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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Book Review: 15 Minutes Outside

Here in the Midwest, we’re headed into hibernation season.  The leaves are on the ground, we wake up to frost, and we’re getting glimpses of the dark and sometimes dreary winter days ahead.  We’ve also had a string of glorious fall days, where the sun is shining and the temperature is perfect.

On those days, as in the sunny days of spring and summer, I find it easy to get myself and the kids outside.  I’m not above pushing kids out the door and insisting they play outside, especially when I know we only have a handful of really gorgeous days left in this season.  Winter is another story, though.  I struggle with getting the kids outside, mostly because I don’t particularly enjoy being outside when the temperature dips below 40.

I know how important it is for all of us, not just the kids, to get fresh air all year long.  It’s probably even more important in the winter, when breathing in the same stagnant air is just an invitation for illness.  I was thrilled to find a book that could help me come up with creative ideas to get us outside all year long.

Fifteen Minutes Outside, by Rebecca P. Cohen, is a gem of a book with the goal of getting you and your kids outside, every day, for just fifteen minutes.  Her ideas are creative, require little to no planning ahead, and cheap.  All you need is some enthusiasm, and if you live where I do, a coat and gloves.

Here are a few of my favorite risky ideas for fall and winter:

Stick Tunnel

Build a stick tunnel:  For many kids, playing with sticks is a big no-no. Parents and teachers are always worried someone’s going to poke an eye out.  Channel their energy away from using them as swords and into building with them.  My son is actually allowed to do this at his school and the kids make an entire “city” out of fallen limbs.

Play Ghost in the Graveyard: It’s easy to forget you’re cold when you’re running around.  I’m also finding that kids are increasingly unfamiliar with traditional outdoor games. Have a game revival in your yard and see who joins you.  Encourage the kids to learn other games or to make up their own.

Backyard ice rink

Go ice skating outdoors: If you’re lucky enough to have frozen ponds nearby, take advantage!  If not, search the web for outdoor rinks in your area.  Or take advantage of a killer ice storm and skate in your very own backyard!

Drift

Visit the playground after a snowfall: Even the most boring playground can be transformed into something magical with a dusting of snow.  Try building snow up at the end of the slide for some cool ramps.

Go off-road:  Without vines, tall grass and brush blocking your way, you can find some great spots to walk or bike in the winter. Bonus points for biking in the snow or experimenting with snow shoes.

How do you keep your family outside and active during the fall and winter?

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If You Explode It, They Will Have Fun: The Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment

Soda & Mentos Explosion

My kids are always up for any kind of scientific experiment.  If it involves mixing up some kind of concoction or tearing something apart in the name of science, they’re game.  I’m a scientist at heart myself.  My major in college was microbiology and I spent many an hour looking at blood cells under a microscope and culturing all kinds of yeast and bacteria.  Call me a dork, but my heart flutters a bit when I see a petri dish or a pipette.

While microbes are my cup of tea (not to drink, of course), explosions are my kids favorite scientific endeavor.  Mostly it’s just them dreaming about exploding things, as their mother is just about as crazy about tidiness as she is about science.  Explosions in the house, as educational as they might be, don’t sound so fun to clean up.

We received Ken Denmead’s third book in the Geek Dad series, The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, to review.  It didn’t take long for Elena to bookmark about every other experiment to try at home.  While we want to get to as many of them as we can, it was “Exploring Fluid Dynamics” that caught my eye right away.  Perhaps you know this experiment by another name: the Diet Coke and Mentos trick.

It had candy, it had explosions, it had mess that could be easily hosed away. Sold, sold, sold.

The book is awesome at giving you both detailed instructions and yet giving kids lots of chances to form a hypothesis of their own and add on to the basic experiments.  In this case, the author encourages kids to think about what factors go into making the biggest, best explosion.  Is it the kind of soda?  Is it the size and shape of the bottle?  Is it the kind of candy?

Since we were doing this mostly for our own entertainment and not for an actual project, we kept our experiment small.  At the store I let the kids pick 4 kinds of soda: classic diet, regular soda, and orange soda.  We also tried it using an already opened, small bottle of clear soda.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

The book gives very detailed instructions on making a candy-delivering device out of PVC pipe.  This is to give you a way to drop the candy in and give yourself time to run away.  We came up with our own simple delivery system using rolled-up cardstock with a slit cut in it.  We slid another piece of card stock in the slit to hold the candy in place until we were ready.  It worked like a charm.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

For less than $4 and relatively little work, we had an awesome afternoon of explosions.  Even I, the jaded scientist, was impressed.  We had an interesting conversation about how soda is made and what causes the reaction and all that educational stuff, but most importantly?  We had a lot of fun.

Soda & Mentos Explosion

This book is definitely geared toward elementary-age kids and older.  Whether you have a science fair coming up in which your budding scientist could use a little inspiration to try something more creative than a potato clock, you’re a homeschooling family looking for something different to add to your science curriculum, or you just want to have some geeky, science-themed fun, you’re sure to find something really cool in this book.

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