Archives for April 2013

Trade Screens for Sunshine!

Kids outdoor games

We here at the Risky Kids love KaBOOM! Last summer they sponsored a program that encouraged kids to visit a different playground every day. We signed up and not only had a blast but also scored an I-Pod shuffle, a book, ice cream and new shoes. Awesome!

Today marks the beginning of Screen Free Week, and KaBOOM! is once again doing their part to get kids outside. They are encouraging Risky Kids everywhere to trade one hour of technology time for outside play for an entire week.

Playing with worms

Bad weather? Not to worry.  The worms will still come out and play!

I gathered all my courage and asked my kids if they would like to participate …

Thomas and The Benj said, “YES!”  We have agreed to trade one entire hour of technology for outside play. Ben asked if we could spend the time jumping rope, playing with the dogs and shooting the BB gun? Oh, yeah!  I will admit that I offered a reward for participating in this event.  The Benj said that he would like to go ziplining.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

We started yesterday and the day was a rousing success.  The kids had 30 minutes of screen time on Sunday instead of the usual 90 minutes.  After church we went over to the neighbor’s house and ended up with 5 kids digging up the weeds. Then we all headed home to move a tree that had fallen across the neighbor’s driveway.  I let the kids use a handsaw to saw the big limbs. They fought over who got to use the saw. I rewarded all 5 kids with a trip for ice cream. We tried to do a kayak trip but the flash flood made that impossible, so we played around in the flooded park instead.

I am so excited to get outside and play, and we encourage you to take the Screen Free Pledge.  Screen Free Week begins today (Monday, April 29) and goes through Sunday, May 5.  Please join us and tell us what you plan to do  (or what bribes you had to offer your kids).

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50 Dangerous Things: Learn Tightrope Walking

Kid Using Slackline

Task: Act like a circus performer and develop your sense of balance

 

Requires:

  • Parking Curb
  • Low wall
  • A tightrope or a slackline

Possible Hazards:

  • Frustration
  • Falls
  • Sprained Ankle

How it all went down:

I wouldn’t mind joining the circus about now so this task was right up my alley. We actually try to balance on a lot of things – you’ve seen us slackline in the past.  But how do you get from plain old walking to balancing your way across a tightrope?  Practice!  It simply takes time to develop your sense of balance.  The best, and safest (Gasp! Did we just say that?) way is to start by trying to balance on everyday objects and working your way up to higher and wobblier things as you improve.

If you want to start really simple, find a place on the sidewalk or pavement with a long, straight crack.  Pretend it’s a tightrope and walk across it.

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Once you’ve got that down, move on to something a little higher, like parking curbs.  The key to balancing is keeping your eyes up.  Find a spot on the horizon to focus on.  It seems counterintuitive, but think about it.  Do we look down at our feet when we’re walking normally?  Spreading your arms out helps, too, by spreading  out your mass and reducing your angular velocity.  Keep practicing until it feels as easy as walking across a crack in the sidewalk.  Katie’s gotten so good she can run across the parking curbs.

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Once that gets comfortable, move up to something higher.  No kid can resist climbing on low walls.  Thomas and Benjamin spent a good 30 minutes running up and down this ledge at the library. I timed each run and they tried to beat their times. I admit, if they had fallen, there would have been blood. But it had rained all day and these boys had plenty of energy. They have a pretty good handle on their limits when it comes to balance.  Plus, I’m sure they were missing us at Urgent Care, so I let them run.

Kid using Gibbon slackline

You don’t have to be able to run across low walls (or leap buildings in a single bound) to attempt the slackline.  The beauty of the slackline is that you can adjust the height and the wobbliness yourself.  It’s a fun activity for all ages, and draws both kids and adults in like bees at a cookout.  Emily is a gymnast and can now go the farthest on the slackline of all the kids.

Perfecting your balance is a great risky activity to try if you want to dip your toes into risky play.  Not only are you working on a physical skill, you’re subtly building skills kids will need throughout their lives:  feeling confident on unfamiliar footing and learning to face failure (falling) and get right back up to try again.  Next time you come across some sort of balance beam, go ahead. It’s fun and the only way to improve your balance is to work on it a little each day.

And if you know where I can find a real tightrope, gimme a call.  My circus dream awaits.

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Do you find that your kids naturally gravitate to playing on things that challenge their balancing skills?  Do you let them?  Or is your gut response to ask them to get down before they get hurt?  Does this change your mind?  You can read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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Let the (Backyard) Games Begin!

