Posts tagged #18summerschallenge
How to have the best summer with your kids: The Summer Explorers

Do you know how many school days there are left for your children?

I do–19.

I would describe my feelings about 19 days left as a lively mixture of anticipation, excitement, and . . . dread. Summer has all sorts of blissful expectations (particularly in this part of the world where good weather shines on us a few months a year), and I so want it to be a fun, low-key, fabulous time for my three children AND me. The ten-week summer is also a ton of time together–potentially getting on each other nerves, saying "I'm bored" too often, and falling back on electronic devices for each of us.

But I'm not going to let my fledgling fears get in the way of a great summer. So, here's what I'm doing, and I really hope you'll join in, too.

We're going to approach our summer with a spirit of curiosity. Curiosity builds to creativity and diverse ways to view the world and the people who inhabit it. 

So we begin with this - what do you want to learn this summer? And we pursue their ideas. Secondly, we make our days colorful, messy, loud, and smelly. Many of the wonderful crafts and kitchen experiments that you may remember from childhood can be used to teach real learning, scientific concepts, art history, and so much more. There are also easy and high-quality projects you can do together with your kids that will make the summer weeks memorable and full.

I want to equip me and you with the best tools and possibilities to make this summer awesome. I’ve studied art to discover that possibilities are limitless, and I’ve studied education to learn how to share this knowledge with children. Bundling my experience with our need and desire to make this a wonderful June, July and August, let's be:

THE SUMMER EXPLORERS

PROJECTS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN TO DO TOGETHER 

While it's been quiet here on the blog, I've been working on a book project that I'm transforming into weeks of fabulous information and projects for you and your kids!!! I'm so delighted to offer full, detailed weeks of ideas with printables, instructions, links, and how tos you can use right away (in 19 days!!).

You can select a la carte and receive a specific topic week, or you can invest in the whole summer and move ideas around to fit your schedule. These downloads will save you all the searching on Pinterest and Googling, eliminate the midday ponderings of what to do next, and they'll equip you with fun facts to make all the creating together a rich learning experience, too.

EVEN BETTER . . .

I want to offer you a built-in back up - a community of smart and involved moms who want to enjoy their summer, too!! With my pal, Amy Christie of This Heart of Mine, we're putting our heads together to form THE STRESS LESS MAMA. This group will be your pep squad, your tutor, your wicked smart best friend, and your spot to share all the hilarious that comes up. Amy and I are delighted to get to know and to help moms be more present and more themselves through tips, ideas, strategies, and the secret sauce (well, really, there's no secret sauce, but we'll dream together, m'kay?)

Please click over to see all of the bells and whistles I want to send your way!! Let's make this a wonderful summer for us AND our kids.

MORE ABOUT THE SUMMER EXPLORERS AND THE STRESS LESS MAMA.

Simple Shibori for Kids
Bring fresh pattern and process to tie dying with your children through the ancient art of Shibori! A simplified process that's fun to follow.

Bring fresh pattern and process to tie dying with your children through the ancient art of Shibori! A simplified process that's fun to follow.

Every once in a while (pretty close to once a year), I work up the momma guts to brave the world of fabric dye with my children. My excitable young artists are drawn like happy moths to the flame of the permanent, color-rich saturation that only a dye can create. My thought this year? Let's go all in. Enter the beauty and variation of shibori.

Have you heard of shibori? I was first introduced in this post, and I recall admiring the beautiful results of folding, wrinkling, and twisting. Shibori dates back into ancient Japanese art forms of the 8th century using indigo powder to design patterns.

Shibori is an ancient Japanese technique used to dye and create patterns on fabric. Take the basic process and simplify it for a fun outdoor craft with the kids!

Shibori is an ancient Japanese technique used to dye and create patterns on fabric. Take the basic process and simplify it for a fun outdoor craft with the kids!

Using the basic concepts of shibori and capitalizing on modern liquid fabric dyes, my kids and I made some simple and modern shibori shirts. To give this a go, make sure you have these supplies:

  • White cotton shirts
  • Fabric dyes (squirt bottle versions work really well for kids)
  • Rubber bands
  • Cardboard tubes and squares
  • Twine/rope
  • Gloves and clothes you don't mind also dyeing
  • Glass bowls 

I highly recommend using an outdoor space to create when possible. We chose a sunny, warm day in our backyard, and we definitely dyed our grass!!  So be prepared that when you're working with kids (or clumsy parents, eh hem), you'll have permanent spills.

