The 6th Annual Global Invent It Challenge

Go ahead and get your kids thinking about a real world environmental issue because the Invent It! Challenge is back and better than ever! This 6th annual challenge, a partnership between Cricket Media and the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is launching on January 17, 2017 and kids from ages 5 to 21 are invited to participate.

 

To enter the Invent It! Challenge, kids can work individually or in groups to identify a real-world environmental issue and come up with a planet-friendly solution to the problem. Each invention must demonstrate all seven of the Smithsonian’s Spark!Lab Key Steps of the Invention Process. Have your child review the steps below to get a sense for exactly what goes into a successful invention.

 

Step One: Think it

Invention is all about solving problems, so your first step is to identify an environmental problem you want to work on. Look around you – what environmental problems do you see in your community? Ask friends, teachers, and family members about environmental issues that are important to them. Make a list, and choose the one that you want to help solve.

 

Step Two: Explore it

Whatever problem you identify, you should know you’re probably not the first inventor to try to solve it! Do some research to learn how others have addressed the problem. What do you like about their solutions, and what do you think you can improve? Think about what your invention will do, who it will be for, and how it will be different from any of the other inventions you read about.”

 

Step Three: Sketch it

Once you have a basic plan for your invention, make some simple sketches of your idea to show how it might work. Sketching helps you get the idea out of your head and onto paper where you can really see it.

 

Step Four: Create it

For many inventors, this is the most fun part of the invention process! This is where you create a prototype, or model, of your invention. Using your sketches as a guide, build a prototype. Creating your prototype will help make your ideas visible to others.

 

Step Five: Try it

Once your prototype is finished, ask friends, teachers, parents, and neighbors to try it or review it. What suggestions do they have for making your invention better?

 

Step Six: Tweak it

Tweak it Using the feedback you got in the Try It step, identify ways you can improve your invention. Keep working on your idea!

 

Step Seven: Sell it

Once you’ve created your invention, you want people to start using it! How will you convince others to try your invention? Think about your target audience. Then create a “fact sheet” or a video or a written pitch about your invention. What health problem does it solve? Who should actually use it? How does it work? How is it different from other inventions? Answer these questions to explain how your invention will lead to a healthier environmental future!

 

Parents, you should also have your child check out the videos submitted by  previous winners to get a good idea of how other kids took on the Invent It! Challenge. And be sure to look for more blog posts here featuring tips, inspiration, and information that might make the process even more enjoyable and productive.

 

Also, be sure to check out the Invent It! Challenge homepage on January 17, 2016 to view the Scoring Guide for this contest and the Official Rules which set forth entry details, deadlines, and eligibility requirements.

 

The 6th Annual Global Invent It Challenge

 

We can’t wait to see the real environmental challenges our young inventors solve this year. We know we’ve got some of the world’s best minds on the case.

5 Screen Free Family Activities to Beat Winter Break Boredom

Everyone loves winter break, right? Um, yeah, right. Love it. Definitely. Winner. The most wonderful time of the year.

 

So you sense some sarcasm? Here’s the thing: My kids are home. It’s cold out (at least where I live) so outdoor activities are difficult. Friends are away so arranging playtime with other kids is difficult. And I need to get at least a minimum of work done each day.

 

Oh, and we have a strict limit on the amount of screen time they can have each day, and yes, that includes winter break.

 

As I’m sure you know, enforcing the limits on screen time is really difficult at any time of the year, but at times when there is the triple whammy of no school, no outdoor play time, and no friends around, it becomes a daily struggle. But it is also really important for us to stick to it. And so, with Cricket Media’s award-winning and child-centered content and some help from the folks at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, I hereby present 5 Easy (and fun) Winter Break Activities for your family to try. These are meant to get everyone (including you, parents) away from the screens, so please join in. Remember, kids learn from what you do, not just what you say, so turning off your own screen, even if it is just for a few hours sends a powerful message about being present AND helps everyone concentrate on the activity at hand.

 

5 Screen Free Family Activities to Beat Winter Break BoredomYou know all those different types of building blocks and materials you have around your house: Legos, K’Nex, Zoob, Lincoln Logs, Magformers, blocks of various sizes, etc.? Get ‘em out. Yes, all of them. Even the ones your child hasn’t played with in a while and you’ve been meaning to give away. Now create a city using all the different types. Discover how the different types of building materials work together to make new contraptions and buildings types you never considered before. After you’ve had a blast with this one, cleaning up might qualify as another screen-free activity, especially if you take this chance to sort through and get rid of all the types of building materials your child no longer uses.

