Flying a kite isn't only fun, it's very beneficial!

5 Interesting Ways Your Child Benefits from Flying a Kite

Have you flown a kite with your child yet this spring? My kids got kites for Easter from my mom, and we’ve spent a couple of lazy afternoons trying to keep them in the air.

Flying a kite isn’t only fun, it’s also beneficial. In addition to the obvious gross motor skills, your child is working on several key areas. But before we dive into those benefits, let’s talk about what you’ll need for a successful kite flying adventure.

Before Setting Out to Fly a Kite

Of course you’ll need a kite! The cheap ones from Walmart work just fine. But, if you have younger kids, be sure to get the diamond shaped kites.

Those are way more aerodynamic than the round ones, so your child will have an easier time flying.

You’ll also need a safe place. We head up to our upper field, because there aren’t any power lines or kite eating trees :D.

Make sure it’s a windy day. We wait until our flag is flying fairly horizontally before heading out.

Water is also essential, especially if it’s a warm day. Bring a couple of bottles along so you all stay hydrated.

Once you’re at your ideal location, help your kids get their kites up. My littles enjoy just running while holding onto the string, while my middles and big actually do quite well at getting the kites in the air. While they’re flying, your kids will be learning the following skills:

1. Understanding of Aerodynamics

Different shaped kites react differently to the wind. If you have a couple of different shapes, let your kids experiment with them and describe the experience with each.

Regardless of kite shape, your child will be feeling the wind interact with the kite and the string. As they move, the kite moves. The more they fly, the better handle they’ll get on how to play the kite in the wind to keep it up.

If your child likes to run to launch the kite, she’ll also be learning about wind direction and speed–both important to aerodynamics.

2. Problem Solving

Kite flying doesn’t always go as planned! Sometimes the kites take a nosedive, the string tangles, or a little sibling comes over and pulls on the string.

When these problems occur, children must stop and assess the situation. Sometimes they need to ask for help. Other times, they can solve the problem themselves.

Problem solving is one of those soft skills that’s so important in life!

3. Concentration

With all the digital stimuli in the world today, kite flying offers a chance for children to concentrate on something real. There are no screens. Its just you, the kites, and the big blue sky.

Concentrating on keeping it flying will help your child extend his attention span. You can slowly increase the amount of time you’re out.

4. Self-Confidence

When my three-year-old got his in the air for the first time, he was thrilled! He quickly learned that he could do it, and didn’t want any help after that.

As your children fly a kite, they’re gaining confidence in their own abilities. It’s an amazing feeling to be in control of something way up in the air. And you feel like soaring right along with it!

5. Attention to Detail

When the kites get high in the air, tracking them takes more attention. As the wind switches direction, your child will have to make adjustments to keep it up.

While winding in the string, your child will have to watch to make sure no weeds snag the kite and make a hole in it.

All of these tasks require attention to detail and observation skills.

Let’s Go Fly Some Kites

Pick a day this spring, and go fly kites with your kids. You’ll all benefit from the exercise and fresh air, and you’ll also benefit in the five ways described above.

Next on our to-do list?

Making our own kites. I’m looking forward to it!

Do you and your family enjoy flying kites? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

 

Have you ever turned your living room into a mock bowling alley for kids? It's easy, fun, and educational.

Benefits of Bowling in Your Living Room

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about actually turning your room into a bowling alley, or having your kids chuck heavy bowling balls towards your furniture. But, your kids can learn so much by setting up some cups and trying to knock them down with a ball.

How to Set Up a Pretend Bowling Lane

If you’re ready to give it a try, you’ll need to set up a bowling lane. Here’s what you need:

  • 10 plastic cups
  • 1 playground style ball (that has a bit of weight)

That’s it! Of course you can also get fancy and use masking tape to mark your lanes. But that’s definitely optional.

How to Bowl

Find a location in your living room that has some space. You may need to scoot some furniture aside. We just slide our coffee table over to one side of the room, leaving an empty path straight down the middle.

As one end of your space, set up your plastic cups bowling pin style:

Then, have your kids form a line at the other end. One at a time, they get the ball and bowl it down towards the cups. They get two chances to knock down as many cups as they can.

