Summer Fun: July 31st

Are you ready for some fun ideas to keep your kids busy this next week?

Here are five ideas to get the creative juices flowing (and please, take these ideas, build on them, make them your own, use them as a springboard for bigger and better ideas):

Day One – Make fingerpaints with soap flakes, water and food coloring with your child.

Day Two – Tell your child a story about looking both ways before crossing the street. Take him/her on a walk and show how to look both ways as well as use a street crossing signal.

Day Three – Ask your child to organize the coins in a coin jar. If your child is older, has him/her to roll the coins. Go to the bank together and cash them in. Talk about the importance of saving every penny.

Day Four – Play some online educational games with your child. Here are some great places to start. And here are some educational resources for parents.

Day Five – Look for community service activities that can include your child.


Crafts for the Kids (by age)

Featured Craft of the Week:
Toddlers
Handsome Tree Skirt

4 to 5 year olds
Pipe Cleaner Pals

6 to 8 year olds
Mini PiƱatas

9 to 12 year olds
Ten Terrific Clothes Decorating Projects


Here is a fun activity from the book, “A Lithgow Palooza!”:

groovy-face2 Bibliomancy

The ancients tried to foretell future events and uncover hidden meanings by consulting randomly selected passages from sacred texts. Essentially, these wise owls would bring their Big Questions to a Big Book as if it were one of those Magic Eight Balls. “Will there be peace?” “Will the crops be bountiful?” This palooza is about bringing the little questions — “Will I pass that spelling quiz tomorrow?” “Can I have a dog?” — to a big book like the dictionary and seeing all the funny, clever ways your kids get the answer they’re looking for.

arrow-right-side What to do:

A fun, funky way to use the dictionary for your own devices. Take a dictionary — the bigger and fatter and more authoritative the better — and lay it on the table in front of you. Think of it as a kind of crystal ball — you will ask it a question, and it will present you with an answer. Now carefully formulate your question. The way you pose your question is important, in the same way it is important, say, not to ask for everything in the world when you close your eyes and blow out your birthday candles but rather be selective and precise, in order to increase your chances of seeing your dreams come true.

Close your eyes and think of your simple, careful question. It can be about anything — your family, your friends, school, sports, or other hobbies. You probably know what you want the answer to be. Ask your question three times out loud, then open the dictionary to a random page and drop your finger anywhere on that page. Open your eyes and find the dictionary entry closest to where your finger has landed. If you land in the middle of a definition, refer to the word being defined. Then start working the angles of the word and definition, being as creative and clever as you have to be to get the answer you’re looking for.

For example, here’s my question: “Will I do well in my script reading on Saturday?” I open the dictionary at random, drop my finger, and find I’ve landed on the word eyehole, which is defined as “a hole to look through, as in a mask or a curtain.” Did someone say, “mask?” Actors are often described as wearing the masks of the characters they play. Also, everyone knows the masks of tragedy and comedy. And “a curtain” must have something to do with a stage curtain. Now I’m feeling very certain I’m looking through an eyehold in a stage curtain and seeing myself do very well indeed on my script reading!

Other random samplings illustrate the power of bibliomancy:

“Will I do well on my spelling test?” gets inclined. I think that means you are inclined toward spelling and are likely to do well.

“Can I have more dessert?” gets prayerful, which suggests that if you ask prayerfully, sincerely or earnestly, you just might get two scoops.

“What activities should I do in the fall?” gets fusion, which means a merging of distinct or separate elements into a whole. Hmm. Sign up for wrestling and tap dancing?

Now try it yourself with questions of your own. Use a dictionary or specialty references such as dictionaries of slang, cliches, or allusions.

Summer Fun: July 24th

Are you ready for some fun ideas to keep your kids busy this next week?

Here are five ideas to get the creative juices flowing (and please, take these ideas, build on them, make them your own, use them as a springboard for bigger and better ideas):

Day One – Family movie night – watch old movies, or watch the videos your child made.

Day Two – Make a wish list of places you would like to visit with your child. Look them up on a map. Google information about these places and talk about how living in these places would be different than where you’re living now.

Day Three – Make a personalized bookmark with your child.

