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By GreatSchools Staff
An outdoor biology lab
A San Diego mother writes, "OK, you have to be an outdoor person for this. My husband and I take our daughter to a local park and catch tadpoles, using whatever we have—e.g., an old pool net. Catching tadpoles is not that easy and takes some timing and patience. We take the tad poles home and raise them in a bucket until they are frogs. After which we release them in a neighbor's pond.
"You would think we live out in the country, but it's the suburbs of San Diego. Interestingly enough, other kids and parents in the park end up joining us, so this process takes a few hours to do. Folks just can't help but try to catch tadpoles themselves!
"In the meantime, it's a great science project to watch a tadpole turn into a frog. And it's easy to manage—you just have to put fresh creek water in the bucket every day and keep the bucket in the shade."
If you can't visit all 50 states, explore your own backyard
"When I was a kid my father (an Irish immigrant) used to take us camping and we made a deal to see all 50 states before we graduated high school," writes a California mom. "With gas prices as they are, this will be hard for many. My father used to tell us all the great things that each state had to offer. He said many Americans don't even know what is in their own country.
"It is my feeling that today children need to step away from the computers, electronic games and TVs and see the great outdoors. We go camping, fishing, to local parks with picnics, and see the sights here in Southern California. We have taken other kids with us and I can't believe how many kids today have never camped in a tent or caught a fish. We play board games and draw the United States in the dirt. We each make up a story about another state and make up a vacation that would happen in that state. We look for bugs. We toss rocks and enjoy each other. We take books to look up what bugs we find or should look for and do the same with fish. We have taught our daughter how to skip rocks and entertain herself and others. She is 7 years old, and I feel she could survive longer if lost than most adults.
"I say just get out there and see your own back yard. Enjoy your kids while they still want to be around you. Teach them things your parents taught you."
Create a scavenger hunt in the city park
"Together the kids and I make a list of things to find at the park," writes a mom. "Like: two different colored flowers, something blue, something yellow, a unique rock, etc. Each kid gets a Ziploc baggie with a list of things to find. They search the park for things on the list, and then after a certain amount of time we look through all the items found and show each other all the different things we've discovered."
Create a one week mini-vacation
A single mother in Wisconsin writes, "I recently created a week-long fun filled mini-vacation. I felt so bad when my 5-year-old would come home talking about the big fun-filled vacations to places like Disney World and cross-country trips that his friends were going on. I then created a week-long mini-vacation called 'Mommy and Me Week.' I save my vacation time at work and take it in summer. We have T-shirts made, 'Mommy and Me Week 2006,' and travel to local places throughout one full week. You would be surprised how inexpensive the local fun retreats are. Places like the museum on the free day and amusement parks on an off-peak day and time. Not to mention all the half-price coupons on the Internet. Wisconsin Dells' two-day trip for $75.00, including hotel stay and admission into the water park, if you go on a non-peak weekday. Free passes from the local library to local attractions. Movies in the park (bring your picnic basket and blanket). The movies are usually something old like 'Finding Nemo,' but the kids still enjoy themselves. Last but not least, the park districts are always hosting something free for the kids throughout the summer. The kids will have awesome stories to tell about their BIG summer vacation."
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