Monday, April 30, 2012

Games for Car Rides and Kids (No Equipment Needed)

Here are some simple games to play in the car with kids on a long ride that need no equipment.

1.  Yellow Car:  Everyone looks for yellow cars.  The game scores as follows: regular yellow car - 1 point, yellow pick up truck - 5 points, yellow mustang - 5 points and yellow Hummer - automatic win!  We keep score until someone finds a yellow Hummer but you could just do it for a certain amount of time.

2.  Rainbow Car:  Work together to find cars in the color of the rainbow.  You must do it in order.  Therefore, first you look for a red car, then orange, yellow, green, blue and finally purple.

3.  Quiz Questions:  My children love this game.  Give them quiz questions based on their lives.  Some example questions are "What is Grandma's middle name?", "How old was Mom and Dad when they got married?", "What day of the week were you born on?", etc.

4.  Alphabet Game:  Collectively work together or individually and race to find words that start with all letters of the alphabet.  You really need to be driving on a highway or busy area for this game to remain exciting.  Start by finding a word with the letter 'A', once found move onto the letter 'B'...  We have a few extra rules - you can not use license plates, you only have to find the letter Q or an X and if it is getting boring just look for the letters instead of words.

5.  10 Facts Each:  Go around the car and each person states 10 facts about him/herself.  For example: I ate oatmeal for breakfast.  I wore a red dress yesterday., etc.  Once everyone has stated their 10 facts try to remember all the facts and who said them.  Obviously you can not state your own facts about yourself.  See how many you can remember.

6.  First Person to Find:  This is a hit with us for short rides that get boring.  One person starts and declares an object "first person to find an American flag".  Then the first person who finds an American flag announces the next object to find.  I always make sure everyone gets a turn.

7.  Would You Rather?:  We love to make up crazy would you rather questions to answer.  For example, would you rather be super rich but you would have to be naked for the rest of your life or poor but you had a great wardrobe? 

What games do you play in the car to pass the time?

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Homemade Glowsticks

My 6 year old daughter came up with this idea for homemade glowsticks. She laced some fancy star beads and glow in the dark beads onto pipe cleaners. She made a loop at one end so she could hang them up at night when we are camping.  They came out really pretty.  She plans on charging them up during the day or under a light and they will be ready to go after dark (and reusable!).    

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cork Rockets

Here is a fun science activity for the outdoors.  You can create these rockets from household items.  The idea for the cork rockets came from Zoom's Lemon Juice Rockets.  We found vinegar to work much better than lemon juice when creating the blast off.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Homemade Dot Painters

I have made homemade dot markers before using cardboard circles and stamp pads.   This time I wanted to try creating some homemade dot painters.  These were super simple and entertained my toddler for quite some time.  Just put some washable paint into a small recycled water bottle.  Cover the top with a scrap of fabric and attach with a rubber band.  Start squeezing the bottle a bit and the dot painters are ready to go.  She enjoyed making the circle marks and squeezing the bottles to get more paint.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pretend Play Box - Veterinarian

I am a week late but here is the next Pretend Play Box - Veterinarian.  So far it has been a big hit.  The kids seem to love all the unique, not all the shelf objects that are in the boxes.  Here is what is in this one:

Laminated pages of dog exam, cat exam, new patient, plan of care, animal examination, appointment book and some appointment cards all from Pretend Play - Animal.  Here are the miscellaneous items: homemade leash with adjustable collar (see below), popsicle sticks for examining, toothbrush, medicine droppers, fake casts, animal head cone, treat box (beans inside tic tac box), dog food (fun foam with duct tape with beads inside), small towel, magnifying glass, bug box, fake bugs (see below) and food and water dish (bottom cut off of water bottles).

Here is the animal head collar.  This is just fun foam with some velcro dots on it to close it shut.  Now all that animal licking can be stopped.

Pretend casts are a must.  These are just white fun foam with velcro dots.  I made several sizes so they would fit different stuffed animals.

This leash was so easy to make and is getting so much use.  Just take a pipe cleaner and make a small loop on one end.  Thread the other end of the pipe cleaner through the loop and duct tape some ribbon to it.  Now you have an adjustable collar that can slip right over the animals' heads.

 The toddler loved emptying all the "dog treats" out of the tic tac box into the dog dishes.  She also enjoyed pouring the "dog food" out of the pouch.

Here is the dog leash in action and the toddler is feeding him a snack.

This is my favorite part which was my 12 year old daughter's idea.  I printed out some 1/2" pictures of bugs and stuck them to some velcro dots.  Then you can stick the bugs to the animals and have to remove them with your fingers or the fine tooth comb.  Then they put them in the bug box to examine them further.  You can download the pictures of the bugs here.  They are on page 2.

Here is also where you can find the sign for the box - Pretend Play Box - Veterinarian  

Visit GrowingPlay to view the Pretend Play Animal Pages.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Keep Life Simple - Play Hopscotch

Choices Increase Physical Activity in Children

If you want to increase physical activity time in your children here are two simple tips. Provide choices and encourage mastery of a skill. A recent study indicated that providing children with a choice of active toys increased physical activity time by nearly 200% for girls and 42% for boys. The active toys that were used included mini hockey, bean bag toss combined with tic-tac-toe, mini indoor basketball and jump rope. In a second study researchers looked at the intrinsic motivation in children for physical activity time. Using exergames (ie Wii), the researchers concluded that combining choice with mastery of a game resulted in the greatest increase in physical activity time.

