Be Prepared: A Year With the Cub Scouts

Cub Scout Fun Day Archery

The marketing team for the Crossroads of America Council/Boy Scouts of America deserves some kind of medal (Perhaps a badge would be more appropriate?). I’m not sure exactly how they go about selling the concept of scouting to first grade boys, or what they’re telling them. I can tell you that Eli came home from school one day convinced that becoming a Cub Scout was the key to happiness in life.

Now, Eli brings home a lot of information from school, and 95% of he could care less about. He’s a lot like me in his tendency to be a homebody. He has to really, REALLY want to participate in something for it to lure him from home and playing with his friends. We’re fiercely protective of our after-school schedules, so we’re good with that. I’ve always believed that there were plenty of years ahead of us to get involved in sports and clubs. I feel strongly that kids should be excited and motivated on their own to get involved, rather than having adults push activities on them. As parents of a tween, we can attest to the fact that the day will come when they have a strong opinion about what types of extracurricular activities they want to take part in. I might ask the kids if they’re interested in a particular activity when a flier comes home or I see something in the school newsletter, but if they’re not overly enthusiastic, I have no problem keeping our afternoons and weekends activity-free.

The Cub Scout flier fell under the 5% of papers Eli brings home that requires my immediate attention. He wanted to be a Cub Scout, end of discussion! There was an informational meeting for parents coming up, and he immediately wrote it in my calendar. He then proceeded to remind us about it every single day until the meeting time arrived.

That’s how we found ourselves initiated into the world of Scouting. This is all new to us, and I’m very curious to see how Cub Scouts fits into The Risky Kid way as well our parenting philosophy. Here’s what appeals to us so far:

Appropriate Time Commitment: I’ve always heard that Scouting is a big commitment for families. I’m sure that is probably true as the boys progress through the program, but as a Tiger Scout (first grade), we’re finding the commitment to be manageable. We have 2-3 meetings a month, with a few optional activities available as well.

Cub Scout Fun Day BB Guns

Activities That Appeal to Boys: I’m pretty sure Eli was sold when he heard there would be BB guns. He’ll also have the opportunity to participate in camping, archery, rafting, and the Pinewood Derby.

Activities That Complement Our Parenting Philosophy: We’re big on doing things that get our kids moving, playing, and developing life skills that will lead them to becoming competent, independent adults. Even in Tiger Scouts, there are Achievements and Electives that go hand-in-hand with our philosophy, such as spending time outdoors, being of service to others, and learning life skills (how to sew a button, phone manners, using public transportation).

Quality Time With Other Boys & Adults: We’re looking forward to meeting other parents and having Eli get to know other boys in our community that we might not spend time with otherwise. I also like that it gives us the opportunity to participate in something together. So far Mike has been to the meetings with Eli, but this week I’ll go with him so I can get a taste of it for myself. For families that are as protective of their family time as we are, I envision Scouting as an activity that can enhance family time, as opposed to just making demands on it.

Throughout the year, I’ll keep you up informed on what we’re up to with the Scouts and how we feel it’s impacting our family life. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experience with Scouting (Girl Scout Experiences welcome, too!). Was it a positive experience for your family? Or did it not live up to your expectations?

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50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Play with Dry Ice

Looking for cool experiments to do with kids? Try these dry ice experiments inspired by the book “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)!” Science for kids.

Task:

Play around with some super-cool, super-spooky dry ice.

Requires:

  • Dry Ice
  • Towel
  • Pie plate
  • Cup
  • Fork or tongs

Possible Hazards:

  • Burns

How It All Went Down:

The kids have been begging to play with dry ice since the day we first got the 50 Dangerous Things book. The only thing that’s kept me from doing it was not having any dry ice, nor really knowing where to get some.

Lesson #1: I’ve come to learn that some grocery stores do sell dry ice. Just ask. If not, you can search for local ice distributors and they should be able to sell you some.

