Outdoor Family Fun in the Sun

These long, warm afternoons are perfect for quality time with your family. These tips will help you make the most of outdoor family fun in the sun all summer long!

Special Toys for Outdoors Only

Playing outside is messy, which is why it takes place outside of your tidy house. Make outdoor family fun more special by providing a variety of outdoor-only toys for your kids to use. Although fun, outdoor-only toys go beyond skateboards, bikes and scooters, and can include any combination of the following:

*Sidewalk Chalk
*Water Balloons
*Squirt Guns
*Hippety-Hops
*Pogo Sticks
*Jump Ropes
*Basketball Hoop
*Trampoline with Enclosure
*Bubbles
*Ping Pong

And last but not least, don’t forget the green hose coiled up on the side of your house. It might sound simple, but there’s really no end to the fun kids can have with a simple garden hose.

Outdoor Water Games

A summer afternoon with your kids might require more organized games, especially during hot, sweaty afternoons. These are two favorite games to cool everyone down and provide outdoor family fun in the sun.

• Bucket and Sponge – Make two even teams, and supply each with two buckets and a sponge. Fill one bucket about halfway with water for each team, leaving the second bucket empty. In relay-race style, each team must use the sponge to empty the full bucket into the empty one using only the sponge. The first team finished wins.
• Toss Across – Fill water balloons and provide one to each set of partners playing the game. Have each person face their partners with about three feet of distance between them. One player throws a water balloon to his or her partner. Once the water balloon is caught, both players take a step back. The water balloon is tossed again – once caught, each person takes a step back. Repeat until the water balloon breaks, soaking one of the players.

Outdoor Chores = Summer Family Activities

Being outdoors during the summer can be a combination of fun and chores – instead of calling them “chores,” tell your kids that you’d like them to join you in one or more of these “Summer Activities.” Doing these activities together will provide many hours of outdoor summer fun for your family.

• Designate a section of your garden plot “For Kids Only.” Give them the responsibility and freedom to decide what to plant, then teach them how to get started and maintain their garden all summer long. Offer fun suggestions, like sunflowers or a pumpkin patch of their very own.
• Assign your kids to wash different sections of your car, then hand out prizes or offer extra allowance money for a job well done.
• Give each child a bucket, then have a contest regarding who can pick the most weeds in an area of your yard that needs it.

Make the most of these long, warm summer days for extra fun with your family!

About the Author

Kelly Wilson is a busy mom and freelance writer. For a refreshing meal after outdoor summer fun with your family, head to kid-friendly BJ Willy’s, a restaurant in West Linn, Oregon.

*Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

Trendy and hip, these oh-so-adorable 100% organic cotton animal pillows from Fauna are too cute for words! Petite and sized just right for little hands, you can select one favorite animal to coordinate with baby’s nursery, or you may be tempted to arrange a small menagerie in your child’s play space!

A bold, graphic design is placed on 100% organic cotton, and filled with natural cotton. These teeny playthings will soon become a child’s favorite, doubling as a “lovey” or a stuffed toy. Plus, Arte Bebe offers matching onesies, so they make great gift sets, as well!

To learn more about Fauna, or to visit the entire Arte Bebe collection, visit www.artebebe.com .

*Company generously provided images and samples for this review.*

Check out these whimsical, hand-knit and fair trade rattles, puppets and toys from Yellow Label Kids! Just way too cute, your tiny tot can gum and drool on soft, homemade rattles in the shape of animals, birds, flowers, rainbows, and more, providing worry-free tactile stimulation!

Each item in the collection is handmade by an artisan, who is paid living wages in accordance with Fair Trade practices. From clothing & blankets to toys & dolls, each item is unique, and make wonderful baby shower gifts! “Mom’s” favorite? These adorable rattles (above) in the shape of a bird or owl. So sweet!

To learn more about Yellow Label Kids, or to order, please visit www.yellowlabelkids.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Beginning a calming bedtime ritual and a morning wake-up routine right from infancy is made easier with the new Day & Night Soother from Tiny Love! Transitioning from one activity to the next can be challenging for little ones, and associating a particular sound or signal when a change is going to occur cues your child to know what to expect, meaning less fussiness (or at least that is the hope!).