Day Four – Read a poem aloud with your child. Now see if you can write a poem with your child.

Day Five – Ask your child to study town history from old newspapers. Talk what’s unique about your town. Make a time capsule and bury it or place it somewhere safe (maybe in a safe deposit box at the bank?)


Crafts for the Kids (by age)

Featured Craft of the Week:
Toddlers
Color in a Bag

4 to 5 year olds
Petal Pendants

6 to 8 year olds
Doubleheaders

9 to 12 year olds
Corn Husk Puppets


Here is a fun activity from the book, “A Lithgow Palooza!”:

groovy-face2 Adopt-a-Soup Can

Hang on to your hats, this is a nutty palooza. But trust me, the kids will love it. Andy Warhol exalted the sameness in his Campbell’s Soup can series. This palooza brings an individual can of soup to life and gives it a personality all its own.

arrow-right-side What to do:

Choose a can of soup to adopt. Roam the soup aisle at the grocery store and read aloud the names of various kinds of soup. Pick a soup that tickles your fancy and bring it home to “live.” Invent a name that suits your soup can’s personality; think Beany Bacon, Alpha Beth Soup, Tommy Tomato, Charlie Chowder, and so on.

At home with the soup, make a birth certificate for it. Look at your own birth certificate as a sidelight. Include the soup can’s name, date, time, and place of birth (date of purchase and store name), and the name of its legal guardian (your name). Once the soup can is named and has proper documentation, invent the soup can’s life story and personality traits. Then dress it accordingly.

To dress the soup can, carefully remove the paper label. Trace the outline of the label onto a piece of paper to make a can-sized “dress” pattern. Design and color the new dress (or pants, bathing suit, tutu, and so on) for the can using the pattern. Thinking of its personality, use the soup can’s favorite colors and patterns. Stripes, solids, citrussy oranges and pinks. Businessy blues and grays. Don’t forget to leave space to draw a face onto the paper. Outfit the can by taping on his new clothes. Add hair by attaching pieces of yarn to the top of the can with tape.

A soup can’s accessories say much about his personality. Dress him up for a business meeting by adding a little necktie. Draw an umbrella and handbag for her. Or a baseball cap and glove for him.

What’s your can like? She’s a little bit shy, but loves Audrey Hepburn movies. He’s always green with pea-soup envy. Does she socialize with other soups or prefer the company of mixed nuts? The idea is to make the can as interesting a character as possible. And to get her involved in your life! She comes to the table for meals. She helps with homework. She goes to ballet class and soccer practice. She may even go to school for show-and-tell. Be sure to tell her how she got that dent below her ingredients list. It’s quite a story.

Summer Fun: July 17th

Are you ready for some fun ideas to keep your kids busy this next week?

Here are five ideas to get the creative juices flowing (and please, take these ideas, build on them, make them your own, use them as a springboard for bigger and better ideas):

Day One – Have your child swap favorite books with a friend.

Day Two – Tell a story. Ask your child to tell it back to you. Or ask your child to provide the ending. Or, have your child begin a story and YOU finish it. Write it down. Record it. It’ll become a precious memory.

Day Three – Ask your child to make a collage from things found around the house — ribbons, string, buttons, pebbles.

Day Four – Show your child how and when to dial 911. Teach your child not to be afraid of authority, but to respect authority.

Day Five – Take your child to the grocery store. Talk about prices and weights of food. Let your child pick out a fruit, vegetable or other new food that your child hasn’t tried yet — and try it.


Crafts for the Kids (by age)

Featured Craft of the Week:
Toddlers
Terrific Tap Shoes

4 to 5 year olds
Shoelace Bunnies

6 to 8 year olds
Safari Miniature Golf Set

9 to 12 year olds
Red Barn


Here is a fun activity from the book, “A Lithgow Palooza!”:

groovy-face2 Animal Talk

Sure, our pets have a lively and effective repertoire of earnest stares, wagging tails, nagging meows, and important yelps. But imagine everything they’d say if only they could talk. I shudder to think how quickly they could take over my house — the world? — given the gift of language.

arrow-right-side What to do:

Write a script for your pets — what they might say if only they could! (If you have only one pet, write it for your pet and the neighbors’ pets, or if you have no pets, write a script for your friends’ or relatives’ pets or even for your favorite animals at the zoo).