One day I got a delivery of perishables packed in dry ice and I did a little happy dance. We could finally do it! And then I put it in my chest freezer and waited a few days for a good time.

Lesson #2: Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide doesn’t freeze until -109 °F. Unlike frozen water, dry ice doesn’t melt in the traditional sense. It goes through a process known as sublimation, which means it goes directly from a solid to a gas. Which also means that when you leave it in your freezer for a few days, hype it up to the kids, and go to retrieve it? You’ll be left with nothing but an empty container and sad children.

One evening, my neighbor knocked on the door. She’d just gotten some dry ice in her Peapod delivery, and knowing me well, thought I’d want some. I did another happy dance, but this time got right to the business of playing with the dry ice.

You can turn to Google or search Pinterest for all kinds of cools ways to experiment with and play with dry ice. Given that we had some in our hands at the moment and I didn’t have advanced notice to gather extra materials, I just let the kids play with it.

Lesson #3: As fun as dry ice is, you have to take some safety precautions. It is extremely cold, and touching it with your skin can cause frostbite. Always use some kind of protection when handling it, such as a towel, an oven mitt, or tongs.

Our dry ice was already broken into chunks, but if you’re dealing with a solid block you’ll want to break yours up. Wrap it in a towel and use a hammer. Be sure to wear safety goggles while you’re whacking away at it. Here are a few things we did with our dry ice:

Spooky Fog

Fill a pie plate halfway to the top with water. Using a fork or tongs, drop small pieces of the dry ice onto the surface of the water. You’ll observe the cool “fog” that makes for a spooky effect. This occurs when sublimation happens in water. Tiny, very cold carbon dioxide bubbles are formed. When these bubbles mix with the air, they cause the temperature of the air to drop. The moisture in the air near the bubbles forms the fog (this fog is perfectly safe, by the way).

Screaming Spoon

Dip a spoon (or your fork or the tongs) in hot water. Press the warm utensil against the dry ice and listen to it “scream.” What makes it do this? Well, the warm utensil speeds up the sublimation process. As the carbon dioxide gas is released against the utensil, the oscillations in pressure produce rapid sound waves that make the screaming noise.

Looking for cool experiments to do with kids? Try these dry ice experiments inspired by the book “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)!” Science for kids.

Bubbling Potions

Fill a cup 1/4 full of water and add a drop or two of dishwashing soap. Drop in the dry ice and watch your potion “boil” and bubble. The soap in the water traps the carbon dioxide gas and forms bubbles. Instead of a soapy, wet mess, once the bubbles burst they simply disappear! Add some food coloring or drop in a glow stick for colored or glowing bubbles.

Looking for cool experiments to do with kids? Try these dry ice experiments inspired by the book “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)!” Science for kids.

For even more inspiration, check out Steve Spangler Science.

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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Book Review: Unbored Games: Serious Fun for Everyone

Disclosure: I received this book for review consideration, however I have not be compensated in any other way for this post. I love this book so much I’d share it with you no matter what! This post does include some affiliate links.

UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone

Can I gush for a bit? I hope you don’t mind. But the other day I opened the mailbox to find the new book from the creators of UNBORED: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun (another book I gushed about a few months ago). It’s called UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone, and it just might be one of my favorite books for kids and families ever.

Where the first UNBORED book focused on all different kinds of activities to get you, well, not bored anymore, the new book focuses solely on games. This isn’t just a regurgitation of games we’ve all heard of before. It’s a modern mish-mash of old and new, popular and obscure. Just like the previous book, it’s a mixture of activities, interviews, stories and cool illustrations.

UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone

It’s divided into 4 sections:

1. Pwnage

I never knew this term until Mike taught me some online-poker speak. It basically means that you are superior to your opponent on all levels. And so the games in this section have clear-cut winners (they’ll leave the trash talk up to you). It contains a great list of “Best Ever Quick Board Games, including two of our favorites: Blokus and Ticket To Ride. I’m also pumped to get a Bike Rodeo set up in the cul-de-sac for the neighborhood kids.

UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone: Bike Rodeo

2. Home Games

Home is where some of the best games are, right? I was happy to see Doughnut on a String in here. We played it at our neighborhood Halloween party last year and it was hilarious.

doughnut on a string

There’s a great roundup of Parlor Games, which makes me want to invite the neighbors over and get all vintage with our game-playing. I also really liked the section on apps to play with a grownup, proving that not all screen time is wasted time. It can be a source of really great quality time with your kids, too.

UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone

3. Game Changers

Have you ever thought about how games can be a source of good? Or a force of change? This section focuses on games that promote activism, community building, and cooperation.

4. Adventure Games

This section focuses on some of The Risky Kids favorites: games that encourage experimentation and exploration. We’re especially pumped to try our hand at a smartphone scavenger hunt. And when the temps warm back up again in the spring? We’re totally having an Alka-Seltzer squirt gun battle.

Besides all the awesome ideas and inspiration the folks behind UNBORED provide, I love the premise and the tone of the book. Sure, we love to go outside, and we love to disconnect and play board games with each other. But we also love our tech, and we love to be online. The writers recognize this, and more importantly, recognize how important this facet of playing is to today’s kids. And so the book reflects this, with tons of great suggestions for playful tech and online experiences to go along with outdoor games and good, old-fashioned board and card games.

UNBORED Games has something for every kid and every adult, whether you want to play alone or in a group, no matter your mood or location. I double dog dare you not to find a game you can’t wait to play!

You can pre-order UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone on Amazon. But don’t worry – you won’t have to wait long! The book will be released on Tuesday, October 14th. In the meantime, be sure to check them out online at Unbored.net. You’ll find all kinds of cool games and activities to hold you over until your own copy arrives!

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New Kiwi Crates Have Hatched!

Kiwi Crate

We’ve been loyal Kiwi Crate subscribers for over 2 years now. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a day that was quickly headed south was saved by pulling out the latest Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi Crate catapult

Even though I pin tons of crafty activities onto Pinterest, I wouldn’t call myself a crafty person. This is why I love Kiwi Crate so much. They take the best crafts for kids, tailor them to themes kids love, pack it up in a handy box, and deliver it to your front door. You get everything you need, avoiding the inevitable meltdown when you’ve built up a super-fun craft only to realize you are FRESH out of googly-eyes. A few other things I love about Kiwi Crate:

    • The materials that come inside the Crates are really high quality … like, nicer than stuff I would actually buy my own kids. Thanks to our Kiwi Crate subscription, we’ve managed to stock our art supply cabinet with great arts and craft supplies that my kids love to use. Besides arts and crafts items, we’ve collected some really cool tools for tinkering as well, such as test tubes, droppers, and ping pong balls.
    • Oftentimes, the craft projects themselves end up being things the kids play with over and over again. We once made our own gameboard, which Eli still plays. Penguin bowling is still a hit, too.

Kiwi Crate penguin bowling

  • Most of the time, the kids can do the craft with little to no assistance from me. Win-win for all of us.
  • You can add a sibling box if you want to be absolutely sure that all the kids have enough materials, but I’ve yet to receive a box that didn’t provide enough for both of my kids to do the craft at least once.
  • Speaking of siblings, sometimes that hour or so they spend on a Kiwi Crate craft is the only time they get along for the entire day. Or week.
  • You can squirrel the box away and save it for when you really need it. I often stash the crate in the closet as soon as it’s delivered, and save it for one of those days. You know, when you’ve been snowed in for 3 days straight, when you’ve banned all screens, when everything you suggest to do is B-O-R-I-N-G. Of course, good luck to you if the kids catch sight of you before you can hide it. Mine drop everything to tear into it.
  • If you need a break from the subscription (school gets busy, money gets tight, life happens), you can pause it at any time.