The Day & Night Soother attaches easily to any crib, and features 6 different classical and nature tunes to relax and soothe baby – 3 for daytime, and 3 for nighttime. With 5 volume levels, each tune lasts 20 minutes long, and you can set the soother to play only music, or for stimulation, the music is combined with lights and motion. With cheerful, smiling animals on parade, the soother illuminates a glowing moon and stars when in nighttime mode, and a rising sun for daytime! It is just too cute, and the best part (which “Mom” loves!) – it is not bulky or big, meaning it can packed easily for trips to Grandma’s house or even on vacation, so that naptime or bedtime rituals can be kept relatively the same in different environments! For those with high-need or fussy babies, this is key!

Tiny Love’s Day & Night Soother retails for $39.99 and is available nationwide at Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and Amazon.com. It makes an excellent and very appreciated baby shower gift, as well! For more information, visit www.TinyLove.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Too, too cute! The new Believe Organic Plush line by Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods are cuddly-soft and sure to become your little one’s favorite lovey! Made of organic and natural materials, and filled with corn fiber – this is stress-free snuggling at its’ best! Each adorable Mommy and Baby pair make an excellent addition to any planet-friendly nursery or toddler’s room, and will be loved by kids’ and adults alike.

The Believe Organic Plush line inspires children and parents to think about the impact that every action they make has on the planet, and believe that together, we can all make a difference! The eco-plush line features a Mommy & Baby Polar Bear, Mommy & Baby Rhino, and Mommy & Baby Elephant, and they are all so squishy and cute that you may be tempted to start your own plush zoo!

For more information on the new Believe Organic Plush from Dandelion Earth-Friendly Goods, visit www.dandelionforbaby.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

To keep the kids entertained on long road trips this summer, offer up some good ole’ fashioned fun with 6 Pence Productions! This is audio children’s theater at its’ best, created by kids, for kids! Rather than tuning out to DVD’s or games in the car, 6 Pence Productions engages the whole family with lively, imaginative stories and tales. Everyone can follow along – even the youngest members of the family! “Mom’s” daughter just loves to hear the kids’ voices as the tales are told, as all of the stories are voiced by children ages 5 – 17.

The Fairytale Collection

This cute collection includes 5 classic and enchanted re-imagined children’s fairytales – Three Billy Goats Gruff, Cinderella and Friends, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Three Little Pigs Meet the Big Bad Wolves and the Princess and the Pea.

Princess Reform School

The Princess Reform School is a delightful and heartwarming tale set in a fantastical place where Princesses go when they’re not making the best “impressions” at home and where they’ll learn what it means to be a true Princess – all set against a fairytale backdrop complete with dragons, toads and castles.

For anyone who adores having a story read to them, both Princess Reform School and the Fairytale Collection are sure to delight! Not just for road trips, but for entertainment anytime, The Fairytale Collection and Princess Reform School can be found on CD at retail stores, for download at Audible.com, Amazon.com, iTunes and from the 6 Pence Players website: www.6PencePlayers.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this review.*

Educational Board Games

Throughout the history of civilization, games and toys have been used for children’s education and development. They have also been important for adult social interaction and entertainment. Board games in particular have been played in most cultures; several examples have been found pictured in ancient Egyptian tomb frescoes, in early Aztec ruins, and in ancient China historical records. Board games use counters or pieces that are instrumental for movement across a board that has markings or designs on the surface, and each game usually has a starting point and ending point. Board games usually involve some level of skill, strategy, and critical thinking, and they often teach and reinforce basic learning concepts of language, mathematics, science, geography, history, and more.

In addition to rudimentary subject learning, educational board games enhance social and emotional development, help develop hand-eye coordination, and assist understanding of spatial relationships. They also encourage understanding of complex construction elements, cause-and-effect relationships, and basic world and life concepts. Most board games require focus, patience, sharing, social interaction, understanding limits, and taking turns. The most elemental board games teach early learning skills of number, shape, letter, and color recognition, as well as counting, grouping, and reading fundamentals. Educational board games have survived for centuries by virtue of their essence– learning by way of fun!

