Friday, May 29, 2015

100 Fun and FREE Things To Do With Kids This Summer!

Summer is almost here!  Summer vacation is a great time to relax and unwind from a busy school year, but you don't have to break the bank in the process either.  Here are 100 completely free things you can do this summer, enjoy!
  1. Have a picnic in the backyard.
  2. Visit your local nature center.
  3. Make an indoor obstacle course.
  4. Place the baby pool next to the sandbox for an instant beach party!
  5. Go to a story time at your local library.
  6. Grab some wood sticks, plastic cups, and make homemade juice bars.
  7. Have a cookie decorating contest.
  8. Have a water balloon battle in the backyard.
  9. Clear out the clutter and have a yard sale!  Give kids their own table to sell some of their things and earn their own money too.
  10. Go bowling for free.  (Check out the Kids Bowl Free Program here)
  11. Run through the sprinkler.
  12. Birdwatch in the backyard with binoculars and a bird book from the library.
  13. Start a neighborhood wide soccer game.
  14. Plant a garden.
  15. Be a bug scientist.  Look for bugs and observe.  Draw what you see.
  16. Go to a free workshop at your local home improvement store. (Check out Home Depot to start)
  17. Have a fancy tea party.  Be sure to wear hats, gloves, and use the fanciest tableware.
  18. Make a pretend store with play money, left over grocery bags, and items for sale.
  19. Have a weekly family board game night.  For even more summer fun, play games on a blanket in the backyard or at the picnic table.
  20. Visit your local farmer's market. Find one near you here.
  21. Make a photo book.  Take photos together, then make a scrapbook of your summer memories.
  22. Make an outdoor water obstacle course.
  23. Make a cardboard box car.  Use a paper plate for a steering wheel, bottle lids for buttons, etc.
  24. Make your own summer reading list, try to read as many as you can.  Check you library for Caldecott Medals or Newbery Awards lists for great ideas.
  25. Visit a National Park on a free day.
  26. Earn a free book from your nearby Barnes & Noble bookstore.
  27. Learn how things are made (pretzels, crayons, chocolate, toys) by going on a factory tour (note: many are free, but not all)
  28. Try Geocaching, a fun family activity (learn more here)
  29. Set up cones in the driveway or at a school basketball court to make a bike obstacle course.
  30. Volunteer doing something you love.  Find opportunities here.
  31. Have a neighborhood car wash.
  32. Make a classic popsicle stick treasure box.
  33. Make ice drawings on a hot day.  With an ice cube draw on construction paper.  As it drys it will disappear and you can keep drawing on the paper.
  34. Go on a picnic in the backyard, a friend's house, or the park.
  35. Check local museums for free admission days.
  36. Have a neighborhood lemonade stand.
  37. Make your own movie theatre.  Pop some popcorn, perhaps some boxed candy and put on a favorite film!
  38. Have a neighborhood bike wash.  
  39. Rearrange the kids rooms.  Declutter, move furniture around, donate some old toys and clothes, hang new art on the walls and voila! A fresh new room!  If you're feeling ambitious, maybe even paint it a new color.
  40. Have a total PJs day.
  41. Have a neighborhood bake sale.
  42. Check your local movie theatre for free movie days for kids...a great way to beat the heat too!
  43. Have a dance party.  Crank up the music and dance the day away!
  44. Make a cardboard box house and let them color and decorate it with found objects from around the house.
  45. Have a family yoga session and get moving together!
  46. Have a big family art show.  Display art around the house and invite everyone to walk around the "gallery"
  47. If you have a Pottery Barn Kids near you, they have story times and other free events for families.
  48. Fill up the baby pool with water and soap and have an outdoor bubble party!
  49. Make a string of paper people.
  50. Have a giant Lego building fest...get everyone involved and see if you can try to use every single piece.
  51. Stay up late one night to do something fun.  Just make sure everyone can sleep in the next day!
  52. Check out the local fire station.  Many of them will give tours to small groups.