Now it’s time to reset the pins and let another person take a turn.

It keeps my kids busy for at least an hour! 😀

What Kids Learn in Your Homemade Bowling Alley

While they’re busy having a great time, your kids are learning and practicing many skills. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Math

Younger kids can practice counting to ten each time the pins are set. They’ll also practice seeing the pattern. Each row increases by 1.

So the first row has 1. The second 2. Then 3. And finally 4.

As the first ball knocks down pins, you get to practice subtraction too! How many pins are left? How many pins got knocked down?

Vocabulary

Pins. Bowling ball. Alley. Lane. Strike. Spare.

There are plenty of words associated with bowling. As your kids play, you can introduce new vocabulary words to them.

“Yay! You knocked down all the pins on your first ball. That’s a strike!”

(And if you have kids familiar with baseball, you can talk about how a baseball strike isn’t good but a bowling strike is good. Words can have more than one meaning!)

Taking Turns

It’s not always easy to take turn. Especially when there’s a ball involved. Kids get to practice this essential life skill when bowling in your living room.

Encouragement

Learning to offer encouraging words is important. Let your kids practice good sportsmanship and congratulate others on good turns, and share an encouraging word with someone who didn’t quite get it.

Physical Activity

Kids sit plenty today, especially when it’s muddy or cold outside. Having another active play game that’s perfect for indoor play will help get everyone up and moving. Here are some other active indoor ideas for you:

10 Variations of Hide and Seek

Active Indoor Games for Families

Sight Words Driving: An Active Reading Game

Have you ever bowled in your living room?

Did you kids love it as much as mine do? I’d love to hear about it!

Photo Credit: Daniel Alvarez Sanchez Diaz via Unsplash

Why do I play car games with the kids? It's so much easier just to turn on the radio and relax. But, engaging the kids has such a better outcome. Click through to read what I've learned.

Why I Play Car Games with My Children

If you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a huge fan of car games for kids.

I enjoy playing them, but it wasn’t always my favorite thing to do. So I wanted to explain why I emphasize them so much.

Because, when I get in the car, do you know what I really want to do?

I want to relax, listen to some talk radio or an audio book, and just enjoy some peace and quiet.

But, even though I could make the kids sit quietly along the way, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not the best thing to do. Because then when we get where we’re going, they’re ready to engage and interact.

They’re ready for attention. To tell me about what they saw or drew on the way.

And I’m ready to do whatever it is I went there to do.

The kids get loud. They get whiny and impatient. And I get mad.

All because I wanted my way in the car. I wanted it to be about me and what I wanted.

So I don’t usually do what I want. Instead, I make the choice to engage. To be present and build memories.

And everyone does better because of it. Even me.

Finding Balance

On the other end of the equation, I don’t want my kids to feel like they should always be entertained. I want them to have quiet time and thinking time.

So we don’t play car games every mile of the journey.

They have their color books and colored pencils. I have a stack of kids’ books on cassettes that we listen to.

They spend time looking out the windows.

And yes, sometimes I hand over my smartphone and let them play games so I can kick back and listen to Dave Ramsey.

But, I always try to keep an eye on the feelings in the car. If the kids are starting to argue, or they’re getting restless and bored, a game can usually turn things around before it gets out of hand.

So I’m always ready with an idea or two.

It Doesn’t Take Much

Most of my car games aren’t fancy. They don’t need special items or supplies. And most aren’t really even that competitive.

But the kids don’t care. They just want to spend time with me. And feel special.

That’s what car games do. They help kids and parents take time that’s otherwise wasted, and turn it into something special.

That’s why I play car games with them, even when I’d rather just sit.

Do You Need Ideas for Car Games?

If you’re hoping to build some memories in the car, be sure to check out my posts on Car Games for kids. You can find a list of them all on this post. They’re material free, so you won’t have any clutter to worry about.

And you’ll always be prepared with a game when you need one.

Here’s to peaceful car trips. wonderful journeys, and a lifetime of memories!

Photo Credit: Kevin Lee via Unsplash

Help your toddler gain important literacy skills with these fun games and activities.