We tried four different techniques to find very different results. Hover over each photo to peek into the process. Follow the instructions on your fabric dye to ensure the desired effect. For all of our patterns, once the dye was fully applied, we wrapped the entire shirt (plus the tube in one case) in plastic wrap and set it aside for 24 hours. After a full day we unwrapped the shirt, rinsed and untied the shirt until water ran clear through it. We then hung them over a drop cloth to drip dry. Be sure that you wash these shirt separately, at least initially to avoid color bleeding.

Wrap t-shirt  on a diagonal  around a cardboard tube. Secure twine in a criss cross fashion all the way down the tube. Scrunch shirt as you go. 

Wrap t-shirt on a diagonal around a cardboard tube. Secure twine in a criss cross fashion all the way down the tube. Scrunch shirt as you go. 

THE WRAPPED TUBE

My 5-yo used two different dyes (one starting on each end) to make a very cool and unintentional ombre effect. The wrapping and folding of the shirt allowed the color to saturate on the edges and form stripes. This technique was a great one for young hands. With just a thin layer of material around the tube, my son could see and saturate the fabric as he wanted to. No mystery involved there, and it made for one happy camper in the end.

Bring fresh pattern and process to tie dying with your children through the ancient art of Shibori! A simplified process that's fun to follow.

Bring fresh pattern and process to tie dying with your children through the ancient art of Shibori! A simplified process that's fun to follow.

THE TWIST AND TIE

This is a fun design for the more adventurous soul because the unpredictability brings its own magic. To create this feel you tie the four corners of the shirt and twist each until they meet in the middle. Since the bound shirt is pretty thick be sure to saturate this one in dye for a while.

Take each corner of the shirt and tie a knot. Once you have all four knots, twist each knot until they meet up in the center. Keep the bundle tight together with overlapping rubber bands.

Take each corner of the shirt and tie a knot. Once you have all four knots, twist each knot until they meet up in the center. Keep the bundle tight together with overlapping rubber bands.

THE FLAT FOLD

Create a square from cardboard. We made ours 4 inches and then folded the entire shirt around it. We then bound the bundle with crosshatching rubber bands for a truly unique final product!

Create a square from cardboard. We made ours 4 inches and then folded the entire shirt around it. We then bound the bundle with crosshatching rubber bands

Create a square from cardboard. We made ours 4 inches and then folded the entire shirt around it. We then bound the bundle with crosshatching rubber bands

SPIRAL ROUND

This one is hippy tie dye meets shibori. This is a classic tie dye technique that works particularly well for adding a rainbow of colors. My 8-yo could easily see the sections that she wanted to color and could put them in the order she wanted them to spin. The spiral round becomes a large ball of thickness so be sure to soak the shirt thoroughly with dye for a bright finished product.

The classic tie-dye pattern derived from shibori methods. Find your center point, and twist the entire shirt to create a spiral-galaxy-like bundle. Section off areas to focus dye by adding 2-4 rubber bands.

The classic tie-dye pattern derived from shibori methods. Find your center point, and twist the entire shirt to create a spiral-galaxy-like bundle. Section off areas to focus dye by adding 2-4 rubber bands.

We all loved exploring the varieties of possibilities these new methods offered! Having you given Shibori techniques a try? I'd love to see what you created!

xoxo, MJ

5 Places in Your Home that can Help Your Child Learn
Use these five places in your home as natural spaces for learning. Some creative ideas you'd never expect, but ones you'll use after reading this post!

Use these five places in your home as natural spaces for learning. Some creative ideas you'd never expect, but ones you'll use after reading this post!

As a teacher alum (AKA former teacher), I'm always interested in finding natural, positive ways that my children can fall in love with learning. We (my husband and I) utilize the summer months and casual moments together to reinforce what happens in the classroom as well as open up new avenues for curiosity and learning.

Your home can be a fun place to bring subject matter to life, and to practice and hone in on the challenges your child might be encountering. Here are 5 places in our home that we use for learning:

Use your stairways as a place to high five review learning concepts like site words and times tables. As she/he goes up the stairs, your child says the problem out loud and then gives a high five to the paper.

Use your stairways as a place to high five review learning concepts like site words and times tables. As she/he goes up the stairs, your child says the problem out loud and then gives a high five to the paper.

1. THE STAIRS:

This is a fun exercise in reviewing new and old information! I saw it over at Creekside Learning, and we had to give a it a try. (Ssshh, don't tell my kids they're learning as they're having fun high-fiving.)