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Nearly every afternoon the neighborhood kids gather in the cul-de-sac in front of our home and play.  There are the usual draws: riding bikes and scooters, shooting hoops, maybe a game of tag.  Lately they’ve taken up kickball, and it’s not unusual to see a mom or dad drawn into the game.  Who wouldn’t rather put off weeding or mowing the lawn just a little bit longer for the chance to feel the satisfying thwack of a rubber ball against your foot?

The other day I glanced out the window to see an unfamiliar game getting started.  The kickball was lined up in the middle of the street, flanked by a line of tennis balls.  The serious task of picking teams was underway.  The teams lined up to face each other, and when the countdown was over, they made a mad dash for the balls.  And so began “War Ball,” a version of Dodge Ball they’d made up on their own.

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For generations kids have been improving traditional backyard games and making up their own.  But as organized sports and an abundance of technology overtakes their lives, they are spending less time outside … and even less time freely playing with each other.

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The good people at CLIF would like to see that change.  This year they are hosting the 3rd Annual CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year.  Kids ages 6-12 are encouraged to enter by submitting their made-up game.  You don’t need any fancy equipment or elaborate rules, just your creativity.  Kids can enter as individuals and have a chance to win a $10,000 scholarship or a Specialized Bike. Contest finalists will win a trip to San Diego to present their game.  New this year is an opportunity for kids to enter as a group.  To reward kids for their teamwork, the group winner will receive $15,000 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice, as well as a trip to San Diego.

The judges, Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer, will have tough decisions, I’m sure, but their background makes them a perfect fit. Stacy and Ken have authored a book together: “The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to do in Nature Before You Grow Up.”

Backyard game ideas can be submitted now through June 17, 2013 at www.CLIFBackyardGame.com.  We hope to be playing your game soon!

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Risky Reads: The Get Outside Edition

Climbing trees does a body good.

Unless you live in Colorado or North Dakota right now, chances are spring has finally sprung for you.  And if it hasn’t, I feel your pain.  I love snow and all, but I am over it.  After what feels like an eternity being cooped up among boxes, it’s so nice to have not only room to play, but nice weather, new friends and new places to explore.  Just this week my kids met a few more neighbor kids and the group of them organized a big game of team tag.  It made my heart happy to see so many kids (at least 8) running around, laughing and playing.

In that spirit, I found a collection of things around the web that focus on playing outdoors.  Most of the time we hope that our kids will simply go out and play.  For the other times when either boredom sets in or you feel like spending time outside doesn’t come naturally to you, I hope these ideas will inspire you.

Many of us suburban dwellers find ourselves with backyards that are nothing more than an expanse of grass.  Childhood 101 suggests 7 steps to creating an outdoor play space for kids that’s really helpful.  I also love the simple playthings Kim from Mothering with Mindfulness came up with to make play in her backyard more enticing.

Both of those posts suggest adding a secret space to your play area.  How about this willow den?

If you have a good tree, building a simple treehouse such as this one would totally amp up the coolness of your backyard.  Let the kids help build it and you not only have an awesome treehouse, but they’ve learned some important life skills along the way.

Lastly, the always inspiring folks at Modern Parents Messy Kids have come up with 25 ways to play with nature.

For more risky inspiration, you can follow us on Pinterest.  In the meantime, we’d love to hear how you’re spending time outside this month!

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Peep Jousting

Easter has come and gone this year, but not without one of our favorite activities. PEEP JOUSTING!

I loved Peeps as a kid. Who could not resist that ooey-gooey yellow sugar? A 42 year old woman. So what did we do with all the Peeps this year? We put them in the microwave.

My sister introduced me to this several years ago. Of all the things I have learned from my big sis, Peep jousting is the best.

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All you really need is a package of Peeps and some toothpicks. Give each kid a Peep and a toothpick and let them set them up in the microwave on some paper towel. I like to use the neighbor’s microwave whenever possible. Turn on the power and watch them get big. The first Peep to impale the other one wins.

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Didn’t your father tell you not to stare at the microwave?

Two at a time got boring this year so we added more Peeps. Winning is really all about the toothpick placement.

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We got really crazy and had an all out Peep war.

So fire up your microwave and clean out your Easter baskets. And yes, good neighbor, if there had been a Peep explosion, I would have cleaned out your microwave. Or at least call the guy who cleans puke out of my car, maybe he does mircrowaves too.

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Every Day A Play Day!

King of the rock pile. #everydayaplayday #polarnopyretusa

I can not even begin to express how much the kids and I are looking forward to spending time outside.  It’s been a very long winter.  Just when we thought it was over, we had yet another winter storm come through and gift us with a snow day the week before Spring Break.  I had big plans to get us out and about over Spring Break, only to be felled by an illness that had me down and out for most of the week.