  53. Have a spa day at home.
  54. Go camping in the living room.  Bring the sleeping bags, books, flashlights, and of course fun snacks too!
  55. Fill a small baby pool up with shaving cream for some super messy fun!
  56. Bring toy cars, dump trucks, and shovels to a dirt spot in the yard or sand box to create a tiny construction site.
  57. Make small bike "roads" in the driveway with a piece of sidewalk chalk.  Don't forget parking spots too!
  58. Bake cookies together.
  59. Allow kids to make may be something totally off the wall, but they will be super proud of themselves.  Don't forget clean up too!
  60. Create a pretend library, create book displays, make library cards, make a little book nook to read, and have a family story time.
  61. Create a play of a classic story (The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, etc).  Make backdrops, costumes, and older kids can even make a script.  Perform play for the neighborhood too if you like!
  62. Drag all of the board games out and have a board game marathon.
  63. Make some fun paintings with veggies!
  64. On a really hot day, turn on the hose and take turns spraying each other for some good clean fun!
  65. Stage a cooking show in the kitchen with an easy cooking project and even make a video of the show.
  66. Learn a new skill...go to the library and find a topic that is interesting such as learning to type, playing the piano, or woodworking.  Have fun learning together!
  67. Host a potluck play date...have each person bring a different kid friendly snack and enjoying sampling different foods together.
  68. Go on a nature walk, then make a beautiful collage of all of the treasures you find.
  69. Study the night sky and locate the constellations.
  70. Have a make your own sundae night.
  71. Teach older kids how to use a sewing machine.
  72. Have a breakfast for dinner night.
  73. Make a painting with your toes (outside!)
  74. Play an alphabet I spy game.
  75. Lay on your back outside and watch the clouds.  See if you can find any pictures in the sky.
  76. In the backyard or on the hiking trail, lift up a rock to see what surprises you may find!
  77. Play tic tac toe with sidewalk chalk.
  78. Make a fabulous jewelry box from an egg carton.
  79. Play the freeze dance game. (freeze when the music stops)
  80. Pick some flowers, then press them.
  81. Make a car or house out of a big cardboard box.
  82. Spend a hot afternoon looking through old photos.  Kids love seeing themselves as babies!
  83. Try a kid's e-book. Not only does it read the story to them out loud, but are usually very interactive as well.
  84. Make a sock puppet from an old sock.
  85. Grow a little plant from a seed.  Look up and learn the parts of a plant. (dry lima beans work well, just soak overnight before planting)
  86. Allow kids to play dress up in your closet.
  87. Learn some new words before school starts!  Make and play a word match game.
  88. Put white flowers or celery in water with food coloring added and watch the color travel upwards!
  89. Make a dollhouse out of old shoe boxes, scrap fabric, scrap paper, etc.
  90. Punch holes in a picture (from a magazine, old photograph, etc).  Practice sewing with a piece of old yarn by lacing through the holes.
  91. Get a bowling game going with a small ball and plastic cups.  Teach older kids how to keep score too.
  92. Start a donation pile...clean out closets, under bed, toy boxes, etc.
  93. Make some throw pillows from outgrown clothing!
  94. Check your local park or museum for a free concert series.
  95. Start a play group from kids in your child's class or kids from the neighborhood.  Learn how to start one here.
  96. Raid the recycling bin and make a work of art from things that would otherwise be thrown away.
  97. Check out local restaurants for "Kids Eat Free" days.
  98. Go on a self-guided walking tour in a nearby town.  Often a visitor's center will provide information, or create one yourself!
  99. Join the summer reading program at your local library or book store, often they will give kids a book prize when they complete the program too.
  100. Make the biggest blanket fort ever...gather up every blanket and chair in the house and create a giant fort!  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

