It's all your fault mom, isn't it?
You were a technology pusher. It started harmlessly enough. You were trying to enjoy adult conversation at dinner and the kids were arguing back and forth. You slid your smartphone across the table with an episode of the Ninja Turtles playing. Quiet returned.
Soon the kids came to expect to use your phone everywhere you went. In the car. At restaurants. At sporting events. You couldn’t use your own phone around them without them whining to have a turn.
You lied to yourself when you bought them IPads.
They can play all those cool educational apps you told yourself. Truth is, you wanted to buy some peace and quiet when you travel and you wanted to get your phone back. Educational apps? Whatever. They're playing Minecraft 24/7.
You justified the purchase of the extra TV for the game room too. You told yourself the kids can watch all their favorite Disney movies upstairs when you are watching Naked and Afraid downstairs in the family room. Truth is the TV upstairs is only used for PlayStation purposes.
The "screens" didn't just magically appear. They're not giving out iPads with happy meals. Nope. You bought them. Or, you told Grandma and Grandpa Mac they wanted a PlayStation for Christmas.
And now they’re technology fiends. They can’t get enough.
Mom you’re a technology pusher but it's time to cut them off. It’s time to get control, set limits, and push them outside into the sunshine. Go to the light Carol Ann! It’s time to introduce them to could ol’ fashioned imagination and creativity.
Minecraft poof, poof be gone! Hours of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV, buh-bye! Playstation psychosis no more.
Yes. I know. Meanest. Mommy. Ever.
The decision to break up with technology went over about as well as the time my kids learned that it was flu shots and not flu mist because they were around people with compromised immunity. Yeah. Yippee!
I ain't gonna lie. The first days of technology detox were brutal.
The non-stop whining about how bored they were and protestations about how horrible life was sans their devices was hell. First world, over-indulged kid syndrome in full effect.
I had to do something fast. Puzzles and Legos weren't the answer. (I knew that because it was my first suggestion. My kids looked at me like a grew a boob between my eyes right before they serenaded me with a chorus of groans.)
I drew upon all my creativity, imagination, and memories from my own childhood and put together a list of ideas that would rock their little worlds. These ideas really are fun. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm old(er) and out of touch despite what my kids thought at first.) I've put an end to the insufferable whining of kids in trio. Best part, I didn't have to spend gobs of money or hours do-it-yourself-ing to put these ideas into play rotation.
These throwback play choices are more than just nostalgic, they're seriously groovy!
Back in the dark ages before internet and iPads, there was a time when kids just thought up ish to do. WE were those kids! It's time to introduce your kids to fun in a whole new way. These ideas were inspired by things I used to do as a little girl.
1. Jump Rope. Yeah, I’m not even trying to be slick here. I want to get them off their butts and moving. It’s cheap and, believe it or not it, can even be a competitive sport in my house. Whether it's continuous jumping, fastest jumper, or running-while-jumping races, every iteration can be turned into a contest. Bonus: Jump ropes can be found on the cheap at dollar stores and party supply stores. A must have for every home.
2. Plan and build a Domino Maze. Dominoes are multi-purpose and can entertain kids of all ages for hours. Trust me mom, your kids will embrace this challenging and time consuming play. They will build impressive complex mazes turn around and eagerly level their masterpieces in mere seconds. Head over to the dollar store and buy them in bulk. Dollar Tree case of 24 sets of for $1 a dozen. Trust me, when the building begins and little sister isn't on the same design page as her two big brothers and secedes from the union, every one of those puppies will be put to use.
3. Stack playing cards to build structures. If you haven’t tried to build the world's tallest structure by stacking playing cards, you haven’t lived! It requires patience and focus as these wimpy little cards seem to fall when you breath too hard. Not to worry. Every crash just extends the play time and heightens the determination to get 'er done. Back to the dollar store you go!
4. Jacks. Jacks is a game that can be played alone or with friends. Your child will benefit from motor coordination which makes this game extra awesome. Going from onesies (picking up one jack at a time between ball bounce) all the way up to tensies (scooping up 10 jacks in one swipe) will keep your kids playing with gusto.
5. Hacky Sack. Small, compact, and able to come along in mom's purse. If you have budding soccer players like I do, it's a fun way to work on coordination without carrying around a big ol' soccer ball. While there are many ways to wheel and deal with your hacky sack, passing the "ball" between kids without letting it drop promises to result in maximum fits of uncontrollable laughter.
6. Hula Hooping. It's baaaaaack! Cosmopolitan magazine touted the bennies of the hula hoop if you're trying to get Beyonce abs but the kids never even realize they're exercising when they're getting their hula hoop on. Phenomenal fun especially when you try to keep the beat to their favorite songs.
7. Rubik's cube. From the moment that little cube came into the house, it's been downright irresistible to EVERYONE. My only regret is that I didn't buy 3 of those bad boys immediately. Today, this icon of the 80s has a 2X2 option that's smaller and a little more manageable for little people.
