Make Your Own Backyard Obstacle Course

The following is by contributor Amy Anderson of Let’s Explore.

I am always looking for fun, creative ways to get moving with my kids. Since my girls were toddlers we have been making our own backyard obstacle courses. Our whole family can participate in gathering items, setting up the course, and testing our skills in a friendly family competition.

One of the greatest things about a homemade obstacle course is that you can use whatever items you have on hand. A stuffed animal slalom course?  Sure! Hurdles made from rolled-up beach towels? Absolutely! As my girls get older, their creativity inspires more elaborate obstacle courses each time.

Some kids like the addition of a stopwatch to keep track of their course times. Other kids would rather just go through the course for fun.  Either way, you’ll be adding some fun family fitness to your day!

Here are some of the many activities we have incorporated into our courses over the years. Think of this list as a create-your-own obstacle course menu – pick and choose the activities that match your child’s skill level and the materials you have on hand.  Better yet, let your child be involved in choosing the activities and setting up the course. [Read more…]

What We’re Reading: Eve Bunting’s Night Tree

For What We’re Reading Wednesday, Amy of Let’s Explore and Early Bird Homeschool is reviewing a comforting selection from Eve Bunting:

nighttreeNight Tree by Eve Bunting is one of my favorite books.  There is just something about the story and illustrations that makes me feel cozy and warm – a perfect fit for this time of year!

Night Tree is the story of a family’s Christmas Eve tradition to go out into the woods, find “their” tree, and decorate it with popcorn chains, apples, tangerines, and other goodies for the animals.  They decorate the tree, drink hot cocoa from a thermos and sing Christmas carols by moonlight.  The story is told by a young boy, and my favorite part is the boy imagining the animals all around the tree enjoying their treats on Christmas Day.

Eve Bunting’s writing is beautiful and poetic, which makes this book even more enjoyable to read aloud:

It hasn’t snowed yet.  It’s so cold my breath hurts.  The sky is spattered with stars, and the moon, big as a basketball, slides in and out between the treetops.

My girls love this book as much as I do.  Each year after reading this story, they are inspired to fill the trees in our yard with treats for the birds.  Night Tree is a lovely, gentle book that celebrates nature, generosity, and family – it’s definitely a holiday favorite in our house!

What seasonal books are being enjoyed by your family this December?

What We’re Reading: Mem Fox’s Time for Bed (and more!)

Three new book reviews and recommendations for this What We’re Reading Wednesday!

Baby and Toddler

from Catherine (Adventures with Kids)

timeforbedMem Fox is my favourite children’s author and Time for Bed is one of my favourite children’s books.  This is a delightful book, perfect for sharing with your baby at quiet times (or even at bedtime!).

Darkness is falling and all the little animals are getting ready to sleep. Their mum’s and dad’s are tucking them in and saying goodnight …


It’s time to sleep, little bird, little bird,
So close your eyes, not another word.

It’s time to sleep, little bee, little bee,
Yes, I love you and you love me.

Each page is accompanied by an illustration showing the little animals snuggling with their mummy or daddy.  And you’ll smile at some of the lines, as baby animals seem to do the same little things to avoid sleep as human babies.

The rhythm and repetition through this story make it easy to read aloud and soothing for your child.  And if you use a read-aloud tip from Mem Fox and drag out the last line to create a feeling of reader satisfaction, by the end of the story your little one will be ready to kiss goodnight and go to sleep.

Preschool

from Emily (Homespun Light)

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big, Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood.

bighungrybearThe mouse might be small, but he is brave and clever. The reader warns him that a big, hungry bear will find the mouse’s strawberry…”no matter where it is hidden, or who is guarding it, or how it is disguised.” Together, however, the reader and mouse are able to come up with a perfect solution: sharing!

The illustrations are visually appealing and funny. The simple text keeps the story moving along. The best part, though, is the characters: you (the reader) and the mouse. You can’t help but pull for the cute, nervous mouse.

Early Elementary

from Amy Anderson (Let’s Explore)

newkidI love sharing poetry with my girls – poems are a great example of just how fun words can be!  If we’re in the mood for something silly, we often pull out one of Jack Prelutsky’s poetry collections, The New Kid on the Block.

Prelutsky’s poems are filled with colorful descriptive language, great rhythm (and often rhyme), and some silly nonsense words for good measure.  Here’s a snippet from one of our favorite poems from New Kid on the Block, “Bleezer’s Ice Cream”:

Tutti-fruitti stewed tomato
Tuna taco baked potato
Lobster litchi lima bean
Mozzarella mangosteen

Yes, crazy ice cream flavors!  Because poems and imagination go hand-in-hand, my girls are often inspired to create their own wacky menus or silly monsters after listening to a few of these poems.  From “Do Oysters Sneeze?” to “Eggs!” to “The Flimsy Fleek,” there’s plenty of giggling to be had!

You can read more samples of Jack Prelutsky’s poems on his really fun website.  If you have a few minutes during snack time or while brushing teeth, why not read a poem?  Happy reading!