How To Start a Playgroup

A playgroup is a fabulous way for kids to meet new friends (or hang out with current ones), they encourage socialization, and also help to gain exposure to skills like sharing, conflict resolution, leadership, and creative thinking.  Playgroups are not only fun for the kids, but they are a great way for parents to catch up, share stories, give advice, and connect with others.  Often with small children in the house, it can feel lonely until you realize there are tons of other parents experiencing the same things as you!  Here are 10 helpful ideas for the best playgroup ever:

  1. Determine what kind of group you want.  Do you want a small group of friends?  A group for members of a class to play?  You can opt to ask a couple of friends you already know or even post flyers at a school, rec center, or church.
  2. Once you have some interest, see what works for everyone (or at least the majority).  Once a week?  Once a month?  With busy schedules and working parents, a regular playgroup may not be realistic for everyone or it may need to be held on a weekend as an alternative.
  3. Determine where you will meet.  Will you meet at a public place like the library or park?  Perhaps rotate around to other people's homes?  Kids love to check out other kid's toys.
  4. Obviously you'll want to pick a time that works for everyone, but be sure to take the time of day into consideration so everyone is well-rested.
  5. Keep it simple.  Avoid large spreads of food.  A simple snack works best.  You could have one parent host, while another parent covers the snack, then keep it rotating so no one gets overwhelmed.
  6. If playgroup will be during lunch, have everyone bring a lunch from home...this is a great way to practice for school too!
  7. If hosting in your home, be sure double check for any safety hazards before guests arrive.  For example exposed outlets, cleaning products under a sink, a knife block within reach on the counter, a glass vase within toddler's reach, etc.
  8. If you have pets, let everyone know first.  Some kids may be allergic or may be afraid of large animals.  Likewise, if your pet is stressed out by large groups or lots of children running around, offer them a quiet place to hang out like the basement or a guest room for a while.
  9. Speaking of allergies, make sure everyone in the group is aware of any food allergies that may be present in the group.  Depending on the group, everyone may choose to keep certain things off limits if there is a child with allergies in the group who may be exposed.  However, some parents opt to bring their own food from home for their child to keep it easy.
  10. When playtime is over, have everyone help out with clean up.  Having a bunch of kids playing with toys for an hour or two is super fun, but can get pretty messy!  This is also great practice for school time clean up activities too.
Above all...have fun!  We live in a world of schedules and structured activities.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), unstructured play is "essential to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth."  

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for the latest projects and activities!

Friday, May 22, 2015

How to Make a Buttony Birthday Candle

Here is a super easy way to transform a plain candle into a bright and cheerful cake or cupcake candle that is ready to party!  This project is also a great way to use up any extra buttons laying around too.  Perfect for a craft party or to simply add a pop of color to a otherwise plain candle.  Be sure to click below for a video tutorial too!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Numbered birthday candle (in the party aisle)
  • Buttons
  • Hot glue gun

  1. Place buttons on candle before gluing to see how you'd like them positioned.
  2. Glue buttons in place with hot glue gun.  TIP: to avoid melting candle with the extremely hot glue, put glue onto the button and not directly onto the candle.
  3. Allow to completely cool/dry before you're ready to party!
Click below to watch a video tutorial too:

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest for the latest projects and activities!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Easy Kid's Room Sign

If your kids love decorating their rooms, here is a quick and (fairly) mess-free project that can be completed very quickly.  Whether your kid is a rock star, a princess, or a master builder, they can make their own special sign in no time!

Here's what you'll need:
  • 2 foam sheets (either sold individually or as a multi pack)
  • Foam letters
  • Ribbon (12 inches)
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun

Step 1: Select any two colors of the foam sheets.  Cut a piece of ribbon (I used grosgrain) about 12 inches long.

Step 2: Glue as shown onto the bottom piece of foam.

Step 3: Carefully lay the ribbon on the glue areas.

Step 4: Glue entire area of bottom sheet as shown.

Step 5: Lay top sheet on top and sandwich together.

Step 6: Stick letters to spell out anything you want your sign to say.  Our had adhesive backs like stickers, but you can glue your if you need to.  If was helpful to lay the letters out first before sticking them on.  All finished...super cute!

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest for the latest projects and activities!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Clean Hands Sink Art

This easy peasy wall art not only decorates an area by the sink, but serves as a gentle reminder to keep those hands squeaky clean!  Best of all I made it with materials I found around the house, so this project was totally free to make!

Perfect for bathrooms, the kitchen, or anywhere there is a sink in the house...I love this idea for teachers too!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Acrylic paint in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • Old frame (I used an 8 x 10)
  • "Wash Those Hands" paper printout (see instructions below)

If you are using an old frame like I did, take it apart and paint in desired color and let it dry.