Board games guaranteed to provide hours of fun for both young and old(er).
What if we had a family board game night where everyone unplugged, laughed, and played together? One of my fears as a mom is that my kids won't have the multitude of childhood memories that I do because they are singularly focused on technology. Mom, it’s time to introduce family game night!
8. Scrabble. The best game of scrabble is a game that's played with the entire family. True Story. Expand vocabulary, practice spelling, and strategize for points. These activities all have educational benefits that will totally miss your kids when they're wrapped up in the game. No one is too young or too old to play scrabble.
9. Clue. Turn your kids into junior detectives and problem solvers. Playing Clue has some serious educational benefits for kids. This game is all about deductive logic and strategy. These are skills that help kids make substantial improvements in critical thinking. Little kids don't have to be left out of the fun as there is a Clue Junior version for kids between the ages of 5-8 years.
10. Chinese checkers. This game builds serious brain power. The object of Chinese checkers is to move your marbles from one side of the board to the opposite end before your opponents do. Kids practice decision-making in a playful way but still reap all the juicy goodness that comes when exercising mental dexterity and figuring out tactics.
11. Plain Jane vanilla Checkers. I dominated at checkers as a kid and it was a game that kept me busy for hours. I learned how to be a good sport because if I wasn't my little sister (and only play partner at home) wouldn't play with me. Eventually she got good enough to beat me but I still enjoyed our matches. Today, there are travel versions that are easy to back on vacation or car rides. I much rather kids have the sensory experience of moving pieces around then “playing” it on the iPad. A great game that won't break the bank.
12. Chess. This is more advanced play for sure but worth the investment in time to teach your kids to play. I love exposing my kids to games like Chess because like scrabble, they're games kids don't outgrow. Playing chess builds serious brain power and has major benefits especially for younger kids still developing the ability to focus.
13. Pictionary. Do you know a kid who doesn't love to draw? Hello! If you want to see imagination at work, pull out Pictionary. It hits all the right buttons for me when it comes to screen free play. The Pictionary Junior set is the perfect intro to a game that promises to be a family favorite.
Turn play time into party time.
Our kids go to tons of birthday celebrations and look forward to them and not just for the cake. They look forward to having fun! Why not turn an ordinary day into a party? I know. Mind blowing idea. But really, if you want them to think old-fashioned, imaginative play before they think iPad or Playstation 4, then you REALLY need to pull out all the stops.
14. Face painting. When have you ever been to a birthday party and haven't seen a line out the door for the face painters? Sometimes you just need to borrow one of Dad’s dingy white T’s and get a little messy. The potential fun is endless and a great face painting kit like Snazaroo Face Paint Ultimate Party Pack is affordable . (Stock up after Halloween when they're deeply discounted so you’re ready the next time you’re snowed in.) Nothing sets the stage for imaginative play like "dressing up" first!
15. Body Crayons. I mean, why stop with the face when you can do the whole body, right? (Said no mother ever but I digress.) Klutz Body Crayons come in a set of six colors (red, blue, yellow, green, black, and white) along with a book that gives great directions.
16. Freeze dancing. Warning: Dance parties subject to erupt without warning when you do this. You need a dj controlling the music. The object is to dance while the music plays and then to freeze instantly when the music stops. My kids love to dance but throw in any element of contest and it ratchets the intensity all the way off the chain. I recommend the Kidz Bop collection of music CDs. Believe it or not, mom can jam to these CDs too. True Story!
17. Juggling. I probably should call this TRY to juggle because this is seriously challenging stuff but what the hay! If you don’t try, you’ll never learn. I found juggling kits on the cheap. (This is an important consideration as I'm buying in triplicate because if one of my kids wants to do something, the other will want to join in.) I found Ridley's Circus Juggling Balls design by Wild & Wolf for less than 10 bucks. I made sure the kit came with instructions because this mama juggles many things but balls ain't one of them.
18. Making animal balloons. My kids go crazy for these worthless little critters fashioned out of balloons. Why? No freakin’ clue. There are plenty of how to kits for little people interested in perfecting their clown skills but one that caught my eye is Ridley's Balloon Modeling Kit design by Wild & Wolf. Comes with balloons, pumper, and instructions and it's recommended for kids 6+.
19. Kid Karaoke. Who doesn't love to channel their inner rock star? Throw on wigs, feather boas, sparkly costumes, and it's on! Bonus: the video clips you shoot from these jam sessions will be enjoyed by family near and far for years to come
20. Pie in the pie hole. If you really want to earn serious cool points, send the kids outside with aluminum pie tins filled with whipped cream to smash into each other's faces. Once they're good and covered in whipped cream, hand them water guns to rinse off. Cool idea, huh?
Quirky play ideas that are a hit with kids.
Quirky: / ˈkwərkē/ Characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.
I've gone a little unexpected with this category in hopes of getting you to think about out-of-the- box play. Play ideas that you may not consider typical and definitely things your kids may not even think about as being fun. Out-of-the-box thinking is where it's at!
