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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Connecting With Nature: Explore a Pond

Explore a pond via The Risky Kids
Oftentimes as parents we feel like in order to make nature a part of our children’s lives we must make time for some grand expedition. We feel we must pack up the car and the gear, travel to the park or the nature preserve or the trails, and make an entire day of it. And while that is all well and good (and should be done now and then, according to the Nature Connection Pyramid), we can all make nature exploration a part of our lives without much time, effort or money. I’m so inspired by the practicality of the Nature Connection Pyramid, and its potential to encourage families to make nature a part of their everyday lives in many different ways. As I’m inspired, I’ll be sharing ways in which we’ve incorporated the suggestions of the Nature Connection Pyramid into our lives.

nature connection pyramid

This past week was our Spring Break, and we spent most of it close to home, giving the kids ample opportunities for unstructured outdoor play. Eli ran free with his neighborhood friends and cousins, taking advantage of warm weather and freed from the constraints of an earlier bedtime. Elena and a friend planned their own picnic, baking a cake, shopping for supplies, and exploring a waterfall.

elenawaterfall

We also carved out a morning to do some nature exploring near our neighborhood. I noticed on a run the other week that the neighborhood behind ours has a wooded area with a pond. We set off on bikes, filling a backpack with some empty jars and a magnifying glass.

Exploring a pond

I was hoping we might find tadpoles, but it appears to be too early in the season for them. We’ll definitely check back often in the next few weeks in hopes of catching some.

Tadpoles or no tadpoles, there was still plenty to explore. There was mucky mud to squish our boots in, bright green moss to feel, and logs to balance on.

Boy and pond

Eli was a bit disappointed that we didn’t see any signs of life in the water, but I encouraged him to fill a jar with water anyways. We took it home with us and had a look with the magnifying glass.

Studying pond water

Have you ever looked at pond water up close? I thought we might see something, but I was wholly unprepared for the variety of tiny life contained in a jar of pond water! We saw teeny-tiny water bugs, some kind of beetle, a small crustracean-like critter (called a scud) scavenging the muck on the bottom, and several worm-like creatures. It was fascinating (and an excellent reminder to be thankful for clean water to drink)!

I hope you’ll make some time this week to do some nature exploring close to home! In the meantime, what are some of your favorite ways to explore nature with your kids?

This post is also included in the No Such Thing As Bad Weather Outdoor Play Party Roundup. Visit for some great ideas!

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Family Game Night: Mancala

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There are so many wonderful games to play together as a family, and I’ve mentioned some of our favorites before. What gets tricky is when you try to find games that are interesting and age-appropriate when you have big age ranges in your family. With five years in between our kids, finding games that they can play together and enjoy is not always easy.

Mancala

Mancala, or the African stone game, is a classic game, and one that I’ve found our entire family can play together. While it’s a 2-player game, we play it as a family by taking turns. And because we’re (okay, everyone but me) is competitive, it often turns into a round-robin tournament.

You can find Mancala rules online, but the object of the game is to collect as many stones in your Mancala before one of the players clears his side of the board of all his stones. We have a mancala board that we purchased, but I’ve seen lots of creative ways you can make your own.

Some of the things I love about this game:

Play is quick. The average game takes around 10 minutes. It’s perfect for short attention spans or to fill in short spans of time that can get dicey, like just before dinner.

The playing field is level. There’s a basic strategy, but even young kids pick it up quickly. Anyone can win.

It’s soothing. Something about dropping the stones into the wells is relaxing. It feels and sounds nice.

Accessibility. While it’s not a travel game, it is a game that can be left out for easy play. The board looks nice sitting on our coffee table, and since we leave it out it invites impromptu play.

What games have you enjoyed playing lately?

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