Nice Day + Old Fish Tank = Terrarium

By , May 20, 2010 3:41 pm

Are you without any ideas for organized unplugged things to to do on a nice Spring day but you aren’t feeling ambitious enough for a full blown Children’s Garden?  Do you have an old fish tank, or large glass bowl?  See if your kids want to make a terrarium!

Very few children can resist the idea of their own tiny little garden.  Even I remember making one and being totally fascinated by the magic of such a small scale.  To me it was like a little doll house garden.  If you have a fairy-lover, call it a Fairy Garden.  A dragon-lover, why not make a Baby Dragon Garden!  Be creative.

Last Sunday when we had our first gorgeous spring day, I finally told my 9 year-old that she could have the old fish tank in our garage that had been gathering dust in our garage for at least 6 months.  She has had her eye on it for some time – but for me, snow and cold are not conducive to warm, green creativity.

We finally pulled it out and I told her she was on her own.

This is what she came up with all by herself (as long as you don’t count my driving her to the nursery to get her plants while I bought mine).

I LOVE the reuse of the little fairy house from our fairy garden of 2 years ago and the path of rocks that lead to it.  There is even a pond made out of a food storage container that my daughter wants to put tadpoles in.  She put some sea shells in the pond and broken terracotta pots as homes for the future frog residents.  Some of the ferns look like trees and there is a small sprig of English Ivy for which she plans to make her own twig trellis.

Very fun and easy!

– Teaches kids not only to be creative about their landscaping ideas, but responsibility in caring for their creation.

– If you don’t have a suitable glass container, try searching yard sales and thrift stores.

Spring!

By , May 16, 2010 6:51 pm

What a glorious sunny, warm (but not too warm) day it was in Arizona’s mountains today. Finally we had our first real late-spring day!  It might be the last for a while judging by the forecast of cooler temperatures and yet more unbelievably strong winds again for this week.

The sun was gently warm, its blue sky background scattered with just enough gentle puffy white clouds for interest. Leaves are emerging on trees, but not yet on the Gambel Oaks. Stems are greening up and little leaf buds are miraculously presenting themselves on plants that look deader than dead.

Encouraged by the relief from the strong spring gales and finally warm air, I decided to take the Big Frost Gamble and join the throngs headed for the nursery.  Somehow I resisted the temptation to buy everything green and flowery and bought only the necessary plants  – but I know I’ll be back!

My 9 year-old and I spent a lovely day planting pots and window boxes while my husband washed cars (his number two favorite hobby after cleaning garages). My 7 year-old son made a mess map in the mud with a hose, forming lakes, islands, peninsulas and bays, each with its own name. My 4 year-old went to the park with her best friend and best friend’s mom to feed ducks and play on the play-ground.

It was a fine unplugged day!

Cool Math

By , May 12, 2010 5:34 pm

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Do you have a reluctant math student? Unfortunately I have two of them.  My 7 and 9 year-old are stuck in that very tedious phase of math where everything seems to be all about drilling problems.  According to her recent parent-teacher conference, my 4 year-old on the other hand, currently spends much of her time in the “math environment” of her Montessori classroom.  As her proud Mom, I have of course already planned out her future career as an engineer!

The foundation of math can be pretty boring.  I remember that from my school days.  Fortunately I ended up loving math later, and even took it in college.

I keep thinking, if only there was some way to make it clear to them that math can actually be really cool later on, then perhaps they’d be willing to slog through this early stuff until the light bulb comes on for them as it did for me.

Fortunately I recently discovered the math stories by Theoni Pappas.  I bought Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales (that’s some of the cool stuff!) and The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat (my kids love cats).

I have begun reading the fractals book out loud with my oldest daughter. We have read several chapters and she keeps wanting more!  Each short chapter has an easy and creative explanation of a different complex, mind-bending concept presented in story format.  Often there are related activities to do, or puzzles to solve.  At the end of the chapter is a highlighted box with more complete information about the concept, usually involving history or practical applications.

The Möbius strip was one of the real WOW chapters that we have read so far (see our photo above).

Will these books turn my children in to math-lovers?  Who knows, but they are fun!

The Perfect Mothers’ Day Gift

By , May 9, 2010 8:08 am

Is it a new DVD player?  A subscription to People magazine?  A case of anti-aging miracle pills?  What could say “I love you Mom” more than a miracle weight-loss drink or anti-stretch mark cream?

(By the way, these examples are extracted from actual Mothers’ Day gift suggestions that I received via email at Unplug Your Kids from eager marketers!)

No.

THIS IS THE PERFECT MOTHERS’ DAY GIFT:

All real moms will understand. (Take note marketers.)

Happy Mothers’ Day!

PS. This was my actual gift from my 4 year-old this year, presented with great ceremony!

Charity Birthday Party Idea: Stuffed Animal Party

By , May 7, 2010 5:51 pm

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Birthday parties don’t have to involve a depressing influx of cheap, unwanted (at least by parents!), commercial toys.  If you can convince your children that family gifts suffice, you might be able to turn that excess of birthday party gift generosity into birthday giving generosity.

I really believe that children are charitable by nature.  They just need to be taught about the needs of others and encouraged to engage in charitable work and giving.  My hope is that this will help create more sensitive and socially conscious adults.

My 9 year-old daughter has enjoyed charity birthday parties for many years now.  I already wrote about her first Humane Society birthday party (she has had several of these and one of her friends is doing it now too).  After a few more years of charity parties, I now have more ideas to share with you.

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Today’s idea is the Kids-in-Need Stuffed Animal Party.

One year my daughter had a birthday party where she asked the guests to each bring one, new (tags on) stuffed animal to take to our local hospital Emergency Room.  They give them out to very sick or injured children who come in and need a little extra comfort.

I am such a proud mama when I say that she came up with this idea entirely on her own.  My sister is a physician in our local Emergency Room and having visited her aunt there, my daughter knew that they handed out stuffed animals.

In keeping with the stuffed animal theme, our party craft was stuffing our own animals with easy and inexpensive kits that I bought on Amazon.  The kids LOVED this!  My intention was that they add their animals to the donate basket, but this proved to be very unpopular and every single child elected to keep their animal (including my children).  That’s OK, at least they had fun and went home with a much-loved party favor.

TIPS:

  • Make sure you check with your local Emergency Room first to see if they would even want stuffed animals, and if so, what kind.  Ours wanted tags on and no buttons or other things that could be pulled off to become choking hazards.
  • Police and Sheriffs also sometimes carry stuffed animals in their cars to comfort any children they meet in accidents or other bad situations.  See if your local law enforcement departments might be interested, and what they would want.
  • Based on experience, I recommend that the donated animals “disappear” after the party or younger family members might start falling in love with them!

(More ideas to come!)

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