I made polka dots in a contrasting color by dipping a pencil eraser in paint and dabbing it evenly all the way around the frame.

The sign itself was made in PicMonkey (one of my favorite sites ever).  All is did was type up the phrase, enlarged (a lot) and made each letter a different rainbow-y color.  I just used regular computer printer paper, but you can get fancier with card stock or watercolor paper if you like.

Finally, put the frame together and it's ready to hang!

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest for the latest projects and activities!

Monday, May 11, 2015

How To Make An Easy Lego Garland

This garland is easy and inexpensive to make and makes a great addition to a Lego party!  After the party is over, hang the garland in your child's room, playroom, or in their Lego nook where Legos are kept.

Here's what you'll need:
  • Foam sheets in bright colors
  • Yarn (I used bright green acrylic)
  • Scissors
  • Hot Glue
  • Circle Cutter (totally optional)

Start by cutting the foam sheets.  I cut mine in squares for the four peg kind and then some in fourths for the  single peg kind.  For six peg legos, I didn't cut them at all.  Make as many as you need for the length of your garland.

I was first going to use a circle cutter, but instead ended up cutting the circles freehand.

After cutting, glue to foam sheets.

I stuck to primary colors to make them look extra lego-y.

Run a line of glue along the back top of each lego.  Lay the yarn over it and let dry.  Laying them out in the order of gluing makes it easier to have them spaced/arranged just the way you need them.

Ready to hang!  Because it is a lightweight garland, you can use a little piece of blue painters tape (won't damage walls) to hang.  Or those wall safe hooks are great too!

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+,Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest for the latest projects and activities!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

10 Tips For Gardening With Kids

Starting a garden with kids is a fun and rewarding activity that you can do as a family.  It teaches responsibility, healthy food choices, and is a great hands-on science activity too!  Here are 10 tips for starting and maintaining a garden...happy growing!

  1. First and foremost...get dirty!  Gardening is all about getting your hands in there and getting messy.  Kids love digging holes in the dirt, pushing seeds into the ground, and spraying the ground with a hose...make it fun and they'll look forward to their garden time with you.
  2. Grow things that everyone loves to eat, but also plant one or two things to try...when kids grow and take care of plants themselves, they may be more likely to try a new food!
  3. You don't have to be an expert farmer to have a fantastic garden.  Great gardens can be large or small, simple or complex...grow a garden that is manageable for your family and if you're new to the world of gardening, start small.  Herbs, tomatoes, and carrots are a great place to start. 
  4. Keep garden time short enough to hold everyone's attention. 
  5. Make the most out of this learning experience.  Ask questions to get the ball rolling and make them think about what is happening out there:  What is your favorite thing we are growing?  What do plants need to grow?  
  6. If possible give them their own spot or corner of the garden and allow them to grow what they please.  No space?  Even a large pot on a patio or deck will work.  Live in a city?  Try a window box or even a window sill.
  7. Fo older kids, try a themed garden...the ever popular pizza garden (tomatoes, oregano, onion, basil, etc) or perhaps a salad garden too.  Herb gardens are easy and fragrant.
  8. Model patience.  Gardening is a great lesson in patience...while some things come up quickly, other things take longer.  This activity is all about unplugging, enjoying each other's company, and watching Mother Nature at work!
  9. For very busy families, try planting a family tree instead.  You can plant a tree to commemorate a family milestone like a new home, birth, or a birthday.  As the years pass, it will be fun to see the tree grow along with everyone.
  10. Allow kids to have a snack in the garden and get everyone involved when it's time to harvest.  Show them how to pick things from the vine and how to wash the dirt off too.

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+, Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest for the latest projects and activities!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Flowers for Mom!

If you're looking for some fun and beautiful crafty flowers, here a 10 fabulous projects from 10 fun sites to make a unique and handmade bouquet for Mothers, Grandmothers, Aunts and anyone else special!

Make a bouquet of one type of flower, or mix them up to create an amazing work of art! Make some flowery watercolor paper (see below) to wrap your bouquet in when you are ready to present your gift!

For more family fun, be sure to follow Sparkle & Splatter on Google+Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest for the latest crafty fun!