Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Fun for Families

Spring is just around the corner!  And with that comes "Spring Break."  For teachers, it is a week to get caught up on life, spend time with our own children, and gear up for the last couple months of school.  For parents, it means your children are out of school for a WHOLE week:-)  Today's blog is for the Fox 23 Tulsa viewers and families. Check back later for the video clip of the segment.

So how do you keep your children learning while having fun during this week?  Let your imagination run WILD!  Get creative.  Better yet, let your children get creative.  Think back to when you were little before we became the "technology crazed," "information in a second" generation.  

I watched my grandson last week who is just a toddler.  It never ceases to amaze me that he can have a million toys (just kidding) and still want to play with boxes, cups, pots and pans, and other things.  So on this last adventure, I decided to bring out a sheet and make him a tent to play in.  Why?  Because I have wonderful memories of my grandmother doing that with me and my children were able to do the same thing with my mom.  And guess what?  He LOVED it.  I could go on and on about the learning opportunities that come from playing in a tent.  But basically, he learned how to climb in, climb out, play hide and seek (yes I knew where he was - but he was learning that concept), and how to play farm inside the tent.  We gathered up all of the farm animals and took them in the "barn."  Pretend play builds cognitive skills and encourages language while building vocabulary skills.  Or think of it this way:  IMAGINATION + CREATIVITY + LANGUAGE + VOCABULARY = HIGHER COGNITIVE SKILLS (PRICELESS)

Here are some activities to do with your child over the next week. And for all of the teachers and families that read this blog, feel free to add your list to the comments section at the end.  Better yet, it you have a great post about this subject, add it too.

BUILD A TENT:  Pretend it's a barn, a cave, a store, a volcano, or make it a special place to read (flashlights can be included too).

BUILD A BOARD GAME:  I love to do this activity with my students and children of all ages.  What do you need? Look around your house and see if you can find:
index cards
   poster board
copy paper
construction paper
any paper
Next, pick what your theme will be for your game board.  Your only limit is your imagination.  And believe me, young children can be very creative when the opportunities are given.  Think about what your children will be doing this week.

Are you going to the zoo? To the park?  To the aquarium (I live by one)? To the grocery store?  To your place of work? To visit family? On vacation? On a nature walk? To play outside?  Then you have a "theme" for your game!

As you are at the zoo, at the grocery store, on vacation, visiting family, walking around your neighborhood, going on a nature walk . . . talk about the things that you see, the places that you visit, the sounds that you hear, the smells that you smell (stinky elephant building at the zoo:-), etc.  Then when you return home, gather up your paper and get writing or drawing the things that you see (nouns).  Your children can draw pictures of what they saw, write the words, or do both on their paper. 

I suggest that you keep the paper about the size of a post-it-note or a 3x5 card to allow for room. That's when you use the scissors to make your paper smaller - added bonus "better fine motor skills." Now that you have your pictures/words ready, build a board game in the shape of a road.  It can be a curvy road, a straight road, a winding road, etc.  You can build it on the floor or on the table.  Now you are ready to play your game!  You can make up directions for your game or follow mine:

1.  Roll a die (singular word for dice) to see who goes first (youngest goes first, person who has an "a" in their name, etc.)  Don't have dice? Make some cards to turn over with the numbers 1-6 (Great practice for writing numbers!)
2.  Player one rolls the die and moves that many spaces.  Let's say you went to the zoo.  Your child lands on a monkey.  The child has to use one word to describe the monkey (adjective) or one word that a monkey can do (verb).  Your child gets to remove the card from the board. 
3.  Player two rolls the die and moves that many spaces.  Follow the same rule as above.  
Stay consistent in your rule.  If you choose actions, then everyone has to say an action (or then can act it out too=more fun).  If you choose a describing word (what does it look like? sound like? smell like? taste like? for the grocery store - not zoo), then everyone does the same.  This player removes the card from the board.  
4.  Play continues as you wind your way around the road until it all disappears.
5.  Want to make it even better?  Keep a list of the words that everyone says while playing the game.  Read the words back at the end and see if they can say which animal or thing belongs to the word.  
6.  When the game is over, think of another way you can play the game, and rebuild your road a different way.