Need ideas for active play?  Check out this collection of ebooks with active play ideas.

Reference: Medical Express. Kids get more active when given more toy choices, studies show. Retrieved from the web on 4/18/12 at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Game of Outdoor Survival

With the kids on vacation this week there was plenty of down time earlier in the week.  They invented this game of outdoor survival.  It was a huge hit with them and even a bigger hit for Mom and you will quickly see why when you read the objective of the game.  They played it twice for hours (weather was damp and in the 50's) Here are the rules they created:

Objective of the game: who can stay outside the longest!!!!!

Preparation:  One person is mother nature or brother nature (she/he respectively).  This person packs a back pack for each person that includes a pair of shoes, one coat, a piece of fabric, some food, some water and one extra free choice item.  Each child playing can not have a coat on or shoes to start. 

Ready to Play:  Each child receives their backpack, opens it and inspects gear.  They put on or traded gear.  Then they headed outdoors and the game officially started.  You can not return indoors (unless to use bathroom as approved by mother/brother nature).

They each set up a little shelter and collected items from nature to make the shelter cozy.  Occasionally mother/brother nature comes by and brings some bad weather (i.e. sprays water on shelter as rain).  They played this for hours night one and finally called it a tie when it was dark out for an hour.  I did build them a campfire to keep warm by. 

The next day they invited some friends over to play.  This time they played with teams.  They also added in challenges to get rewards.  Pictured above was a knot untying challenge.  Whoever untied all the knots first got to pick a prize such as a blanket, gloves or a tasty snack.  They created all sorts of challenges - obstacle courses, tallest tower building, eating contests and more. 

Another addition was a store.  Brother nature opened up a store where you could only pay in sticks longer than 3 feet or pinecones.  He sold candy, umbrellas, hot chocolate and more.  Brother nature sold out rather quickly and was left with huge piles of sticks. 

At the end of hours of open ended play outdoors the kids came inside exhausted.  No one even cared who won (which is HIGHLY unusual in our house).  In the end it was all about how much fun they had. 

Cardboard Arcade

If you have not seen this yet, you need to take 10 minutes to sit down and watch it. Incredible feel good story about a young boy who has free time on his hands and what he created. Look at what children can do if they have free time. So wonderful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tot Time - Water Pouring

Water pouring is absolutely my daughter's favorite past time right now (19 months).   Like most families with young children, our life is very hectic in the late afternoon between homework and preparing dinner.  Water pouring entertains the little one for at least 20 minutes.  She does make a big mess but sometimes I do not have to change her clothes.  But even if I do, my math calculates that 20 minutes of independent play time - 3 minutes to change her clothes = 17 minutes of independent play time!  That is a winning combination for me when it comes to that time of day.

I do attempt to keep down on the mess.  I put down those super absorbent counter drying mats and then a large tray.  It does help that my kitchen floor always need a good washing so over spill only helps me out.

One time I decided wouldn't it be such fun to put some recycled bottle tops in the water to float.  Then while she pours they will float around.  The picture below indicates that it was a bad idea.  She hit the lids spot on and water splashed everywhere.  Now this was even more fun!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Earth Day Fun for April 22

 Here are some simple ideas to celebrate Earth Day:

1. Earth Day Crafts: Create collages out of recycled materials. The children can cut up recycled cardboard or magazines to create a collage. Perhaps think of a theme such as healthy foods or exercise. Maybe write the child's name in large bubble letters and glue on the recycled pictures.

2. Earth Day Challenge: Who can create the tallest recycled tower? See how many recycled boxes or containers you can stack before it falls over. Depending upon where you place the boxes, this activity encourages the child to squat down, reach high, motor plan and more.

3. Earth Day Signs: Create signs with the children reminding them of energy conservation. Example#1: Turn Lights Off when you leave a room - cut out pictures of light bulbs from magazines to glue to sign. Or cut out circles from white scrap paper to be light bulbs. Example #2: Turn off water when brushing teeth. Try using a toothbrush to paint with for the tooth brushing sign.

4. Recycle Carnival: Create carnival games out of recycled materials. For example, recycled, clean yogurt cups stack well for a target. Newspapers rolled up can hit objects for eye hand coordination. Put newspaper rolls on floor to jump over.  Recycle green and blue paper.  Crumple into balls and practice juggling.  Make this Easter Egg Plinko game. 

5. Practice energy conservation: Discuss how energy can be conserved by walking to school or stores. Practice different forms of transportation - walking, jogging, running, bike riding and scooter riding. Discuss which one required the most energy.

6. Protect the earth's animals: Act out movements of endangered species such as elephants, gorillas, wolves, and tigers.

7. Milk Scoop Jugs: Most everyone knows how to make a milk scoop jug. Just cut off the bottom of a gallon milk container leaving the handle intact. Get a tin foil ball. Throw and catch it in the plastic container. Put colored tape on it to protect any sharp edges.  You can view more details at Jug Catchers.

