I hate to beat a dead horse, but the heat of the past few weeks has worn me out. I probably don't take my kids outside as much as I should. It could be hot for several more weeks, so why not make the best of it? I've hunted up some fun learning activities that give you a chance to beat the heat.
Sink or Float
My boys can entertain themselves for hours with a bucket of water and some random items from our back yard. Start off with a large, clean pail filled with clean water. Play a game of "sink or float" collect small objects from around the yard and house. You might try sticks, rocks, leaves, small toys, empty bottles, etc. Predict whether they will sink or float, then test your prediction. Your toddler will enjoy experimenting with her environment and, of course, cooling off in the water. She may just like it enough to climb right into the bucket!
**Bonus: Older kids may like to discuss why objects sink or float.
Ice Cube Painting
Preschoolers will enjoy creating a cool piece of artwork while learning about the different stages of water. Kate of minieco.co.uk shares this beautifully simple activity. Freeze a tray of ice cubes, each colored by a few drops of food coloring. (If you are concerned about artificial dyes, India Tree makes natural food colors. Or you can make your own.) Once the cubes have frozen, pop them out of the trays and get creative! This activity is a great way to expose kids to how colors mix to make other colors. What happens when they paint with a red ice cube over a yellow spot?
Kate recommends laying out lots of paper, since this activity can get messy. Also, you can prevent stains on little hands by rubbing on a little moisturizer beforehand. For very young kids, who may to eat the ice, try plain ice cubes on dark paper. They will still get the sensation of the ice and the dark paper will show wet spots easily.
Ice Cream in a Bag
The Living Healthy Mom shares a fun ice cream recipe that is sure to keep you cool. This activity will help your kids practice measuring. It's also a great way to avoid artificial colors and flavors you may find at the local ice cream shop. If you have ever seen Superman ice cream ... ahem … on its way out, you know what I mean.
- Add 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla to a small zipper storage bag and seal it.
- Place ice and rock salt in a larger zipper bag.
- Put the smaller bag inside the larger zipper bag with the ice and rock salt. Seal the bag.
- Shake the two bags until the ice cream freezes to your desired consistency. This should take about 15 minutes. If your child finds the bag too cold to hold, insulate it with a hand towel.
**Bonus: With older kids, discuss why the salt helps the ice cream to freeze. Hint: The salt lowers the freezing point of the ice.
Older Child (10+)
Build a Solar Oven
Too hot to cook inside? Hot, sunny days are a perfect opportunity to cook outside and learn about solar energy. Going-Green-Challenge.com provides detailed plans for building a solar oven. The project uses a pizza box, shoe box, or shipping box; aluminum foil; black construction paper; a skewer or dowel; and plastic wrap. You will also need some basic household tools. The original instructions are quite involved, and I wouldn't do them justice to summarize, but you can find everything you need to know here: http://www.going-green-challenge.com/solar-oven-for-kids.html. Going-Green-Challenge lists five solar cooker recipes to try, including mini pizzas and s'mores. What other delicious dishes could you cook by sunlight?
**Note: This project requires the use of a box cutter, and will need the help of an adult.