Posts tagged: Activity Ideas

Happy – Weekly Unplugged Project

By , March 9, 2009 11:05 am

Wow!  What a busy week!  Coach Wishy and I took our three Odyssey of the Mind teams to our regional tournament on Saturday and it was a flurry of preparation all week, plus a very long day on Saturday.

The kids had a blast though, and so did we.  We are SO proud of them!  This was their (and our) first year and they were confident, poised and enthusiastic despite the pressure of being “judged.”  They were totally thrilled to bring home two trophies: first and second place in their problems and divisions.

All this means, of course, that yet again we didn’t get to the Unplugged Project.  I think we’ll try and do a project this afternoon though, so I’ll post it tonight or tomorrow.


The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was happy.  For those of you who did a happy project this week, please link below to your happy project post (not just your blog – that way people will always be able to easily find your project).  If you didn’t join us, then please do not link, but read more about how to join in here.  The more the merrier!

I have not been thinking about the Unplugged Project at all this past week, so I will announce next week’s theme when I post our project.  Hopefully I’ll have an inspiration!


Sticky – Masking Tape Decoupage (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , June 8, 2008 10:17 pm


When I chose sticky as the theme for this week’s Unplugged Project, I really had nothing in mind. I just thought a general, descriptive word would encourage a lot of very different, creative responses! We’ll see if I was right.

All week I thought and thought about what to do, and finally resorted to a little online inspiration. Here I found instructions for making a “Faux Leather Pencil Holder” using masking tape and shoe polish. That sounded very intriguing, but I didn’t think the kids would find brown “faux leather” terribly inspiring, and I wasn’t sure that working with stinky, messy shoe polish would have a happy outcome. So, since masking tape qualifies as sticky and it did sound fun and easy, we experimented and modified this idea a bit.


For this project you’ll need something to decoupage. My daughter chose a can and I found a dented metal picture frame that I had been going to toss out. You’ll also need masking tape, white glue, and food coloring:

There were a few sharp points around the rim of the can, so I squashed those down with some pliers and then covered the rim with tape to make it safer.

My daughter and I tore off little bits of masking tape and stuck them haphazardly over the surface of our objects. I think the final effect is prettiest if you try to have the tape edges as ragged as possible and use lots of small pieces rather than fewer larger ones.

Here is how they looked when completely covered with tape:

Next we put some glue in cups and added a little water to thin it slightly. Be careful not to add too much water, as I did the first time around! We then added some food coloring to create different colors:

We brushed the colored glue onto our tape-covered objects. The first coat was quite pale and uninspiring:

We let that dry a bit, and then brushed on another coat. I did a total of three coats, my daughter did two, so hers turned out a bit paler. I think next time I might even do a fourth coat. The extra coats of color really do add depth.

The effect is quite pretty. The colored glue sticks more to the edges of the tape making the tape edges darker than the rest, for almost a crackle effect. I finished off by spraying our projects with some acrylic for a bit more shine and durability.


I would definitely try this again, as we all love decoupage. Working with the tape was easy and fun! I would like to experiment with paint mixed with glue, or even just thinly wiped-on paint (but I wanted the glue in there to create a bit of shine).

Different color effects would be interesting to try too. Using paint with glue, or paint alone would make for more subtle color possibilities. I think wiping some adjacent colors gently with a cloth, could make a nice blended transition between colors. A rainbow effect would be pretty.

Other fun things to try this with: Easter eggs, boxes, framed mirrors, notebooks, furniture … almost anything really!

This was an easy and satisfying project. Total time: maybe 1 hour.


If you joined us for this week’s sticky Unplugged Project, then please put your link in Mr. Linky. Please leave a comment too, so that your project will still be findable if Mr. Linky fails.

If you didn’t join us this week, then consider joining in next week! Read how here.


The theme for next Monday’s Unplugged Project will be:


I hope to see you then!

“Forgotten Neighborhood Games,” by Scott Strother (Review)

By , June 5, 2008 10:06 pm

How many of you know the game of Hopscotch, Red Light Green Light, or Monkey in the Middle? I would guess that most of you parents know these games. But what about your children?