 

5 Screen Free Family Activities to Beat Winter Break BoredomHave each member of your family make a scavenger hunt list and go on a search for each item. You can do this inside or outside or a combination of the two. Go ahead and be sneaky and add missing items to your list. Haven’t seen your son’s shoe for two days? Add it to his list. Someone left a shovel outside on the deck and it’s been bugging you for a week? Add it to the list. Who says clean up and scavenger hunt can’t be the same thing?

 

5 Screen Free Family Activities to Beat Winter Break BoredomCreate your very own board game. My family has done this and it is awesome. Our foray into board game create started because my daughter loved The Ladybug Game, which was created by a kid. She wanted to create her own game and off she went to do it, with just a little help from me. The best part is that this activity involves so many great skills: planning and logic to make sure the rules work, writing directions, designing a game board, etc. And once the game is all done, your whole family will enjoy playing it.

 

5 Screen Free Family Activities to Beat Winter Break BoredomTake a trip. This is an obvious way to spend a few hours as a family screen-free, but if you are going to do it, make sure you keep to the screen-free part. It will make the entire activity more of an adventure. Plus, you’ll get to say stuff like, “when I was a kid we didn’t have GPS or the internet to help us. We had to figure it out for ourselves.” A few months ago, my daughter and I took a trip as part of a screen free activity and I was really strict about it. In fact, I didn’t even bring my cell phone with me. This made for some really interesting moments when we got lost and had to figure out how to get home. But it was actually the most memorable part of the trip. One thing I learned though: my cellphone, like yours probably, is my camera, so without it we couldn’t take any pictures. If possible, grab a disposable camera for this trip so you can still document the fun you had.

 

5 Screen Free Family Activities to Beat Winter Break Boredom

Cook, bake, and eat your favorite foods. Imitate Chopped Jr. and give your kids ingredients and see what they can create. Or drag out your old family recipes (written on old-fashioned recipe cards, I’m sure) and make some of your childhood favorites. Most kids love to cook and even those that prefer to eat will like the result of this activity.

 

For even more screen-free activities, check out screenfree.org. And for some activities perfect for those moments when you don’t have time to really get your hands (or your house) dirty but still want to keep the kids occupied without screens, download the activities below.

 

Activities to Download

 

Releaf: An Activity to Brighten Up Any Dreary Fall Day

Where I live, the ground this time of year is a mosaic of gold, red, brown, burgundy, and orange. So many pretty fall colors, so many fun leaf shapes. I wish I could keep autumn forever.

 

Viola! My wish is my command!

 

Fall Leaves ActivityThis was my favorite craft when I was a kid, and one of my favorite crafts to do with my kids now that I’m all grown up. It’s easy to do and the result is awesome. And the best part is that it involves going outside with your kids and paying attention to the world around you. Bring a bucket, bag, or even a wagon and collect the prettiest, most vibrant fall leaves you find.

 

  • Pick the prettiest autumn leaves and press them in a heavy book for a few days.
  • Place the pressed leaf in between two pieces of wax paper.
  • Run a warm iron over the wax paper for a few seconds.
  • Once the paper is cool, trim the waxed paper around the shape of the leaf
  • Add a hole for string, and hang it in your window.

The colors of the leaves will stay nice and vibrant, and if you hang a few of them, when the sun comes through, it looks like fall leaf stained glass.

 

If you want to get even more crafty, you can add some crayon shavings around the leaf before you iron it to add a tie dye effect in the background of the leaf. Try a couple of different crayon colors that would look nice with the leaf.

 

As fall starts to come to an end and the bleakness of winter approaches, it’s important to celebrate the beauty of nature anywhere you can find it.

 

[Editor’s Note: Cricket family magazines such as LADYBUG and SPIDER frequently contain innovative and easily doable crafts related to holidays, seasons, and just because. Don’t miss any of these amazing activities by subscribing to your favorite magazine today.]

 

Cricket Media Mama can’t wait for this year to pass after a polarizing election period, abject social injustice, the passing of some amazing musical talents, and an abysmal fantasy football season. The collage of hanging fall leaves in her window reminds her to hold on to the beauty of the world when she can because it, too, passes.