It’s fun to think about what your animals would say to you, but think about what they’d say and do to each other, if given the chance. For instance, what are they doing while everyone is at work or at school in your house? Does the dog jump on the bed and turn on the television set? Does he make long-distance calls to his litter mates back in Iowa? What kind of arguments would break out over who gets Dad’s recliner and who gets the remote?

Make up comic dramas that take place in your house while you’re away (sort of the way the toys cavort in Toy Story). How would they bicker over who’s the boss or who’s the smartest? Who answers the phone when it rings? When things go wrong — and they always do — who runs for cover and who saves the day? Plot a simple, funny scene, then consider how your animals would talk.

Think about what you already know about your animals and their personalities. Might your nervous little lapdog who can’t bear to be alone have a voice that is squeaky and thin? Does your high-strung Dalmatian speak only in rapid-rhyming couplets? Does the neighbor’s broad-chested bulldog talk like he grew up on the streets of Brooklyn? And the snooty Persian cat? Does she talk with a vague foreign accent? And does your goofy Lab/Irish setter mix jump from subject to subject as if he can’t decide which is his favorite?

EXTRAPALOOZAS:

Sunday Funnies
Create a panel comic strip starring your pet. Use photographs of your pet or drawings to illustrate a simple sequence. Write dialogue or thoughts in little balloons over his head. To convey the mini-plot of a comic, carefully select the details you illustrate in order for it to work in a four, or five-panel comic. Does your dog drive the mailman crazy? You might show your dog spying through the mail slot in the door as the mailman comes up the sidewalk. Then the mailman looking around to be sure the dog isn’t there. Then the mailman smiling to himself as he slips the mail in the slot. Then the dog’s snarling head popping through the mail slot just in time to take a big bite out of the mailman’s behind. What might the dog and the mailman be saying to themselves in the thought balloons? Have some fun with the panel comic format, and your pet might become the next Garfield!

Summer Fun: July 10th

Are you ready for some fun ideas to keep your kids busy this next week?

Here are five ideas to get the creative juices flowing (and please, take these ideas, build on them, make them your own, use them as a springboard for bigger and better ideas):

Day One – Talk to your child about avoiding strangers. Teach your child what to do in case of an emergency.

Day Two – Hide a treasure with your child and draw a map to find it.

Day Three – Practice printing or handwriting with your child. Make a certificate for job well done.

Day Four – Take a walk or bike ride with your child.

Day Five – Discover when things were invented with your child. Make a timeline.


Crafts for the Kids (by age)

Featured Craft of the Week:
Toddlers
15 Fun Outdoor Toddler Activities

4 to 5 year olds
Good Measure Growth Chart

6 to 8 year olds
Knotted Anklet

9 to 12 year olds
Flower Friends


Here is a fun activity from the book, “A Lithgow Palooza!”:

groovy-face2 Literary Dish

Much of literature is infused with intoxicating references to food, often times so tempting that it’s hard to wait until the end of a chapter to grab a snack. While Hemingway writes of salty oysters and Proust has his buttery madeleines, children’s books are also spiced with fanciful foods. When kids see that it’s possible to make incredible foods — green eggs and ham, anyone? — spring from the page and onto the table, they just might try a new dish or two. Creativity is key here, so don’t be afraid to let the literary dish run away with the spoon!

arrow-right-side What to do:

For the youngest eater-readers, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle inspires a mini-tasting menu. If tots find themselves feeling like the caterpillar with an insatiable appetite, they can follow him on his Saturday food scavenge. Taking small tastes of a smorgasbord of berries, cheese, pickles, salami, muffins, and cherry pie prevents anything akin to the caterpillar’s Sunday-morning stomachache. On a cold, snowy day, everyone can contribute to Little Bear’s big black pot of birthday soup. The chef might replace his hat with the cub’s space helmet (perhaps an old metal strainer), and guests can enjoy a hot meal alongside favorite (stuffed) animal friends.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is full of sweet ideas for older kids to explore. Recipes for simple fudge or candied fruit are easy to locate, and green oomp-loompa food coloring adds to any dessert. Concoct recipes for Wonka’s wacky inventions, such as “toffee-apple tree” (first cousin of the candy apple), “hot ice cream for cold days” (some hot sauces, perhaps?), and “fizzy lifting drinks” (carbonation is the key). Fans of Shel Silverstein will also find inspiration for new recipes in many of his poems. Read Silverstein’s “Eighteen Flavors” as a starter and choose a mix of flavors to experiment with in creating a new dessert.

