Rainbow Scavenger Hunt

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Little H happened to have a lot of rainbow-colored blocks and toys handy so it wasn’t exactly challenging, but they liked it all the same.

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Colors, shapes, counting (which pile has most? which pile has least? why do we have so many purple and red things?) and reading all rolled into one activity.

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Friends In Colorful Places

Sometimes I’ll admit, I’m a bit more crafty disaster than crafty connoisseur.  But these wooden peg dolls that I made three years ago are still holding up and are still a family favorite!  For a baby girl whose new favorite pastime is sorting, colorful people (even colorful people who have lost half of their hair due to baby slobber) with colorful cups for homes are fantastic friends to have when waiting for dinner.

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She’s getting so big and communicating so well; I can ask Little H a question and she will (usually) shake her head “no” vigorously, because of course she knows what she wants.  Most of the time it’s food, but a lot of the time it’s these guys.

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 I’m proud of the effort it took to make them, proud of the fact that all three of my kids have had a great time playing with these wooden peg dolls, proud of the fact I created something she loves and will keep her quiet for the three and a half minutes it takes to microwave Easy-Mac.

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With vegetables!  I swear!  Okay, I microwave the frozen vegetables, but it still counts.

Thank goodness we have friends in colorful places.

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Popsicles & Play Dough

February vacation is here, the snow is falling like crazy, and I have had enough of my kids literally climbing all over me and telling me they’re bored.  It’s only been 2 days!  So I pulled out an old simply busy standby that we did when Em was first learning her numbers, with an added degree of difficulty for Jax: Popsicles & Play Dough!

Popsicles & Play Dough @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Basically have the kids knead and roll some play dough into a long line, then give them a bunch of Popsicle sticks numbered 1-20.  Em got 1-10 and Jax 1-20.  Then ask them to put them in order, standing upright in the play dough.

This is great for numeral recognition but also fine motor skills.  The kids learned that they had to pinch the play dough around the sticks to get them to stand up.  Then we added some extra challenges–numbers 11-20 and putting them in color order (by writing the colors on the back)–and I introduced Jax to the concepts of odds and evens by writing an O or E at the bottom of the sticks.  Differentiated fun for everyone!

Popsicles & Play Dough Fun @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Of course when this was done they continued to play with the play dough, which I don’t usually love, but on a snowy day when they have had little more to say than I’m Bored! I was glad for some simple, quiet fun!  Only 5 more days of vacation to go!

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Get Your Winter Wiggles Out!

If I have to look at the weather report one more time to see temperatures in the single digits and the wind chill around -20 degrees, I am going to cry.  Like all kids, mine are busy, active, and tired of being stuck inside this January.  The words “polar vortex” do nothing to impress them, so if I can’t tire them out outside, then it’s time I got creative.

And so our indoor obstacle course was born.

First I laid out a pile of dress up clothes for each kid–a hat, necklace, cape/wings, costume, tool belt, mask.  Their first task was to put on some part of their dress up gear, then they hop-scotch to the living room.

Indoor Obstacles Course @ Rub Some Dirt On It

From there they had to crawl through a tube, then jump on their new Monster Feet stilts and walk from one empty wrapping paper tube to another.

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Then they had to do a bear or crab walk until they reached the kitchen where they ran back to the costume pile to do it all over again until they had all their articles of clothing on and completed the circuit.

Indoor Obstacles Course @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I purposely chose non-princess or superhero costumes, but once they finished they wanted to do it again, with costumes of their choice.

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Simply Busy: Use Your Noodle

Simple summer fun that costs $2.  That’s using your noodle!

Use Your Noodle @ Rub Some Dirt On It

I got this idea from Parents magazine and it was a huge hit.  Kind of literally.  We went to the dollar store and I bought a pool noodle and a package of balloons.  Because my kids are so small, I cut the noodle in half;  however, the longer and floppier noodles are more challenging.  Then unleash a bunch of balloons and instruct the kids to try to keep them off the ground using only their noodles!

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The grass was pokey so ultimately whenever a balloon was on the ground for long it popped, but that’s why you blow up the whole bag and keep the good times going!

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Once your kids are really good it (mine are nowhere close), set out some laundry baskets and have them try to score by guiding the balloons into the basket.  It may take some teamwork and using the noodles like chopsticks, but it would be a great lesson in cooperation!  Enjoy your summer while making the ordinary extraordinary, and keeping those kids simply busy!

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Smiles all around!

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Butcher Paper Town

I was recently inspired to buy a $10 roll of building paper at Home Depot because I could see its limitless potential.  The kids have been in  a bit of a playtime rut lately, facilitated by the fact that I keep buying them the same kind of toys (aka superheroes and princesses) and they aren’t being as spontaneous as they have in the past.  Less open-ended, more thinking inside the box, and I wasn’t liking it.  I want the kids to revert back to their unscripted, original playtime ways, but I found the storylines sounding the same every day.  Until today, when I unleashed the power of the butcher paper and the kids and I built a kickass town!

Create a butcher paper town with Rub Some Dirt On It

Designing a town with a three- and four-year-old is fascinating and insightful.  What do they think is important to a community, how do they like to play, what do they recognize as attributes of their own town?  Our town has a lake so that was the first thing Jax and Em thought of as a requirement, followed by our home, a school, a post office, and a “food store” (grocery store or restaurant, who knows?).  Then they let their toys dictate some of their ideas–a castle with a moat, a quarry complete with rocks and construction vehicles, an airport, a fire station, a shop, a jail.  They would come running back into the kitchen with a new toy that had to be part of our town.  So we added more and more until they felt satisfied, labeling all the areas for a touch of literacy.

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And one of the best parts?  There were no princesses or superheroes in sight, unless you count the McDonald’s toy Ninja Turtles who guarded the jail.  They even had me climb into the back of our coat closet and unearth vehicles that I had put away as potential yard sale fodder.  Old toys unearthed and loved all over again.

PicMonkey Collage

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The quarry was definitely their favorite.  Mine, too!

They have been playing with their town for over an hour and a half now, with no sign of stopping!  So happy that this is how we decided to spend our afternoon, and glad we seem to have dusted off our imaginations for (hopefully) the rest of the summer!

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Simply Busy: Pebble Art

I told Jax and Em to go hunt for some special stones and pebbles while I got the baby settled, and when they came back they had a wagon full of their favorites.  I should have been more specific about how they needed to be flat and small, but even the biggest ones found a job.

We pulled them out and on a piece of paper I took them one by one and changed them into animals or people, kind of like how you create pictures out of clouds.  They had a good time trying to guess what I was drawing as I went along.  Then I created a scene of my own: a garden with a butterfly and a sun.

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Em started drawing ON the rocks themselves and then starting drawing on herself, so I will chalk this up to a little beyond her creativity at this moment.  Jax was definitely into it and wanted to make an ant and its ant home.

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Actually, maybe it was an ant trap.  Either way, he had a whole scenario created from a pile of rocks.  We had fun from simple, every day things that helped Jax see the world in a different way.  If I can come up with more activities like this, maybe the summer won’t seem so daunting after all!

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