21. Take a bubble bath. Bath time isn't just for bedtime mom. Kids love playing in the water. So what if they do it at 3 in the afternoon rather than 7 at night. A soothing, warm bath not only takes the stink off but can calm even the most feisty little dudes.
22. Snap Circuits Jr. This has geek written all OVER it. It's a really cool project based set that introduces kids to electronics. (You know, kinda like when your brother disassembled mom's toaster to see what was inside but without all the family drama.) It's recommended for Ages 8-108 (and no, that's not a typo). This set has 30 parts that are combined to teach everything from how to launch a flying saucer to playing electronic games with your friends. Super sneaky that kids learn about electronics in the most awesome way ever.
23. Tenzi. A dice game played at lighting speed. Dice. No flashing lights, beeping noises, or other cool props. Just dice. Yet, fun ensues! The object of the game is super simple. The first person to match all 10 of their die with a single number wins. You pick up and roll the dice that don't match and keep going. A set comes with 4 colors and they are a bunch of different ways to play to keep it fun and fresh.
24. Portable Ping Pong. This was particularly nostalgic for me. I loved hanging out in my grandparents' basement playing ping pong and jiggling my non-existent fat away on their fat melting jiggle machine. The thing is, we don't have a basement and no room for a ping pong table. No worries! Franklins Table Top Tennis set is completely portable and they even have a version that glows in the dark. Turn your under used dining room table into a ping pong table in seconds.
25. Pitch a pup tent in the backyard. What kid doesn't love to play in forts or improvised tents? Don't want your dining room table draped with blankets leaving you with yet another mess to deal with? Send them outside to hang out in their make shift "club house" and you don't have to listen to them whining or fighting. Oops, I meant playing.
26. Waddle Races. Too cool outside for a dip in the swimming pool? No problem. Slip on your swimming fins and ready, set, race! Bonus: I'm already spending the loot I'm going to win on America's Funniest Home Videos.
27. Become a cartoon artist. I discovered this super cool mini-projector gizmo thingy called Xoomy. It comes in a few kits for cartoons, animals, and for girls. Each kit comes with design lenses that are clear. When you place the lens over the light, it projects an image that can then be traced onto tracing paper. Tracing is an excellent way to learn to draw and it's totally portable.
28. Prankster Magic. This book and accessories are a cool intro to magic for kids. It comes with funny stickers and other props that 8 year olds find hysterical. (Six year old little sisters, not so much.) It has step-by-step instructions that are easy to understand and follow. Mom, do you think they're going to object when you send them off to learn magic? Heck no!
29. Keva Brain Builders. Get your budding architect to think in 3D. The kit comes with 20 wooden planks and a set of 2D cards with illustrations. The goal is to duplicate the picture on the card into a 3D structure. Each card comes with a blueprint so builders can check their work for accuracy.
Now we're cooking! Get the kids to make simple, no cook recipes.
Cooking really isn't something my kids see me enjoying. It's something I HAVE to do. Feeding your kids fast food is frowned upon. I get it. It's just such a chore because I'm doing it at the end of the day when I'm dog tired. I would prefer to spend a little time with my kids doing something fun. Why not invite them into the kitchen with you? They don't have to be under foot if they're busy fashioning a snack to hold them over or working on a fun dessert for after dinner.
30. Knox Jello meet cookie cutters. Jigglers (a registered trademark of those crafty folks at Kraft) are pretty darn easy to make and super fun to eat. Mom prepares a mixture of jell-o mixed and knox gelatin and refrigerates it for later. After it's chilled, you place the bottom of the tray in warm water and use cookie cutters to cut out fun shapes. Super cool and easy. Top it with a little whipped cream and voila!
31. Sandwich cut-outs. Take the pain out of cutting off the crust from your kids' sandwiches and dress up a plain ol' P-and-J. Williams-Sonoma have fun sandwich cutters that have a plastic tops and metal bottoms to cleanly cut through sandwiches and form shapes like airplanes or flowers. I also have cheap, all plastic versions that don’t cut as cleanly but still do the job.
32. Eating alfresco. Kids love eating outside. Why is it that we only do this when we HAVE to rather than just to enjoy a beautiful evening? Or, if the idea of eating dinner outside isn't appealing to you, send the kids outside with a snack and a blanket so they can chill out under a shade tree. Add in a game of checkers or a card game, invite a neighbor, and it's a party!
33. Poser gingerbread house decorating. My kids don't like the taste of gingerbread. It really sucks to put those pre-packaged gingerbread kits together. My perforated pieces never seem to break apart cleanly and getting those suckers to stick together long enough to be decorated is a miracle. Let's keep it real. Kids are really ONLY interested in decorating the gingerbread houses (and munching along the way). Cut to the chase and buy a Candy Cottage. It's a plastic structure that enables kids to get straight to the fun. Best of all, these houses can be designed to celebrate every season of the year and not just Christmas.
