We’re celebrating Earth Day this week so we’ll be sharing ideas on how to get the kids involved in respecting and preserving our planet, as well as simple things we can do as families to protect our environment.
Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
Play: First and foremost, go outside and just enjoy the day. I just discovered the Go Explore Nature blog, which is a new favorite, and I love their idea and checklist for a Spring Nature Scavenger Hunt.
Another way to play and help is to purchase eco-friendly toys and support the manufacturers who are doing their part to save the environment. Some of our favorite eco-friendly toys, are the Green Toys Tea Set, Green Toys Recycling Truck, and the Totem Boys and Girls Recycled Construction Sets.
Plant: Head over to your local nursery and buy a perennial flower that you love. Plant it with your kids to help beautify your yard and the neighborhood. Read How to Teach Your Kids a Love of Gardening. Get your kids their very own Gardening Set so they get excited about spending time in the garden with Mom or Grandma. Here’s how to have fun with the kids on a Trip to the Farmers Market.
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In general, I’m more of a pool person than a beach person when it comes to summer water fun. I just can’t stand sand in my shorts! Itching. Chafing. Yuck! However, over the past few years we have made it a family tradition to celebrate the last weekend before school starts with a trip to the beach.
Now, I know that not everyone lives near the beach. But, you would be amazed how many natural or man-made beach options are available to you and your family. Check your Park District, like Naperville’s Centennial Beach, or even the indoor water parks boast a sandy shore. Chances are if you have a lake in your area, someone will figure out a way to create a beach. If not, hit the public pools.
Heck, we live in Chicago which is pretty far from either coast. However, we’ve got Lake Michigan. In Chicago, our family makes a pilgrimage to North Avenue Beach to wave goodbye to summer. There’s plenty of people watching, fairly decent public restrooms, lots of space to spread out on the sand, and a restaurant for lunch, if you don’t want to bring food yourself. You can even rent bicycles and ride along the lake which is one of my favorite summer things to do in the city. The view is fantastic!
But, back to the beach. The kids love surfing in the waves and building sand castles. (With any crowded public beach, make sure your kids wear shoes when they are walking in the sand, if they aren’t near the water. You never know what’s been dropped and could cut their feet.)
Here’s what you are going to need to bring for a day at the beach:
- Backpack or beach bag
- Suntan lotion/ chapstick
- Hats or sunglasses for the kids
- Water bottles
- Toys to play with in the sand – my daughter brought plastic horses this time and built sand stables, instead of sand castles
- Football, frisbee, or paddle ball
- Blankets or towels to lie on
- Hand sanitizer
- A change of clothes for everyone
- Camera to capture the Chocolate Cake Moments
You might want to bring a sweater, jacket or long-sleeve shirt for the kids. After the beach, we usually head on over to a local fun restaurant for dinner – RJ Grunts. After sitting in the sun and wind all day, the kids tend to be freezing when we hit the air-conditioned restaurant.
Have a sandy, splashin’ good time!
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Hot summer nights are perfect for stargazing! My husband and I are fascinated by astronomy so a few years back I bought him a telescope to enhance our view. Well, lo and behold, our kids love it too and it’s become a fun family activity. We pull the telescope out on the sidewalk on summer nights and some of the neighbors come on over to view the night sky, too. It turns into a fun, mini-gathering!
If you live in a city or busy suburb, you may have a problem with ground lights obscuring your view of the night time sky. You might want to pick a clear night and head out to a forest preserve or out in the country, where you can see the stars and planets a little better. (Don’t go breaking any after hour rules or traipsing through someone’s field. Trespassing is not a good lesson to teach kids. Really!) However, you can definitely gaze at the moon no matter where you are. Kids love the funny face of the man in the moon. Or is it cheese? I can’t make up my mind on which story I like best.
If you don’t have a telescope, no problem! Grab a pair of binoculars or just lay on a blanket and stare at the sky. Ask your neighbors if they have a telescope they’d be willing to pull out and share. See if there is a Planetarium near you and check out their summer stargazing programs. In Chicago, visit the Adler Planetarium. They have several telescopes mounted on their balcony. The helpful guides will already have the telescope trained to certain stars or the moon, so you don’t have to spend time trying to find the most important objects. Psst! The balcony of the Adler Planetarium not only provides you with access to star gazing but offers one of the best nighttime views of the city of Chicago. Take your camera, tripod, and see if you can capture a nighttime skyline shot. Check their website for times and special events when they offer night time hours or Museum Overnight Programs.
If your family really gets into stargazing, then you might want to look into an astronomy-themed vacation. Check out the Primland Resort in Virginia or this article on Top 5 Places for Stargazing Family Vacations.
Summer Stargazing Highlights
So what’s up there worth viewing? In the Northern Hemisphere, Mercury is easy to see in early summer. Jupiter, Saturn and Venus are all visible at different times in the evening during late summer and early autumn. We can actually see the rings of Saturn on our telescope on a really clear night. Totally Cool! In late summer or early autumn, if you see a Harvest Moon, run and get the telescope. There is nothing more amazing than a huge red moon sitting off on the horizon. Check one of these ideas to get a better handle on what you can see each night.
Sky & Telescope gives you a weekly update of the Sky at a Glance so you can check your area.
Definitely check out your cell phone App Store and download one of the many stargazing apps. It’s amazing how you can point your phone up to the sky and it will identify the stars and planets you are seeing. This makes life so much easier than just guessing. You want to look smart in front of your kids not “Well, it might be a UFO but I think it’s really the Degoba System.”
If your family really gets into astronomy, you can learn more at the following websites that I thought were interesting.
Have fun gazing up at the summer night sky with your family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
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Today’s summer fun idea is to take a trip around the world. If you can afford to that literally, then by all means, Bon Voyage. For the rest of us, pick a day, pick a country and then spend time celebrating it’s culture. For example, if you pick Italy:
- Go online and look up some fun facts about Italy.
- Go to the library and check out some Italian music or an Italian movie.
- If you know someone from Italy, invite them over for dinner and have the kids ask them questions about what it’s like to live there.
- Get some language instruction tapes and learn some words in Italian.
- If your kids like animals, learn which animals are indigenous to that country.
- Read about an Italian family tradition that sounds interesting and try it at home.
- Grab an Italian cookbook, have each family member choose a dish they would like to try. Spend the time in the kitchen cooking and experimenting together.
If you are fortunate to have an international trip coming up, then definitely use this time to learn more about the country and get the kids excited about what they might see.
Don’t know which country to pick? Research your family ancestry. Or, have everyone in the family write down ideas on a piece of paper. Throw the paper into a jar and pick. Or, hang up a world map and let someone close their eyes and point to a country.
Which country are you going to start with?
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Here’s a great family fun idea for this weekend. The National Wildlife Federation has declared today, June 26th the Great American Backyard Campout. Why? According to their website:
Create lasting memories by connecting with family and friends in the great outdoors. It’s something simple you can do to promote happier, healthier children.
Awesome! You can visit their website to get great tips on why camping is healthy for your kids, camp stories, recipes, and games & activities. If you like what you read, donate some money to their cause.
Your funds are used to establish and maintain programs to make outdoor time a priority to protect children’s health and ensure their readiness to learn.
Check their website to see if your local park district is supporting this initiative. I know the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum in Chicago is hosting a Great Backyard Campout event today from 11 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. REI representatives will be there to talk tents and the Museum will be sharing tips on games, cooking outdoors, and you’ll get to see some live animals.
I think that’s worth camping about.
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