Monday, August 9, 2010

Final Flings and Chasing Summer

Soon we will be knee deep into August.  Some of you may have kids beginning school, others may be contemplating one last vacation or summer fling before sending the kids off to school.  Summer's heat though, is making it difficult to think of school or the rush for school supplies.  So I thought I would talk about enjoying August just a bit longer, while enriching your kids' skills and intellect and having fun whether you leave your neighborhood or not.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Visit a sculpture garden or park, and/or create your own!  Collect old boxes, plastic drink cartons, old furniture, old sheets and towels, empty paper towel rolls, glue and rope.  Have your kids and their friends create 'sculptures' in the back yard.  Then, have the artists give a tour.  If you want them to practice writing skills, have them write up a promotion advertising their park and their art.  Then, go visit sculpture gardens near you.  You may want to talk about how long you think it may have taken to make the sculptures.  Talk about the materials selected and used by the artists.  Talk about how the sculptures were placed in the garden to enhance the view or landscaping.

2. Go Apple or berry picking.    Then come home and bake or make jam with the fruit you picked.  As an incentive or reinforcement, (especially if your kids are young) read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.

3.  Go on a Safari.  Hunt for bugs, or bears, for the most fragrant flower or elusive bird, or for a dreaded pirate.  Your hunt can be real or virtual!  Either way, it can be lots of fun.  And, there are some really cute books about kids going on hunts which you can read aloud as well.  You can even go on book hunt at the local library or bookstore about kids going on hunts.

One book I love reading with younger kids is We're Going On a Bear Hunt Retold by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.  What is so nice about this book is that there is a distinctive pattern in the story that makes it fun to read and chant together.  As the family goes on the hunt they go over tall grass, cross a river, slop in mud, navigate a forest and survive a snow storm, making really cool sounds as they overcome each obstacle. Not only can you find and make your own (real or virtual) obstacles, creating your own sound effects can be loads of fun.  The other thing I like about this book is that it deals a lot with sequences and patterns and pointing out these patterns and making your own is a wonderful way to build these skills in your kids' repertoire.

IF there are a lot of flies and insects on your hunt, you may want to read a vivid picture book for kids of all ages:  Diary of a Young Fly by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Harry Bliss.  This is truly a wonderful book whose illustrations and fun facts will enable numerous fascinating text-departures.  I just loved it!

3. Go Kite Flying.  You may even want to make the kites and have a contest - have your kids design and experiment with aerodynamic designs.  To supplement this activity, there are some wonderful stories about kite flying kids.

One is a picture book by Jane Yolen, The Emperor and the Kite illustrated by Ed Young and winner of the Caldecott award.  The story is about the Emperor's smallest daughter who is not thought of very much by her family (if at all) and spends her days playing with a kite made from paper and sticks.  The Emperor is captured and imprisoned and it is this daughter and her kite who save the day.

Another favorite read aloud book of mine is for older kids, a wonderfully engaging chapter book, called Dragonwings by Laurence Yep.  It is a Newberry honor book and the first of a trilogy about a Chinese immigrant boy who is brought to San Francisco at the turn of the century (1909) to join his father, Windrider. This is excellent historical fiction that deals with the great earth quake, Chinese immigrants and the railroad, bigotry, segregation and aeronautics (Windrider is a master kite maker who builds an airplane).

4. Visit Historical Sites in your area. I live on the East Coast and there are so many colonial homes and sites.  If you have any of these landmarks in your area, go visit them.  Then when you come home, imagine what your home would be like if you lived in that era.  Maybe make some home made ice cream as they would have in Colonial times, or try preparing a Colonial dinner.  Be creative!

These are just a handful of suggestions.  I'd love to hear your ideas!  I will be sharing more about taking advantage of your 'neck of the woods' in future blog entries.  In the meantime, enjoy these final summer flings!


  1. I love your ideas for end of summer. Pairing an activity with a related book extends both - the experience and the book!

    One of my 3 year old's favorite books, Foolish Rabbit's Big Mistake (, goes well with apple picking. An apple falls from a tree under which the foolish rabbit is sleeping. Then ensues the "sky is falling" story. The pictures are rich with color and texture. After one reading, he "read" the book to his daddy and teenage brother.

    Another of his favorites is Camomile Heads for Home ( It's a longer book for a 3 year old, but has many little extras in the illustrations. We have some farms in our area that cater to child visits. That would fit this book well.

    I love any discussion of books for kids. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for your comments, both sharing these two wonderful books and your comment about loving book discussions. I too love talking about books as do my kids. My kids are older now and when friends/colleagues ask about books to read to their kids, my kids light up when recommending their favorites. I bet yours will too!

    I will talk a lot more about books - thanks again!

  3. Found your blog on SheWrites. I'm looking forward to following as my youngest daughters(twins) start middle school tomorrow.

  4. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I loved teaching middle school! The kids are really coming into their own and there are so many issues to face and deal with. I wish you and them a lot of luck and PLEASE, let me know if there is anything you'd like me to discuss.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!