DIG is looking at “Beijing Through Time”

This month in DIG, we are taking a fascinating, engaging, and informative look at the history of China’s capital city of Beijing—from past to present.

 

Have you ever wondered how an issue of DIG gets put together? Editor Rosalie Baker is ready to tell you:

 

“For the past few years, I have focused an issue on a city, taking it from its beginning through to the present day. For me, these issues have been fun and a great learning experience.  What would be the city for the 2016-2017 theme list? I had it – Beijing! Beijing definitely ranks as one of the world’s great cities—with a ton of history and fascinating contributions. How to narrow the scores of possible theme topics was the real feat!

 

“But before I did that, or even before I began listing my thoughts for articles, I wrote to Dr. Margarete Pruech, a German archaeologist and historian who focuses on China and has spent much time there, in a great variety of capacities. Margarete loved the idea of highlighting Beijing in DIG! She also had suggestions for authors and for topics. So, armed with her thoughts and my research, the overarching curve of the issue’s content began to come to me. I would start out with an intro article that would just highlight Beijing and how it became the capital. Then I would go back in time with an article about the find of Peking Man. Then I would feature the key historical sites—not lengthy pieces, but enough to give a sense of past and present.

 

“But, there were still a few things missing.  In the back of my mind was a topic an author for another issue on China had once mentioned—hutongs. I didn’t have to do much as a few clicks on the computer and the photos and text told me that this was a topic I had to include. And, more important, I had the right author—one who had worked on restoring some of these artifacts.

 

“Now it was time to head to the Let’s Go Digging section.  I did some research and settled on three sites whose finds were adding much to our knowledge and understanding of ancient China.  But, I still needed an artifact for the inside back cover. I looked through Chinese art books, museum collections, and recent archaeological finds. I don’t want to ruin the suspense, so I won’t give even a hint of my final choice, but it is definitely one of the most arresting images ever to appear on page 57!

 

“So, yes, I was basically done as far as the decisions about content, but it was actually bitter-sweet. For me, one of the best parts of putting together an issue is the research and decisions that precede the actual work of putting an issue together. But, there is always the next issue!”

 

Editor’s note: Thanks Rosalie! We can’t wait for the next issue of DIG either. If you feel the same way, be sure to subscribe to DIG.

BEHOLD THE A-MAIZE-ING CORN MAZES!

Warning: This blog is a little corny.

 

I’m having one of those moments where I wish I was a kid in today’s times. Growing up, Halloween was a one-day event: a parade at school, trick-or-treating at night, and then a month week of candy as we switched gears, put the costumes away, and started counting down the days until Thanksgiving break. It’s no wonder our generation was a little (ahem) husky. These days, lots of local farms have started extending the fun of Halloween with fall festivals where kids can wear their costumes at each visit and enjoy haunted hayrides, scary slides, pumpkin picking, and corn mazes.

 

I couldn’t be more jealous that my kids get to do things like corn mazes. I had never heard of such things growing up and didn’t visit my first corn maze until my daughter was already three, which really (ahem) shucks! So many wasted years. If you haven’t had the joy of experiencing a corn maze, find your nearest child and go. Go now. In fact, leave the kid behind and just go!

 

Now, I am fully aware* that behaving like an adult means one should NOT run full force through the corn maze, throwing corn stalks in the air and shrieking, “This is it, this is the end, we are never getting out!!!” at the top of your lungs!” So I am reduced to living vicariously through my kids, who suffer from short attention span and grew bored with solving the maze quickly. To keep the experience new and interesting, I came up with a few ways to make making it through a little more exciting. Lend me your (ahem) ears, and I will enlighten you:

 

  • Create a BINGO list for the kids to follow once they’ve solved every possible route. Have them find scarecrows, birds, watering cans, wheelbarrows, plows, bugs, and other items that might turn up in a corn field as you walk the paths. They might not find them all, but the one who find the most, wins!
  • Give your kids a compass and have them record their twists and turns to get out. Follow their directions. The most accurate use of a compass, wins!
  • Observe items on your own trek and create a scavenger hunt of things you know are in the fields. This differs from a BINGO game because the kids have to find all of the items (since you know they are there). Here, the first one who finishes, wins!
  • Have a full zombie costume on under your day clothes. (ahem) Stalk your kids as they walk through, jumping out and grabbing them at random intervals. You win! What? Was that too much? You mean I shouldn’t have done that?