In Judi and Ron Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the town of Chewandswallow experiences deluges of dinner and buttered toast breakfasts. The meals described in this whimsical book aren’t on a plate, rather they swirl around the air like the weather. Cloudy-inspired meals don’t come from recipes, instead ask a child to imagine what his meal might be, meteorologically speaking. Kids can create their own food forecasts out of their ordinary meals. Storm clouds of scrambled eggs, smoothie sleet, and a butter-and-jam tornado. For mashers and stirrers, an ice cream and chocolate sauce cyclone.

EXTRAPALOOZAS:

Cheesed Off
The Stinky Cheese Man, by Jon Scieszka, prompts an easy food-shopping activity: find a local gourmet grocery store and get to know the cheese man. Let him introduce you to a new seriously stinky cheese every week.

Riddles for the Griddles
Dr. Seuss’s books seems to have been written with the kitchen explorer in mind. Flip through any one of the fantastical books for new recipe ideas. Thank red-fish-blue-fish sugar cookies. Or potato-chip pork chops. Seuss’s book of riddles, Oh Say Can You Say, is also a double delight for the tongue.

Summer Fun: July 3rd

Are you ready for some fun ideas to keep your kids busy this next week?

Here are five ideas to get the creative juices flowing (and please, take these ideas, build on them, make them your own, use them as a springboard for bigger and better ideas):

Day One – Ask your child to watch the moon & record changes in size and color. Dig out some binoculars or a telescope and take a closer look at the moon.

Day Two – Have your child decorate a shoe box to store treasures.

Day Three – Talk to your child about fire safety. Discuss a fire escape route and have a mock fire drill.

Day Four – Make a grocery list that fits within a budget with your child.

Day Five – Learn a tongue twister with your child. Have fun, laugh. Then discuss the importance of proper grammar – both verbal and written.


Crafts for the Kids (by age)

Featured Craft of the Week:
Toddlers
Indy 500 Painting

4 to 5 year olds
Frog Puppet

6 to 8 year olds
Rubber Band Belt

9 to 12 year olds
Beaded Sunglasses Strap


Here is a fun activity from the book, “A Lithgow Palooza!”:

groovy-face2 Found Sound

I’ve often marveled over how one person’s noise is another person’s music — and vice versa. Aren’t our ears strange and wonderful accessories? This palooza is quite flexible because it can be done off and on over any period for as long as it seems fun.

arrow-right-side What to do:

Create a composition of interesting sounds you collect in your everyday life. John Cage’s infamous 1952 composition, “4’33″”, called for four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence to be filled by whatever random sounds were heard in the concert hall each night: coughs, rustling, sneezes. Considered rather radical at the time, the first performance was held in Woodstock, New York, at the Maverick Concert Hall.

Okay, silence as music might be hard to imagine. But Cage also used rubber mallets, metal hammers, toy pianos and wooden objects. So point your tape recorder toward a toilet flushing, hanging pots and pans, a fan, or the washing machine — be a maestro and create a musical composition, a la John Cage. Set sound free!

Record various sounds, exploring all over the house, in nooks and crannies. Living room sounds. Kitchen sounds. Bathroom sounds (oops, excuse me!). Take the activity outside to record in the backyard, at the park, in train stations, at stores — as many places as you can.

Try to avoid the obvious “musical” objects. Instead of the telephone’s ring, record the dial tone or a busy signal. Rather than a doorbell, try the click of the bolt lock.

