One, Two, Three, Blow! Easy Activities for the End of Summer Blues

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Sometimes we get a little bored around here.  And sometimes, I manage to channel that boredom into something fun.  Not always risky, but still fun.

Near the end of summer break we found ourselves with a rainy afternoon and a desperate need for something to do. In the beginning of summer break it’s easy to get motivated to conquer boredom with grand plans and activities.  I don’t know about you, but this is not so much the case at the end of summer break.  I needed something easy, thoughtless, but fun.  So I gathered up some easy-to-acquire supplies and rounded up the neighborhood kids.

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I saw this at camp once, and was pretty sure that I could do it.

We started with Red Solo Cup Races.  All you need is a flat surface, two red solo cups and some straws. You give two kids their own cup and straw and tell them to blow thru the straw and move the cup to the opposite side of the table. The first cup to cross the edge without going over wins.

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I liked this because I got to yell, “On your mark, get set, BLOW!”

Then we moved on to an Oreo Eating Contest. Each kid got an Oreo and placed it on his eye. You have to get it to your mouth without using your hands.

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This doesn’t seem risky until you watch your kid eat an Oreo off of the garage floor.  Way to build your immune system, Benjamin.

For the grand finale, we had the Cheese Poof  Toss. This was my personal favorite. You select one lucky child, put a shower cap on her, cover her head with shaving cream and then hand cheese poofs to the rest of the kids. They stand in a circle and toss the cheese poofs at her head … and they stick!

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I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t even toss my cheese poofs.

 

A potentially disastrous day turned into an afternoon of fun, proof that you don’t always need elaborate crafts or activities to have a good time.  Sometimes you just need a shower cap and cheese poofs!

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“I’m Gonna Need a Film Canister and Some Dry Ice.”

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Thomas crawled into my bed the other night after a long day at camp and said, “Can you get me some dry ice and a couple of film canisters?” God, I love this kid. He had made rockets at Lego Camp that day and wanted to try it at home. Then he said, “Can we write about it on the blog?” Angels singing.

Here is what you will need:

1. Dry Ice

We got this at Publix super market.

2. Film Canisters

These are harder to come by. Thomas suggested that we look at our local antique store. (I am not even going to comment.) I called my friend Beth. She has everything.

3. Water

4. Construction paper rocket

The kids made these. They took a sheet of construction paper, cut it to size and rolled it up. They taped fins on the bottom. Then they slid it over the film canister.

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How it all goes down:

Basically you put a small amount of dry ice and water in the film canister, shut the lid, attach the rocket and BOOM, off it goes. This sounds easy , but it isn’t. We never really got the hang of the timing and the actual amounts of dry ice and water. But, hey, this is an experiment, right? So just keep trying. The cap of the film canister does fly off with a good amount of force and it hurts when it hits you, so make sure that you stand back and don’t get hit in the eye.

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Dry ice is risky. If you touch it with your bare hands, it will actually burn you. We used hot pads from the kitchen and winter gloves.

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Here is Thomas showing off his rocket.

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A rolling pin is useful for breaking the dry ice into small pieces.

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After a while, we gave up on the rockets and just played with the dry ice. The kids had a great time and it was cheap entertainment. I loved it. Thanks, Thomas, for the idea.

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It Doesn’t Have To Be Risky To Be Fun

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Sometimes we here at The Risky Kids like to balance out our time by doing things that are really  “not that risky”. I took the boys mountain biking at Cane Ridge Park this morning. (Risky) We saw a new park on the way home and decided to take a look. (Not Risky)

What we found was a hopscotch board drawn in chalk on the sidewalk.

I don’t really think we’ve ever played a complete game of hopscotch before. My memory of the rules was a little rusty, but we managed what was probably the most competitive game of hopscotch ever played.

Hopscotch does involve throwing rocks and hopping on one foot while bending down to pick up a rock.

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 They loved it. We even met a new friend and asked her to play with us. We took turns, we threw rocks and we hopped around.  We sandwiched the not-so-risky event with a trip around the playground on the longboard just to be true to our Risky roots.

What did we learn?   Always take the opportunity to play when it arises, Risky or not!

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Summer Break the Risky Kid Way

Today is the last day of school and ten weeks of summer break stretch out in front of us.  Whether you’re the Summer Bucket List kind of family or more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-shorts family, here are a few ideas to add some risky play to your summer break.

