After a very long, wet winter that turned into a very cold not-really-spring, we’ve found ourselves at summer! We’ve been taking every opportunity to explore outside with our nature bag.
Hiking is a great way to stay active as a family. You can bring kids hiking at any age! If you want to hike with your kids, here are some things to keep in mind:
Don’t have a strict time frame: Kids hike slowly. On my oldest daughter’s first on-foot hike it took us an hour to get to a lake with both of us walking, and 10 minutes to get back with her in the Ergo. Bring a magnifying glass and local field guide to explore and identify anything that captures your child’s attention, and enjoy watching your kid discover the natural world.
Start small: Think flat and short. You can work your way up to more difficult hikes as your child gets older and more experienced.
Bring a carrier: For babies, unless you pick a flat, paved trail, a carrier works better than a stroller. Even for toddlers it’s good to have a carrier in case they get tired. My youngest spent some hike time in the Ergo until she was 3. A good rule is that the bigger the kid and the more they’ll be carried, the more structured you want your carrier to be. My favorite for little ones over 3 months is the Ergo Sport- it’s lightweight and easy to pack but still structured enough to give good support.
Make your kids comfortable: Bring snacks and water! For preschoolers and up you can find kid-sized camelback water backpacks. Use sunscreen to avoid sunburn, and dress in layers.
Take safety precautions: Bring a small first aid kit. Let older kids know if they get lost to stay where they are, and give them a safety whistle.
By making hiking a routine family hobby, you will instill this healthy habit in your kids! Happy trails!
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We’ve been doing some great physics work for upper elementary level these past few weeks. But what about those of us with little ones tagging along? Fortunately lessons in force offer a great opportunity to get outside and play on a windy day! It’s also a good way to transition from our mostly indoor physics unit to our mostly outdoor Springtime Science biology unit.
Here’s what we use to explore the force created by wind:
You can really use anything that moves with the wind. Ribbons and fabric work too. Sheets and pillowcases make great capes.
Start by talking about wind. What is wind? If you can’t see it, how do you know it’s there?
Use your wind-revealing materials to play with wind. As free play starts to wind down, ask more questions. Which way is the wind blowing? How do you know?
Look for the windiest and least windy spots. Now is a good time to tie it in to what we’ve learned about force. What do your wind catching materials do when the wind is stronger? This is a good free form lesson where young kids can engage in educational play, and older kids can talk about what they learned, using concrete examples, before moving on to the next unit.
Speaking of, keep an eye out for our upcoming biology unit, Springtime Science!
After our trip to the bowling alley, we continued our physics lesson with a trip to the arcade! If your kids love games, grab this worksheet and read on for another fun lesson in physics!
Just like we did in the bowling alley, we found opportunities to play with the force formula at the arcade. Remember:
Force = Mass x Acceleration
The bowling alley offers more opportunities to play with the mass piece, since the balls for arcade games tend to be standard sizes. But there are lots of ways to play with acceleration!
Acceleration is the change in velocity (speed and direction) over time
Try throwing your ski-ball at different speeds. Bounce it off the side and see what happens. See how slowly you can release a pin ball, and how that impacts the game.
Remember in my bowling post when I said you can’t get in there and measure the trajectory angle? Well fortunately arcades offer a little more flexibility! Get yourself a tool to measure angles, and get in there! Find the best trajectory for different games.
But What if We Can’t Get to an Arcade?
You can build your own pin ball machine! You will need:
A shallow, rectangular box (soda can packs and cereal boxes with one side removed work great)
Cut the box as necessary to make a shallow rectangle. Cut slots about an inch and a half from the bottom for the craft sticks. Place rubber bands around the craft stick, like this:
Insert them in the box so there is just enough room for your ball to fit between the inside ends, and your fingers can press down on the outside ends. Then place another rubber band on each stick so that there is one rubber band on either side of the slot, holding the stick in place. You should be able to move them like pin ball flippers by pressing down on the ends outside the box.
Create whatever decorations, obstacles, and points goals you like inside. Get creative! Then drop your marble in and play!
We recently made the decision to get a minivan. I love the extra space, the independence it gives the kids to get in and out on their own, and the mileage (it’s a plug-in hybrid). Unfortunately, while the back row does fold down for extra storage space, the regular trunk space is actually narrower than in my old Prius, so I have to be more intentional about organization. So without further ado, here’s what I keep in there so we’re always prepared for an unplanned adventure.