6 Ways to Build Toddler Literacy Skills

A toddler’s brain is ready to learn. They’re like sponges, soaking up so much information about the world around them. Little ones learn best through play. So here are six fun activities designed to build toddler literacy skills. Your child may not realize she’s learning, but her brain will be!

1. Hide the Letter

My absolute favorite toy for teaching the alphabet is a foam letter mat. We’ve used ours so often over the years. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend purchasing one. Here’s what they look like:

You can find one on Amazon by clicking on the picture above (aff. link). For playing with toddlers, you want a letter mat with these specifications:

  • Letters pop out of the frame
  • Large tiles (12*12 instead of 6*6)
  • Pieces snap together to form boxes

My toddlers (and preschoolers and early elementary kids) love just free playing with this toy. It’s great exposure to the alphabet. Here’s my current youngest just playing with some letters from our mat. The letters are large and chunky, and perfect for little hands to hold onto.

Build toddler literacy skills through play!

When it’s time for a guided game, I have the kids remove the letters.

Then, I have them go in the other room and I hide all 26 letters. When I’m done, I call the kids back in and ask them to find letters.

As they find each letter, they have to also find the frame it goes in. This helps them learn to closely look at each letter’s shape. I say the name of the letter they found, and help put it together if needed. Then they find another one.

Once all the letters are returned, we assemble the mat and sing the ABC song before picking it up. There are tons of activities you can do with this mat, so feel free to get creative!

2. Read Aloud

I’m sure you knew this one would be on the list! That’s because reading aloud is a fabulous way to build toddler literacy skills. It works great for older kids too!

Pick a book, snuggle up with your child, and get reading. But, don’t feel limited to reading the actual words on the page. You can if you want to, but I’ve found my toddlers don’t always have the attention span for that.

Instead I:

  • Point out pictures and work on vocabulary
  • Practice turning pages
  • Talk about what’s happening on the page
  • Summarize the story
  • Use the pictures as a building point for telling my own story
  • Make fun noises for all the vehicles, animals, and other things we see

The kids love reading together, because even if they pick the same story over and over again, we can change it up. It’s lots of fun!

3. Sing Silly Songs

Songs are a huge part of literacy development, because they’re so easy for kids to memorize. You can sing silly songs on the road, before bedtime, or in the bathtub. You don’t need any materials, so you can sing them anywhere!

Here’s a post I wrote on the benefits of singing silly songs. It also has my recommendations for some songs.

Toddlers can easily join the fun, even if they can’t talk yet. They can bounce to the rhythm, laugh at mommy being silly, and clap. While they’re playing, their brains will be taking in a different way to use words.

4. Name Play

Your toddler’s name is important. In fact, a child’s name is typically one of the first words they learn to read independently. Help you toddler become familiar with his name by:

  • Saying the name in a high voice, a low voice, and a gruff voice. See how many different ways you can say it.
  • Playing rhyming games with his name
  • Writing his name on pictures he draws
  • Having a special shelf to put toys or books that’s labeled. Point to this label each time you clean up. “It’s your name. Your things go on your shelf. Let’s look at the letters in your name.”
  • Singing the letters in your child’s name: S-I-M-O-N that spells Simon!
  • Building his name out of play dough

Just find ways to incorporate the name and the letters into your everyday play.

5. Point Out Logos

Just like many ancient civilizations used picture symbols to represent words, our companies today do the same thing. Toddlers can begin associating symbols with words quite early on in their life. It’s a great first step to reading.

After all, when you read, you just associate a symbol (letter) with a sound. Then you put them together to make a word.

So point out logos when you’re on the road. As your toddler gets a bit older, let her help pick out items at the grocery store. You can point to the symbol representing the brand you want, and let her help get them from the shelf.

As you go into each store, look at their logo. Pretty soon your child will remember that Wal-Mart has a yellow sun, Target has a red target, and the gas station has a shell. You can even make it a game to see who can find the logo first.

Then find logos in the newspaper and let your child color them. It’s a great activity when you need a few minutes of time.

6. Talk

Talk to you toddler about what you’re doing. Don’t feel like you have to dumb it down–use words even if you know your toddler doesn’t understand yet. That’s how we build vocabulary. By listening to others talk.