The idea is this: Trace your hand onto sheets of paper and add facts that you want to remember. Think facts like multiplication tables or sight words. We have two sets up right now - one for my Kindergartener and one for the 3rd grader (see above). As each goes up or down the stairs, they say the problem (e.g.: "4 times 10 equals 40") aloud and then slap the hand. Using their hands and minds in collaboration helps children to reach a new level of connection. And why not have something to do as you go up and down the stairs? High fives!!

2. THE KITCHEN:

Natural opportunities for learning come up all the time in the kitchen! Measuring ingredients and learning fractions go hand in hand. Doubling recipes or halving them bring out the division skills. Authentic world cuisines bring in history and geography. 

We've brought the kids into the kitchen more and more to make great food and to learn great skills. Here are some easy tips on how to have more success (and joy!) with the kids. 

3. THE COMFY CHAIR OR FAVORITE WINDOW:

Sometimes the learning can be very casual and independent, too. Think of the natural places your children go for comfort or rest. For my children, there are comfy chairs near our sunny windows that are always filled with their presence. Not coincidentally we try to keep the shelves and tables near the chairs filled with books that my kids might want to pick up. I'm all for increasing their associations with comfort and reading. :) 

I like to switch out books for the holidays to catch their attention as well as move new series into the space. We also keep our new library reads in this space so that their reading choices are at hand just when they want to reach for them.

4. THE BREAKFAST TABLE:

A lot of our best thinking happens early in the morning, and the breakfast table can be a good environment for learning, too! Sometimes we use our kitchen's chalkboard wall to learn a new word or try a challenge word problem together. If your child is more on the quiet side first thing in the morning, consider leaving out a relevant newspaper article for him/her to read or even a maze to do while enjoying their morning meal.

5. THE GARAGE:

Ok, maybe I'm stretching the definition of home for this one, but for all of you parents out there who spend hours transporting your children every week, you most likely would consider your car an extension of your home. And all that time in transit can be great learning time, too! If motion sickness is not an issue for your child, have them keep a book next to their seat to read as you drive. If it is, consider checking out audio books that you can cue up for errand running and longer trips. 

Keep a BrainQuest pack of questions in the glove compartment that you can ask each other when you're getting gas or driving to school. 

And most importantly, show your children that you're passionate about learning and growing. Join in the fun with them, and you'll also be building special family moments!!

How do you incorporate learning into your home? We're always hoping to add new ideas!

xoxo, MJ

Create a Constellation Board
Help your children explore the stars with a constellation board! A great craft that brings in geometry and science.

Help your children explore the stars with a constellation board! A great craft that brings in geometry and science.

Summer nights are the perfect time to get out and explore the stars. We've had star gazing on our bucket list, and to kick it off we made a constellation board. Learning the star patterns that can be seen in the night sky as well as some of the stories behind their origins helps the world feel a bit smaller to young minds. If you're looking for some great reading on constellations, check out the picture book, A Zoo in the Sky with its bright and colorful illustrations.

The constellation I can always spot best is Orion the hunter, with his belt of three stars, but that constellation is visible in the winter sky for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. So I needed to brush up on my knowledge of the star patterns, too! I found the above fabulous constellation map at Mr. Printables, and I think it's the loveliest version I've seen.

From this map, we were able to explore the shapes of the constellations. Some constellations are more faint to the eye than others so we decided to study the original shapes to see if we could find all of the connecting stars. 

Taking this to the next level, we mapped out the shapes ourselves. To make a constellation board, you need:

  • A cork board
  • Pins
  • String in a few different colors
  • Scissors

Beginning with the Summer Triangle, three bright stars in the summer skies, we placed pins on the board and wrapped yarn around them. Tying a tight knot, we trimmed off the excess string. Next, we placed the pins for the stars in Cygnus which became a great lesson in geometry, scale, and art. 

We added the other two constellations that make up the Summer Triangle as well as a few other constellations that my children found particularly interesting because of their names or stories, like Hercules and Pegasus. To create a truly colorful piece of art, we chose a different bright-colored yarn for each constellation. The final product is a beautiful piece of string art that we have hanging for all of us to enjoy during the summer days and nights!

Constellation boards are a colorful, modern way to bring science into art.

Constellation boards are a colorful, modern way to bring science into art.

How do you share the intergalactic beauty with your children?

xoxo, MJ

Make Sponge Bombs
Sponge bombs are created from strips of household sponges. Follow this easy DIY to make these in a few minutes and play all afternoon long!

Sponge bombs are created from strips of household sponges. Follow this easy DIY to make these in a few minutes and play all afternoon long!

