Risky Reads: The World Traveler Edition

granada mirador san nicolas

We’ve been home for two weeks now, and we’re still walking around in a fog. We have alternating feelings of happiness at being back home, utter disbelief that we spent an entire month traipsing about Spain, a yearning to go back, and sadness at the rapidly approaching first day of school. I’ve given up at any semblance of a routine, and instead we’re just winging it every day, a fleeting luxury that will soon end. I’m a scheduler by nature, so this is a big stretch for me … but darn if it doesn’t feel good!

The photo above was taken in Granada, Spain. We’d walked through El Albayzín, with its narrow, winding streets, tea shops, and Moorish architecture, to the lookout point (Mirador San Nicolás). From there we had an amazing view of the Alhambra, which we’d spent the day exploring. There was a little outdoor market where artists were selling handicrafts, several bustling cafes, tourists milling about, and kids running everywhere. I’m not sure what this structure is actually for, but all of the kids had decided it was perfect for scaling, sitting on, and jumping from. It wasn’t small, so climbing it was a feat. And if you made it to the top and decided you wanted to jump off? Well, you faced about a 6 foot jump onto a sidewalk or the cobblestone street.

And yet … I didn’t see a single person yell at the kids to be careful or to get off. I didn’t see a single kid get hurt. But I did see lots of jubilant faces and I did hear lots of laughter.

Now that I’m done reminiscing, here are a few things I found around the web that I thought you might find interesting!

In the midst of this lazy, routine-free summer, this is another thing I’m trying to embrace: not squawking at the kids to constantly tidy up or following them around and doing it for them. Sometimes the best and most inspiring play moments come from something that evolves over a few days. So maybe don’t clean up!

I love a good checklist, and this one from the National Trust of 50 Outdoor Activities to do as a child is very inspiring.

There’s still time to get a road trip in before school starts! This fun, interactive map can help you decide where to go based on where you’ll be traveling and the kinds of activities you like to do as a family.

Board games are back! (But did they ever go away?)

It doesn’t look like we’ll make a camping trip happen this summer, but when we do, I’ll definitely use some of the tips in this post on stress-free camping with kids.

You can still find me over at Bedtime Math, along with other fantastic bloggers sharing some really cool activities. Last month we got muddy, cooled off with ice excavations, and made ourselves a sweet treat. The daily math problem is always fun, and Eli loves doing them as we get ready for bed.

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

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Risky Reads: The Bonfire Edition

Boys watching bonfire

Mike built us a new fire pit last month, so of course we had to break it in right away and make sure it worked. We had a bench the previous owners left behind that was falling apart, so into the fire pit it went! Another neighbor brought over a dilapidated chair. Needless to say, the kids were fascinated! Here’s to many more evenings spent in the company of good friends sitting by a summer fire.

When I’m not burning things, I’m reading some really cool stuff on the web. Here are a few things I found that you may enjoy:

” If you can’t afford to risk anything less than perfection at the age of 15, then for heaven’s sake, when is going to be the right time?” What our quest for steering kids to be the best from an early age is doing to their desire to takes risks in the fabulous article “Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail.”

I’m terribly guilty of doing the exact opposite. But we must remember there is undeniable power in doing nothing.

I am SO excited to be able to see this exhibit in person!

These photos of the magical world of snails are crazy cool! The kids will love them.

Just in case you’re not the master of building fires like I am (much to the chagrin of my husband!), here’s a handy guide for how to get those fires burning.

Over at Bedtime Math they have a fun new road trip printable. This past month our wacky math adventures included counting tree rings, flipping coins, and making a hummingbird feeder.

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

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Awesome Games to Play for National Backyard Games Week

National Backyard Game Week

Today kicks off National Backyard Game Week! You know how we feel about the rules here at The Risky Kids, so if you want to play your backyard games in the front yard we won’t tattle. The important part is to get outside and play some games! We’ve taken the time to round up some inspiration to get you outdoors and playing this week.

The-ULTIMATE-backyard-bucket-list1

32 Fun DIY Backyard Games & Activities via Listotic

10 Playground Games Every Kids Should Know via Spoonful

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15 Fun Backyard Games (with printable game cards and instructions) via iMom

clif kid backyard game of the year

CLIF Kid has a great tool on their website where you can plug in the number of kids who want to play and what you want to use to play your game with (nature, household items, toys, water, or your imagination) and it generates a game for you to play (a game of Card Sharks, perhaps?!). Of course, you can always enter your own game in the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year contest!

