DIY Backyard Activities.

There is still plenty of summer fun to be had even if we stay close to home.  You can get kids out of the house and keep them busy by making your own backyard a fun-filled oasis for the kids.  Besides the usual sprinkler, water balloon fights, and assorted water games, check out these really cool outdoor activities from Buzz Feed.  There’s backyard dominoes, lawn twister, bean bag toss, giant bubbles and a do-it-yourself slip and slide.

Many of the activities use things already on hand, so there is no need to invest in new gadgets.

hopscotch

https://www.buzzfeed.com/cieravelarde/suns-out-funs-out?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Parents%20614&utm_content=Parents%20614%2BCID_04fc34111fe2dc9b39baa67b7b04ef20&utm_source=BuzzFeed%20Newsletters&utm_term=.poglK3NawX#.cdy5Aw7rVb

summer pic

Happy summer fun!

Whistling Grass

Here is a simple and fun activity everyone can enjoy when you’re outdoors and anywhere near grass.  Just take a wide blade of grass and place it tightly between your thumbs.  Blow onto the small opening and the grass will whistle!

It actually sounds like a turkey call.  Try different blade thicknesses and widths to see if you can change the sound.

 Can you make up a song using this whistle from nature?

Free Rice: Increase Your Vocabulary and Feed the Hungry.

There is a wonderful site that I go to now and then to challenge my vocabulary.  It’s called Free Rice.  Not only are there levels of difficulty to help develop vocabulary skills, every time you successfully define words, grains of rice are added to your account.  This number quickly adds up.

Where does this “Rice Money” go?  To those in need.  For each answer you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

We spend so much time on social media and computers.  Why not take a few minutes to help ease hunger while doing it.  Here’s the link to the site:

http://freerice.com/#/english-vocabulary/1458

Over 96 billion grains have been donated to date

WARNING: This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance.  It also makes you feel good.

 

National “Go Fishing Day”…Take a Kid Fishing.

Tomorrow, June 18, is NATIONAL GO FISHING DAY.  Fishing has been around as long as man and women have.  It is a major industry that yields billions of dollars worldwide annually. It is also a great recreational activity for everyone, young and old. It’s a way to add food to the table and an opportunity to bond with family and friends.

The benefits of fishing are numerous. Did you know fishing actually boosts your immune system? When you do something you enjoy, your body responds by healing and strengthening itself. Being out in nature helps promote relaxation and is a way to practice calm and patience. It can lower blood pressure and can be done individually or with others. You can fish from the shore, from a boat or by standing in a stream.  However you decide to do it, why not teach a kid, your kid or a friend’s kid, to fish.

Check your local recreational areas for competitions and rules regarding proper fishing etiquette. Even during this Covid-19 pandemic, it’s okay to go fishing. 

kid fishing

When you go fishing, or teach a child to fish, you never know what you might catch.

Here’s a case in point, where eleven-year-old JACK takes his five-year-old sister KATY to fish for the first time from my newest MG novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston)   WoCCover01

FISH
Katy feels sorry for worms
and won’t fish with them.
I make balls of dough
from the crusts of our sandwiches to
bait her hook.

She breaks every rule about fishing.
Making loud noises, scaring the fish.
She can’t stand in one spot
more than a minute without
dancing
wiggling
spinning
tangling the fishing line,
asking so many questions
my ears are ready to
EXPLODE!!!

When are we going to catch a
FISH!!! she shouts for the
tenth time, dropping her pole to
chase a butterfly.
Fish don’t come around when it’s noisy,
so zzzzip your lips, I say.

She pretends to zip her lip,
humming the tune to
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Good grief.

FRED

After lunch I’m ready to leave.
No fish today, let’s go, I say.
Maybe the fish don’t like worms.
Maybe they’re veterinarians, Katy says.
She means vegetarians because
she hands me a grape and says
put it on the hook, Jack, please?

Can you sit without making a sound,
quiet as a stone?
She puts a finger to her lips, Shhhhh.
I hook the grape, toss the line,
hand the rod to Katy.

Before I settle onto the grass,
the line gives a tug.
Too heavy for me, I can’t do it, Jack.
I grab the rod and pull a fish out,
a fish with one eye.

It’s Fred, I tell her.
Katy strokes Fred’s tail with a pinkie.
A special fish, I say.
Like magic special?
Katy’s two eyes as wide as Fred’s one.
Don’t know, I say.
Katy frowns, so I say,
make a wish, quick before Fred goes back.

Pancakes for supper! she wishes,
kissing Fred on the tail.
Pancakes, I agree. As I slip
Fred into the water, he seems to
wink his eye before he swims away.