34. Friendship bread starter. One of my favorite breads as a little girl was friendship bread. You continue to add to the starter to keep the recipe growing and you don't use the entire batch at one time. (You keep a little aside so you can start your next bread batch and it keeps going and going and going.) You can add nuts, raisins, or your favorite add-in to make the loaves uniquely yours. Once you have the starter, divide it up and share it with friends along with a recipe and directions. (Find the start recipe here: http://www.food.com/recipe/amish-friendship-bread-and-starter-153)
35. Banana Dogs. A great idea of an after school snack or breakfast on the go. Grab a hot dog bun, spread Nutella or peanut butter on the sides of the hot dog bun, slide in your banana, and top with some strawberry jelly. No cooking and a little messy but kids will love it.
36. Edible play dough. Who would've thought that three little ingredients could produce a tasty and entertaining play option. Honey, peanut butter, and powered milk is all it takes. (one 18-oz. jar creamy peanut butter, 6 tablespoons honey, and 3/4 cup non-fat dry milk and it's on!) A clean surface (and clean hands) and kids to "bake" cookies (remember this is imaginative play mom) and use cookie cutters, cups, or plastic ware to cut out fun shapes.
Old McDonald isn't the only one with farming skills.
Is it just me but have you ever wondered why Old McDonald never planted anything on his farm?
Some of the sweetest memories I have from my childhood was the organic farming my grandma did before organic farming was thing. We don't need no stinkin' pesticide. We pulled those tomato worms off her plants by hand. We watered the garden by hand. We pulled weeds by hand. Are you seeing a pattern? We ate snap peas or strawberries right off the plant. I didn't watch the clock when I was working in her garden either. It was special time for sure and there is no sense of accomplishment greater than getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor literally. Besides, what kid doesn't enjoy getting dirty?
37. Plant a sunflower and watch it grow. Talk about a sure fire way to get kids to try something they have never thought to do if they were nose down in the IPad. It's time to get planting! Sunflowers are an excellent choice because they're hardy and grow fast. You can also buy a Grow-A-Sunflower Kit to get you started. What is not to love about these happy flowers?
38. Grow your own pumpkin for Halloween. This is going to require some real planning as it takes between 10-14 weeks on average to grow your pumpkin for carving. There are all sorts of variety of pumpkins to help little farmers get started. Sprout-n-Grow Greenhouse has a jack-o-lantern kit that makes it easy to start growing your pumpkin indoors and transfer it outdoors. In three months, you're ready to carve!
39. Grow the start of your homemade pumpkin pie. If you're feeling more ambitious than just decorating a home grown pumpkin, think about growing a pumpkin variety like the sugar pumpkin. If the end game is edible goodness, you can grow these pumpkins as the weather permits, puree them for future use in muffins, breads, or my all-time favorite, pie! They are smaller than the decorating variety of pumpkin and grow faster too. In about 100 days, you could be eating your pumpkins.
40. Grow tomatoes. This type of vegetable is great for container gardening. I get all excited just thinking about the possibilities! For me, organic tomatoes are a must. Miss me with all those pesticides. The thought of vine-ripened, tomato goodness for salsa, tomato sauce, or ketchup is enough for me to beg my kids to grow them. The Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato planter will appeal to your kids in a Dr. Seuss sort of way. This product keeps tomato growing simple because by hanging the container upside down you avoid the need for trellising your plants or buying cages to keep them supported.
41. Grow Strawberries. If you have younger kids, start with an indoor or a container garden before graduating to the full-on outside variety. Pique their interest and get their buy-in. In fact, DuneCraft has an entire line of plant starter kits and some are even ideal for older kids. For example, they have a strawberry hydroponic kit recommended for kids 12+. What a fab opportunity to engage kids in really cool science in an unexpected way. Oh, and if you make the investment in a hydroponic kit, you can find strawberry re-fill sets at DuneCraft.com, too.
42. Grow Aloe Vera Plants. Let's face it. Planting outside is rife with challenges especially when changing weather patterns of results in droughts in much of the country. Don't even get me started on our poor stewardship of our planet. Aloe Vera plants are cactus-like in that they survive with minimal water. They can be grown as houseplants inside. Resilient and helpful, these little suckers are a must have for all families in my opinion. Plus, kids will learn how the sap of this cool little plant can treat some 200 different ailments. Make it a living, breathing research project to figure out how Egyptians used these plants.
43. Plant a Butterfly garden. Want to attract butterfly friends to your garden? There are plants for that! We found a fabulous article by Better Homes and Garden that gave more than 20 varieties of plants that butterflies love. This is definitely a long-term project and pretty involved. You have to know the sun exposure and that the watering needs of the plants mixed in your butterfly garden are similar. See http://www.bhg.com/gardening/design/nature-lovers/butterfly-garden-plants/.