So share what you’re cooking for dinner. Talk about each step. It can feel sort of like a monologue at first, but as your child grows the conversation will become more of an actual conversation.

Talk about the clothes you’re setting out for tomorrow, and why your child needs to wear warm clothes. It’s the middle of winter after all! 😀 In the car, talk about the road signs and the traffic signals. Point out the bus stopping to pick up kids or the man walking the dog on the sidewalk.

Just talk.

Let your child play and create some narrative. “Oh, you’re making me soup in your kitchen! I’m so hungry, it’ll taste delicious! Do you think you could add a little pepper for me?”

Don’t worry about sounding crazy–it might feel weird at first, but your child will benefit!

Building Toddler Literacy Skills Isn’t Difficult

But, it does take time. Spend a few minutes each day purposefully working on these early language skills. Your child will be a better learning because of it!

What are your favorite ways to build toddler literacy skills? I’d love for you to share in the comments.

Rainbow Noodles Sensory Play--a fun way to keep kids engaged and exploring.

Rainbow Noodles: A Fun Sensory Activity

Recently, I was coming up on a writing deadline. I knew I needed a fabulous activity to keep the kids engaged while I sat nearby and worked on the computer. Rainbow noodles to the rescue!

Sensory learning is important!  I knew a low-mess activity could keep the kids playing and exploring for a while. So I brought a pot of water to a boil and cooked a pack of cheap fettuccine. You can use spaghetti, but I think the thicker texture of fettuccine holds up to play better.

To Make a Batch of Rainbow Noodles

Once the noodles were cooked to al dente, I drained them. To speed up the process, I ran cold water over them until they were cool enough to touch.

Then, I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and stirred to make sure everything was coated. I didn’t want the noodles sticking together.

The oily noodles got separated into several different bowls. I let each child who wanted to play pick a color, so we ended up with six bowls.

The kids picked their color, and added two drops of food coloring gel into their bowl. I handed them each a chopstick and let them stir.

When they were finished, the noodles were bright and colorful. We let them dry in the bowl for about fifteen minutes, while we took a short snack break. Kids who aren’t hungry are able to focus for a little bit longer, after all! 😀

Prepping for Play

After cleaning up our snack mess, I brought out a large paper plate for each child. I asked them to each head outside and select three rocks for meatballs.

The kids loved searching for the best meatballs!

While they were out, I scooped a little of each color noodle onto each plate. I added a pair of chopsticks and a plastic fork as well.

When the kids came in, they added their meatballs to their plate. Then I let them each pick two other tools to play with.

They picked:

  • Measuring cups
  • Spatula
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cookie cutters
  • Silicone muffin cups

Let the Fun Begin!

Then we gathered the rainbow noodle plates and the tools, and headed to the table. I spent a few minutes with the kids watching them play.

My son with disabilities (and Pica) immediately started eating his noodles. That’s why we were using an edible today!

As he was eating, he let them drop onto his head and arms. I knew he’d be fine and enjoy the activity.

The other kids were getting into their noodles. They started off playing with each color separately, but it didn’t take long until they were all mixed together.

Rainbow noodle play!

Then the free play started.

They cooked each other meals of noodles, added a certain amount meatballs to order, and arranged noodles into shapes.

Another child suggested making a rainbow out of the noodles, bending one of each color onto the table. They all picked out their noodles and tried to build their own.

They used chopsticks to see who could pick up the most noodles at once, and who could pick out only one of each color.

One decided to count how many noodles it took to fill a specific measuring cup.

They had a blast!

And I was able to sit nearby with my laptop and knock out some work. Win win!

Clean Up

When we were done, we tossed the rocks back on the driveway. We gathered all the big noodles and tossed them out for the chickens to eat.

A broom and dustpan took care of most of the remaining mess. A few pieces were sort of gummy and needed picked up by hand. Good thing there were plenty of helpers to help!

The next time I do this activity, I’ll likely cook up two boxes of noodles. That way everyone gets more to play with. If you have a smaller family, one box will probably work just fine for you!

The next time you’re looking for a low-key, open-ended sensory activity whip up a batch of rainbow noodles.

Rainbow Noodles Sensory Play--a fun way to keep kids engaged and exploring.