Summer Activities for Kids

A few ideas for when life slows down a bit.

 

 

A few great things to do away and at home with your kids… for when they ask to get on the computer, iPads, WII, Xbox… Well, you know…

Nothing wrong with extra time to enjoy their electronics during the summer, but here’s a list of alternatives to “gaming” their summer away.

The ebb and flow of summertime.

This morning, I enjoyed coffee with my dad as we chatted with my six-year-old.

We listened to her account of a nightmare about spiders, followed by ther dream of giant pink bugs. We speculated on the relative scariness of bugs that are huge, even if they are a shade of pink… It was good to just sit and talk and laugh a little with the morning cheer shining through the window.

Just two and a half weeks into June and we’ve already enjoyed: 1) A family reunion, 2. Two summer camps, 3. Family visiting in our home, and 4. A wedding weekend out of town. For the next few days, we’ve got the pleasure of having my dad here. Then we’ll finish out with another summer camp (for my younger kids this time). What a fun whirlwind – talk about a full month with many precious memories made!

The remainder of my calendar for this summer looks pretty empty, with enough time to be a bit more leisurely. There’s plenty of space to enjoy more coffee and conversation in the morning. I’ll have room in my days for contemplation. We won’t have places to rush off to and  I’ll have no piles of post-camp-laundry to catch up on. Our pace will slow down.

As my kids adjust to having greater ammounts of free time, I want to make sure those days aren’t all filled up with screen time . I’ve been strategizing about mostly “unplugged” activities we can enjoy. When my kids are asking to be on the computer all day, I’ll be ready with these ideas.

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A list of activities to enjoy with kids this summer:

Berry picking and peach harvesting.

We have so many orchards and berry farms around us. I missed the strawberry picking season (busy!), but this week is the perfect time for picking blueberries around here. For information about farms and orchards near you, go to this website: pickyourown.org.

To extend the fun, you can also read the classic, Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey while you eat your fresh berries over ice cream.

Journaling to inspire the love of writing and build confidence.

My husband and I sell used books on Amazon and occasionally I snag one from the “sell” pile if I fall in love with it.

The book, In the Company of Children, by Joanne Hindley, falls into that category. This is a warm, friendly book which helps you and your reluctant writer get past the paralysis of the blank page. It is not only a “how-to” book on journaling but also a “why” for motivation. She’s encouraging and injects a sense of community into the writing process.

I’m looking forward to bringing this into our family and seeing what it does for our family. I can see the influence of this book reaching into the adult years of my children, enhancing their grasp of good communication and their enjoyment of it as well.

Planning for when it’s too hot or rainy outside:

Watching this series on YouTube

Last year I studied Geography with my kids and about three months ago we stumbled across this channel Geography Now, created by Paul Barbato, pretty much from the first video we were hooked. He uses humor, and great visuals to make all the countries you’re a bit unclear about memorable. I want my kids to have a working knowledge of the world and it’s people. That’s a pretty tall order but this channel is a great starting point for both. For an overview, take a look at this:

Create a cooking lesson for your kids.

Whether you create your own (using favorite recipes) or use a monthly kit like Radishkids.com, summertime has the best opportunities to find pockets of time for cooking with your kids.

I know it’s kind of scary for some of us, but it really is worth the time and the mess to do this with your kids. The key is: Don’t do try cooking lessons with your kids when you’re in a hurry. Seriously, a four-hour block of time will make you much more relaxed about the process and cleanup! Maybe you only do this a couple of times this summer, but that’s okay!

Resources from Bear Paw Creek

Bean Bags.

I’ve got a set of bean bags from Bear Paw Creek, which my kids love. They are great for tossing inside (or outside) into bowls, knocking over empty bottles, for practicing juggling (Yeah, still working on that one.) and with an oversized checkerboard (squares painted or drawn on a sheet or fabric).

We use them at church as a way to get busy bodies moving before or after the lesson. Every Sunday (I’m not exaggerating. EVERY Sunday!) the kids ask to get the bean bags out. These are a great tool for every parent to have in their Summertime Boredom Toolbox.