44. Poser Butterfly garden. No space outside to plant flowers that attract butterflies or no desire to do all THAT gardening stuff? No problem. You can buy a Butterfly garden. Insect Lore sells an amazing little collapsible butterfly garden in a couple of sizes that involves no actual planting or any of the maintenance of a real garden. It’s perfect for apartment dwellers as it takes up very little space and is an excellent learning opportunity for kids as they grow caterpillars to butterflies.
Kids and crafts go to together like pigs and mud.
The importance of art and making is sometimes lost when you have to make financial considerations regarding educating kids. Where my boys attend a school that specializes in learning differences, my daughter has the gift of attending a school that spends time EVERY school day making, tinkering, and building. (The importance of making will be the subject of another blog post coming soon)
45. Learn to Knit. Knitting isn't just for grandmas but what if this was an activity your kids could learn from her? Seriously, teach a kid to knit and you won't be sorry! The art teacher at school taught my son Cole to knit which was actually pretty cool. (My boys are lefties so it's a little more challenging for their right handed mama to teach them things like knitting.) You don't know how to knit? Hello! Get a copy of Knitting for Dummies STAT! The book will give you access to on-line content too.
46. Knit a winter hat. Fashion Angels Darn Yarn have crazy cool projects and one that is sure to be a hit with your little crafter is the Monster Hat kit. Who wouldn't love a pom-pom monster hat with googly eyes? This kit is for knitters of all skill loves and comes with all your supplies you need to get to knitting! It's not traditional knitting either which may be easier for little hands to master.
47. Knit an infinity scarf. Another kit by Fashion Angels Darn Yarn is for an infinity scarf that earns mad cool points with me. This cool little project has a most excellent instructional video on YouTube too. I know I'm cheating here with the technology plug but maybe mom can learn how to do it first and then show the kids how it's done later. A perfect project for those rainy days when there is NOTHING to do. Like we haven't heard that lie before?
48. Sewing. Whether it's with a simple needle and thread or a beginner’s sewing machine, boys and girls alike love the idea of sewing. My son wanted to make costumes for his stuffed animals and my daughter wanted to dress her dolls up with her own creations. Take T-shirts or clothes they've outgrown and let them cut out and sew their creations. Sewing is a life skill people!
49. Dress Your Dolls. Simplicity has some adorable doll clothes patterns. What better way to encourage a budding fashionista-future- fashion-designer-mogul-in-training than to teach her to cut and sew doll clothes? Repurpose clothes like I described above and this becomes a very inexpensive project.
50. Start a school year memory scrapbook. They can journal about new friends they make, holiday parties, things they learned, and special field trips and accompany those memories with pictures. No need to start from scratch as Penny Laine Papers has some memory books for Pre-K thru 4th Grade that are a great starting point.
51. Build a Bird Feeder and keep it stocked for your winged friends. Ready-to-assemble bird houses are cheap and easy to find. Home Depot offers a plain Jane version for about $10. There are far more elaborate kits or if the idea of assembling a feeder doesn't appeal to you, you can still make your kid a bird landlord by purchasing a feeder ready to install. WildBeaks.com is a little bird lover’s paradise.
52. A picture scavenger hunt. So I’m a huge fan of digital cameras for kids. Not only is it a great way to document special memories but it can keep them busy for hours in fun ways. Put together a list of items that can be found around your home or yard (ex. bugs, flowers, birds, berries or cars.) The possibilities are endless!
53. String Art. Did you know string art was originally invented to help kids grasp math concepts? Me neither! Clearly, this isn't a craft project young kids should attempt unsupervised because of the whole put your eye out possibilities. For that reason, it's not recommended for kids under ten. It does make a fun family project with mom doing the poking part and kids handling the string part.
54. Build a Doll House and furnish it with things you build. I have two boys and one girl. And while my little one is persuasive enough to convince her brothers they want to play dollhouse with her, some families may not have that same dynamic. Building, painting, and furnishing a dollhouse is a long-term, full-on project. My boys love helping little sister build a table or a bed or paint the walls.
Pick a card, any card.
55. War. Huh, yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing...but fun! A plain ol' deck of playing cards and a head-to-head competition with a game of pure chance and no skill required. The cards are evenly divided between two players. Each player has a deck of cards that is face down until each player turns over the top card on their deck. The highest card wins the battle and takes both cards. The war is won only when all the cards have been won by someone.
56. Old Maid. Another card game that can be played with a regular deck of playing cards but one of the Queens is removed before the cards are dealt. The object of the game is to form and discard pairs and not to be left with the Queen at the end of the game. Easy for kids to pick up.
57. Card Toss. A deck of cards, a basket, and it's on. Flip the cards and use the basket as the target. It's all in the wrist! This is the kind of unexpected play idea that I'm hoping to encourage in my kids. It's really low tech but totally cool in an unexpected way.
58. Crazy Eights. Another fun game that can be played with any ordinary deck of cards. The object of the game is to get rid of the cards in your hand, onto a discard pile by matching the number or suit of the previous card that was discarded. Kids take turns matching a card of the same number or of the same suit. If you play an 8, you can change the suit and number and get rid of an extra card. First one out of cards wins. Simple, huh?