It’s still a little chilly here, but last summer we had lots of fun playing squirt gun cup races in our backyard:

Squirt gun cup race

What awesome backyard game will your kids be playing this week?

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Risky Reads: The Egg Toss Edition

Egg Toss

My neighbor and I hosted the neighborhood Easter egg hunt in our cul-de-sac last month. We thought it would be fun to get the parents involved and have a friendly little egg toss competition. Kids and their adult partner started off face-to-face. After each successful toss, the adult took one big step back. We’d made a few tosses before one kid piped up, “WAIT. These eggs aren’t hard-boiled?!” Lots of fun, lots of mess, and something that may just become a neighborhood Easter tradition.

Here are a few things I found around the Internet last month that I thought you might enjoy:

What if we chose practice over perfect? Imagine the message we’d send to kids if we weren’t so worried about perfection ourselves.

This earth loom would be so easy to do, and make such a cool community project in any backyard.

I found another cool photography series called “kids were here.” I think these little reminders that are scattered throughout our homes, yards and cars will be one of the things I miss the most when the kids are grown.

This article on how to motivate teens was very eye-opening. Not only do we need to find ways to motivate our kids to work independently, we need to check our own motivation to shield our kids from disappointment and failure at the door. We tend to think about helicopter parenting in terms of keeping kids safe, but what about the kind of over-involved parenting that seeks to keep us from looking bad as parents?

I want to buy these stickers and plaster them everywhere!

And in case you missed it, here’s what we’ve been up to over at Bedtime Math:

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

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Risky Reads: The Laundry Basket Edition

Asleep in the laundry basket

For about a week last month, Eli became mildly obsessed with the laundry basket. Sadly, it had nothing to do with folding the clothing in the laundry basket. But he did drag it around with him through the house, using it as a boat, a jail for his LEGOs, and a cozy, blanket and pillow-filled reading nook. One evening I checked in on him before bed. He was sleeping in the laundry basket! He did this for a couple of nights. Can you imagine if we tried to sleep like that? My neck would never be the same again!

While Eli found 101 uses for a laundry basket, I found a few things around the internet I thought you might enjoy (and that won’t give you a crick in the neck).

Have a kid that’s interested in coding? Check out this fabulous roundup of 20 resources for teaching kids how to code.

Homework can be such a burden on some families. This dad worried about the amount and intensity of his 8th-grade daughter’s homework, so he decided to do her homework for a week. The result is this essay, “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me.”

If that has you down, get ready to be inspired! Have you seen Childhood Unplugged? A group of photographers submits photos monthly of kids engaged in the art of play. All is not lost, friends.

This insect hotel, made of natural materials, would be a beautiful and practical addition to a natural backyard. What a great project for kids to study beneficial insects in their own backyard!

I love this DIY Upcycled Inventor’s Box. It would keep my kids busy for hours, and I’d love to see what creations they’d come up with.

I write for the parenting blog over at Bedtime Math. Last month we explored tessellations, made our own lava lamps, and created some cool domino cascades. This week we found a way to color Easter Eggs volcano-style. Lots of cool stuff going on over there – be sure to check it out!

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

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Pop-Up Adventure Play: Adventures in Cardboard

Cardboard box play via The Risky Kids

Have you ever heard of child-directed play? You may not have heard of it, but chances are you’ve probably engaged in it with your own kids. It’s spending time playing with a child, but letting the child decide what to play and how to play it. The adult can observe, take directions from the child, and interact with the child, but the main focus is letting the child lead the way. The adult doesn’t make suggestions or ask lots of questions about what the child is doing, they simply let themselves get swept along in the magic that is play.

In order to foster child-directed play, a child needs to have play things around them that inspire them to play, create and build. Loose parts (materials that can be combined, taken apart, moved, and put back together again in multiple ways) are the perfect inspiration for child-directed play. Items such as stones, blocks, fabric, balls, buckets, sticks, PVC pipe, rope, tape are the perfect things to keep on hand for child-directed play. Of course, the grandaddy of them all, the one thing that will set off a child’s imagination like nothing else, is the cardboard box.

Pop Up Adventure Play

Pop-Up Adventure Play, whose mission is that “together, we can all support child-directed play – one cardboard box at a time,” is an organization dedicated to supporting play in all communities. I first heard about after seeing photos from one of their Pop-Up Tours this winter. I loved the idea of communities getting together and giving kids free run to play as they wish, with loads of cool, upcycled materials, in the presence of supportive adults.