Our Nature Exploration Bag, which you can read about in more detail here. We’ve used this when we decide to go straight from classes to the beach or on a hike. It’s also great for a break on longer drives- we’ve been known to pull over to check out a cool stream, or, once, surprise snow we encountered driving home from Los Angeles. It also makes planned nature activities easier, because I know I already have most things I need in the car.
Extra clothes for everyone (myself included). We wade into lakes. We hike through the mud. We’ve been known to take an unplanned dip in the ocean. I could say no to this stuff and be zero fun, or I could just keep a quick change for everyone. I keep each person’s extra clothes in a zip lock bag that the wet/dirty clothes can go in to keep the mess contained.
Honestly, a lot of random crap ends up in here too. But better contained in a bag than all over the car’s floor- that’s where I keep my Craisins…
I watch too much a lot of “Doomsday Preppers.” I also live in California. That combo means I’m expecting a giant earthquake any minute now, at which point my family will have to traverse the apocalyptic wasteland in our Chrysler Pacifica. So I keep an earthquake kit in my car. I’m too lazy to make my own, so I bought this one.
I keep a brush, hand lotion, and like 9 lipstick colors in the center console in the front. Because if I’m jumping in a lake to get an algae sample for my kid’s microscope slide, you better believe I’m doing it with a bold lip.
A Note on Screens
Originally we didn’t want screens in our van, but they were included with the package we wanted. It turns out we love them! We made it clear to the kids that we only use them when the drive will be more than an hour long. We only use them for DVDs, not streaming, so I have full control over what the kids watch on them. So far we have used car screen time to work on our Spanish.
One of my favorite things to do with my kids is let them loose in nature to explore. This activity lasts much longer when I supply them with materials to deepen their exploration. I like to keep a kit for this in the trunk of my car so I always have it with me. Here’s what you need to make your own:
A bag. Keep in mind it’s going to get messy. I like a canvas tote because it’s easy to throw in the wash. Backpacks are great to take on longer hikes.
A net. Great for catching bugs and fish, and for sifting through dirt.
My oldest daughter loves art. We are frequent visitors at the nearby Berkeley Art Museum and Oakland Museum of California, and have explored local art museums on our travels, since she was a baby. We also do a lot of art and learning about artists at home.
How to Visit an Art Gallery with Kids
It may seem daunting to visit an art gallery with kids, but with a little pre-planning it can be a great experience!
Give them a Basis for Art Appreciation
Kids will appreciate art more, and behave more appropriately at a gallery, if they have a basis for what they’re seeing. Art appreciation is important to our family, so we started early.
We have several lithographs and paintings in our home, which I started talking about to my kids when they were babies. (Doing so is a great opportunity for language learning and teaching colors). I also read them the Mini Masters books, which are board books of famous artists’ works paired with poetic descriptions.
As my kids got older we learned more about different artists and various styles of art, using these books.
Another fun, classic book about a kid visiting an art museum is Olivia.
The more background your kids have, the less likely they are to be bored and act out. On that note, set clear expectations beforehand, like no running or touching exhibits (unless it’s specifically allowed- Santa Cruz, CA has a great hands on art museum). If they can’t handle these rules, leave. Better to cut your visit short than be stuck with the bill for a sculpture your kid knocked over!
What to do When You’re There
First of all, set everyone up for success. Make sure everyone is rested, fed (you likely won’t be able to snack in the gallery), dressed for the weather and wearing comfortable shoes (I like these for myself, and these for my kids).
Engage your kids! Compare what you see to what you’ve learned. For kids who can write, bring a clipboard and this printable so your child can write notes on their opinions. (For pre-writers, you can do this for them). You can even fill one out yourself! Then discuss them when you stop for lunch or at dinner that night.
Don’t stay too long- make your first visit short and gauge your child’s interest.
How To Do Art at Home
There are really no rules for this. Most kids do it anyway, and there are hundreds of art projects on Pinterest you can browse. I like to have set times for messy art projects so that I can prepare an area in advance with a drop cloth for easy clean up.
For our art curriculum, we like to create in the style of a particular artist. We also have a very large, very plain stucco wall surrounding our backyard. After a muralist I’d hired fell through, I realized I had my very own muralists at home. And they work for free! So we started using the wall for our art studies.
Our first project was this work in the style of Mondrian. We then moved on Banksy’s Rainbow Rain. But, like Olivia, our absolute favorite artist to explore is Jackson Pollock.
I’ve always loved Pollock, but since I don’t have a spare $140 million lying around, I have to have my kids make my process art. We’ve designated the largest wall in our yard as “where we Pollock.” Basically I just put out trays of paint and some brushes and let them have at it (or, let’s be honest, have at it myself). The activity is such a hit that we now have Process Art Play Dates, where friends get in on the action.