We need fresh air and we need to play!  We bet you do, too, so the timing of Polarn O. Pyret’s “Every Day a Play Day” this week couldn’t be better.  I’m happy to partner with PO.P again this year to spread the word about how important it is to get outside, even for just a little bit, every single day.  PO.P agrees, and so twice a year they make it their mission to encourage everyone to play outside, no matter the weather.  Their motto, and one I wholeheartedly agree with is “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”  No one covers kids for any kind of weather better than Polarn O. Pyret.

Yes, even in the muckiest, dreariest of days, it does a body good to get out and stomp in puddles … or even play in a spring time snow. Of course, we’ll keep our fingers crossed for warm, sunny days.

Dirt magnet.

I hope you’ll join us in celebrating “Every Day a Play Day,” beginning today.  It’s so easy to do:

When: Monday, April 8 – Sunday, April 14, 2013

Where:  Outside, of course!

What You Need: Clothes for the weather (I’m pulling for short sleeves!), a camera, a playful attitude

How to Share:  Keep track of how much time you spend outside every day and log your time onto PO.P’s Facebook page.  The goal is to beat last November’s 1,104 hours of play (pfffttt … we can blow that out of the water).  While you’re playing, snap a few photos and share them, along with your stories, with PO.P on their blog, The Playful Life.  Each day they’ll randomly select from those who submitted photos and/or stories to win a $50 PO.P gift certificate.  You can also share your photos on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.  Be sure to tag them with #polarnopyretusa and #everydayaplayday.

You can follow along with us on Instagram (I’m AngieSix).  I can’t wait to see all the ways you choose to play!

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The “Playability” Factor: Choosing a Neighborhood Based on Play

View from my back porch. Love our mighty oak.

We are slowly but surely settling into our new home.  We’ve only been here for a short time, but I’m already noticing a remarkable  difference.

My kids are playing with other kids and outside A LOT more.

We knew when we purchased this next home that “playability” would factor into our choice.  We paid attention to the neighborhood we liked at different times of the day.  Were there a lot of kids in the neighborhood?  Did they seem to be in the same age range as our kids?  Are they outside?  We also paid attention to the specific house and lot.  Did it encourage or discourage our kids from having friends over?  Did the yard have features that would encourage them to play outside?  Did the traffic pattern in front of the house encourage or discourage free play outside?

We knew when we found the house we wanted that the answers to these questions were “yes.”  We were lucky that we found a neighborhood and a house in our price range that satisfied these desires.  But I still wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly these differences in our living space would translate into more play for our kids.  I’m thrilled, especially considering the weather is still icky (8 inches of snow last week).  Thoughts of what will happen when the weather warms up make me giddy.

I’m really looking forward to reading Mike Lanza’s book, Playborhood, to find even more ways to foster and encourage free play within our neighborhood.  If you’re not familiar with his book or his blog, I encourage you to check it out.  You’ll be so inspired!

Would you ever choose a home or a neighborhood based on “playability?”  And if you have, what led you to make that decision and how did you go about it?

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Talk to Strangers

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What is this?

That’s the question Linda asked my kids last weekend. Obviously, it’s a rock. But let’s pretend it’s more than a rock. Maybe it’s a tool? Or an ancient Indian artifact?

My kids guessed a lot and decided it was an ancient Indian comb that Indian moms used to brush the unruly hair on  Indian boys.

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For the past week, Benjamin has been using this rock to brush his hair. It cracks me up.

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Today, Thomas grabbed the rock and started brushing too.

You might be asking, “How is this risky?” (Beside the fact that you could lose a toe with that comb.)

To get this new comb, we talked to strangers. Gasp! From day one, we tell our kids not to talk to strangers … and this is good advice?  Unless you spend your time hiding under the bed, there will be situations where you must talk to strangers. Linda and I met some strangers last weekend kayaking and they were the ones who gave us the rock. We struck up a conversation and learned some things about rocks and Indian artifacts. Now, I’m not completely convinced that this rock is in fact an ancient Indian artifact. But in the big scheme of things that’s not what mattered.

We talked to strangers, had an adventure and have great stories that we lived to tell about. We never got that punched-in-the-gut feeling you get when you meet people whom you can’t trust. We knew to go slowly, trust our instincts and have fun. We came home and told our kids about our experience.

Homework: Next time you are out and about with your kids, meet a stranger. Strike up a conversation and learn something. Go home and research it and see if what you learned is true. Talk to your kids about instincts and learning to trust them.

We talked to strangers, and now we comb our hair with rocks.

Have you ever trusted a stranger and come out with a new friend and a good story? Let us know.

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