While you may not catch a fish that grants wishes, taking a child fishing will be something you’ll both remember for a long time. 

Once You Get a hold of Yeast…Make Fool-Proof Soft Pretzels.

I’ve made these soft pretzels with developmentally delayed Pre-K classes for years and have never had an instance when they didn’t turn out well.  The only prep needed are clean hands, a sheet of waxed paper for each student, and an oven. ( I used a toaster oven in the classroom and they turned out great.)

SOFT PRETZELS: 1 pk. yeast,  4 C. flour ( I use 1 C. whole wheat, 3 C. regular),  1 1/2 C. warm water,  1 T. sugar,   1 T. salt,   1 egg beaten for glaze,  poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse salt, Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

1. Mix yeast, water, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

2. Stir in flour. Knead until smooth. Here comes the fun part. Give each child a glob of dough to roll and shape into the first letter of his/her name.  This will ensure that each child gets his own pretzel when it comes out of the oven.  Once they are shaped and placed on a cookie sheet, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with the seasoning of your choice.

3. Bake at 425 degrees for 15- 18 minutes, or until lightly browned. They may look crazy, but they will taste great. Guaranteed! The texture is like a bagel and it’s hard to eat just one.

Enjoy, and let me know how it goes. I’d love to see the results.

Backyard Camping, Kite Flying and Other Summer Pleasures.

While places are beginning to reopen and we are staring to venture beyond our own backyards, many of us are still worried about summer travel and vacations. Until we are back to a world where we can come and go without worry, why not tap into some of the fun things you may have enjoyed as kids and make some family memories?

CAMPING in the backyard can be as simple as setting up a pup tent and sleeping bags for a night out in nature. But make it a bit more exciting for the kids by packing snacks, roasting hotdogs on a grill or campfire, and bringing flashlights. You can make shadow creatures inside the tent, tell scary stories, capture lightening bugs in a jar, and be the first to wake up and greet the sunrise.

KITE FLYING never gets old. There is a real sense of fun being able to get a kite up into the air and watch it soar. You can buy kites in all prices and from all materials. But, wouldn’t it be fun to try making your own kite?  Here are TWO videos that show you how.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&qpvt=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&view=detail&mid=E165F33EF575A90EE1EAE165F33EF575A90EE1EA&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26qpvt%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26FORM%3DVDVVXX

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&qpvt=make+your+own+kites+for+kids&view=detail&mid=2C48F22FA01A847BAD612C48F22FA01A847BAD61&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26qpvt%3Dmake%2Byour%2Bown%2Bkites%2Bfor%2Bkids%26FORM%3DVDRE

Here are two poems from my MG novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston) where 11 year-old Jack and his 5 year-old sister Katy get ready for a camp out in their grandparents backyard.

HUGE
Katy makes a huge deal
out of the camp out with Jill.
For me, getting ready is
putting a sleeping bag and pillow in
the tent with a flashlight, canteen of water.

Katy packs like she might be gone for a week,
stuffed animals
every sock she owns
her favorite books
Bouncy, the beachball
All stuffed into the tent that seemed big enough,
but now looks like it might explode!

It’s one night, I say.
This is what I need for one night, Jack.
Where will Jill put her sleeping bag? I ask.
Katy pats a skinny spot next to
the wall of the tent.
Right here, next to me, she beams
like her face is made up of
lightening bug butts.

The idea of a sister,
even a borrowed one,
is too much for a
little kid to hold inside.

PINK

Katy vibrates with excitement,
all three of us in the tent.
There is so much pink,
I feel like I’m stuck
inside a cotton candy machine.

We catch lightning bugs
and take Bouncy for a hop in the dark.
Jill ties fancy knots like sailors do
and has a pocket knife like the one Dad gave me.
She shows us how to blow a whistle,
a blade of grass pressed between our thumbs.

I teach her how to finger snap.
We don’t stop until our fingers get sore.
We take turns reading Katy’s favorite books,
making goofy voices for the characters,
until Katy yawns and closes her eyes.kites

Enjoy some simple summer fun camping, or kite flying, right from your own neighborhood and backyard.

 

 

#BIKEMONTH: Get Out and Ride

You may or may not know that MAY is #BikeMonth. What is a more iconic sign of spring heading into summer than taking a bike ride? During a recent post on this blog featuring the wonderful PB by Teresa Robeson TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING, I asked readers the question about their favorite memory from childhood involving a bike.