If you’d like to find a maze near you, try this website: Corn Maze America

 

And if your child (or let’s be honest, you) wants to know more about how corn mazes are made, check out the free article “Lost in a Corn Maze” by Laurie Wallmark from SPIDER Magazine. Not only will you discover how they design these amazing things, you’ll also see pictures of some of the coolest corn mazes around.

 

Lost in a Corn Maze
by Laurie Wallmark

Lost in A corn Maze - Laurie Wallmark

 

We hope your family’s trip to your local corn maze is a-maze-ing. And for more a-maze-ing articles like the one below, be sure to subscribe to SPIDER.

 

 

*Cricket Media Mama wants to clarify that becoming “fully aware” only occurred after being told multiple times by the corn maze staff. “This is not a field of screams, Ms. Media-Mama!”

 

Sleep-away Camp is No Reason to Get Tents

My kids have always been independent and were ready to take off for sleep-away camp and not look back from the first summer they were old enough. After many seasons of packing for these expeditions, I’ve learned a few valuable tips I’d like to pass along.

 

  • Don’t bother packing tons of cute, coordinated outfits – your kid is going to live in about two outfits the entire time s/he is at camp. You’re not there to make them wear clean clothes every day, and most of the other kids are doing the same thing, so no one notices the smell!
  • On a related note, don’t bother packing a laundry bag. It will never get unfolded, let alone used. The wet towels, dripping bathing suit, muddy socks, and the one alternate outfit they wore all week will get tossed in with the six clean outfits you packed in the suitcase (which remained packed in the suitcase all week).
  • They will likely not shower either. You can rest assured there are enough pool days and dips in the lake to keep them relatively clean.
  • No matter how cute the stationary you send with them is, don’t expect letters, postcards, or journals. In fact, if you get a letter, chances are it’s full of complaints. If you go through the week(s) without hearing from your children, feel good about the fact that they are too busy having a great time to write to you about it.

Another handy tip is pack magazines for your kids to read while they are at camp. Magazines are great for sleep away camp because they are light-weight and disposable. Perfect reading for the trip to camp, while in the bunk, or around the campfire. Plus, magazines are easy to share and pass around – a great way to make new friends. Best of all, when your kids are done with the issue, they can just throw them away, which is so much better than hauling home a pile of heavy books (which will end up smelling like dirty, wet towels by the time you unpack). You can even order back issues of your child’s favorite magazine to make sure they have plenty of reading material for those quiet (ha ha) hours.

 

Besides back issues, here are some other camping-related reading materials that may be perfect for first time campers or their left-behind younger siblings:

 

Robert Goes to Camp is great story to help kids discover what to expect at camp by hearing from a favorite character.

 

Your kids are guaranteed to have at least one night under the stars. Give your child Stargazing with Jack Horkheimer to help them learn the constellations and fascinating astronomy facts to share with his/her new friends.

 

Ladybug has an issue focusing on camping that is a perfect way (along with a tent in the back yard) to introduce younger kids to the concept.

 

Cricket Media Mama is sure her children’s clothes reproduce while in the suitcase. How else does one week of clothes result in three weeks of laundry?  

Kyngdom: Puzzled Yet?

Amazing puzzle solving is happening on our Kyngdom forum. If your child likes to solve word problems, puzzles, riddles, codes, or just loves fantasy fiction, writing, or the chance to be part of something really cool, you need to have them head over to the Chatterbox and check it out.

 

So what’s going on over there? Our editors are posting a puzzle a day for the kids to solve. Here’s the first one so you can get a taste of the intrigue and drama that is accompanying the daily posts. (Don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away…the kids have already solved this puzzle.)

 

Labyrinth Tunnels Code 1

 

Charlie W. and Little Crow here! Long time no see. For the past few weeks we’ve been collecting scrolls and maps from libraries around Southwest Kyngdom. We collected a few hundred and holed ourselves up in a Sprocketville bunker, trying to make sense of them all. We’ll spare you the details and get right to the big news:

 

We believe we’ve located a unknown tunnel system in the Labyrinth Lands. At the northern end of the largest Labyrinth plateau, we found a strange locked door with some carvings above it. An old scroll we found suggested that this door is 1) the entrance to a cave or tunnel system of some kind and 2) enchanted or engineered somehow to be resistant to any kind of magic or brute force.