The tour is almost over, and I was bummed that it wasn’t coming anywhere near me, but that doesn’t mean that you and I can’t encourage this kind of play as well, either with our families or in our own little communities. Pop-Up Adventure Play wants to help get you started. Sign up for their mailing list and they’ll send you a free Mini Pop-Up kit. To learn more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, visit their website or follow them on social media. In the meantime, I’m gathering all kind of loose parts and hoarding cardboard boxes for our own pop-up adventure this spring!

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The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights

Our Spring Break begins today, and as I look at the 10-day forecast it seems as if our break will have at least a few days of the wonderful spring weather we’ve been dreaming of. As the kids and I brainstormed and made a list of things we’d like to do over the break, I was reminded of another list I picked up while attending the Indiana Children and Nature Network meeting a couple of weeks ago.

It’s the Indiana Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, and you can download a copy for yourself from the Indiana Department of Natural Resource’s website. While it’s geared toward getting Indiana’s children outside and connecting with nature, it obviously translates to children all over the world. I love the list format. I don’t know about you, but my kids love a good list! There is such satisfaction in checking off the things you’ve done.  And how satisfying will it be to finally get outdoors again without layer upon layer and check this fun activities off one by one? Here’s the list:

1. Explore and play outdoors in a safe place.

Follow a nature trail via The Risky Kids

2. Follow a trail and discover native plants, wildlife and history.

Fishing with kids via The Risky Kids

3. Experience traditional outdoor activities like fishing and hunting.

4. Discover and celebrate Indiana’s past (or whatever part of the world you call home).

Camping with kids via The Risky Kids

5. Camp under the stars.

Climb a tree via The Risky Kids

6. Climb a tree.

Visit a farm via The Risky Kids

7. Visit a farm.

8. Plant a seed or tree and watch it grow.

Play in a stream via The Risky Kids

9. Splash and play in streams, lakes and ponds.

Geocache Tree

10. Enjoy the outdoors using all the senses.

11. Ask questions, find answers, and share nature with a friend.

What would you add to your own Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights?

 

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10 Ways to Ring in Spring!

Tomorrow is the first day of spring! Can I get an amen for those of us who feel as if this winter has overstayed its welcome? To celebrate, I came up with 10 playful ways to ring in spring’s arrival.

Fly a kite

1. Fly a kite.

Take advantage of spring’s blustery days and fly a kite! I don’t buy fancy kites, and I’ve been known to scoop up a few when I see them on sale. If we lose one or the string is hopelessly tangled we just move on to a new one!

Enjoy a spring shower

2. Enjoy a spring shower.

Stomp in the puddles, twirl your umbrella, make friends with the worms! Who says you can only play outside when it’s sunny and dry? Not us!

Geocaching with kids

3. Try letterboxing or geocaching.

Spend the dreary days learning about letterboxing and geocaching so that you’re ready to go when good weather and inspiration strikes.  If you’re just starting out, it can be easier to locate the cache in the spring, before the heavy foliage of summer takes over. While you’re searching, take note of what you see. What’s budding and blooming? Then return in the summer, fall, and winter and note how the location has changed through the seasons.

wild mushrooms

4. Forage for mushrooms or edible plants.

Find some guidebooks to help you. Not only are they a valuable resource, they can provide hours of quiet time on icky weather days as kids leaf through the pages. Last fall we discovered that we can forage wild hickory nuts in our neighborhood. Who knows what we’ll find this year? I’ve got my fingers crossed for morels!

5. Play with chalk and puddles.

Colorful sidewalk chalk is another item I keep on hand year-round and buy extras when I see them on sale. We call mixing chalk and water making a “colorful river” at our house, and it’s beautiful fun.

make up an outdoor game

6. Learn a new outdoor game (or rediscover a childhood favorite).

Or make up your own, as we did in the photo above! (The game was War Ball. Everyone dragged out a variety of balls from their garages, lined them up in the middle, and split into teams. When the game starts, everyone rushes to the center, grabs a ball, and starts throwing. Like Dodge Ball, when you’re hit, you’re out.) Sure, you remember playing hopscotch, foursquare, and red rover … but do your kids know how to play? Get a group of kids involved in a game and then slowly back away and let the magical childhood memories commence.

7. Search for tadpoles.

We’ve been scoping out what we think is the perfect tadpole habitat. It’s still too cold, but in a few weeks we hope to collect some tadpoles and watch them grow. Stay tuned for details!

play in the mud

8. Play in the mud.

Little toes were made for squishing in the mud. Heck, so are big toes, for that matter!