If you don’t have a giant wall, you can do this on other large surfaces, like an unfolded box, or a roll of butcher paper. My favorite surface, however, is a cheap, clear shower curtain. Hang it between two trees and have at it!
What’s your favorite art project? I’d love to hear it in the comments!
P.S. Want that art opinion printable at a discount?
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Our family loves bowling. It’s fun even if you’re terrible at it (which we are), and it’s inexpensive. This past week my 6-year-old asked if we could go bowling for our adventure day. Fortunately what seems like a morning off is actually full of math and physics for almost any level!
So hit your local bowling alley, get an at home set, or just set up 10 water bottles and grab a ball. Then try the math activities below that work best for your kids:
How many pins are there? How many pins did you knock down? How many pins are left? Bowling is full of opportunities to count with your child. If you’re playing at home, keeping score can also provide an opportunity to practice number recognition or writing numbers.
Bowling is, at its core, a game of subtraction. You start with 10 pins standing, and you want to get that number as close to zero as possible. You can practice subtraction casually and verbally (“Oh you knocked down 3 pins! How many do you want to knock down this time?”) Or, you can create a more formal work product:
Write down 10 – ___ = ___ – ___ =___, either 10 times for a formal game, or as many as you like at home. Your child can track their game by subtracting the number they knock down in each frame.
Bowling naturally lends itself to learning fractions, because any number of pins you knock down is out of 10. Use my Bowling Fractions worksheet for an introduction to fractions. Once your child gets the concept of turning their bowling frame into a fraction, move on to reducing those fractions (so 8/10 becomes 4/5).
Why can mommy and little sister hit the exact same spot on the pins, but mommy gets a strike and little sister only knocks down a few pins? Force!
This is the perfect time to teach the formula for force!
Force = Mass x Acceleration
The variables in the situation above are (1) the ball’s mass, and (2) how fast the ball is moving. Mom can probably throw a heavier ball than little sister. She can also probably throw it faster. If you’re at a bowling alley, play around with this concept by having each family member throw several different weights of bowling ball.
Be careful doing this! Help little kids carry balls up to the lane. Most bowling alleys have ramps for little bowlers. I carry the ball for my 3-year-old, put it on top of the ramp, and then she pushes it down.
The optimal impact point to bowl a strike is here:
How do you get there? Bowling instructors often use a laser pointer to show students the best angle to hit at the optimal strike point. If you’re not a serious bowler, use bumpers and play around with different angles.
Since you can’t really get into the lane and take measurements, bowling works best as an introduction to play around with the concepts surrounding angles and trajectory. For more, check out these experiments. And get yourself a rocket launcher.
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It seems appropriate to kick off this blog with a celebration of renewal! For our adventure this past week we attended a Holi celebration at a friend’s house.
What is Holi?
Holi is a Hindu celebration that takes place in March, on the day after the full moon closest to the first day of Spring. So if you’re looking for a local celebration, early March is a good time for a Google search. Holi celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. There are several different stories about the basis of Holi- like most religions’ celebrations of spring, they revolve around fertility, rebirth, and the triumph of good over evil.
How do you celebrate? You basically just throw colored powder at each other. My art and mess loving kids loved it! There are huge celebrations, but my friend just bought the colored powder on Amazon and let the kids have at it in the yard- her toddler found the big public celebration too overwhelming, so doing it with just a few friends was perfect for the little ones.
By exposing your child to various cultures and their celebrations, you can start laying the basis for respecting these cultures. You help your child understand the world, and prepare them to navigate different cultures in their future travels.
How to Experience Other Cultures
Hanging out with friends: the best way to experience another culture is through someone you know! We are lucky to live in a diverse area and love sharing cultural celebrations with friends.
Tavel: immersing yourself in another culture is a great way to learn about it
Public events: online searches and community center event guides can help you find these.
Educational resources: You can also check out other cultures from the comfort of your home with (families of the world). Our favorite resources are:
When you use elements of a culture for entertainment or fashion without the consent of that minority group, you are getting into the area of cultural appropriation. This is a big deal because it strips these elements of their deeper meaning to that culture and reduces them to a novelty.
For example, dressing up in a costume of someone from another culture generally means you are creating a caricature of that culture based on stereotypes. If your child is interested in traditional attire and you want an activity around that, try a coloring sheet with information on the style of dress and why it was culturally significant. Or check out this sticker book.