This past weekend was a sunny, hot reminder that summer is well on its way in Middle Tennessee! With summer comes a vacation from school for many kids, and that means more free time for them to find ever more creative ways to alleviate their boredom.
Of course, the outdoors are every parent's best friend during these burning summer months (with proper sunscreen application, naturally), but what about those rainy days? What about the days that are too hot for even the toughest of kids to enjoy playing outside? What about the days when EVEN OUTSIDE isn't enough to entertain those growing, inquisitive minds?
Have no fear! We have a few ideas...
One fun idea for the whole family, even your youngest ones, is a thumbprint dandelion craft! It's simple to set up, easy to execute, and doesn't have to involve much clean-up.
Simply choose your canvas -- a stretched canvas, a small poster-board, or even a regular old piece of copy paper will do just fine. Sketch a dandelion in whatever style you like, or print a template from any number of craft sites.
You'll need paint, and we suggest tempera for your crafting needs. Pick your favorite colors, and let your kiddos pick theirs! And then all that's left is to simply dip your thumb in the paint, and decorate your dandelion with little thumbprint seeds from every hand in your family!
You may have to clean some paint off tables, floors, or people, but baby wipes should be enough to take care of that. Once your dandelion is dry, it makes for a beautiful bit of art full of memories and fun!
Of course, some of our little friends don't enjoy touching paint. So what do we do then? Well, if you have glue, a picture frame, Q-tips or toothpicks, and food coloring, we have just the craft for you: DIY stained glass!
Most picture frames comes with a pane of glass, a picture insert, and cardboard backing. For this craft, simply remove all but the glass pane. Then, let your kiddos squirt glue and/or glitter glue all over the glass on one side! Once they have enough glue to cover the glass, have them squeeze a few drops of colorful food coloring in strategic spots they choose in the glue.
This is where the Q-tips and toothpicks come in for our friends with sensory challenges. Your little Bob Rosses can use these innocuous, disposable tools to mix the glue and food coloring, to create a happy little stained glass design all their own! Paintbrushes would also work perfectly well, but be aware that the clean-up will be a lot more involved with paintbrushes -- trying to get glue out of the bristles can be a battle. If your kiddos like the squishier things in life, they can just paint with their fingers!
Once everything dries, place the frame near a window or lamp, and let the sun shine in!
But we've saved the most fun idea for last. There are all kinds of creative ways to get paint onto a canvas, and one of the coolest is to use that kid-favorite activity: blowing bubbles! For those kids who might be harder to motivate towards arts and crafts, this activity could prove to be a marvelous bridge into that world.
This might be an activity to do outside, since the potential for mess is pretty high. But it is a breeze to set up! Most dollar stores will sell bubbles in brightly-colored packs of three, with bubble wands included. Simply put a different hue of food coloring into each bottle! Set paper weighted down at the corners on a table, in the grass, or on the pavement of a sidewalk or driveway.
Then blow bubbles like crazy all over the paper! Soon you'll have a masterpiece of rainbow bubble paint. And you can make as many as you want until the bubbles or the paper run out, whichever comes first! Just be sure to take breaks between paintings -- a lot of focused bubble-blowing can be hard on young lungs.
In the heat of summer, it's good to have quick, fun ideas for snacks on hand! We've got a few suggestions for snacks, of varying levels on the scale of healthy foods, but all of which are sure to hit high on the tastebud rating scale!
For the fruit-loving kids out there, why not make a rainbow on a stick?
Raspberries or strawberries, oranges or clementines, pineapple or even lemon (if you have one that likes the sour zip now and then!), kiwi or lime, blueberries, and grapes make up the full color spectrum, all on one skewer! Substitute your favorites wherever they fit on the fruit-rainbow!
Kids will enjoy getting to help construct these fun snacks, and they'll enjoy it even more when they get to eat what they've created!
For those that need to be nudged into eating the healthier foods, you can try a little pretend-play with your next summertime snack. Ever made a watermelon into a pizza?
Cut out triangles of watermelon, spread a thin layer of yogurt, cream cheese, or cool whip over the top, and then set out an array of other fruits. Thinly sliced strawberries become pepperonis in the imagination -- blueberries become Italian sausage. Grape halves become black olives, white chocolate chips become little curds of feta cheese, and pineapple becomes... well, pineapple!
The only limits are your imaginations in this fun, yet healthy idea for a craftime turned snacktime to remember!
If you want something to treat yourself on one of those hot days, look no farther than the simple-to-make, delicious snack of chocolate-dipped banana pops.
To make these, simply slice a banana into rounds and stick toothpicks into the sides for easy pick-up. Take a bag of chocolate chips, empty them into a bowl, and melt the chocolate down. While it's still gooey, use the toothpicks to dip the banana slices in and coat the tops with chocolate.
Lay them out on a tray with wax paper as you go, and when you've covered all your banana slices, simply stick the tray in the freezer for a bit.
When you're ready to eat, bring them out of the freezer, and enjoy!
And Now, a Delicious, Sensory-Friendly Science Experiment!
Did you know that you can make ice cream... in a Ziploc bag?
All you need for this fun experiment is half a cup of heavy whipping cream or half-and-half, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar tightly sealed in a sandwich- or quart-sized plastic bag. (It's a good idea to double up on all the bags -- you'll see why).
Then put ice cubes into a gallon-sized plastic bag until it is half full. Drop 6 tablespoons of coarse kosher salt or rock salt in with the ice. Then put your sealed bag of ice cream ingredients in the very middle of the ice bag and seal it all up.
Now it's time to shake! It's cold, but the bag provides a nice barrier so our friends with sensory challenges can still enjoy this craft. If it's still too cold, wrap it in a towel and get to that shaking!
To make the ice cream, you shake the bag like crazy! Shake it hard -- don't be afraid to play hot potato with your freezing ice cream bag! Toss it around, go wild, shake shake shake until the ice cream ingredients stop looking like ingredients mashed into a bag, and start to look like real ice cream mashed into a bag!
There are lots of recipes for other bagged ice cream flavors, available at the click of a "search" button. So if vanilla doesn't tickle your fancy, try a chocolate or strawberry, or make up your own!
Once it's at a consistency you like, get a spoon ready! You can eat it right out of the bag, or scoop it into dishes to enjoy. It'll taste delicious either way!
Summer Will Be Here Before You Know It!
We hope these ideas will be useful as a starting point for all the activities and adventures your family will tackle this summer.
Be sure to post your creations and tag High Hopes so we can see your masterpieces and tasty snacks! Stay cool out there this summer, friends!