Stretchy Bands in Circle Time.

Another great tool to pull out when you prefer to be inside is the Connect-a-Stretchy Band. These stretchy bands can be used for Circle Time each morning.

What is Circle Time you ask? Here’s an example from a mom at home: Creating a Circle Time in Your Home, by Jamie Martin on Simple Homeschool gives an overview and links to her vlog so you can see them in action.

Below is an example of a singing and movement Circle Time using a stretchy band from Bear Paw Creek (with plenty of giggles included):

If you want more tips and ideas on doing Circle Time take a look at this recent post by Carol Stephens of Macaroni Soup. She gives very practical tips and has great songs to use on her website.

If you want to know the “why” of using the stretchy band during Circle time, take a look at this post, by Allysa Wilkins of Dynamic Lynks, to understand the benefits the stretchy with your kids.

Summer Snowball Fight!

Have you heard of the Instant Snowball Fight? 

It’s great for winter fun when you live somewhere that doesn’t get snow and it’s great for the summer! This is an activity you can do inside, outside, in the pool, at a lake, really, anywhere. 

Snowball Movement Prop Set+ Kids = Indoor Snowball Fight

Don’t even get me started on the scarves and ribbons!

 

Have you seen what kids do when you get dancing scarves and ribbons in their hands? Whether dancing on the lawn, or in your front room, your kids will have a blast! Take a look at the resources I have listed in Ribbons Dancing and Scarves, Oh My!

I hope your summer is filled with fun. That it has a good ebb and flow of activities and rest.

Be sure to check out all of the movement props that Bear Paw Creek carries. Be prepared with these low-tech, high-fun ways for your kids to interact and play. Be prepared when your child says, “Can I play on the computer?” for the 50th time in a row. 😉

 

Jenette is a freelance writer of web content, blogs, and podcast show notes. She is also a wife and imperfect mother, whose family mean the world to her. She’s looking forward to July, when you’ll find her carving out time for all of this fun stuff and more. Jenette’s business website is at www.mywordsforhire.com.

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Stretchy Band Movement Prop, Music, and Dementia

Stretchy Band Movement Prop, Music, and Dementia

 

 

A few years ago we went with our neighbor’s to a local assisted living facility. Caroline’s Dad lives there, and they head over once a month with their guitar, banjo, voices and meet some friends to put on a show for the residents.

 

Some of our children were able to join in the band that night, while some of us joined the audience. Music is a universal connector of people, isn’t it?

 

One lady in particular could sing every song, and belt it out perfectly.  Yet – once the music stopped, it’s as if her brain froze. 

 

The power of music on the brain fascinates me. I am so glad there is more research being done and those of you that are working  to bring care and awareness.

 

This post will showcase some ways you can use the stretchy band in dementia care.

Music Stretchy Band Dementia

The Connect-a-Stretchy Band and Dementia

The Connect-a-Stretchy Band from Bear Paw Creek, is a staple in my bag of tricks! I love it because it can be used with all age groups to meet a variety of goals.  An indispensable feature is that it can be re-sized easily and immediately to fit the size of your groups.  One of my favorite places to use the Connect-a-Stretchy Band is with my groups who have dementia. I often walk into these facilities to find people sitting together in a room, but not interacting with each other.  They may be sleeping, watching t.v., confused, depressed or irritable.  The Connect-a-Stretchy Band is an invaluable tool to help clients who have difficulty socializing, become engaged and “connected” to others.

After a warm up period of singing familiar songs and perhaps, a Hello, song, I introduce the Connect-a-Stretchy Band.  While sitting in a circle with everyone holding it, I strum the autoharp to encourage gross motor movements – up & down, in & out, side to side.  We’ll move and sing to familiar songs like Edelweiss or Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  I also use recorded music so I can also participate and help guide movements.  People who are sleeping or perhaps confused, are automatically connected and supported by their neighbor’s movements. It’s not unusual to see clients wake up, begin smiling and singing. It’s important to remember to keep movements simple and take into account health issues that may impact their abilities such as arthritis. However, once they hear a favorite song or dance, you may find your clients moving to the beat in ways they haven’t in years.