Of course the weather doesn’t always cooperate, and spring doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine or warm showers. For days that look more like winter, try these activities that will still get you in a spring-y mood:

Nature Center Animals

9. Explore your local nature center.

Bring the outdoors indoors! Many nature centers switch their exhibits and programming for spring. They might even offer some special spring-themed hikes or activities. Click the link above for more information on how to find a nature center near you.

10. Give indoor rock climbing a try.

This is on our Spring Break must-do list. My kids have been begging to try!

What are your favorite activities to ring in spring? Be sure to share them in the comments! For more outdoor inspiration,  follow The Risky Kids Pinterest boards!

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Risky Reads: The Headless LEGO Edition

LEGO scenes with minifigures

We’re in the process of finally decorating Eli’s room, and he wanted a LEGO theme. I thought it would be fun to have a few canvases hanging up with LEGO pictures blown up, so I asked him to create some scenes for me to photograph. I think this is my favorite one … nothing says “Sweet dreams, son!” like an image of decapitation.

Here are a few more of my favorite things I found around the internet in the last month …

How Family Games Taught Our Kids Many Skills (via the Wall Street Journal): You know we love playing games together. This just reinforced my belief that beyond the bonding you get by hanging out as a family, there are valuable lessons to be had in Family Game Night. It also reassured me that my ultra-competitive husband isn’t scarring the kids for life by never letting them win.*

I was just thinking that it might be time to toss the Play-dough, as my kids are moving past that stage and never really play with it anymore … and then I saw Electric Dough from Classic Play. I think we’ll hang on to it a little longer!

As the weather gets warmer, I bet your kids are itching to get out and play. And yet it’s also the season of ramped up homework, standardized tests, and spring sports leagues. Before you sign up for another activity or insist on extra study time, consider the reasons why giving kids the gift of time to play will benefit them.

I read this and I just wanted to hug my kids’ teachers and say thanks. They have so much responsibility on their underpaid shoulders. And this particular teacher is amazing.

How cool is this Kickstarter project for Hello Ruby, a children’s book that teaches programming fundamentals through stories and activities? When was the last time you swooned over the illustrations in a coding book?!

Finally, I’m still goofing off with math over at Bedtime Math. Last month we came up with some silly balloon games, found math in our King Cake, and marveled at frozen bubbles.

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

*This used to bother me a lot. I wouldn’t let the kids win all the time, but every once in awhile I’d “accidentally” make a dumb play or sneak a Candy Land card back in the pile. The other day, after playing him for weeks and losing, Eli handily beat Mike at Mancala. You should’ve seen the sheer joy on his face, knowing he bested his dad fair and square. I’ll never “let” them win again.

 

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Indoor Fort-Building Fun and Inspiration

Fort building for kids

Have you ever met a kid that didn’t like to build or play in a fort? I haven’t! As we come upon the tail end of the winter, I’ve seen quite a few variations of fort-building going on in my home. I thought I’d share a couple of our favorite forts to build as well as some resources for fort-building inspiration.

The couch fort is an obvious classic. I think our couch cushions have spent more time on the floor than on the actual couch this winter! Is it bad that if I had advice for couch-shopping new parents, I would tell them to consider the conduciveness of the couch cushions to good fort structure?! Our couch in the basement has big, floppy cushions, which are super comfy but horrible for making a decent fort. Our sectional upstairs, however, is perfect: big, sturdy square and rectangular pillows.

Couch forts via The Risky Kids

Of course the couch fort gets built a hundred different ways, but I came across this on Pinterest one day and it’s now the go-to design method. Perfect for a flashlight and a good book!

Discovery Kids Construction Fort Kit

I’ve had my eye on Fort Magic, but haven’t been so sure if I want to spend that much on fort building supplies. The other day the kids found a similar kit on clearance at Bed, Bath & Beyond (I’m guess the fort goods are considered the “Beyond?”). They love it and have spent lots of time working together to build forts, which is almost priceless in my book. If you have Fort Magic and can speak to its quality, I’d love to hear from you.

Every Friday Allison from All for the Boys shares awesome forts from readers in her Fort Friday post. If you think kids don’t build forts anymore, check out the series. It will make your heart happy!

You can make or buy your own fort kit as well – what a great gift idea!

As we move towards spring, our thoughts will turn to cool ways to build forts and hideouts outside. Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for more ideas and inspiration for a playful life. And if you’ve made cool forts of your own, be sure to share them on our Facebook page!

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