The summer weather has finally turned warm here, and we've been looking for ways to keep cool. I ran across this video from Inner Child Fun and decided we needed to add sponge bombs to our summer projects. Spoiler alert: these take 2 minutes to create!!

Sponge-bomb-supplies

Here's what you need: scissors, three sponges, and a hair tie or rubber band. Cut each sponge vertically into three pieces. You'll then have a total of nine thin strips.

Gather these in your hands, turn a few of the strips to make a round fistful. Tie together with the rubber band or hair tie.

Spread out the strips evenly in the ball and dunk in a cold bowl of water. (Ok, it doesn't have to be cold, but that definitely adds to the drama). We played catch in pairs with the sponge bombs, tracking how many consecutive catches we could make. These are also a lot of fun to throw AT someone in a sponge bomb fight.

Hot weather and time to play? Make some sponge bombs.

Hot weather and time to play? Make some sponge bombs.

And for a fun twist: have one person hold a bowl on their head. They work with a partner to try to catch the sponge bombs in the bowl. Play as teams to see who can catch the most (and get the wettest) in their bowls.

Are you ready to beat the heat?

xoxo, MJ

How big is the solar system?
Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

You are out of this world! And just how far is that? Our universe is so vast it's almost incomprehensible. Almost!!

Today we're shrinking the universe to fit in your backyard or local park. Using balls and your footsteps, you can explore the distances between planets and the sun. We found this great idea from here on how to imagine the vastness of the universe. We paired the Planet Roll Call chant we found from Scholastic (check out their resource page), and finally, we watched over and over this animated song with fun facts about the solar system. How did I not know that Venus rotates the opposite direction of earth?

Here's what you need to travel with us:

  • The printable above! It has the steps you need to take to walk the distances, learn quick facts about each planet, and colorfully label the 8 planets and the sun
  • 9 balls. If possible, find balls that would be similar to the sizes of the planets. The sun becomes the largest, Jupiter and Saturn should be the next two largest, and the rest get smaller from there, with Mercury as the smallest.
Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

Create a scale model of the universe in your own backyard by pacing off the planets! A great lesson with other fabulous planetary resources.

Here's our labeling process mid-way through. If you're motivated, you can recreate each ball to look like the planets. For this exercise, we wanted to keep things simple so we taped the names to each of the nine balls.

Beginning with the sun and taking steps from there, we put the planets in order. As a fun example, I asked C to put her finger next to our model earth. This distance across one finger is the relative distance to the moon.

Imagine that's the furthest that any human has traveled thus far! Looking back from Neptune, it seemed almost an invisibly small fraction of the universe.

I found myself understanding the solar system in new ways, too! Thinking about how life might be possible on other planets due to their proximal nature to the sun, but also nearly impossible for many others because of the extreme distances of others.

Also, the sun is our closest star, and the next closest star, Alpha Centauri, is another 200 miles in steps, even in our scaled model. Amazing!! And lots of whoas from the kids.

Our planet exploration was a wonderful reminder of the vastness of the universe and our relatively tiny spot within it.

Give this unusual walk a try and see how much you can discover about the expansive nature of the solar system!

xoxo, MJ

P.S. We're moving onto a study of the night sky through the story of constellations tomorrow! You'll need a corkboard, string/yarn, and some pins/pushpins.

Balloon Rockets
Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

Balloons are always around our house, usually used for balloon volleyball, and today we're transforming them into rockets! Have you launched a balloon rocket before? It's a simple way to show cause and effect and a fun way to have races in the backyard (or in the living room on a rainy/snowy day).

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

Watch how the force of air leaving a balloon can launch a rocket!

To make your own you'll need, balloons, scissors, string, a straw, tape (we used packing tape to make sure our straw and balloon stayed together), and an image of rocket. We drew ours on some poster board. Any image you create or print will work just fine as long as it's not too heavy.

Select an elevated course to use: we decided to go from the post on our back deck which is three stairs off the ground down to the grass. If you're indoors, you can go from a cabinet handle or a railing to the floor. With the rope, I tied one end around a deck post. On the other end I threaded half of a straw through until it reached back up top to the post. That straw piece is your rocket launcher and keeps your balloon from swirling and twirling all over the place.

Grab a helper or secure the lower end of the rope. My son was all about assisting on this one! Next, blow up the balloon. Blow it all the way up and hold the end tight. Do not tie it off.

While keeping it securely closed with your hand, add the rocket to the top with tape. We rolled some tape on the back of the rocket beforehand so it was easy to do quickly. Put tape around the straw as well so that it attaches well to the balloon. We lost a few rockets when the balloons became detached from the straws.