*Adjectives: Describe the word/picture.  (crackers from your groceries store visit = crunchy, salty, tasty, delicious. 
*Verbs: Name an action that goes with the picture. (ex: picture of a swing = swing, glide  picture of a fish=swim
*Categories:  What else could belong with that category?  (ex. apple from the grocery store=oranges, bananas, grapes =fruit)
*Adverbs:  Where else could you find this?  This will be more challenging and make them think outside of the box - literally.  (ex: crackers from the store = inside a lunchbox, inside your bowl of chili, in your mouth)
*Synonyms:  Name something that means the same.  We are bumping up the vocabulary.  ex: You are playing the action game with the zoo animals.  Player one lands on the dolphin card.  They say the word dive.  The other players around the board have to name a word that is similar to dive: lunge, leap, descend (Yes, you can "Google" words if you need help.  I just did!)  If you know your category of the game, you can predict some words you might need to help. The point is to help your children increase their range of vocabulary which will help them understand all of those books that they read in school.  True reading is when your child understands what he/she has read.

Make a "On the Road" book or your own version of Oh the Place We Will Go by Dr. Seuss.  You can print out pictures that you've taken or bring out those markers and let them illustrate their books.  It doesn't matter if you go to Jamaica, the zoo, or the park.  To your child, it can be a story.  Decorate the cover like a road.  See the pictures below as examples.  We used construction paper, craft paper, wrapping paper, and sacks.  Even brown paper sacks make a great book cover.  Add some paper to your cover and let your children write.  Document all of those things that you saw, heard, smelled, tasted, or visited.  Those are called "small moments" that your children write about at school.  Want to make it a family book?  Each child gets a page to contribute their ideas including moms, dads, grandparents, or friends.  Or you can combine your artwork and writing as a "team effort."  

Use construction paper to make a
book.  Cut out a road to glue on
the front cover.  Write about a trip
to the zoo, your grandparents,
the park, the grocery store.
Do you have any party sacks left over from your child's birthday party?  I bought these party sacks for  50 centers at Target.  Cut the sack into 2 pieces.  Staple copy paper inside the bag cover.  This sack would be great for writing an information book about dogs.
Let your children design their own Spring Break Writing Journal.  Let them choose a theme or write about things they do during the week.  Encourage them to bring it along to jot down any ideas they have along the way.

This is a left over birthday bag that I cut apart to make a book.   I did the same thing with the blue flower bag below.  Your children can make stories about spring or what they did over spring break.  You can buy these type of bags at the Dollar Tree or look for the sale items at Target.
If you leave on the handles, your children can "hang" their books on the doorknob in their rooms.  It's a fun way to display their stories.

Make a flip book to help with sequencing.
                     Make riddle or I Spy Flip books for nature walks and trips to the zoo or park.
SIDEWALK CHALK is a must for beautiful weather outside.  I get mine from the "Dollar Tree" for $1.00.  I buy the thick chunky kind.  It usually is a spring/summer item so stock up while it's there.  What can you do with sidewalk chalk?
Draw pictures.  
Write words.
Make a game.
Write your numbers.
Write you ABC's.
Write your name.
Write your friends' names.
Write words you know.
Write rhyming words (cat, fat, sat, hat).
Write sentences.
Write a letter.
Write your numbers. How high can your write.
Write your numbers backwards from 20.
Write your numbers by 2's, 5's, 10's or harder by 3's, 4's, 6's, 7's, etc.
Write addition facts.
Write subtraction facts.
Write multiplication facts.
Write division facts.
Draw a story problem then add the math number sentence.
Play hopscotch games.

Want to add movement to your chalk drawing fun?  Make a hopscotch game and write some of the things above inside your hopscotch game.  Make a Doubles Fact Game.  Write the answers to the double facts on your hopscotch board.  When you land on a number, say the double fact that goes with it.  (ex. Land on 4, you must say 2+2.)
Doubles Facts Hopscotch
Rainbow Writing Numbers 
Write spelling words, rhyming words, or word families.  Make the ending word pattern the same color.  Use a different color to write the first sound.

If you like science, then click on the right side of my blog and click on the Pinterest symbol.  Click on Science Experiments and choose some to do with your child. Talk about what you are doing.  Record the steps that you do to complete the experiment.  Describe, describe, describe to build their vocabulary.

And I can't end this blog post without the true teacher coming out in me:

READ, READ, READ! "THE MORE YOUR CHILDREN READ, THE BETTER READERS THEY BECOME." Make a commitment for your child to read each day.  Read stories, jokes, riddles, road signs, cereal boxes, green bean cans.  The world is full of print everywhere you look.

Have a great spring break!  Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Love your list of activities. I will definitely be making the gift bag books with my sons over vacation. My spring break is still 4 weeks away and today we are having a snow day but reading your ideas is putting me in a spring mood!


    1. Hi Tara! We are having a cold week here in Oklahoma, but definitely not experiencing snow like you. I guess its a good thing you have 4 weeks until your spring break:-) Thanks for stopping by!