Many of these also have junior versions for younger learners.

Language Arts

For language arts development, several different board games are available that teach word and letter recognition, phonetics, rhyming, anagrams, synonyms, spelling and vocabulary building, and reading comprehension:

1. Scrabble

2. Boggle

3. Scattergories

4. Password

5. Anagramania

Mathematics

Many board games offer learning in number recognition, counting, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, pre-algebra, geometry, and monetary value and denominations:

1. Yahtzee

2. Monopoly

3. Money Bags: A Coin Value Game

4. The Allowance Game

5. Head Full of Numbers

Geography

Several educational board games teach geography, directional, and distance skills by incorporating maps of states, nations, and continents. Many of these also teach cultural differences and social studies:

1. Great States

2. Risk

3. GeoSafari

4. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

5. Brain Quest: Know the States (also Brain Quest: Around the World)

Science

Many board games are available that involve science learning, including biology, anatomy, earth science, meteorology, environmental science, ecology, astronomy, physics, and chemistry:

1. Operation

2. Totally Gross

3. Science Lab: Earth Science (also Science Lab: Life Science)

4. Anatomy Academy

5. Professor Noggins Wonders of Science

Board games make excellent teaching tools for all ages!

*Image provided by Educational Insights.*

6 Tips to Transform Your Easter Eggs

Ever since you were a kid you have been dyeing your Easter eggs the same boring way. Sure, now they have cool sponges and other toys to make different textures but all in all they always turn out slightly… dull. Here are some ideas to help move you away from boring, manufactured egg-coloring kits to natural, fun dyeing techniques.

More Than Egg Dye

Easter egg decorating is for everyone, and is always one of the favorite activities for families looking to spend time together. Below is a list of several materials that will help you and your family to become egg decorating artists all while having fun and eating Easter treats.

1. Marbled: To give your eggs a fun swirly effect, wrap them in onion skin, place them in old pantyhose (tie the ends) and dye!

2. Stripes: Wrap your eggs in rubber bands of different widths before you dip then in the dye, and then take the bands offers they dry.

3. Sponged: Use different kinds of brushes to dab acrylic paint on your eggs for a sponged look.

4. Sparkly: Mix equal parts of glue and water, use it to cover your eggs, then roll them in very fine glitter.

5. Swirled: Wrap a piece of an old silk tie around the egg (printed side against the egg), then in a piece of white fabric and tie it shut with a twist-tie. Boil in water and a couple tablespoons of vinegar and let simmer for 20 minutes then take them out of the water. Remove the fabric once the eggs are cooled.

6. Pictures: Use a white crayon to draw pictures and designs on the eggs before dyeing them.

Go Green

Back in the day it wasn’t easy to find a cute little kit to dye your eggs with. Families resorted to nature and by grinding down certain ingredients they were able to achieve spectacular results with their Easter eggs. You will be surprised at the results you can achieve when you use natural ingredients.

To dye your eggs the natural way:

1. Place the eggs in a pan (only 1 egg deep) and add water and 1 teaspoon of vinegar, making sure the eggs are covered.

2. Add your choice of natural die. You can experiment with the amount of die you use to make the colors paler or more vibrant.

3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the eggs and water simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the eggs from the water and let them dry.

Here are some natural ways to bring out the color in your eggs:

1. Purple: a little purple grape juice, violet blossoms and 2 teaspoons lemon juice, or red zinger tea

2. Green: boiled spinach leaves or liquid chlorophyll

3. Yellow: boiled carrot tops or chamomile tea

4. Red: boiled red onion skins or pomegranate juice

5. Orange: chili powder or paprika

6. Pink: beets or raspberries

7. Blue: canned blueberries or boiled red cabbage leaves

First, bring the water to a boil then add the dye ingredient and alum powder. Keep the water boiling and add a few tablespoons of vinegar to the water. Next, carefully add the hard-boiled eggs. Let it boil for at least ten minutes, even longer if you want a deeper shade.

About the Author

Parker Boyack is a writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online courses and Online Schools they can choose from to reach their goals.