The best part of this activity for me was seeing his excited face at the other end of the line! "Come on, Mom, another rocket!!"

Make a dramatic countdown - 10. 9. 8.... And all at once, release your grip on the end of the balloon and let your rocket shoot out! Make sure your string is tight, your straw is straight, and your balloon is really full of air to get the most our your rocket launch!

Enjoy, enjoy!

XOXO, MJ

P.S. We're forming constellations tomorrow with pins, string, and a corkboard!

2 Easy Exploding Experiments!
Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Summer is the right time to get kids' hands dirty and involved in learning! An open space that that can be get messy (or left dirty) can become the canvas for explosions and explorations. We decided to do some easy chemical reactions and see the results.

I have always wanted to try the erupting volcano experiment with my kids so we decided to gather the simple ingredients and head to the backyard.

If you want to try this, here's what you need:

  • A flat surface (we used a cookie pan covered in aluminum foil)
  • Tall jar or bottle
  • Baking soda (quarter cup)
  • Water (quarter cup)
  • White vinegar (quarter cup)
  • Red food coloring and dishsoap (not necessary, but way more fun)
  • Dirt, sand, or clay for volcano making
Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

THE ERUPTING VOLCANO

In the bottle or jar, add 1/4 cups baking soda and water. Squirt in red food coloring and a strong squeeze of dishsoap. These will add foam and drama to your explosion. Put the lid back on the bottle or jar.

Using sand, dirt, or clay, mound up around the bottle. We used potting soil and water to build up the volcano sides. Once those are in place, take off the lid and pour in 1/4 cup of vinegar. The eruption is quick but not overwhelming. The kids wanted to touch the "hot lava" right away and were surprised that it smelled so good. :)

THE EXPLODING GEYSER

This next experiment we did right after the volcano because the kids wanted a bit more drama to the eruption. Have you done the Mentos candy in bottle of soda? Really, it's super fun and surprising to the unsuspecting.

To make the exploding geyser, you'll need:

  • One pack of mint Mentos
  • 2L bottle of soda (Diet Coke works the best)
  • A piece of paper and tape
  • A business card or strong piece of cardboard
Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Make these two simple exploding experiments for some gooey, summer fun!

Place the soda on a flat surface. Roll a piece of paper in to a tube to a size that fits the Mentos inside. You want to be able to drop all of the candies in at the same time for the most dramatic effect. Keep a card over the top of the soda until you're ready to let the Mentos drop in. Be ready to flee quickly once they drop in!

The explosion is no more than five seconds, but we've watched the replay over and over again!

These two simple and quick experiments delight on the cheap. Make them a part of your 18 Summers Challenge (even if you've already done them before!).

XOXO, MJ

P.S. We have fantastical bubbles and wands coming your way tomorrow. They are SO much fun. Stay tuned.

P.P.S. The newsletter is on its way, too, with prep for next week's Out of this World adventures.

Rainbow Water Music
A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

Water makes beautiful music! And through this simple activity with food coloring, eight identical glasses, and water, you can discover an entire musical scale.

In our home, we always have music playing (or are playing music) so when I saw this graphic on E is for Explore, I knew our kids would enjoy creating their own color-infused instrument. The beauty of this activity is that it's great for any time of year, uses what you already have, and clean up is super fast, too. It also teaches measurement and fractions, pitch, color mixing, and so much more!

We used 8, 8-oz. glasses and filled them in with measurements of 8 oz., 7 oz., 6 oz., 5 oz., 4 oz., 3 oz., 2 oz., and 1 oz.. Once the glasses were full, we began the color process. Everyone was able to mix their favorite color with a wooden skewer until we have a spectrum of eight colors.

We used our silverware as the mallet for the water xylophone. At first, the kids just wanted to hit the full run of notes, up and down, along the sides. But the more they hit the glasses, the more they began to recognize music within the collection of sounds.

Can you name the tune we're playing?

We tried recreating simple songs that we all know. And as we did so, we adjusted the amount of water in each glass. Did that note sound too sharp? Or too flat? And we'd add or pour out water accordingly.

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

A quick and fun way to bring music into your summer! Create a scale with water and food coloring and let your children try out their own music.

Have you ever tried this out for yourself? The food coloring is not necessary, but it definitely adds to the fun!! And perfect for a sunny day.

XOXO, MJ

P.S. Don't forget to check out all the ideas for the 18 Summers Challenge by searching for #18SummersChallenge. We're continuing with explosions and transformations tomorrow with our own volcanoes and soda pops!