8. Clean Up Stroll: Take a walk outdoors, wear gloves and clean up any trash.

9.  Plant a tree:  Plant a small tree in your yard or at your school (with permission).  This is so much physical activity and hard work needed to plant a tree, water it and care for it until it starts to grow on it's own.

10.  Enjoy what the earth has to offer:  Just go outdoors and enjoy what the earth has to offer.  Go hiking, dig in the dirt, splash in the mud, whatever your fancy but appreciate the earth and give thanks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pretend Play Box - Doctor Hospital

Pretend Play Box -Doctor Hospital

What's Inside: Inside this box is a home made clipboard (cardboard, contact paper and binder clip), some Pretend Play pages from Doctor and Hospital,  box of band aids, ace wrap, gauze, jar of cotton balls, container of Q-tips, fake ice pack (blue fun foam with clear paper shreds inside plastic bag), splint (cardboard wrapped in sheet of fun foam and duct tape), gloves, 2 basting brushes, fake needles for sutures, pretend cast and an arm sling.

For the pretend cast, I wrapped fun foam around a paper towel cardboard tube that was cut up the middle.  I duct taped the ends.  Now the child can take it on and off easily and it fits many sizes.

 For the sling, I just used a long piece of fabric.  I tied a hair band around the ends to keep it together and that way it can be adjusted for size.

For the "suture kit", I twisted half of a pipe cleaner and duct taped the ends (to prevent any sharp edges of pipe cleaner).  Thread some dental floss through and the "doctor" is ready to suture.  The plastic case was recycled from the garbage literally (I found it in my daughter's garbage can - not sure what it is from, forgot to ask). 

What They Played: The 18 month old enjoyed taking the cotton balls in and out of the jar.  She also dropped the Q-tips in and out of the flip top container (recycled spice jar).  She also loves to put band aids on her dolls with help.  I think she mostly enjoyed just taking the band aids in and out of the box.

The older kids played pretend hospital and doctor.  The forms included check ups, x-ray sheet and prescription pad.  They used a wipe off marker on these to document the visit.  They took turns being the patient and the doctor.  There was lots of broken bones and ice packs.  The suture kit and the splint were lots of fun since they were different.  They liked using the splint to do i.v.'s.  It was novel since almost all of the stuff inside the box was not the typical store bought doctor's kit.  

 Sign for the Box: If you are creating your own boxes I added the sign for the box to the document. You can view it at Pretend Play Box - Doctor Sign 

View the Pretend Play Box - Newborn Baby
View the Pretend Play Box - Pet Show 
View the Pretend Play Box - School

Get the full download of Playing Pretend - Doctor Hospital at

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Addition to Sensory Play

My toddler loves sensory play with beans, rice, oatmeal and more.  We added this nice addition to her sensory play - the milk jug with a tube on it.  I just rolled a piece of cardstock, taped it closed and then duct taped it to the top of the milk jug.  I also cut open the side of the milk jug so she can get all the beans back out.  It just takes pouring one step further - they mystery of not seeing the beans for a moment intrigue her and then the beans make a wonderful noise when they drop into the milk jug. She also puts pom poms down the shoot - they fall quietly to the bottom.

For some reason the older kids always pick up this milk jug, turn it upside down and pretend it is a weed wacker or a leaf blower!  Kids have wonderful imaginations.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Egg Drop Contest

This has been a tradition for the last several years in our family. It is loads of fun and great for kids of all ages.  

Object of the Contest: Create the strongest "nest" for your egg so that your egg remains intact after dropping it from different heights.

 How you Play:
1. Collect recycles: Start gathering recycles that will make a good nest. We collect egg cartons, small boxes, strawberry containers, coffee cans, butter containers and newspaper.

2. Gather the materials: Put out all the recycles, packing tape and a real egg for each person playing. If you are playing with a large group just partner up or make small teams.

3. Set the timer: Set the timer for around 10 minutes.

4. Create your nest for 10 minutes: Pack your egg safely inside the recycled containers. Add newspaper for padding. Tape it all closed if necessary.

5. Start the drop: Set up a step ladder. Start at the first step. Each player climbs to the first step and drops their egg inside the "nest" of containers.

6. Check egg: After each drop check if the egg is intact. If it is cracked but not leaking you can continue to next round. If there is any leaking you are out (usually these kids become the referees to determine if eggs are cracked or leaking). If egg is intact you move onto the next round.

7. Repeat the drop: Now climb one step higher and repeat the drop and check eggs.

8. Continue climbing and dropping: The last person to have an intact, unbroken egg is the winner! If you need to do a tie breaker just make up your own i.e. some years we have done who can throw the egg the furthest, remove one piece of packing material and drop again, etc.

Have fun and Happy Spring!

Premiere FREE Issue of Growing Play Magazine

Here is the first issue of the Growing Play Magazine which is loaded with activity ideas that focus on pretend play, outdoor fun and active play.  If you can not read it below head over to GrowingPlay to download the pdf.