Head on over to Rhythm Works Music Therapy and see the rest of Linda’s ideas (including some polkas!)

 

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Is Music the Key to Trigger Memories?

This beautiful article features the stretchy band in use at an amazing event in August 2016.  The workshop was created by Marigrace Becker of the Memory and Brain Wellness Center, part of the UW Medicine Neurosciences Institute. Its underlying purpose, she said, is to empower people living with memory loss and their care partners to become social activists in raising  in community awareness. 

Activities were designed for people of all ages and abilities. In a seated circle dance led by Susan Wickett-Ford of Silver Kite Community Arts, everyone held onto a stretchy band of rainbow-colored fabric, which they moved up and down and side to side to a classic Breton folk song. The circle’s members had to work together and rely on each other to maintain the dance.

Life with dementia_ Seniors expand children’s awarenessBrain wellness center creates workshop to enhance community understanding and empower people with memory loss

I agree wholeheartedly with Becker when she states: “Ultimately, I want to see more and more of these workshops happening all around the world, simultaneously,” Becker said. “The time has come to recognize that people living with memory loss can lead the way in building communities that are welcoming, understanding and accessible to all.”

Take a moment to see some clips from their day. Truly inspiring.

 

Movement, Dance, and Dementia Resource

From professional papers to advice and music resources, you may want to take a look at this “Movement, Dance and Dementia Resources” page. 

A few highlighted quotes from the article:

There is a growing recognition that exposure to the arts can help dementia sufferers to reconnect with themselves and even slow their rate of decline. Increasingly, music is helping doctors and carers reach those who have become stranded by this debilitating condition.

These 60-minute sessions reveal previously hidden aspects of the patients to their carers; likes and dislikes, talents and memories – it all helps piece together the jigsaw of an identity obscured by illness. “Perhaps that patient reveals a love for a film or a place, a time or an event; something that carers didn’t know about but can use in their communication with that patient, another way to connect with a seemingly closed personality. It’s a glimpse of the real person underneath,” said Meynell.

Some of the movement props suggested are: scarves, feathers, stretchy bands, parachutes, balloon, hats, and fans. 

I hope this post will encourage your engagement with sufferers of dementia.  I hope we can continue to integrate the aged with the young, we all benefit greatly from multi-generational activities.

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Learn about stretchy band sizes and options.

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

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One Dozen Back to School Game Ideas!

Back to school ideas for moving and learning.

I’m a home-schooling mom and a free-lancing writer. I don’t love to be in charge, but I have to be, so I step up to the plate (because I love my kids). I’m so thankful for teachers who step up to the plate and pour their lives out for children everyday. You inspire me.
 

 

 

 

Ready to get back to school? I’m sharing games that help kids learn.

We all know how important movement and play are in children’s development, but with so much to learn it’s easy for our children to spend too much time trying to sit still.

Why fight their need to squirm?

Learning facts: Make it fun!

When my boys were young they memorized a whole host of math facts by playing Math Adventures (which came with our new computer), then a Reader Rabbit game on the computer. The games were intriguing and each had a quest to be accomplished. They were colorful and filled with humor as well. That was years ago, now people use apps and online games.

Yet, with all of the apps and online educational games out there, I still haven’t found something for their younger sisters to enjoy which quite matches up to the fun and learning value. I’m sure it’s out there, but for now, I’m going with a different approach to help make memorizing facts fun.

I’m going with movement and active play as one of the tools in my box. 

I’ve made up some games we can do (inside or outside) and I’m sharing them with you. All you need are bean bags, some sidewalk chalk, and Bear Paw Creek’s wonderful Connect-a-Stretchy Bands.

[Tweet “All you need are bean bags, sidewalk chalk, & Bear Paw Creek’s Connect-a-Stretchy-Bands.”]

Here’s what you can do with the stretchy bands, bean bags & chalk!

Learn your facts with hopscotch.