S'mores for summer via The Risky Kids

Build a fire:  If the kids are old enough, teach them how.  If they’re too young, let them fetch the sticks.  Either way, reward their hard work with s’mores!

GoApe! Zipline

Zipline: Search your local listings to find a place nearby and zip through a summer day.  In central Indiana we love GoApe!  In middle Tennessee try Adventureworks.

DIY Darts via The Risky Kids

DIY Darts:  These darts were no joke, which of course made them very appealing to my kids.  Assembling them is a great rainy day activity, and if you set up a dart board in the garage they can hone their skills all summer long.

Rock Climbing via The Risky Kids

Rock climb:  When the kids are climbing the walls, give them rocks instead.  Traditional indoor climbing facilities are a great way to beat the heat, but don’t forget that even the littlest climbers enjoy tackling big rocks.  Scout out parks and playgrounds that have rocks and boulders for scaling.

Diet Soda & Mentos Explosion via The Risky Kids

Explode something:  This summer we’re going to work on our first rocket launching kits.  Last summer we did the Diet Coke and Mentos explosion and it was a big hit.  The kids are still talking about it.

Kayaking with kids via The Risky Kids

Kayak:  Lisa, our resident kayaking expert, shared some great tips on how to kayak with kids.

Organize Outdoor Games via The Risky Kids

Organize a game:  Whether you get them started in a game of kickball or flashlight tag, or they come up with their own game, getting a group of kids to play outside games together is such a valuable part of childhood.  Keep in mind, this usually doesn’t happen naturally.  Most kids aren’t accustomed to this, having everything planned and organized for them.  Put in some time getting them organized, and watch the tradition unfold and take off on its own!

Water balloon fight via The Risky Kids

Water Balloon Fight:  The perfect way to beat the heat!

Let the kids decide:  I like to make our collection of books and magazines available and tell the kids to pick something that appeals to them.  It’s a great boredom buster (they’ll usually spend a good chunk of time just looking at all the options) and I’ve found, especially with older kids, they’re more apt to be cheerful participants if they picked the activity.  This year I’m also curating a Pinterest board they can turn to for ideas.  Here are a few books I like to keep around for inspiration:

Most of our suggestions are outside activities because we’re so passionate about getting kids outside.  If outside play seems daunting to you (and believe me, you’re not alone), check out our suggestions for making it more appealing.

Of course, don’t forget to do the riskiest thing of all: free time and a hefty dose of relaxing.

Relax via The Risky Kids

What are you doing this summer?  We’re always looking for new ideas, so let us know that one thing you can’t wait to try with the kids this summer!

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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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The Games We Play

I'll trade you 3 sheep for some ore.

If there’s one thing the Six family can all agree that we love, besides cheez dip, it’s a good board game.  Nothing makes me happier than the four of us around the table, doing our best to reign supreme over each other.

Actually finding a good game that we all love is not easy, though.  For one, it has to be appropriate for a wide age range.  It also has to be somewhat challenging.  We are a competitive family, so none of those cooperative games for us.  And most importantly, it has to be fun.

Does a game exist that is appropriate for ages 5 to adult, challenges our competitive spirits, and is fun to play?  Yes!  It’s called The Settlers of Catan.

Now wait … I know what you’re thinking.  Oh, that’s one of those “gamer” games.  It’s hardcore.  It’s not for us.  No!  You  have to give it a chance.  Yes, it does require an initial learning period.  However we found that to be an awesome leveler for our family – for once the kids and the adults were on the same playing field as we tried to figure the game out.  Yes, it does take longer than your run-of-the-mill board game.  But it’s time where you’re having fun as a family and engaging with each other.  Yes, it is challenging, but the game is never the same twice, giving all of us equal opportunities to emerge the victor.  Or, as we like to call it, The King of Catan (wearing the awesome crown is not optional).

King of Catan

We thought Eli might be too young, but he’s surprised us with his logic and strategy.  I would explain the game in detail, but the best description comes straight from the source.

We also love Ticket To Ride, but we’ve yet to incorporate Eli into the game fully.  Reading skills are definitely a must for this game, but if you have kids that are 5 and older that can read, it’s a fun one.