Now listen to all the found sounds you’ve collected, picking and choosing favorites to use in a composition. Decide what order you want the sounds to be in, maybe jotting them down on a piece of paper: clanging pots, dripping faucet, whistle, vacuum cleaner. (A younger child can dictate a composition to an adult). You might want to think about whether there’s a scale of some kind, perhaps from lowest-pitch to highest-pitch sounds. Go back and re-record them in the particular order that you like best.

Arrange a concert hall with the tape recorder position on a pedestal, a podium perhaps in front, and chairs for the “live” audience — whether it’s the family, the family pet, or a collection of action figures. Make a sign with the name of the auditorium and a program listing the composer (that’s you!), the “instruments,” and the date. Naming the composition is half the fun: Concerto for Blender and Bathtub? Sonata in Six Spoons Sharp? Of course, you must “conduct” as the tape plays and then take a modest bow!

EXTRAPALOOZA:

Guessing Game: Take turns recording found sounds and guessing what they are. The challenge is to find ten sounds within a time limit of five minutes. This of course will involve a lot of sneaking around so that the guessers don’t see what the recorders are recording. It could even turn into a sort of found-sound hide-and-seek.

BLOGGING IDEA: Bloggers, upload your child’s found sounds to your blog. Can your readers guess what the sounds are? Blog about your child’s appreciation for sound.

Summer Fun: June 26th

Are you ready for some fun ideas to keep your kids busy this next week?

Here are five ideas to get the creative juices flowing (and please, take these ideas, build on them, make them your own, use them as a springboard for bigger and better ideas):

Day One – Encourage your child to check out two books this month from the library.

Day Two – Write a list of your child’s favorite animals. Talk about what makes each animal special.

Day Three – Include your child in preparing a healthy meal. Talk about the importance of healthy eating – try something new, like couscous or tofu.

Day Four – Explain origin of holidays, such as Independence Day.

Day Five – Ask your child to write a thank you note or write a note to a relative or friend.


Crafts for the Kids (by age)

Featured Craft of the Week:
Toddlers
Prints Charming

4 to 5 year olds
Yogurt Cup Shakers

6 to 8 year olds
Recycled Bird Feeder

9 to 12 year olds
Mable Maze


Here is a fun activity from the book, “A Lithgow Palooza!”:

groovy-face2 Pulpture

What I love about this palooza is that it’s a sneaky combination of brainstorming, problem-solving, and making art.

arrow-right-side What to do:

Use the news to create an unusual work of art. A work in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City called Bedspring is a mixed-media assemblage on wire bedspring created in 1960 by artist Jim Dine. Dine’s work is composed of old clothing, bedsprings, crumpled paper, and other trash taken from the city streets. Have a look at Bedspring and try not to want to create an assemblage or sculpture just like it. That’s the idea behind Pulpture: create a spontaneous work of art made from newspaper, twine and tape.

Forget about recycling for a week and save stacks of newspapers for Pulpture. Gather a good-sized stack of papers, several day’s or a week’s worth if possible, along with masking tape and twine. Clear a workspace in the family room or kitchen, or set up outdoors in the yard or on a patio or driveway in nice weather. Parents give yourselves over to this one, and don’t worry about containing the mess, at least initially.

The goal is to create a Pulpture, aka newspaper sculpture, using the paper, twine, and tape in any way you can imagine. Think crumpled paper. Think folded paper. Think paper taped to the twine. Think about how it’s possible to tape one piece of crumpled paper to another to create a figure. Or how a Pulpture can hang from twine that is taped or tied to the ceiling or to other household objects. Pulptures can also be mounted with tape onto everyday items such as a garbage can lid, a sled, or a tricycle. Or Pulptures can stand on their own. How might a Pulpture stand up — perhaps folded paper bases and tripod constructions — figuring it out is the most satisfying part of this process.

You can work for hours (or days, if the spirit moves). Have at it for as long as it takes. Make Pulpture animals or human figures. Pulpture buildings. Pulpture forts. Alternatively, use a timer and a start a frenzy of Pulpture design and construction. Who can make the tallest Pulpture in five minutes or less?

Name the Pulptures and — here’s the best part — display the sculptures prominently in your home for a week. Out of respect for the art and artist, of course. Take pictures. Invite the neighbors in for the Pulpture Gallery opening.