Archive for the ‘The Next Generation’ Category

Ahhh, summer..

“Mom, I’m bored.”

Oh right, summer… Trying to find some creative, educational and in most cases free ways to entertain the little ones? Me too. That’s why I love this list. These are my collection of ideas from all over the place and some of my own experiences too! I keep printouts of ideas for things to do for those days when I have mommy brain and things are a little… Foggy. We all have those days. Don’t judge.

1.  Library-check out books that have IDEAS – give reason for further hands on study (activity).  Reserve books through your online service at your local library that have items of interest for your childs age group, how to make paper airplanes, science experiments, craft projects, etc. even as we are learning about different artists we are practicing our learning by completing art projects…get creative with the books you can get…

2. Library-STORY TIME – something about a different setting breaks up the routine for the kids, gives them something to look forward to.

3. Local Park – go early, pack a lunch, enjoy the outside before its too hot.

4. Take a field trip.

5.  Visit a fire department.

6.  Play in the water – but aside from the everyday play in the sprinkler, kiddie pool – make games with the water – use the water with paint brushes and paint the fence (it dries clear, lol)…put coloring in the water and stretch paper across a fence – fill water guns with this colored water and then they are really painting with water colors.

7. build a fort- go to nearby woods, gather sticks, broken branches, etc. build a fort, or house this will provide days worth of enjoyment both in the gathering/building/playing inside.

8. Take a nature walk. Google parks with trails in your area and explore a new place every time you leave.

9.  Take an  “Alphabet tour”- this one makes running errands fun. You can also do shapes and colors for younger kiddos

10.  Check out kids free days at your museums.

11. Make homemade icecream (if you don’t keep heavy cream on hand you will have to buy it, but hey its still pretty cheap entertainment/enjoyment).  Make popcicles, smoothies, ice cream sundaes.

12. Go on a scavenger hunt.

13.  Host a neighborhood carnival (we’re talking bean bag toss, use the water gun to shoot the ducky, egg on the spoon, those kind of games)  – each neighbor hosts a game/activity and gives out a snack/drink – makes for a very fun day.

14.  Go to an outdoor concert (most towns/cities have a website where you can see what/when and which ones are free.)

15.  Check your movie theater for free summer movies (usually morning showings).

16.  Go to the beach.

17.  Check out your local hardware store – they offer free kids club building projects.

18.  Cook with your kids let them plan it, be apart of the shopping, table setting – don’t forget dessert!

19.  Host a cooking party – invite some friends (your kids aren’t the only ones home and wanting something to do) – have each mom bring a few ingredients and spend the day making cookies, treats, etc. (maybe you know someone who could use some extra love and attention – make a whole meal with these friends, let the kids make cards, and go make someones day brighter and happier).

20.  Make a nature scrapbook- include pictures, leaf rubbings and dried flowers.

21.  Go fly a kite.

22.  Do a sewing project together.  Make a picnic or story time blanket.

23.  Make sock puppets – put on a puppet shows.

24.  Go outside for reading time.

25. Make and blow bubbles

26.  Hide all the army men, mini animals, etc. in the sand pit – have a excavation. Read a book about archeologists before hand).

27.  Play dress up.

28.  Have a tea party.

29.  Make an obstacle course out of your back yard and have races.

30. Play hopscotch.

31. Go fishing.

32. Go on a bike ride.

33. Camp in your back yard.

34.Melt and create with crayons (you know you have an entire box of broken ones anyway).

35. Visit a local state park.

36. Go bowling. A lot of the alleys offer students 2 free games over the summer.

37. Plant a garden using seeds from your vegetables/fruits.

38. Tour local historic sites.

39. Identify constellations or just star gaze.

40. Teach the kids to knit or make friendship bracelets.

41. Check with a local farm – offer to help feed the animals.

42. Set up a lemonade stand.

43. Set up Hotwheels races in the driveway.

44. Have a LEGO building contest.

45. Make a doll. Corn dollies (made from corn husks were a favorite of children in times past).

46. Hunt for animal tracks.

47. Have a dress up party.

48. Learn bird calls.

49. Use magazines to make mosaics.

50. Check your craft stores for make and take craft projects.

51. Tour a factory.

52. Make musical instruments and become a ‘home band’ sensation! (think – pie pan tambourine, paper towel holder rain stick, string and cereal box guitar).

53. Make tye die shirts.

54. Take a picnic to dad/mom/grandma/ etc… give them a nice break from their work day.

55. Make a tent in the living room. This is great for rainy days.

56. Go to an Arboretum.

57. Make a bird feeder with pine cones & peanut butter and bird seed.

58. Paint with fruit and veggies and anything else you will let them paint with – think q-tips, old toothbrush, sponges, leaves…. etc.

59. Play charades.

60. Have a “BORED” game day – pull out all those dusty games and let each child pick a game – if its nice outside – take em out on your picnic blanket.

61. Walk your neighbors dog.

62.blow up Diet Coke with Mentos.

