Ten Fun Activities to Enjoy With Your Kids
Fun and Unplugged - your kids will love these ten family adventures and will benefit from turning off the electronic entertainment devices.
1. Search the Night Sky
Grab a blanket and head for the backyard to view the night sky. Younger children enjoy snuggling up on the blanket and looking in a new direction. Stars are awesome! To learn about what you are seeing, consult a star chart or book. Start with easily identifiable constellations, such as the Big Dipper. Kids will think it is cool to see planets like Mars and Venus with the naked eye.
More advanced stargazers can use a telescope. You may even be able to see some of the outer planets - look for Jupiter and Saturn. Looking at the moon up-close is very interesting as well. Expand the activity by talking about the changing moon phases.
Tea at Three Menu
- Mini sandwiches: peanut butter; cold cuts; or cream cheese with cucumber slices
- Mini muffins: blueberry; apple; or chocolate chip
- Small cookies
- Mixed nuts
- Berries and grapes
2. Time for Afternoon Tea
Little girls love pretend tea parties, but all kids will love the real thing. Boys and girls alike enjoy the special foods and time together at the table.
Let everyone help prepare and put out the tea and goodies. Keep it formal by using a tablecloth and practicing good manners. Offer a selection of flavored caffeine-free tea bags and serve tea with honey, tiny lemon wedges, and some mint leaves. Use small cookie cutters to make fun shaped mini-sandwiches, for example, hearts, stars, or little circles.
Kids can dress up in fancy clothes for even more fun. Take the opportunity to discuss the origins of "afternoon tea" and the customs surrounding the practice. Your children may enjoy tea so much that it will become a new family tradition!
3. Bird Watching
Despite what you may have heard, bird watching is not boring! Birds are fascinating, and kids love being able to identify them.
Start with a simple bird guide from the library or book store. Look for common birds in your area and then set out to find them. You will need to carry the guide with you, as well as some binoculars and a camera. Start looking in your own yard and neighborhood, and then set out to local parks, rivers, lakes or beaches. Some parks offer early morning bird watching walks or night owl walks, so look into what is available in your area.
- Create a checklist for all the different species you see
- Purchase or build bird feeders and baths to attract birds to your yard
- Make a photo album or scrapbook of all the birds you find
Love the Fresh Air!
4. Hike a Nature Trail
There is nothing better than good old-fashioned fresh air and exercise for kids. Exploring nature allows children to appreciate the world and focus on it's beauty.
Grab a tree or flower field guide from the library or bookstore and set out for a hike. You may not even have to leave your own backyard or neighborhood. Take along a small journal to record your findings. Younger children can draw pictures of what they see. For more adventure, travel to a local park. Some parks have self-guided trails with maps and information plaques posted along the walk.
Extend the activity:
- Turn your walk into a nature scavenger hunt to keep the kids interested. Bring along brown paper lunch bags to collect the findings, and pencils to cross off items on the list.
- Start a new hobby by hiking different nature trails, taking pictures, and starting a blog about your adventures to share with friends and family.
- Go Geocaching! Geocaching is an outdoor activity that involves using a GPS device to track down small "treasure boxes" or caches hidden all over the world in places such as parks, fields, and parking lots.
Basic Family Tree Craft
5. Craft: Create a Family Tree
Learning your family history is interesting for all ages. Clear a table and set aside some time to work on this project. Bring out the family photo albums, so you can view the relatives as you add them to the chart. For younger children, make a simple family tree chart with colored 12" x 12" cardstock and peel n’ stick shapes - circles, squares, stars or hearts. See picture.
To step it up a notch, let the kids cut out pictures of relatives and make the family tree or chart on poster board, or in a large photo frame that can be displayed on the wall. These are fun to make and share with others.
For an even more advanced project, your family tree can be researched and organized with computer software such as Family Tree Maker. This is an extensive program that will allow you to make albums, slideshows and calendars. Your older children will love to help out on this project and share with the extended family.