Mine involves the one and only bicycle I had as a kid – a turquoise Columbia bike with a white and turquoise vinyl seat, and wire basket in the front for carrying whatever treasures I deemed necessary for a ride. I got the bike for my twelfth birthday. Up until that time, after graduating from a tricycle at 5 or 6, I was bikeless. So, it wasn’t until the ripe old age of twelve, that I learned to ride a two-wheeler.  That’s not something you’re likely to forget. Didn’t take long to master it, and once I did, there was no going back. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere.

I only have one faded black and white photo of the bike. But here is what it looked like…at least this is what I remember it looked like from this internet photo. Pretty sweet, huh?

See the source imageSo now that we are getting back out into the world again post-virus, how about sharing some of your favorite childhood bike adventures?

Here is a share of sorts: the main character from my new MG WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY discovers his Dad’s old bike while he is visiting his grandparents house. Do these next few poems bring back any memories of your childhood biking days?

BIKE

I find a bike, a red Schwinn,
covered in cobwebs in Pops’ shed.
One flat tire and the chain needs oil.
A polish with some of Pops’ car wax
brings back the shine.

A Joe DiMaggio baseball card is clothespinned
to a spoke on the back wheel, like my bike
at home, with a picture of
Mickey Mantle in the same place.

Can I ride it, Pops?
You bet, he says.
Your dad rode that bike everyday until
he got a car.
Pops chuckles when he tells me
the bike has a name.
Flash

Todd rode like a Flash all over town.
I stare at Pops. He can’t see me
because he’s remembering,
watching Todd,
Dad,
ride Flash.

RIDE

I take Flash for a ride,
gliding through the air like
a warm knife glides
through butter. The seat
feels like my butt has been there before.

I pedal until my legs
are
on
fire.
Going everywhere
nowhere
anywhere
but here.

What would happen if I rode forever?
Would I stop thinking about Dad?
Would I stop missing our house
and the fort Dad helped me build
in the backyard?

If I rode backwards
Could I go back in time
to when everything was
boring
dumb
ordinary?
Why did I complain
when things were so good?
 
Why do I only miss something
once it’s gone?

GIRL

I streak past a bike on the side of the road,
pink and purple streamers on
the handlebars. Where’s
the girl who rides?

I stop, look around a field
filled with wildflowers.
In the middle, a girl as wild as a bird
spins
dances
jumps
through the tangle of blooms,
a fistful in one hand. She
stops
waves
shouts hello
as she runs up to me.

My name is Jill.
Jack, I say.
She giggles as she sings
that old rhyme that has our names.

When she’s done singing, she
smiles and says, Don’t
expect me to
tumble
crumble
or fumble.
I’m
not that kind of
girl.

What kind of boy or girl were you when you rode your childhood bike?

Happy #BIKEMONTH.

Nancy Viau Presents:Virtual Beach Activities Because TODAY IS (or Could Be) A BEACH DAY + Chance to Win A Copy!

Today it is my pleasure to feature a great new PB by fellow author friend NANCY VIAU: TODAY IS A BEACH DAY (Albert Whitman & Company, Illustrated by Charlie Adler). Here’s Nancy:

 

Sunny days are for the beach. Pretty pails. There’s one for each.

Who will spy the sea and cheer?

ZIP! ZOOM! STOP!

Hey, we’re here!

TODAY IS A BEACH DAY!

Wait…What? It’s NOT a beach day?

SIGH. Oh, right, the Coronavirus—the scary, horrible disease that is keeping everyone at home. We’ll have to make do with a virtual beach day!

Beach Day cover jpeg

First, read TODAY IS A BEACH DAY! by Nancy Viau, illustrated by Charlie Alder. The book can be ordered via your favorite independent bookseller, Amazon, or any number of places.   https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780807593967

You can also leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. Tell us your favorite beach activity and I’ll enter your name in the random drawing. Share this post on social media for a second chance to win.

Next, use your imagination and dream of a warm and sunny beach as you try the following activities.

SCAVENGER HUNT

Get together with your family and race to find the items below. They do not have to be beach-themed. Perhaps it’s something in your garden, garage, bathroom, or closet. Be creative. Take SAND, for example. What could substitute for SAND?

READY, GO!

Sand

Sea

Beach Towel

Pail or Bucket

Shovel

Sunscreen

Umbrella

Beach Ball

Bathing Suit

Flip Flops or Sandals

Snap a photo of the winner and/or the items. Post it in the comments.

 

ACTIVITY 2: MAKERSPACE

Can you build a sandcastle without sand? Try using shoeboxes, toys, blocks, Legos, soup cans, cereal boxes, or books!

Snap a photo of your castle. Post it in the comments.