Super cool toy alert! B. Toys, known for their brightly-colored, educational toys for children, has developed what “Mom” thinks is just plain SMART. Many of their favorites now come in recycled packaging, made from recycled paper and printed with soy-based inks, and the boxes wrap themselves for easy gift-giving! For busy families who want to make a difference, and cringe at the thought of buying yet another birthday party bag that may get tossed once the present is opened, this eco-friendly option is simply fabulous!

The B. Alphaberry is a learning tool which teaches youngsters the alphabet on their own handheld PDA! It arrives packaged in its’ own recycled paper box, and includes the following features for fun, anytime!

  • Push any button. A letter appears & is read aloud.
  • 3 screen colors
  • 4 musical styles of the alphabet song
  • Cozy in little hands
  • Auto-off and volume control (It can use its inside voice, too)

The B. Alphaberry can be purchased at Target, or you can visit justb-byou.com to locate a retailer near you.

The B. Okideoke is perfect for your budding singer! For family sing-alongs, or just to record your own voice, this little microphone comes in recycled packaging, and has 4 unique features:

  • Amplify your voice
  • 8 pre-recorded tunes
  • Record a message or a song
  • Control the tempo

To learn more about the B. Okideoke, which can be purchased at Target.com, please visit justb-byou.com.

*Company geneorusly provided samples and images for this review.*

Celebrate the Earth with a little planet-friendly FUN with the entire family! The following educational books and green games make for a wonderful evening of home spun entertainment while learning about Mother Earth at the same time.

Woodsy Words

Remember pick-up sticks? Taking the original game and making it both eco-friendly and educational, Woodsy Words builds reading skills with simple game play. To play, simply hold all the sticks in one hand and let them fall onto a flat surface. Then, select one stick – if you can extract it without moving any of the others, read the word printed on it and select another stick. Continue play until you bump another stick or get stuck on a word. The player with the most sticks at the end of the game wins! This new game features 30 Earth-friendly vocabulary words. The sticks are printed with vegetable ink on recycled paper. For ages 5+. www.educationalinsights.com

Smens® Pens

Can pens that are made from recycled newspapers smell fruity and delicious? Yes! Check out Smens, the latest release from the best-selling manufacturers of Smencils. Perfect for drawing, writing, and keeping score, Smens are available in gourmet scents including, Red Licorice, Creamsicle, Aloha, Mystery Scent, Banana fo Fana, Mocha, Passion Fruit, Ninja Berry, Pink Lemonade, and Black Licorice. Each Smen is individually wrapped in a stay-fresh biodegradable plastic tube and is guaranteed to keep its scent for two years. For ages 6+. www.educationalinsights.com

World Repair Kit by Serena & Lily

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing…in Perfect Harmony…” Inspire kids to make the world a better place this Earth Day with the unique World Repair Kit by Serena & Lily! The kit contains a 205 page guidebook that is chock full of earth-friendly ideas that you and your family can do together to make a difference. Big or small, every action counts, and kids can stamp their passport once each activity is completed. Ages 8+. www.serenaandlily.com

Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals; illustrated by Ashley Wolff

Compost Stew is a delightful alphabetical recipe that teaches youngsters how to create and use their very own home compost bin. With bouncy verses featuring items that will nourish Mother Earth and gorgeous illustrations that use recycled and found materials, this picture book furthers a timely message—to nurture and give back to the Earth.

Apple cores

Bananas, bruised

Coffee grounds with filters, used

Just add to the pot

and let it all rot

into Compost Stew!

Through Earth Day you can enter to win your very own copy of Compost Stew! Visit www.siddals.com.

Karaoke Fun with B. Okideoke

Sing along with the whole family while recording your voice with the B. Okideoke from B. Toys! Little ones can record a message or song, or sing along to 8 pre-recorded tunes. As B. Toys says, “Anything Worth Saying is Worth Saying Louder!” B eco-friendly too – the cool packaging is made from recycled paper and soy-based inks, and it wraps itself for an instant present, which Moms’ love! justb-byou.com

*Companies generously provided images and samples for this article.*