Kiwi Crate crafts

For all these reasons and more, I’ve been recommending Kiwi Crate to everyone with kids, or who knows a kid (It definitely made last year’s Holiday Gift Guide). And so I was getting a little bummed out when I realized that my kids are slowly growing out of the Kiwi Crate. They’re aimed at ages 4-8. I’d say the upper age range could definitely go higher, but at age 12, Elena is pretty much done with them. And Eli, who has never been super interested in crafting, is growing out of the more artsy projects as well.

That’s why I was beyond stoked to see that news that Kiwi Crate is expanding to add 3 new subscriptions to go along with the classic Kiwi Crate:

Koala Crate >>

    • The Koala Crate (Ages 3-4): While some preschoolers could do the Kiwi Crate crafts with assistance, this will be perfect for little hands.

Tinker Crate >>

    • The Tinker Crate (Ages 9-14+): Hands-on projects to explore science, technology and math.

Doodle Crate >>

  • The Doodle Crate (Ages 9-16+): DIY art projects geared toward girls.

We’re all excited to try the Tinker Crate. The first one comes out next month, and I can’t wait to see how the kids do with it. I think they’re at the perfect age for this new Crate to be a big hit. I’ll be sure to post a detailed review as soon as we have our hands on it!

In the meantime, you can pre-order the new crates now at kiwicrate.com. No matter what the ages or interests of your children, I definitely recommend at least trying one box. I think, like us, you’ll be hooked!

Disclosure: I was not paid by Kiwi Crate or provided product in exchange for this post. Kiwi Crate is simply a product we’ve used and loved, and thought you might enjoy as well. I am, however, a Kiwi Crate affiliate. If you purchase a subscription through the links provided, I do receive some compensation.

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6 Fall Adventures to Get the Kids Outside {Take a Child Outside Week 2014}

Take a Child Outside Week
Tomorrow kicks off Take a Child Outside week! Looking at the forecast for the next week in our neck of the woods, it looks like Mother Nature is on board as well – it looks like the perfect fall weather!

Take a Child Outside - September 24-30

Take a Child Outside Week, created by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, is held every September 24-30. This might seem to be an odd time to celebrate going outside. I mean, the weather’s changing, and everyone’s busy with school and sports, right? Actually, it’s the perfect time! Take a Child Outside Week is about getting families and caregivers into the habit of making outdoor activities a part of everyone’s daily lives, all year long. Make it a priority now, and see if it doesn’t make a difference in the minds and bodies of your kids.

A little inspiration always helps, and The Risky Kids are always eager and willing to help get you outside! Here are 6 tried-and-true fall adventures perfect for celebrating Take a Child Outside Week.

Make Moth Brew

 

Moth brew to attract moths

Invite some friends to your outdoor party! Make this sticky-sweet concoction, paint it on some tree bark at dusk, and see who comes to visit. While you’re waiting, why not have bonfire and roast some s’mores? The best part about saving this activity for the fall? It gets dark earlier, so little ones won’t have to stay up way past their bedtime to see the moths.

Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt

 

Nature scavenger hunt

If I ask my kids if they want to go on a walk or hike, often they’ll say no. BUT … if I ask them if they want to go on a scavenger hunt? They’re all in. We’ve done this a few different ways, such as this counting scavenger hunt from Rain or Shine Mamma, as well as this one from Kidventures. You’ll be amazed at how much longer your walks will last and how much more enjoyable they can be when the kids are on a mission.

Go Geocaching

 

DIY geocache kit

Grab your Geocache Kit and head out the door to find new treasure! I find that spring and fall are the best times to geocache. When the leaves and foliage start to die back and clear up, you can often find caches that were difficult to find before. Add to that cooler weather and less bugs and you’ve got yourself perfect geocaching conditions.

Try a New Activity

 

kayak with kids.