63. Make silhouettes.

64. Take a drive to a small town and wander around the square. This is a favorite in our family.

65. Learn origami.

66. Make a compass.

67. Gather friends and have a “clean” the park day – celebrate your good deed with a picnic and play time.

68. Sculpt with homemade salt clay.

69. Collect Seashells.

70. Play “I Spy” as you walk around your neighborhood.

71. Go to a farmers market.

72. Find a stream and look for crayfish. Warning- you will all get wet!

73. Check your newspaper for local summer festivals.

74. Make applesauce.

75. Go to a pond and feed the ducks. Don’t forget the bread and popcorn.

76. Make taffy.

77. Make a checker board and your own checkers.

78. Make your own board games.

79. Make a milk carton boat and head to a pond.

80. Have a Christmas in July party and ask all the guests to bring donations for your local food pantry.

81. Participate in a free activity at Bass Pro Shop. Sadly we don’t have one of these stores nearby *tear*.

82. Have a major league team in your area? Call about free kids tickets this summer.

83. Take a trip to tour your state capitol, local courthouse, etc.

84. Gather, paint, make pet rocks.

85. Plan a theme day, think wild west or groovy ’60s.

86. Volunteer at a local charity/Habitat for Humanity.

87. Have a pajama day, enjoy movies and popcorn another rainy day must.

88. Color.

89. Make a wind chime.

90. Write your own poems. We love Haiku.

91. Host a donation day. Dig through your stuff and have friends and neighbors do the same and take items to a local charity. Kids really love the idea of helping those with less.

92. “Play” school.

93. Make paper dolls.

94. Travel around the world. Have English scones for breakfast, Chinese Stir Fry for lunch, Italian for dinner. Make a craft to go with each country, get a library book with photos of these places.

95. Get a penpal. For little ones who are not yet writing, drawing pictures works just fine.

96. Play in the rain and stomp in puddles.

97. Catch fireflies.

98. Make sun tea. Have children decide what else to add, strawberries, lime, raspberries, etc.

99. Make a sandcastle. If you don’t have a sand box, gather up all sorts of containers and some water jugs and head over to your local park – spend the day building a great sand castle together.

100.  Dig for worms.

Most importantly remember the simplicity of childhood is found in the quality of the time spent together. Enjoy each moment, create an environment of joy and excitement, learning and fun and I am certain this summer will be one we all remember for a very long time. even better, a whole lot less, “I’m bored,” and a whole lot more, “that was awesome!!”

High five mama, you are awesome!



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We live in a society that values the destination over the journey itself. And as spectacular as that destination may be, discounting the highlights and low points of any journey can bring us reeling from the fantasy world back to reality with a BANG! No where else is this more apparent than in our school systems and their utilization of standardized testing. Teachers, those honored educators that are to shape and mold our children into the brilliant minds of the future are instead being forced to direct their lessons toward the end of year testing. While these tests are advocated as assessing our children’s knowledge base, the scores tabulated are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing.

What standardized testing is, in all actuality, is a way for school systems to be ranked, and such ranks are then used to assess the systems themselves, not the student body and the learning that takes place there. Certainly the children parrot what has been learned and record this information, as they would do for any test, but the scores evaluated are used to siphon finances and gold stars for the school systems.

One could easily assume that a sub-par institution, with scores below average, has a student body unable to learn or that the teachers aren’t doing their jobs. Conversely, one can interpret an above average scoring school to have a knowledgeable student body and teachers who are performing well above expectations. But the truth of the matter is that test scores do very little in reflecting a child’s ability to retain information or a teachers ability to educate their students.

In fact it has been shown that through doing rote memorization and drills, students retain less information than through organic learning, such as self discovery of scientific matter. A child can memorize the steps and process of a seed that goes through the growth cycle, but to plant a seed and watch it sprout, grow and produce buds is far more sufficient. If children are forced to know this information, solely to score a high mark on a test, they will absorb much less of the material.

It should never be the goal of an educational institution to prepare the young minds of our children for an assessment that rates their ability to duplicate what they have, in a sense, memorized, when it is their ability to retain such information that is the key to a beneficial education.

Children who prepare solely for an outcome on a standardized test are short changed in the learning process, taught only to worry about high marks and written evaluation. A once curious and excited five year old becomes the bored and grade obsessed adolescent. They begin to crave the best score and miss out on the real educational process. The problem with standardized tests and the fixed curricula they engender is their tendency to kill off the kind of education that matters most.

But what can be done? We live, after all, in a society that is rampant with the desire to compete and be evaluated by one another. This process of competition and evaluation direly affects the student’s ability to care for the material in any other way than to memorize the components of the lesson at hand. Of course, this contributes to the notion that material and learning experience are only beneficial for the end result and the process of learning is left completely in the dust.

We know, as educators (myself a ex-home school mother) that all children learn at their own pace and a arbitrary test score is a very poor reflection on the child’s ability to learn. But it is these precise scores that our educators are imposed to plan and facilitate for.

Those children who score above average are, in turn, labeled as gifted while those who are behind the curve are considered much below average and even labeled behind or worse yet, learning disabled; while this may not be the case at all. Every child is gifted at something and every child is lacking in one area or the other, as children develop, sometimes drastically, at very different rates.

I suppose there is no real solution, aside from the removal of standardized testing from schools. It serves only as an evaluation criteria for the school systems, but in turn greatly affects its student body through the labeling of students and pushing them into robots who’s sole purpose of learning new material is to regurgitate it back for an assessment.

Rather than pushing children and adolescences toward a destination, toward some subjective assessment, teachers should show children how to delight and be joyful about the journey of the education enterprise. If the minds of tomorrow are only interested in high scores and good marks, reality is going to hit them very hard not to mention the ramifications it will have on society.

I applaud teachers and educators who delight in assisting our children through the process of learning and who guide their young minds to continue to have that wide-eyed fascination with new knowledge. Their concern should be, as always, to foster a life time’s worth of love for learning and engender their pupils with the desire to continue to learn, whatever their passions and interests might be.

It is, as the old adage goes, ‘about the journey, not the destination’.


Still not convinced? Check out this resource:

The Truth About Standardized Testing

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