 

Unfortunately, before we could photograph the scroll, the ancient dust made me (Charlie) sneeze, and the whole thing disintegrated in my hands. I felt like such a fool. Next time I go reading old scrolls, I’ll find a professional archaeologist first…

 

Anyway, we traveled out to the Labyrinth Lands, and we found the door.

 

While we were studying it, a very old badger lumbered around the corner. We couldn’t make sense of his mumblings, although every few minutes he’d say, “Seventeen will leave, nine left over.” Eventually, he gestured for us to join him in a little cave, where he heated up some water over a fire. He poured the water into little cups, dropped one shiny green stone into each cup, and then mimed a drinking motion. We looked at each other suspiciously and took tiny sips. (It was actually pretty good—tasted a little like rosemary.) When the sun started setting, we said goodbye, and he just repeated, “Seventeen will leave, nine left over” and handed us a piece of bark with these letters written on it:

 

-J-M-E-M-I-A-K-Z-G-E-F-H-P-Q-X-S-B-Y-W-R-C-T-O-N-U-V-D-L- 

 

Strange. Also, on the way home, we snapped some pictures. This code is carved on some stones near the doorway:

 

Kyngdom - Cricket Magazine

Kyngdom - Cricket Magazine

Kyngdom - Cricket Media

Kyngdom - Cricket Media

Kyngdom - Cricket Media

 

Can anyone help us decode the message? It looks like we have to enter some letters into the combination lock, too. 

 

Also, we’re looking for animals and humans who would like to return to this door with us, try to get it open, and see what we can learn from the weird old badger. We’ve started organizing an expedition group, and so far we’ve attracted F.A.F.A. members Silverpaw, Who, and Flying Sqirl—you might remember meeting them back in the first F.A.F.A. meeting

 

We believe this tunnel or cave system may have something to do with the poor badger Guardian and the Power of Claw. Maybe they will help us discover the badger’s secrets, since he couldn’t tell them to us himself. Or maybe they will help us defeat the great clawed serpent summoned by the Power.

 

So…can you solve the puzzle above? Chances are your kids can. And once they do, they can try the next puzzle and the next and the one after that.  There will be 17 puzzles in all and the kids who are already involved in it are eating it up. As we head into the long holiday weekend, here’s an activity that can fill in the times between barbeques, pool time, and your local Memorial Day celebration.  We hope you enjoy all the joys the holiday weekend has to offer.

Scavenger Hunts: Teach and they Shall Find

I may have mentioned in a previous blog (or five) that my family loves scavenger hunts. We play them all the time in the form of Easter Egg hunts, geocaching, find the constellation, the “license plate game” and “I Spy.” But did you know that scavenger hunts are a fun way to teach your kids the basics of everything from science to literature to internet safety? Have you ever tried a scavenger hunt as a way to get your kids to clean up the playroom? No? You are missing out.

 

To use scavenger hunts to teach your kids science or math topics, you might create a “nature scavenger hunt” where they have to identify and photograph as many different types of plants, trees, seeds, nuts, and animals from a list as they can. Use math in this activity by asking them to find 5 different types of rocks or to gather a total of 10 different seeds, leaves, and colors.

 

Want to teach early reading or literacy skills? Have them find 5 things in your house that start with the letter “c” or hide letters around the house and have them find them in order from A to Z. Is your little one learning colors? Have them scavenge for items in every color of the rainbow.

 

If cleaning up or helping out is one your to-do list, take your kids to the supermarket and have them find the items you put on a list for them (just make sure they can reach them on the shelves).  Or have your kids put away the items on a list of things you see on the playroom floor within a certain amount of time.

 

Feeling inspired yet?

 

Here are a few more ideas: Have older kids try an “internet scavenger hunt” where they have to research the answers for a series of questions. Incorporate scavenger hunts into birthday parties, making the party guests work to find the loot that goes in their goodie bags. You can even (and I know this from experience) coax your pre-teen out of her angsty sulk by giving her a digital camera and a list of things to photograph.

 

Scavenger Hunt Ideas

 

I’m attaching a PDF of a scavenger hunt that appeared in Spider Magazine, our award-winning literary magazines for kids ages 6 to 9. It’s the perfect way to jump start your love affair with this under-appreciated activity.