Do you or your children know how to play Exchange, Sardines, or Hot Box? Perhaps not.

That is why every family interested in getting their children outside for some good old-fashioned play NEEDS this book in their library.

Author Scott Strother’s preface reminded me of how much fun I used to have playing spontaneous neighborhood games with my friends.

Two experiences inspired Mr. Strother to write this book: 1) Coaching 6 to 16 year-olds in tennis, and realizing that they had no idea what he was talking about when he referred to some of the very common games from his childhood; and 2) A paper that he wrote about childhood obesity and today’s children’s sedentary lifestyles.

Here are the highlights:

  • Games are classified and organized according to activity level. The first section is Activity Level V, “…games that require the most exercise. These games mainly entail constant running or movement and are highly active.” Each section decreases in intensity until the final, Activity Level I – “…games where mostly walking or limited physical exercise is required. These games are still active and outside, but are not as physically demanding as the others.”
  • There is only one game per page and the information is complete, and very clearly presented. Each game description specifies number of kids, ages, time allotted, space/area, equipment, description (startup, object, and play), and the author’s personal comments.
  • Many of the games require children to determine who is “it.” Do you remember doing that? Well, I suspect that choosing who is “it” might be another lost art. Fortunately Forgotten Neighborhood Games also has a section entitled “Picking the ‘It'” which includes a description of the process, and a few rhymes from which to choose.

When I first began this blog in February of 2007, I had planned on having a “Children’s Games” page where I would write up the rules for various outdoor, neighborhood games. Like the author of this book, I had noticed that most children today are too focused on video games and TV to spend much time outdoors playing active and social games like these. I did write a few game posts which I later eliminated. The task was just too daunting.

Although it is sad that a book like this might be necessary to teach today’s children how to play this way, I am so thankful that Mr. Strother took the time to write this very comprehensive, yet easy to use book. The blog equivalent of Forgotten Neighborhood Games is precisely what I had in mind in back in “the old days” when I first began Unplug Your Kids.

My advice would be to use this book as a reference to find a few games to teach your kids. Or better yet, if your children read well enough, have them explore it on their own. As the author says:

It might take a little effort at first, learning the games and getting other children to play, but once kids start learning these exciting games, they will not want to stop. Do not be afraid to go find kids and coerce them outside for some fun. More and more children from the neighborhood will start to get involved. Everyone will begin looking forward to playing and will meet more often. Instead of sitting around inside, kids can meet each other, make friends, get exercise, and have a ton of fun! This is what childhood is all about. Kids need to get back outside, exercise, and love it…and this book is the guide!

Forgotten Neighborhood Games: Get Kids Back Outside and Loving It! is another useful tool for parents to help get children away from “The Box” and back outside. Deserves to become a classic.

Scissors – Silhouettes and Stick Puppets (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , April 20, 2008 9:50 pm

So what to do for this week’s Unplugged Project theme: scissors? We could try a little Modular Kirigami, or some traditional Kirigami. In fact why not create an exact 3D miniature replica of our town using only one sheet of paper and some scissors!! Well…maybe not. But it was a fun thought to consider.

Instead we decided to tackle something that I remembered from my childhood, and which seemed a bit more manageable in scope – silhouettes. As is often the case with these Unplugged Projects, there was an evolution: the silhouettes became stick puppets, which led to a puppet show and even a shadow puppet show!

Here are the materials: desk lamp, white paper, masking tape, pencil, glue stick, dark colored construction paper and, of course, scissors.

We set ourselves up in the guest room which has heavy velvet curtains that can make the room quite dark, even in the daytime. We put out a small chair parallel to a blank wall. We then set the lamp on a table as far away from the chair as possible (the farther away the lamp is, the smaller the shadow will be and you want the whole head to be able to fit on one piece of paper). My oldest daughter sat down and I masking-taped some paper to the wall where her shadow fell.

I traced around the outline. I repeated the process with my 5 year-old son, but not my 2 year-old since I knew she wouldn’t sit still long enough.