Draw a hopscotch grid on your sidewalk and fill in the squares with facts that you’re memorizing together. As you hop on the squares recite the facts written on the square you’re hopping to. You can use this for:

  1. Skip counting to help with multiplication tables. For example 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18…
  2. Addition and subtraction (you could arrange the squares so that you have two squares (with addends) followed by one with the sum etc.
  3. Historical facts and names from one lesson. Alternatively, you could arrange events in a timeline on your grid giving two squares to major events and give pause and emphasis as you say those.
  4. A process such as the process of evaporation, rain, water flowing from springs and rivers etc.
  5. Creating grid for storytelling. In the first grid write, “beginning”, followed by “who/protagonist,” where,” “what”, then use two squares and write “problem/antagonist,” followed by, “struggle” then maybe “comic relief,” “climax,” and resolution. And let each of the kids take turns telling a story using your hopscotch storyboard. Let them be silly or serious, and you should take a turn as well. It’ll be good for you.

Learn Facts with Hopscotch

 

Bean bag math.

  1. Preschool: To help make counting fun, snap the Connect-a-Stretchy Bands into individual rings and toss bean bags into them. Now count together to see how many you were able to get into the rings. Now try tossing two in each ring and count all of those bags with them. Continue with other variations.
  2. Basic Addition and Subtraction: Set up two rings and let your students toss some in each ring. Have your students create an addition problem using the bags in the rings. This is a great way to reinforce the concept of which numbers add up together to make ten. You toss some in the first circle and let them decide how much they need in the next to make ten. To practice subtraction, remove the bean bags from one circle and ask them to use a math formula to describe what happened.
  3. Visual Multiplication and Division: Using the stretchy band rings, ask the students to toss 9 bean bags into three of the rings making sure to have an equal amount in each. Now explain that 9 divided into 3 is like saying 9 divided into 3 groups. Ask them to take turns making more examples and explaining them to you (4 rings with 12 bean bags). For a change put one ball in each of the rings with the bean bags and ask them if they can figure out a way to describe the fraction of items in the rings which are a ball and not a bean bag.
  4. The simplest, yet most enjoyable game:  Have the students team up in pairs and practice counting or skip counting while they toss the bean bags back and forth to each other. 

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Stretchy band skip-counting and memory facts.

  1. Introduction to Skip-Counting: First, take Bear Paw Creek’s wonderful Connect-a-Stretchy Bands and join them into one large ring. Have the students arrange themselves equal distance around the ring. Explain that you are going to count while emphasizing certain numbers as you count by raising up the stretchy band above your head. Tell them to follow your lead and see if they can figure out the pattern. Now you can say, “1,2,3,4, [raise the stretchy band] 5, [back down] 6,7,8,9, [up] 10, [down] 11, 12,13,14, [up] 15.” Once they catch on to what you’re doing, ask them if they think they would be able to speed it up a bit. As they get the hang of that, try using other numbers to do the same thing.
  2. Skip-Counting Team Work: In this game, each person takes a turn saying the next number in skip counting (with the teachers coaching the first few times, if necessary). For Instance, the first student says 2 while raising up his portion of the stretchy band above his head, the next student says 4 and so on. A more complicated version (when they’re skip-counting with odd numbers) would be to raise it for the odd numbers and push it down for the even ones. Like this, “3 [up] 6 [down] 9 [up] 12 [down]. See whether your students can figure out why this works while skip counting with odd numbers but not even.
  3. Memorizing Facts: You can use this method for reciting grammar facts, historical dates or parts of a plant as well. Moving the body as you recite facts helps your brain retain the information, so it’s very useful to do even simple motion such as swinging your arms together to move the stretchy band as you recite. Also the is movement is such a relief to kids who have a hard time concentrating when the are still for too long a period.

1-2-3-Counting-with-the-Stretchy-Band.jpg

 

 

 

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I’ve gotten the props that I need to do any of these activities on hand from Bear Paw Creek and I’m ready to go this year.

I imagine you’ve got sidewalk chalk or can easily find that, but if you don’t have Bear Paw Creek’s colorful Bean Bags or Connect-a-Stretchy Bands, then now is a great time to get them! 