Go on a Scavenger Hunt

 

Once you are hooked, use the links below to find additional scavenger hunt ideas that you can easily incorporate into your next party, play date, or just an average day:

 

 

Cricket Media Mama is celebrating National Scavenger Hunt Day by cleverly hiding the letter “e” all over this blog. See if you can find them all.

Krazy for Kyngdom

Chances are, unless you are between the ages of 8 and 15 years old, you haven’t been to Cricket’s Chatterbox lately. The Chatterbox is our online writing forum where kids can develop and contribute to stories, including creating characters, building new worlds, and learning the art of narrative. It’s a unique, safe writing space moderated by Cricket editors and frequented by kids who don’t just love to read stories, they love creating them.

 

A few years ago, we hosted a collaborative writing program called Crowd-Sorcery. Kids who participated in Crowd-Sorcery created heroes, villains, and sidekick characters that became part of a final story published in Cricket Magazine.  And, while the kids may not have realized it at the time, their work also charged up their imaginations and helped them develop writing skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. Check out some of the characters envisioned by our readers below.

 

Cricket Media - Crowdsorcery crowdsorcery2

 

The Interactive Storytelling Kyngdom

 

While our Crowd-Sorcery program has ended (for now), a new and exciting writing adventure is coming to life in the Chatterbox and your child can join in!   Kyngdom is our new collaborative writing adventure and it is filled with talking animals, secret codes, and adventures big and small. Take a peek to see what our young writers are creating: new characters, new places, new adventures, all while they are honing new critical thinking skills as they decipher codes, formulate plans, and work together to achieve a common goal.

 

If your child loves creative writing, chances are they will jump at the opportunity to participate in an interactive storytelling experience. And, if your child is a reluctant writer, encourage them to check it out too! Perhaps it will inspire them to write on their own.

 

Kyngdom

We are passionate about helping create generations of story-makers, through the wonderful stories, insightful articles, activities and world-class illustrations found throughout our family of magazines.  With the launch of Kyngdom, the kids get to be the lead story-makers as they join us on a fun, interactive storytelling adventure.

 

We hope you’ll encourage your child to participate in whatever form resonates with them. We’ll look forward to seeing their ideas take shape.

 

The ABC’s of a Spring Break Staycation

Ahhh spring break. That random week when everyone in the world with children under the age of 15 descends on Disney World. True story: I’ve never actually taken a spring break vacation. So this blog is going to be all about fun things to do over spring break that don’t involve airplanes.

 

How about a Staycation? 

 

Staycationing can introduce your kids (and you!) to a slew of wonders, often within a few hours of your home. Today, we are going to travel through the alphabet in order to list all the places you may be able to take your kids for their week off.

 

Ready? Let’s head out!

 

Aquarium – If you don’t have an aquarium in your area, a visit to the local pet store might suffice.

 

Baby Animals – We are lucky to have a few farms in the area and many open their doors in the spring to let visitors view all the new baby chicks, bunnies, sheet, goats, and pigs. No farms? Consider bowling.

 

Creeks – Follow the creek along, skip stones, and build a small dam. Have a picnic and learn about the wildlife and plants in the area. One little creek can provide hours of fascination.

 

Dog park – Even if you don’t have pets, a dog park is a fun place to take kids and let them run around or play fetch with the dogs (fun note: dog owners are usually happy to let your kids wear their dog out – almost as happy as you are to have their dog to wear your kids out).

 

Exhibits – Art, sculpture, history – or make your own exhibits. Invite your neighbors over, serve cheese and juice, and charge an admission fee.

 

Festivals and fairs – Spring kicks off the festival season, so see if there are any coming up in your area. If not, consider fishing!

 

Gardens – Many places offer public parks, estates, or botanical gardens you can walk through. If you can’t find anything like that, spring is also a great time to start planning a garden of your own – even if you just give everyone a few pots, soil, and let them pick their seeds from the local gardening store.

 

Hotels – You don’t have to go out of town for a hotel stay. The entire family can take a mini-vacation by booking one night at a local inn. Let your kids jump on the beds, pillow fight, order room service, and watch TV in bed. Remember, someone ELSE gets to clean up the mess.