59. Q-Bitz. This is a card game with props. (Yeah, that's a bit of a stretch but go with me here mom. You'll thank me later.) Q-Bitz can be played alone or with up to 4 people. You pick a card and replicate the design on the card with your set of wooded blocks. If playing with more than one person, the player who replicates the image first, wins the card. The first person to collect 8 cards wins. I totally dig the possible variations for this game too. Try to replicate the cards from memory or race to see who can replicate the design first. This is a game your kids won't outgrow quickly.
60. Make your own deck of cards. So you don't happen to have a deck of playing cards tucked away in your junk drawer? Ask your kids to make them first. (I've already told y'all that I'm not Pinterest mom but this really is super easy. Clear contact paper, a template, card stock, markers or crayons to color them, and scissors to cut them.)
61. Get funky with your cards. Kids may be a little more eager to try card games if you buy oversized playing cards or get a personalized set with a family photo or you pet scruffy on the back. Take a family vote or do a personalized deck for each kid. It will cut down on arguments and I'm all for that. Zazzle.com, 4imprint.com, and shutterfly.com are all companies that make customized cards.
Tell em' to go crazy with chalk? Seriously!
62. Life size self-portrait. If your kids love rolling around on the ground, you're half way there. Tell your kids to lie down on the driveway or sidewalk and have a friend trace around them with chalk. Encourage them to strike interesting poses because that's like, so Vogue! Tell them to leave enough space between their creations so that they can lie down later next to their self-portrait. Let them go to town coloring and being creative.
63. Super-sized tic-tac-toe. Draw your tic-tac-toe board large enough so you can play from a distance. Instead, of drawing in the X's and O's, toss bean bags into the spaces. This makes the game a little less predictable because you can't be sure where your bean bag is going to land. If it doesn't hit a square or if it hit's a square already occupied by another bag, you lose your turn. Add an extra challenge for your tic-tac-toe experts by playing with squares four across and four down. I found some nylon reinforced bean bags from Oriental Trading Company. Trust. Those bean bags are an awesome investment. Cheap and they can be used for multiple purposes.
64. Driveway bulls-eye. If the idea of your kids throwing darts, conjures up images of emergency rooms, maiming, and blood, I'm right there with you. I've child proofed the basic premise of the dart game with chalk and bean bags. (I told you that those bean bags would get their use!) Have your child draw a bulls-eye and assign points to each circle. Draw a line from where players have to throw the bean bags and let them go. They'll have to add their points and the first one to 50 wins. (A fun way to practice math facts and they won't even know it! The point values for each ring of their chalk bulls-eye can increase as your child's math skills do!)
65. Mix chalk and bicycle riding. No, I'm not recommending telling your kid to decorate her bike with chalk. I ‘m suggesting telling them to draw a long curvy lane down the sidewalk or driveway and to try to follow the trail they’ve drawn while riding on their bikes.
Set up a carnival in your backyard.
Every time I pass one of those carnival fairways that pop up in mall parking lots over night, I floor it. My kids always want to go but the lawyer in me is always thinking in worse case scenarios about safety and liability concerns. Sue me!
While my kids may not partake of the fly-by-night carnival, they can definitely get their inner carney on in the backyard.
66. Clown Faces and Wigs.As if your kids need an excuse to rock clown make-up and wigs. Nothing sets the mood for fairway festivities that looking the part. (You're getting most excellent use from the face painting kit, right?)
67. Carnival Can Bean Toss Game. Stack up a pyramid made of cans and let the bean bags fly. Nothing says carnival like this classic little game. You can find these cheap little colorful cans at Oriental Trading Company.
68. Ring Toss Game. Kids keep their interest when they move from station to station doing different carnival themed ideas like this carnival favorite.
69. Frisbee Flip. Remember that the entire point of screen-free play is to do and try things that they never would consider doing if they were planted in front of a tv. This little game is the opposite extreme of technology. You take a frisbee, stickers, and your bean bags. Apply a sticker to one side of each beanbag. The object of this game is to flip the bean bag up in the air and catch on the side that has the sticker face up.
In my best Olivia Newton-John voice, "Let's get physical, physical!"
I'm not going to get all preachy about childhood obesity. I feel like a big fat hypocrite when I do because I'm a chubby mommy. (So yeah, about that picture on my blog. That was me four years ago. I'm a work in progress.) My kids get tons of physical activity because I've integrated fitness into their days with fun activities and sports.
70. Crawl Through Arches. No obstacle course would be complete without some slithering on the ground like a snake. You can find an 18" arches at Oriental Trading Company. Each set comes with six colorful arches. Use them to crawl through or practice your soccer moves by trying to control the ball and kicking it or maneuvering it through the arches.
71. Hurdles. A mom like me would actually buy the fun-sized hurdles ready to go. They're about $7 dollars each but they're durable and easy to store. Pinterest mom would make her own hurdles by putting a pool noodle through two chairs. Both would work. You do you!