If you’re looking for shorter, more spontaneous games, try Tenzi or Bananagrams.  Both games are small and easy to transport – they’ve come with us to the pool and on many a road trip.  Tenzi, a dice game with several variations, is good for ages 5 and up.  Eli has no trouble hanging with the rest of us on this game.  Bananagrams, a faster variation of word games like Scrabble, is suited for older kids who can read and have a grasp of vocabulary.

So here’s a risky idea … instead of a movie night or an evening where we all retreat to our various screens, how about a family game night?  What games does your family love to play together?

 

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Risky Reads: Punkin’ Chunkin’ Edition

Pumpkin Catapult

Hope you had a wonderful Halloween!  This was the first year we let Elena, who is 10, trick-or-treat without a parent.  It helps when her friends’ parents have the same philosophy on giving kids independence.  They had a blast and she came home with a pillowcase full of candy.  Check out this pumpkin catapult we got to try at our local Headless Horseman event. SO much fun.  While we can’t launch pumpkins at home, I’m going to let the kids smash their jack-o-lanterns this weekend.  If there’s anything I’ve learned in my 10  years as a parent, it’s that kids love to destroy things!  Here are a few things I found around the web last month I thought you might enjoy:

One of our playgroup friends had a marshmallow shooter and I thought Eli might lose his mind.  It was hilarious to watch the shooter and the other kids interact – like the preschool version of shooting t-shirts into a stadium crowd.  Here’s a cool tutorial on how to make your own marshmallow shooter– what a great Christmas gift!

My friend Jen (mother of quadruplet boys!) did a cool series last month on 31 Days of Simple Outdoor Adventures for Boys.  There’s so much great risky inspiration there, but I especially loved this one on making your own fishing pole.

Active for Life is an amazing resource year round, but it’s especially helpful if you need ideas for indoor activities to keep your kids moving.  Balloon juggling perhaps?

As you make notes over the winter about summer camps your kids might enjoy, why not scrap basketball camp for hacking camp?

If you’d like to keep up with us around the web, be sure to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Pinterest!

 

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Just A Swingin’

I have this friend, Mike, who is a stay-at-home dad/engineer. He was dropping his kids off to play one day and I noticed that he was in the backyard staring at my trees. He looked at me and said, “This yard needs a tree swing.” We immediately started negotiating location, materials and the use of power tools.

We made the seat out of a piece of scrap wood. I let The Benj use the hand sander and we added a lot of stain and polyurethane.

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I know I’m biased, but you have to admit, it turned out beautiful.

Installation went great. There was minimal blood, I only almost lost a toe and I managed to get stuck in a tree. Mike wanted to attach the rope to a hammer and throw it over the tree limb. I vetoed that idea – mainly because I didn’t feel like driving to the ER.

Building a tree swing
Even better, I got to climb on this bad boy. Thirty-two feet, baby!

We are now the proud owners of the best tree swing on the planet. The neighborhood kids are lining up to use it. Siblings are actually pushing each other on the swing instead of fighting. If you’ve never been on a tree swing, you have to try it. It’s like flying and gliding all mixed into one and it feels fantastic.

Tree Swing

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Magic Beans 31 Days of Giveaways: Risky Kid Approved

Here at The Risky Kids, we’ve always tried to make good choices when it comes to our kids’ gear and playthings.  Not only do we want well-made things that encourage open-ended play, creativity, or movement, but we want to buy them from the right people.

Magic Beans, a Boston-based toy and baby gear store, fits the bill for us.  I met Sheri Gurock, who owns Magic Beans with husband Eli, at BlogHer in 2009.  I loved the idea of parents, who really are the experts in knowing what works and what kids love, helping parents like me find the best in toys and gear out there.  And while we can’t shop locally (which we always love to do), we can certainly feel good about supporting a family-owned small business.

If you’re like us and can’t get to Magic Beans in person, don’t fret. Their online shopping experience is top-notch.  I love their Top 10s lists, as well as their gift guides, which help you narrow choices down by age, gender, price, theme, and more.

Just to give you an idea of how great their selection is, take a look at these Risky Kid-approved toys:

 Check out the Wobble Deck!  Balance boards are perfect for Risky Kids trying to improve their balance, coordination and reflexes – you know, for all the tree-climbing, slacklining and skateboarding they love to do.

We’re big fans of balance bikes.  Thanks to ours, Eli was riding a two-wheeler at 3.  What I especially love about the KaZAM balance bike is that it unlike the wooden balance bikes you see, this one looks like a big kid bike. That made a difference to our little guy, who wanted nothing more than to ride bikes with the big kids.