Beach3

ACTIVITY 3: OCEAN IN A BOTTLE

This science activity is explained in a Teacher Guide produced by Deb Gonzales. It’s FREE to download from Nancy Viau’s website, so give it a try!  https://www.nancyviau.com/teacher-guides/

See you on the beach!

 

Darlene’s Review for TODAY IS A BEACH DAY:

“Come along for a trip to the beach in this lively, sensory story written in alliterative rhyme. Little ones will experience the sights, sounds, textures, tastes, and feelings a day of sand, sun, and surf have to offer. A perfect read-aloud for the youngest beach lovers.”

Nancy Viau

 

Nancy Viau is the award-winning author of Today Is a Beach Day!, First Snow (2019 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Winner), City Street Beat, Storm Song, Look What I Can Do! and Pruett and Soo (forthcoming). Her middle-grade novels include Beauty and Bernice (2018 Foreword INDIES finalist), Just One Thing! (2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner), Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head, and Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen. A former teacher and kid-at-heart, she loves to visit schools to share her journey to publication and the writing process. Find her on Twitter or Instagram: @NancyViau1 or her website: www.NancyViau.com.

 

I Wish…I Imagine…Craft For Mother’s Day in the Time of Coronavirus.

While we are sheltering in place and social distancing, it doesn’t mean we can’t do something special to honor our moms, grandmas, step-moms, and the other women in our lives who love us and take such good care of us. 

This simple craft comes from my new book: WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY  (Creston).

WoCCover0111 year-old Jack, his 5 year-old sister Katy, and their mom Lily are spending summer with their grandparents as they wait and hope to hear word about Jack’s dad who is MIA in Vietnam. To help get through the worry and anxiety of not knowing his whereabouts, Lily tells them to “hold onto hope”.

When we hold onto hope, we can imagine better times and imagine how we hope things will be when those better times return.

At the end of their summer together, JACK, KATY, JILL, and CODY decide to make a hand wreath to symbolize their wishes, hopes, imaginings, for when they meet again a whole year away. Here is that poem from the book:

HAND
It’s Jill’s idea to trace everyone’s hand,
both hands actually, so we can make two circles
with hands joined together, fingers
touching wrists,
so it looks like a paper wreath.

Hands of friendship, Jill says, forever linked.
And holding on to hope, I say, thinking of Dad.
We trace the grown-ups hands, too,
all of us linked together
in a circle that doesn’t end, like the silly song.

Jill and Cody keep one circle
and I give the other to Gran and Pops.
We have to make another one, Katy says.
I want a hand wreath so I can always remember
my summer of wishes and how all of them
came true.

Eyes wide, Katy says, Let’s write a wish
on each one so
next year we can see if they
come true without Fred.

Kid genius, Cody says, smiling at Katy.
I think we should keep them
secret, I say as we write down our
hopes and dreams on this third wreath.

We cover the back of each hand with
a paper door,
to be opened like a time capsule
next time we meet. We trade this new one,
the one with our
hopes and dreams,
for the one we gave Gran and Pops,
so we aren’t tempted to take a peek.

wish hands

You and your kids can do this, writing I WISH…I IMAGINE…I DREAM…on one side of each hand, and then what each hope, wish, or dream might be when we are over this pandemic and things are back to normal, on the reverse. Write down the things you’d want to do with your MOM or GRANDMA when you can be together again. Hang it up, or tuck it away and bring it out when we are free of self-isolation and see how many of your hopes, dreams, and imaginings came true.

Stay Safe, hold onto hope, and have a Happy Mother’s Day.

#BOOKWEEK2020atHOME: Make a Book To Keep or Share.

There are many ways to help your kids make simple books to record their poems, sketches, stories, and doodles. Here is a simple one that requires only a sheet of paper or card stock and a scissor.

1

Take a standard sheet of paper. Fold in half LENGTHWISE.   2

OPEN. Fold in half WIDTHWISE. Bring each side up to the MIDDLE so you now have EIGHT RECTANGULAR sections.    3

Holding the paper so the LONGEST PART of the rectangles are top to bottom, use scissors to cut a slit through the TWO MIDDLE SECTIONS as shown in the photo above.

FLIP the book upright so it stands as shown in the photo below, with the creased side facing UP and open edge facing DOWN.

4

Bring the open edges toward the middle:

6That’s It! You’ve made a small book to use for whatever you like. You can decorate the cover, and use them to send special messages, wishes, hopes, dreams, or whatever catches your fancy.

HINT: If you staple TWO BOOKS  – one inside the other – you will have more pages to use for your story.  HAPPY BOOK MAKING!

For more ideas of how to make simple books, visit: https://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/making-books-with-children.html

5