72. Juggling a Soccer Ball. There is no doubt that juggling is part of the soccer culture. It requires a ton of skill and coordination to successfully learn how to juggle continuously. This makes a great obstacle course challenge because it only requires a ball. Set a number goal for continuous touches to keep the ball in the air before your kids can move on to the next station.
73. Ladder drills. The equipment for ladder drills can be purchased for less than $20. There is no single way to do these drills but they are easy to pick up and help build agility, improve foot work, and increase speed. Tell your kids they can only step one time in each square and to alternate their left foot and their right foots. Easy peasy.
74. Set Up Cones. Running and weaving between the cones will help add something extra to plain vanilla running.
I like big books and I cannot lie, you other mama's can't deny, that a kid reading is super fly!
Before the eye rolls start and I have hate mail coming my way, hear me out. If the reading experience is fun and the subjects are entertaining, kids will be open to it. Yeah, I almost didn’t put this on the list because, well you know, it’s likely to illicit moans and groans from your kids. Trust me. The LAST thing I want to do is make reading feel like a punishment. As an avid reader myself, I’m longing for the day when I catch my kids reading by flashlight when they’re supposed to be sleeping because they just couldn’t put a book down <Tear>. Until then, I try to make reading as fun as possible
75. Design a reading corner and make it awesome. A place where kids are only allowed to be when they're reading a book. Think really exclusive club. That makes it special and reading there a treat. No reading corner is complete without flashlights, comfy pillows, and a tent!
76. Encyclopedia of Immaturity. No, this wasn't written by your college sweetheart and yeah, you're probably going to regret it later. But this is a big azz book that will keep your kids rolling. More importantly, keep them busy trying different things like how to hang a spoon from your nose to actually blowing ish up! How cool is that? Note: The blowing ish up is just an experiment with vinegar and baking soda. No actual bomb building going on.
77. Encyclopedia of Immaturity Volume 2. Hell yeah, this volume gets it's on place on the list. Why? Because it gave my kids another huge volume of juicy diversion.
78. Book of Impossible Objects. Twenty-five activities in 45 pages that promise to give your kids the mental equivalent of a brain rollercoaster. The brain teasers are 100% science in motion. The book will teach your kids not only the how but the why of it all. Downright irresistible.
79. Lego Chain Reactions. Your kids have a gazillion legos all in one big box. Sure they come in cool kits with instructions on how to assemble awesome stuff but if your kids are like mine, they build, lose interest, and clean up means everything is chunked in the same box. Now what? I FINALLY found an awesome solution in this book. Hello? It's physics y'all!! This is a must have book for your home.
80. Read Grossology. If your kids are like mine, learning about volcanos, farts, and burps are crowd pleasers. Check out Sylvia Branei’s Grossology series of books. She writes on a variety of gross topics and even has a book about actual hands on gross experiments.
81. Work on your comedy act. Why did the banana go to the doctor? Because he wasn't peeling well. Funny, right? No seriously. Kids love to tell jokes. I found a four book set from Highlights so you know they have to be solid gold with kids but you can find your own riddle books. https://store.highlights.com/gifts-and-toys/books-and-reading/joke-books-4-book-set
82. Dive into a comic. Comic books count as reading too. The beauty of comics is that kids focus less on the mechanics of reading and more on the comprehension of the story unfolding and they don't even realize it. <Insert Evil Laugh here>
So books aren't your thing? No problem! Pick up a cool comic or graphic novel.
I was thrilled to learn the Common Core State Standards for scholastic achievement now explicitly recommend the use of comic books in the classroom. It's not that I'm a Common Core groupie but because my twins have dyslexia anything that makes reading fun for them, makes me want to drop it like it's hot. Comics have given birth to a much fancier category called the graphic novel. Still tons of cool illustration but longer and more complex than the typical comic.
83. Reading With Pictures: Comics That Make Kids Smarter. Okay, so this really is a book with a bunch of different comic book short stories but it still counts the same as one of those flimsy comics you were thinking about. You know your kid. Do you think he'll be able to resist reading about Robo-Teachers, Mail Order Ninjas, or a Super Heroine named Lumina in "the Menace of the Mathemagician." Yeah, I know. Awesomesauce.
84. Frank Einstein. This kid-genius-inventor-scientist who makes the subject of science totally relatable to kids and is funny and entertaining enough that kids can't help be be entertained. Science-y sounding things like artificial intelligence and wireless energy may not sound like things that would captivate a child's interest but Frank is really cool.
85. Big Nate. Nicknames are a funny thing. Sometimes they're born out of a sense of irony. You know, kinda like naming your 190 pound Great Dane named Tiny. Big Nate is a little guy in the 6th grade. He's a relatable, messy, misfit that kids can't help but like. This series deals with common experiences that other kids can relate to such as befriending the new kid in school, running for student council, or the stress of being goalie for the school soccer team. <Gulp>
86. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Okay, so I missed all the hullabaloo about the Wimpy Kid. Middle School reading isn't actually something you pay attention to until you have a school age kid who is reading. Your kids can't help but love and cheer for weakling Greg Heffley who like Big Nate is a bit of a misfit. In this series, the underdog rules the day!