The Stomp Rocket is our go-to gift birthday gift for boys and girls alike.  It’s super easy for kids of all ages to do, and they’re stoked to see just how high they can get the rockets to soar.  Hours of fun, I promise.

July is always an exciting month at Magic Beans.  It’s their birthday month (Happy 8th Birthday!), which means they’re celebrating big.  31 days big, in fact.  Each day in July, Magic Beans is giving away one of their fabulous products. We’re talking big, like Maclaren strollers, Stokke Tripp Trapps, and the one I’m keeping my fingers crossed for – a Playmobil Future Planet collection.

Visit the Magic Beans 31 Days of Giveaways! page every day during July to find out what item they’re giving away.  In addition, they’re also offering exclusive deals and sales to go along with some of the giveaways.

I hope you win – let me know if you do!

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DIY Darts (Perfect Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse)

The books you own and leave out around your home say a lot about you.  I wonder exactly what our visitors think when they see this book on the toy shelf:

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction

Funny, no one wants me to host playgroup anymore …

Our more cautious visitors might want to stay away for just a little while, as Eli pulled out the book on Saturday morning and asked if we could make something.  After narrowing the choices down to the ones for which we had materials handy, he chose long darts (I had to steer him away from the mini flame throwers, what with the burn ban and all – you know we’re all about safety here).

They were relatively easy to put together.  A little too tricky for a 4-year-old to accomplish himself, but Elena was able to make one without any assistance.  The throwing part though?  Let’s just say Eli can do it well enough that a) he get a bulls-eye b) we moved darts into the garage and c) he’s going to be a bar darts prodigy well before he can see over the bar.  Overall, they’re quick to put together and surprisingly sturdy.

If you have a tinkerer in your house, I highly recommend this book.  There are definitely projects in here that don’t require fire or needle-sharp objects that will still be thoroughly entertaining for kids and adults alike.  Beyond darts, you can choose from a variety of launchers, bows and slingshots, catapults, and targets.

And now, for those of you who like to live dangerously, here are instructions to build your own long darts:

DIY Dart Supplies

Materials:

  • 4 toothpicks
  • Masking tape
  • 1 small metal pin
  • Thread
  • Clear tape
  • Card stock
  • Scissors
1.  Using masking tape, tightly wrap 4 toothpicks together to form a square bundle.  Leave about 1/4″ of the front end of the toothpicks unwrapped, as well as about 1/2″ of the back end.

DIY Darts

2.  Wedge the pin into the front center of the 4 toothpicks.  A pin with a small head or ball works best.  Once you have it wedged in there, tightly wrap the front end of the dart with thread.  Continue to wrap it until the pin is nearly immovable.  We found it easiest to anchor the thread under the masking tape and then to wrap it with clear tape after you’re finished winding the thread.

DIY Darts

3.  Use the card stock to make the dart fins.  The cardboard that cereal boxes are made from works great, too.  Cut out a 3-in x 1 1/2-in rectangle.
Fold the rectangle in half to create a double square (the square will be two layers thick).

DIY Darts

Use scissors to cut out a triangle shape from the folded card stock.  Remove the extra material from both sides (this is trash).  When finished you should end up with two triangles  of the exact same size.  The triangles should be separate, not connected at the tip.

DIY Darts

4.  Place the two cardboard triangles side by side.

DIY Darts

On the first triangle, cut a small slit from the top point of the triangle to about halfway down.    On the second triangle, cut a slit from the midpoint of the bottom edge to about halfway up the triangle.

DIY Darts

Slide the two triangles together to form the rear fin of the dart.

DIY Darts

5.  Slide the rear fin assembly into the 4 toothpicks on the rear end of the dart so that one fin is wedged between each toothpick pair.  The pressure of the toothpicks will hold the fin in place.  Your darts are finished and ready for throwing!

Zombie Dart Target

As much as we joke around, we are serious about dart safety.  Darts have a dangerous point and are not meant for living targets.  Zombie targets drawn with chalk on the garage wall are totally fine, though, and probably a wise way to prepare for the impending zombie apocalypse (100 points for the brain!).  You can print out a dartboard template here if you don’t have a dartboard.  There are a few available in the back of the book as well.


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