What are your favorite ways to use the stretchy band and bean bags to enhance learning? Do you have any tips to share as we celebrate going back to school?

The Influence of Mister Rogers

The Influence of Mr. Rogers

This blog post will be a bit different than my norm, so I hope you’ll allow my ramblings a bit.  I hope it encourages you in your work with the individuals you serve, young to the aged. It all started when a video clip on Mr. Rogers came through on my Facebook feed.  The video got my thinking wheels spinning.  First it reminded me of how much I loved Mr. Rogers as a kid. Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow (did you know it’s coming back?) were a big influence on me as a young child. Second, it made me go to my lovely Amazon Prime videos, and play an episode for my little ones.  I just happened to pick an episode that brought me to tears again.  Season 1, episode 12 “Making an Opera, How People Make Sweaters.”   While I was sewing hoop streamers, and the kids were watching it, I learned that it was Fred Rogers’ mother that knit all the sweaters he wore!  Perhaps you’ll take the time to watch the complete episode, but if not, here’s a two minute clip of him talking about the sweaters.

Mr. Rodgers Sweaters made by his mom

I can’t begin to describe all the thoughts that have gone through my head by watching that episode and the following one from my Facebook feed.  I never imagined the beauty that creating the products Bear Paw Creek has brought to my life, by connecting with people all over the country/world = neighbors. While I am sewing up products, I love to imagine and think about the hands that will touch them and who will use them. I loved how he always showed how things were made, as I was always creating things, even as a young child.  The “Neighborhood of Make Believe” was an inspiration and for a while I dreamed of going to California to be a puppeteer. I didn’t realize until my children started watching Mr. Rogers, that his voice was behind most of those characters! Below are some quotes that really struck me.  As you are reading them,  think about it beyond television, as really, wherever we are placed in life – we are the influencers and shapers of the people we meet. “Fame is  a four letter word, and like tape, or zoom, or face, or pain, or life, or love, what absolutely matters is what we do with it.  I feel like those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn’t matter what our particular job is, we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen. Day and night.” “..by doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our home. By treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat our selves, and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.” “Through television we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or cherish it, in creative, imaginative ways.” The video features a clip from a TV Hall Of Fame ceremony where Jeff Erlanger, who appeared on Mister Rogers Neighborhood in 1981, surprises Fred Rogers. During Jeff’s appearance in the program, Mr. Rogers had changed his life through a very simple yet important message. And now after almost 20 years, he has come onstage to thank and appreciate Mr. Rogers’s effort of changing the world through kindness. It’s about a ten minute video clip, but well worth the time.

Mr Rodgers Influence

I am humbled to be able to connect with so many wonderful people that are influencing and shaping the lives of so many through music, movement, and being an influencer.  Thank YOU all!

11 Circle Songs for Stretchy Band Music and Movement Activities

11 Circle Songs for Stretchy Band Music and Movement Activities

A little over a year ago I was privileged to witness Harry Becket, MT-BC faciliate a group music therapy session at a nursing home in Springfield, MO.

We had fun experimenting with the connect-a-band, bean bags, and streamers with the group.  I also thoroughly enjoyed a live session of his musical talents on piano and voice.

He could sing any song they asked of him with enthusiasm and joy.  He also shared a great list of eleven songs that refer to circles.

I hope they bring new inspiration to use with the stretchy band or connect-a-band.

Eldergarden Adult Day Program

1 – The Mulberry Bush

2- Pop! Goes the Weasel

3 -Wheels on the Bus

4 – Round and Round (Perry Como)

5- Spinning Wheel (Blood, Sweat, and Tears)

6 – Wheel in the Sky (Journey)

7- Will It Go Round in Circles (Billy Preston)

8- The Circle of Life (Elton John)

9- Proud Mary (Credence Clearwater Revival)

10- Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds)

11-Windmills of your Mind (Michel Legrand)

11 Circle Songs for music and movement with stretchy band

Click for printable pdf sheet.

 

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