The kids got stuffed animals and made their own silhouettes of them:

Next we sat at the kitchen table and glued our white paper outlines to pieces of dark construction paper:

Then we carefully cut along the pencil markings:

Once it was cut out, all we had to do was flip the whole thing over to see a lovely dark silhouette! I glued the children’s black silhouettes to some white poster board and experimented with framing. I think I shall have to redo my son’s though, since his haircut makes him look a bit like a light bulb, or a Saturday Night Live conehead (he’s on the left, below).

The children had the brilliant idea of coloring the white sides of their silhouettes and attaching craft sticks to make stick puppets:

I was then presented with a puppet show over the arm of the sofa:

Their next inspiration was to try a shadow puppet show in the guest room using our desk lamp.

One simple project snowballed, and turned into an afternoon of fun!

TIP: I would eventually really like to make a small (4″x 6″ or 5″x 7″) silhouette of each my three children to put, matted, together in one frame. Since I don’t have a lamp powerful enough or a room large enough to be able to make silhouettes that small, I plan on reducing my tracings using a photocopier and then will follow the same simple procedure.


If you joined us for the scissors project, thank you and please link to your post in Mr. Linky. For those of you who have chosen to turn off all those screens for Turn-Off Week (whether you are participating in the TV-Turnoff Blog Challenge or not), I shall expect you to produce true masterpieces for next week’s Unplugged Project (lots of free time, right??)!


In honor of Spring, next week’s Unplugged Project theme will be:


Remember, the theme is only a starting point. If you can’t think of anything directly bird-related, then what is associated with birds? Feathers, nests, eggs…any of those things “count!” Be as creative as you want to!


Practical TV-Free Ideas

By , April 19, 2008 9:19 am

Wow! Thursday was my biggest day ever thanks to all the people searching for information about TV-Turnoff Week. I actually had to upgrade my account in order to avoid exceeding my bandwidth! I only went from “Baby” to “Hatchling” … so I am really not THAT big time, but it was certainly a huge surprise for me.

Today I had planned a post with some alternative ideas to TV, so with this kind of an audience, I guess I had better come up with a few!

Since we are TV-free all the time, I can tell you what my kids like to do:

  • Read
  • Do art projects
  • Play outside
  • Play imaginary games with each other, or by themselves
  • Build with Legos, Knex, or blocks (especially my son) and then create imaginary games
  • Dress-up (also leads to imaginary games)
  • Play board games either with each other or with me
  • Do puzzles
  • Write stories (my 2nd grade daughter)
  • Play with the cats and dogs

Here are some suggestions and elaborations that might inspire you and your children. If anyone has any other ideas, then please comment!

  • We are fortunate to have a great backyard and a swingset…plus a big forested area next door. If you are less well-endowed in the yard department or live in an apartment, then there is always a visit to the park, or playing at a friend’s house, or having a friend over.
  • Be tourists for a day. How about a trip to local attractions such as zoos, aquariums, parks, or playgrounds that you might not have been to yet. Think about tourist attractions that you and your children might enjoy. I don’t know about you, but when I live someplace, I tend not to visit all the attractions for which that location is famous.
  • Bring out some board games and have a family game night. My advice for preserving your sanity: try to pick a game that your children like, but that is not deadly boring for the adult participants. (ie. stay away from Candyland – that one sends me into an immediate coma)
  • Turn on some music and dance (again: pick something you like too or you’ll go crazy!)
  • Try a Kids Cook Night. Pick a recipe that your kids might not ordinarily like. I find that if my kids do the the cooking themselves (with supervision of course), they are more likely to enjoy the meal.
  • Volunteer with your kids (especially if they are older). Habitat for Humanity, your local animal shelter, nursing home, or soup kitchen would probably love to have you help out for a day…plus you’d give your children a bit of perspective and teach them the good feeling that comes from helping others.
  • Wash the dog, or teach him tricks.
  • Teach your kids to knit, crochet, embroider, or french knit…or learn one of these skills together.

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