Sometimes we just get too adventurous with our summer bucket lists and can’t get to everything. Weekends and weekday afternoons can be great times to do something that you didn’t get around to over the summer. We’ve wanted to rent kayaks at Eagle Creek Park for a couple of years now. We had an open afternoon recently that could’ve easily been filled with household chores and screens, but opted to head out the door instead. Now we’re hooked! Maybe we’ll even try winter kayaking

Visit Your Local Nature Center

 

Cincinnati Nature Center

Chances are if you visited your nature center over the summer, things have changed. Most will change their programming according to the seasons. If you need help finding a nature center near you, use this handy locator. Or you can do like we did one fall, and road-tripped to a really cool nature center!

Master the Perfect Somersault

 

I know it’s silly, but when was the last time you worked on a useless but totally fun skill? I find this especially true with my tween: she’s reluctant to go outside, but the opportunity to see her parents make fools of themselves is too good to pass up! Somersaults, round-offs, slam dunks, frisbee trick shots … surely there’s a goofy skill the family can work on together.

It’s your turn to share! What are you doing to get a child outside this week?

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The Unscheduled Summer: Putting the Break Back in Summer

Unscheduled summer

Well hello there {dusts cobwebs off keyboard}! It’s been awhile!

I had absolutely no intention of taking a break from blogging, but as I turned the calendar to August and the last days of summer vacation stared me in the face, I found the last place I wanted to be was in front of a glowing computer screen. It was both difficult and easy at the same time.

You see, I love a good routine. I love feeling productive. I love making lists (that are realistically too long to accomplish) and grand plans (that even with the best of intentions) are doomed to be derailed. And so there I was, fresh off the plane after being gone for a month, making detailed editorial calendars for this blog, dreaming up grand posts that would require hours of writing and editing, and trying to catch up on a month’s worth of emails. It sounded so doable in my head and on paper! But then I would think about sitting down at the computer and my chest would feel tight and all of the inspiration would drain out of me. It was just one more thing to do, in a summer that – while it was fun and amazing traveling the world – was begging me to stop and slow down.

In eight years of blogging, both here and on my personal blog, I’ve never just taken an unannounced break and walked away. I stressed about it a lot in the beginning and wondered if it was an okay thing to do. And then, once I’d spent a few days away, it was easy. I didn’t fill the time with anything else remotely productive. I just took each day as it came and enjoyed whatever came out of it.

Summer Reading Kids

The same could be said of my kids. They, too, took a break this summer. Normally my love of lists and grand plans spills over into our summer as well. We can’t be too idle! And so I sign them up for a few camps. I make plans for a few road trips and visits to local museums. We sign up for two or three reading programs. I set up detailed rules for screen use.

After spending the first half of the summer away, I decided the rest of the summer would be unscheduled. No camps, no reading lists, no bridge activities, no trips, and no screen time rules. I’ll be the first to admit it wasn’t always pretty. We spent many a morning still in our pajamas with unbrushed teeth and hair at 11 a.m. The pile of books the school sent home with Eli still sits by the fireplace, unread. The house was messy, we were lazy, and we spent more than enough time watching dumb TV or playing mindless games on the iPad.

But …

The kids also played a lot. Lazy mornings more often than not turned into creative, fun-filled afternoons with friends. Not having plans or anywhere to be meant we were free to go to the pool when we wanted, play when we wanted, be bored when we wanted, and to be creative when we wanted.

In short, an unscheduled summer gave us the freedom to dream, relax and recharge. Isn’t that what a break is all about?

lazy summers

Now, I’m not saying each and every summer from here on out should operate like this one. We spent 4 weeks of one summer completely unscheduled. Any more time than that would’ve gone from wonderful to disastrous. The sibling squabbling had picked up and the bad kind of boredom was setting in. By the time school started last week we were itching for a regular routine.