Friends Greeting Card Craft
You will need:
- 8 1/2" x 11" colored card stock
- Markers or crayons
Fold the paper in half, so it opens like a standard greeting card. On the front, trace the adult’s hand with a marker. Then, inside the hand outline, trace the hand of the child. Add a saying on the front like “Friends go Hand in Hand“ or “Friends are Special." Inside the card, have your child sign his name and draw a picture. Your child can add stickers to complete the project.
A child is never too young to help volunteer in the community, and it can be fun! Plan a visit to a nursing home and have your child make or help bake something the residents would be allowed to have. One fun idea is to bring along paper and markers to make greeting cards. The residents will enjoy being included in the craft and receiving the keepsake. (See instructions on the right.)
Other volunteer ideas:
- Volunteering at an animal shelter
- Bringing meals to the sick or elderly in your community
- Gathering clothes and household items and delivering them to a local charity
7. Plant a Vegetable Garden
Whether you plant a single seed in a paper cup or a full-scale garden in the yard, your kids will love to get their hands on some dirt. Be sure to wear old clothes and gardening gloves for this long term project.
For outdoor gardens, you will need to find out what types of vegetables will grow in your area for each season. This information can be found online, but your local garden center may have some pamphlets or information sheets available. Take your child to the garden center to buy all the seeds, dirt and supplies. You may also find supplies at a super center or hardware store. Before you plant, let your child draw a diagram to show where each vegetable is placed. This will be an ongoing project as you and your child tend to the garden and watch the growth. As a bonus, at harvest time, your child will be more likely to eat something he has grown himself!
Other garden ideas:
- grow a small herb garden in flower pots - indoor or on the patio
- buy a mini greenhouse or windowsill kit to use inside any time of year
- add a few colorful flowers into your vegetable garden
This is Fun!
8. Playground Picnic
Surprise your children with a picnic at a playground across town that you have never visited before. Even if it is just a short car ride there, a new park to a child is like a mini-vacation. You can even pick two or three locations and do some park-hopping.
For the picnic, make sure you have a large blanket to sit on to enjoy your meal. Go for the full effect with a big picnic basket full of yummy food, napkins, plates, cups and drinks.
Simple Picnic Menu:
- Turkey and cheese subs
- Pretzels or chips
- Fruit salad
- Carrot sticks
- Brownies or chocolate chip cookies
Let's Make Some Chili
9. Family Cooking in the Kitchen
Kids love to break eggs, mix, stir, and best of all, make a mess! Crank up the fun with colorful aprons and music. Cookies and muffins are very popular, but try recipes like vegetable soup or vegetarian chili that have mutliple ingredients. Check your local library for kid-friendly cookbooks and select the recipe together. There are also countless recipes online.
For a new twist, select interesting recipes from another country and prepare a meal. This is a great way to encourage kids to try new foods and to learn about different cultures. Try to incorporate some of the country's traditions into your meal event. For example, you may use chopsticks and sit on floor cushions for a Japanese meal. Take it a step further and ask trivia questions about the country. You can write questions on pieces of paper and take turns reading them aloud.
Don't forget to have the kids help with clean up!
10. Medieval Feast
Boys and girls will both love this meal adventure! Take them back in time to a world of castles, knights, nobility, and elaborate feasts with rich entertainment and music.
Set the table by giving everyone a round flat bread to serve as a plate that absorbs the juices from the food. A good starter is a barley-vegetable soup. Spoons and bowls are allowed, but forks were not used. In the middle of the table, place a rotisserie chicken, a block of cheese, and a hunk of bread. You also may want to have a bowl of berries, a bowl of nuts, and a fruit pie for dessert. Vegetables were not very common at a medieval feast. For the drink, try a sparkling red grape juice served in goblets.
For the finishing touch, let the kids dress up as knights or princesses and act out their parts. Medieval music is perfect for setting the mood, and related trivia questions or jokes provide great conversation.