, I’m not sure the googly shades will leave us, but the rest will be gifted away for sure. We are also very sure the young recipient of the I Spy Bottle will love it!

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

Get The Kids To Cook This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving we want the kids to help with the meal. They are gung ho about it, which is always a blessing. It’s going to be a large gathering with family and friends. Playing, arguing, watching the game, singing, walking; it’s all going to be part of the day. Hopefully we’ll make some good memories for the kids. Last year, we got a little lazy, and everyone just chatted while the kids ended up teaching online games to their grandfather, who is generally bad with all things digital.

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cooking by foam

Participation in Family Gatherings

Kids build a sense of participation when they are involved in family gatherings. It helps build their self esteem when they can see the fruit of their labor being enjoyed by many. While they participate in a large cooking project they also learn cooperation and team spirit. Our younger one always announces that he shredded the lettuce when we serve the salad!

Cooperation

A certain rhythm develops among the people as they work. Children learn to make room for the functioning of another person. It’s like a dance, people keep on taking different positions, occupying new spaces even as they vacate and make space for another. People wait their turn for some equipment. They learn about ingredients, processes and handling of things. They learn about the bounty of nature. The visual splendor of a sliced cabbage, the beautiful red tomatoes on green stems, browns on a well roasted turkey; I can go on. We look at cooking as a life skill, which will help anyone at any stage of their life.

Learning

Playing math games is always fun and entertaining. Kids and adults love them. Personally I like playing outdoor math games, but as parents we need to be creative with what we can turn into a game. Cooking’s a neat way to learn some math; proportions, volume, weights, measures, counts etc. – all these come into the picture.

Fun things kids can do in the kitchen

To give you an idea, here is a list of things which our kids have done in the past in our kitchen:

  1. Shredded lettuce
  2. Torn apart broccoli
  3. Cut out cookies
  4. Slapped dough
  5. Mashed potato
  6. Broken up cheese
  7. Scrubbed vegetables
  8. Drowned cupcakes in glaze

Reading it now makes me feel like we are bringing up hardened criminals!

There is always a way kids can help out in the kitchen. We just have to find the right thing to interest them, and make sure they are careful while handling equipment(if they do).

2 simple dishes kids can independently prepare

Vegetable salad

Give them the vegetables and dressing to be used. Let them wash, dry and prepare them. If it’s there first time, teach them, else let them manage. Give them a low work space to convenience them. Some kitchen towels, bowls to wash everything in and a plastic bowl to mix the salad. Once it’s all ready, you could transfer it to a nice glass bowl or plate.

Mashed Potatoes

Give the kids the ingredients – cooked potatoes, the dairy you want in the end dish, salt, herbs etc. The kids can peel and mash the potatoes. Then they can add the ingredients in the order you want them to. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Hope your Thanksgiving goes well!

 

 

Halloween the Old Fashioned Way

This year we decided to make a few Halloween crafts at home. Just. On a lark. The kids too were enthusiastic and this spurred us on. Maya is generally the one who has the patience for intricate crafts. I generally enjoy making things which are simple.

Here are two crafts we tried out:

Skeleton on a Stick

This is something my grandfather made for me. The idea remains the same, but this one looks slightly different from what he made.

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Things you need are some black card stock, silver pen, sturdy stick like the one in the image about 8″ long, pair of scissors, needle and thread, and glue.

Cut out a torso with skull, 2 legs, a skull and 2 arms in 3 pieces(upper arm, forearm and hand). Use thread and needle to put together the arms. Next attach the arms at the shoulders of the torso piece. Then sew the legs on. Stick this figure on to the stick, leaving a short length free at the bottom. Use the pen to draw the skeleton on it. Decorate as you wish.

Now twirl the stick back and forth between your thumb and forefinger. Enjoy the movement!

Popsicle Stick Spiders on a Web

We got this idea from here.

Things you need are 3 popsicle sticks, some colorful yarn, black paint and some glue.

Stick the three glue sticks together such that ends form a circle. Paint it black. Then take the yarn and wrap around the sticks like a web. Leave a length intact to hang it up.

If you tried making something, drop us a line. Happy Halloween!

 

Math Games with Younger Kids

Mathematics can be fun for many, but can also be a monster for others. It’s unfortunate if kids are afraid of math even before they start regular school. Frequently this happens because parents are afraid, and they pass on their fears to the children.

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Happy Kids by Caio Vinicius Reis de Carvalho

One of the easiest ways to reduce this fear it to talk math. Yes, talk. Mathematics. Talk quarter pizzas and half burgers. Exchange 5 peanuts for an almond. Ask the kids to distribute fruit to the family. We must surround kids with numbers. This makes kids comfortable with numbers and their concepts. This exposure will help them throughout their lives. Just like sportive spirit, an appreciation of mathematics has to be imbibed. Sometimes playing games is a great way to get kids into math.

Here are three Math Games to play with Younger Kids:

  1. Count your Steps

Count your steps as you walk. It could be to the bathroom or just till the front door. You could call out a number and your kid calls out the next. Make it more interesting by singing out your numbers, or you could sound funny. This is also a great way for kids to advance their counting abilities. You could even try reverse counting.

2. Weigh things

This can be messy but fun. You might have to wait a bit until kids can read out numbers. Trust me kids love doing this. Ask them to weigh one object against the other, just using their hands. Occasionally you could ask them to load two small buckets. They they could lift the two and decide. At the park use the see saw to talk about weight. Start with imbalance and see if balance can be achieved with the help of other kids. Children like to weigh their shoes, food, books, toys etc. Beware of finding a used nappy on the scale!

3. Count and throw

This is a great game to be played indoors or outdoors. Keep a large container. Pile up a few things which will not break, and not hurt. Aim and throw them into the container. Keep count of the ones which land inside. This game is also good for improving hand eye coordination. If you have a mix of kids, change the distance they throw from. To make it more exciting, throw things into water. Make sure objects are waterproof and make sure the mess is outside the house. Alternatively, you could also stand at a height and drop things into a bucket. Just make sure the kids do this safely.

As kids start school most of them get on to playing math games. Schools maintain resource links for kids. Always play the game you are allowing your kids to play. If you are happy with it, let the kids play. Some teachers are enthusiastic enough to design games for kids. It is definitely an age where kids learn through games. In fact education and gaming are evolving together. In spite of all this the first games played at home are the ones which leave a deep impression.