Go big or Go home.
I'm from Texas where EVERYTHING is bigger, right? So I'd be remiss if I didn't pay homage to my state. Everything in this category is just bigger.
87. Jumbo Sized Connect 4 in a Row. This garden game stands REALLY tall. Like almost 3 feet tall. It’s definitely meant to stand on its own and is an awesome way to play outside without running around getting all sweaty and stuff. Hang out on the patio and play connect 4 in a row.
88. Giant checkerboard set. This large sized checker set is actually a checker board rug that rolls out for play. The rug is 28 x 28 inches with jumbo checkers and storage bag. Great for grandparents with vision issues and little people too.
89. Boneyard Pets. Wipe that image of that scary movie Pet Cemetary from your brain! Boneyard pets is a genius product that brings dinosaurs to life. Well, almost. These sturdy puzzles fit together to create super-sized dinosaur skeletons. They come in a variety of colors (7 to be exact and can inspire some serious pre-historic imaginative play, don't you think? These fancy puzzles ain't cheap but they're built to last and come in huge sizes. By huge, I mean imagine a brachiosaurus that's 76" L x 36" H! Did I say huge?
90. Jumbo Sized Dice. Change the feel of any regular board game by substituting these jumbo dice for the ordinary dice. Fun for counting and math activities too.
Brain teaser books are the bomb!
91. Extreme Dot-to-Dot. Truly the most epic dot-to-dot books I've ever seen. These aren't baby puzzles as they numbers go up to 1,400. That requires serious focus and concentration. These epic puzzles should probably only be done one a day to get the benefit of connecting the dots and coloring the masterpiece revealed at the end.
92. The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math. This ain't Mrs. Lawton's math book. Not even close. THE coolest math challenge book I've ever seen. This book of word problems is disguised as life-or-death scenarios. How long will it take a single vampire to take over a town of 500,000 people? Buried Alive or lost at sea promise to get your kids engaged enough to solve the mystery without realizing they're deep in a math lesson.
93. Meg Mackintosh Mysteries. Not the brainteaser books you were thinking of? Think again. These mystery books are fun, challenging, and it checks my fun but highly entertaining box.
94. Big Nate Super Scribbler. This fun packed books includes comics, puzzles, and a ton more. This book contains 150 games with Big Nate serving as your fun time partner.
95. Make your own word finds and worksheets. My daughter has started putting up a fight about practicing her spelling words. I looked for ways to get her to practice her spelling words on the sly. Found an uber cool website called School Express that solved my problems. http://www.schoolexpress.com/create.php. Now I can make missing letter, alphabetizing, word finds, and word scramble worksheets with her weekly spelling words. I like them so much, I use them to practice sight words and throw in the names of their friends or superheroes into the mix.
Oodles and oodles of noodle fun!
I love noodles. They’re easy to manipulate, they’re cheap to buy, and you can go to town with cool ideas. Even a non-DIYer can drive a piece of wood into the grown to secure a noodle or duct tape two ends of a noodle together to make a hoop.
96. Pool noodle golf. You can play with beach balls or balloons. Set up the "holes" with the crawl through arches from the obstacle course suggestions as they will work great. Use a noodle golf club to hit the “ball” and get busy.
97. Pool noodle obstacle course. Running through faux-tire hoops, jumping a hurdle fashioned from a noodle, or throwing through a noodle target are just a few ways to fashion a noodle course. Field days at elementary schools across the country use noodles during their games. You don’t have to be original. Don’t re-invent the noodle wheel if you don’t have to.
98. Use them for soccer practice. Hang your noodle hoop inside a soccer goal so your soccer star can practice kicking the ball perfectly in one corner of the soccer goal or the other.
99. Use them for football or baseball practice. Use a noodle hoop to define a strike zone or an intended receiver. An awesome way to practice aim and develop accuracy.
99½. Pick your Favorites from this list, add your own, and make a game of it. Not all of these ideas are going to work for every kid but I'm sure that a bunch of them will be keepers. Put the names of the keepers on tiny slips of paper and place those names inside a baggy. I'm fancy, huh? When the kids yell, "I'm bored!" Make them pick an activity from a baggy and send them on their way. Boo-yah! You've even made choosing fun!
Mom, the truth is that you never introduced your kids to technology knowing it would become addictive for them. It's totally normal to think if schools are using technology more and more in the classroom, we should definitely give them access at home too.
The lesson here is moderation.
Kids need to have clear boundaries regarding appropriate games, time limits for duration of play, and parental supervision is non-negotiable.
Leave technology for the weekends and holidays. They'll survive. I promise. In fact, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how their discovery of old-fashioned play becomes a welcome diversion when they're not building another world in Minecraft or arguing with their brother and sister about joining their worlds together.
The alternative is no bueno.