But what if we took a few days or a week out of our school breaks or vacations and allow them to be exactly that: breaks. I think so often we look at blank days or weekends with a sense of guilt or shame. We should be doing something. We confuse doing nothing with wasted time. True – doing nothing does start out as an empty slot of time. But when we give the empty space time to fill on its own, we allow ourselves to be filled with things that bring us joy, inspiration, and fun. We walk away full, not depleted.

Beyond this gift, I also see the valuable lesson that unscheduled time gives ourselves and our kids. We are living in a time when we could fill every second of every day with some kind of activity or connection. We are slowly but surely losing the ability to cope with down time. We don’t know what to do when we’re not doing something! I want my kids to grow up knowing the value of free time. More importantly, I want them to make it a routine part of their lives. In order to teach that lesson, like so many important life lessons, I realize I have to model it in my own life.

And so I took a break myself. I’m relaxed and recharged and ready to dive back into The Risky Kids again.

Do you build downtime into your days, weekends or vacations? If so, what benefits have you seen? And if not, what holds you back from doing so?

 

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DIY Geocache Kit

Make a geocache kit

Have you ever tried geocaching? If not, you definitely should! Think of it like a modern day treasure hunt. People hide “caches” in different locations. In order to find these caches, you get the coordinates of the cache’s location and use a GPS to locate it. Once you find it, there’s usually a logbook to sign. You leave the cache exactly as you found it, so that the next geocacher can do the same.

Geocaching is a perfect family activity. If you’re already an outdoor-loving family, it just one more fun thing to do outdoors. And if you struggle with getting yourself or the kids outdoors, geocaching is a great way to spend time outdoors while focused on an entirely different activity. Many geocaches contain a collection of small trinkets or goodies. Once you’ve found the cache, you can leave something of greater or equal value and take something fun home with you. My kids, who aren’t big on walks or hikes, will walk for miles just to find a geocache and some possible treasures!

The best thing about geocaching is that it’s not limited to one area or environment. You can find caches all over the world, in both urban and suburban environments. It adds an extra element of fun to traveling – what geocaches can we find while we’re away?

You don’t need much to get started geocaching, but you do need a few things. You need some sort of GPS system. Serious geocachers have special GPS devices. We just use my smartphone. You’ll need a basic membership from Geocaching.com so that you can log in and find GPS coordinates for caches. The app, while not required, is very helpful while you’re out and about. Others before me have written wonderful articles on how to get started geocaching. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

Today I’m going to share with you how to make your very own geocache kit. Not only is it a great way to get started yourself, these kits make great gifts for other kids or families. They’re super easy to put together, and before you know it you’ll be on your way! The bonus is that once you’ve tried geocaching a few times, you’ll probably be inspired to make and hide your own cache. The kit provides a few things you’ll need if you want to do that as well.

DIY Geocache Kit

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Small plastic container
  • iTunes gift card to purchase the geocaching app (only if you’ll be giving it as a gift)
  • Compass (not necessary for finding the cache, as you’ll use your GPS, but fun for kids to track which direction you’re headed)
  • Small trinkets to leave behind
  • Pencil
  • Notebook
  • Small plastic baggie (to protect the notebook from water)

Just gather all the items in the plastic container. If it’s a gift, wrap it in something fun or nature-themed. If not, you have a handy storage container for all your supplies that stores easily in the car or a backpack. Now get out there and have fun hunting!

 

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50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Boil Water in a Paper Cup

boil water paper cup

Task: Boil water in paper and watch two seemingly incompatible elements – fire and water – coexist!

 

Requires:

  • Gas or electric stove (sadly and inductive cooktop won’t work)
  • Paper cup (must be unwaxed)
  • Water

Possible Hazards: 

  • Burns
  • Fire
  • Setting off the smoke alarm

How It All Went Down:

Boil water in a paper cup? Impossible, you say! I didn’t believe it either, but we had to try.