 

International Markets – You can learn a lot about other cultures from what kinds of foods they sell and … hold on, please. My kids are interrupting my writing as they completely disagree with this idea. They find the international market boring and tell me “I” should be ICE CREAM. Oh well, I tried.

 

Jump and bounce – The gyms filled with inflatables have been popping (no pun intended … I hope!) up all over the suburbs. These are a great place for kids to run around and burn off some steam.

 

Kite flying – Just a little wind, a lot of string, and the endless energy of an average 8 year old, and you’ll have a kite that touches the sun.

 

Library – Check your local library or bookstore to see if they are offering story hours or other group activities over the week. Even if they are not, libraries can be a great alternative to a rainy day.

 

Museums – I am ashamed to admit we live right outside of Washington D.C., where many of our museums are not only national treasures, they’re also free, yet I’ve only been to handful of them. Spring break is a great opportunity to see museums and other treasures in your town.

 

Nature Centers – If you don’t have a local nature center, you can take a nature walk and play nature bingo!

 

Nature Bingo

 

Outdoor shows – If the weather is nice, try to find an outdoor venue that offers musical performances or movies. Or, put on your own recital in the backyard – be it theater, singing, musical instruments or dancing, there’s nothing like a performance under the stars. Invite the neighbors over and charge an admission fee.

 

Parks – Who doesn’t like an afternoon at the park. Pack a picnic and people watch while you’re there!

 

Quiet time –We have all had to succumb to “Let’s play the quiet game – whoever talks first loses!” once in a while. As effective as that can be for a headache, a mindful, purposeful quiet time can be a lovely experience for everyone. Pile into one bed, grab books and unplug from phones, televisions, and computers. Plan to spend an hour just cuddling, reading quietly, or relaxing. If you happen to fall asleep, so be it.

 

Restaurants – My family has a tradition called “New Food Dinner” where we go out and have to eat something we’ve never had before. Spring break is a great time to explore new restaurants, new cuisines, or new foods and expand your culinary experiences. My kids are interrupting again: “Mooooommm, you are writing for Cricket Magazine! Shouldn’t ‘R’ be ‘READ?’” … Oh yeah. That, too.

 

Sports – It doesn’t have to be an organized team sport. Get out and kick the soccer ball a bit, play some Frisbee golf, or shoot hoops.

 

Tag – There are so many variations of tag, you could play two or three each day for the entire week and still not get through them all. Here are some tag game variations that might inspire you to try a game or two.

 

Under the Stars – If the nights are not still too cold, bundle up under a blanket and do some stargazing. Spring is a great time to view constellations that are harder to see once the summer humidity and haze rolls in. Need a guide to what you are looking at? How about Mind–Boggling Astronomy or a theme pack all about Outer Space?

 

Volunteer – Giving back a bit of your spring break to help others is a valuable lesson. There are lots of volunteer opportunities that kids may find fun such as making sandwiches at a homeless shelter, feeding and walking pets at a rescue shelter (with adult supervision), or playing games with residents at a hospital, hospice, or nursing home.

 

Watch and write – Our family enjoys writing almost as much as reading, so we will sometimes head over to a park (or even a coffee shop) and people watch. We’ll pick a person and write a short story about him or her – and then compare stories after. It’s a great way to flex our creative muscles.

 

X-Factor – Okay, it’s a stretch, but “X” is a hard letter! Getting X-rays? Not a fun spring break activity. So, consider hosting your own talent show, and having each kid (and their friends) participate. Invite your neighbors over to watch the show, and to serve as judges. Don’t forget to charge an admission fee.

 

YMCA/YWCA – If you have a Y in the area, take a day and check it out. Y’s encourage active playtime and often have loads of games and activities for kids of all ages. If you don’t have a nearby YMCA, consider spending some time playing in your yard.

 

Zoo – Again, my family is lucky to be close to DC where the National Zoo is too big to tackle in a single day, so it lends itself to many fun adventures. If you have a zoo nearby, big or small, check it out. If you don’t, make your own. Make “natural” habitats from boxes and crates for the wild stuffed animals I’m sure your kids have. If your neighbors are still talking to you after you charged them to see the art exhibits, the backyard performances, and the X-Factor style talent show, invite them over to visit the zoo. Make sure you charge them.

 

Cricket Media Mama immediately regretted her decision to not go to Florida this spring break, which officially kicks off this weekend with a prediction of 2” – 4” of snow.