This was the first task we’ve encountered where I was legitimately worried that someone or something would get hurt! I had visions of flaming paper and torrents of boiling water spewing out at us. If you’re a little concerned as well, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place before starting. Make sure your cup is stable on your stove. If it’s tippy or doesn’t want to stand upright, wait to try until you’ve found a better cup. Have some tongs and a pan nearby in case you need to move the cup off the burner quickly.  Now on to the fun …

Fill the cup 3/4 full with water. Place it on the hottest part of the burner (over the flame or on the heating coil). Turn the burner on high and wait for the water to boil.

It takes longer than you think, and we were sure that our cup was going to burn or disintegrate before the water boiled. The bottom of the cup got very black … but it never caught on fire before the water boiled! How is this possible?

Water boils at 212°F … but paper doesn’t actually burn until close to 500°F. And while the water is (technically) very hot, compared to a flame it is much cooler.  Notice the spots on the cup that actually begin to burn – the very bottom edge and the top 1/4 of the cup – are the parts of the cup not directly touching the water.

50 dangerous things boil water
Once the water boils, you can either turn the heat off and VERY carefully lift the cup into a pan with tongs, or you can boil away the water until you’re just left with a charred, wet piece of paper. We quit while we were ahead (i.e. no flaming pyre or boiling water geysers) and turned off the flame. It was all over in a matter of minutes, but it’s something we won’t forget about for a long time!

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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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

15_fun_backyard_games_600px

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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Sleepaway Camp: An Essential Childhood Experience

Sleepaway camp essential childhood experience
Portions of this post originally appeared on The Risky Kids last summer. As summer camp season approaches yet again, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of sleepaway camp for kids. If your kids are headed to camp this summer, I highly recommend the Camp Combo label pack from Mabel’s Labels (affiliate link). I’ve used them 2 years in a row now – they’re still holding on strong and we haven’t lost a single thing at camp yet!

Last summer we sent Elena, age 10 (almost 11) at the time, to two weeks of sleepaway camp. It wasn’t her first experience – she’d gone to the same Girl Scout camp for a week the summer before – but it was the longest she’d ever been away from us.

For 11 days and 10 nights we had absolutely no contact with her.  We could send bunk notes (essentially email), but she couldn’t email back.  I sent her with enough stationary and stamps for a trip to Europe, but she’d been too busy having fun to send home more than one postcard.

My husband and I didn’t grow up going to sleepaway camps.  I tried sleep away camp “lite” once and hated it.  It was a day camp that culminated in sleeping outside on the last evening.  I was 5 miles away from home and only gone for 24 hours, but that didn’t stop me from trying every trick in the book to get my mom to pick me up before the night was over.  Elena, on the other hand, really enjoys camp.  Every year we offer her the chance to buddy up and choose a week with friends.  She brushes us off and instead chooses her weeks based on the theme.  Last year it was Harry Potter one week and the Hunger Games (Kamp Katniss) the next.  Every time she went without knowing a soul.

Why do we think it’s important for her to go away to camp, when neither of us have good memories to draw upon?  For so many reasons that I think are essential to growing up.  It’s often a child’s first experience of pulling away.  I want her to learn how to be away from us, and to have fun while doing it.  I want her to start building that treasure chest of memories that don’t include us.  I want her to have that sense of pride of doing something on your own.  I want her to be able to survive for stretches of days without apps and texting and TV and be okay without it.

She came home with the smelliest laundry and the best stories.  The 90-minute ride home is full of chatter about all the amazing things they did during the week.  Any parent of a tween or teen will tell you they would gladly pay whatever the camp fee is just to get a kid that wants to talk to you uninterrupted for 90 minutes.

I hope that summer camper turns into a camp counselor.  I hope the camp counselor turns into an eager college student.  I hope the eager college student turns into a world traveler.  And I hope she is never too homesick and she sends more postcards.

Do you send your kids to sleepaway camp? How did you know they were old enough to go? If you went as a kid, what were your favorite memories?

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