We are in the midst of a heat wave, so this was a perfect cool down activity. Your little ones will need to be supervised, in case they get a little too excited with their mallets.
What you will need:
A plastic container
Mallet or Hammer
Fill up with container with some toys and water. Throw it in the freezer over night until it is completely frozen. Once it is frozen, let the fun begin!
We started off using a hammer to break big chunks of ice off. Gray was so excited to be able to use a hammer. He is a Mr. Fix it, so using a big hammer made his day! Once we got large chunks off we moved to using the mallet, so we didn’t break any of the plastic toys.
The surprise of each new toy being found was amazing! We found toy after toy and kept chipping off at the large block. The heat helped melt some pieces away as we went and the ice was a nice cooldown treat.
My favorite part of this activity was wanting Gray figure out different ways to get the toys out. He started with the big hammer then the mallet. When those options weren’t working fast enough he dropped the large block on the concrete. After the block became smaller chunks, he used his hands to break small parts off. It was so entertaining watching his wheels turn and him problem solve.
Once all the toys were rescued from the ice block, we smashed the left over pieces. This activity wasn’t just for Gray, even Charlie got into the fun!
If you don’t have a container you could totally do this with an ice tray as well.
For starters, I’d like to take a moment of silence and remember what the beach was like without kids, when your biggest worries were tan lines and a solid beach read. A drink that you enjoyed cold, maybe even alcoholic, and listening to the soothing roar of the wind and ocean. Is it time to go home? Oh wait, doesn’t matter, because you don’t have to feed anyone but yourself. Stay as long as you want!
Okay, moment over, because the beach is much different now. Swim diapers, keeping mountains of sand out of every orifice of one’s face and vehicle, snacks snacks and more snacks, sunscreen applications, etc. Ahhhh, I feel relaxed just thinking about it. Even for those of us lucky to live by the seashore, a trip to the beach requires planning and bringing the right things, but we think we have figured out how to narrow down what is truly needed and still make sure everyone has a good time. Some of my favorite childhood memories take place on the beach, and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities to make their best memories too.
If you don’t already know, this magic substance removes sand like a mofo. I keep a bottle of it in our car just for this reason, and it works perfectly for sweaty playground sand too. Just generously apply and watch that beige demon fall right off. Otherwise, as well all know, it clings to the car carpet and bathtub for ages.
Bucket & Shovel
You do not need to load up the wagon with a ton of beach toys. A simple bucket and shovel is all they really need. Between chasing birds, running from the waves, and playing with seashells, an exorbitant amount of sand toys aren’t necessary. Give kids the chance be creative in their surroundings and make their own fun. This also decreases the amount of things you have to lug to and from the beach.
Flip that bad boy upside down, put something in each corner to hold the sides up, and just like that you have a little “sand free” area. This is great for when your little one isn’t mobile. It makes a safe area for them to lay, crawl, and sit without sand getting everywhere. Now, if you have mobile kiddos this will not stay sand free for long, but probably a little more so than a normal towel or beach mat.
Our canopy has been the best beach accessory we have ever purchased. It is big enough for everyone to fit under and is a great retreat from the heat. Our lunches, naps, and breaks from the sun are all done under our canopy. All beachgoers know that umbrellas and tents can take some trial and error. Some work well, some don’t. You don’t want to always be battling the beach breeze. Canopies are the perfect pop up solution when you need a little shade for little people.
Snacks & Water
This may sound obvious, but bring a ton of snacks and water. Like how much you think you will need times three. From the heat of the sun to the nonstop playing, snacks and water are key. I know I get a serious case of the hangeries and so do my kids. So, I always make sure I have more snacks and water then I think I will need. Some of our favorites: Watermelon, cucumbers, goldfish, and strawberries.
Frozen Juice Boxes
One of my favorite childhood “snacks” was a frozen juice box, and they are so easy and portable. Take your favorite brand of juice box (pouches like CapriSun work too, but are a little harder to hold for little people) and stick a few in the freezer the day before. Take them to the beach with a few spoons and peel open the top of the box. (Save those tiny straws for another day!) What you end up with is a perfect little juice slushy in a disposable box that’s easy to carry around. They stay frozen better than popsicles due to the box, and you can pick sugar-free juice boxes if that is something you are into. A great beach hack to get your kids to slow down and hydrate.
My preschooler could hang out at the beach all day long. She loves it and never wants to leave, but one of the challenges with having little babies too is that they can’t hang in the sun as long. One of the best beach investments I’ve made are these UV shirts. They are 50 SPF and lightweight, plus I bought them in white to keep my kids as cool as possible. Of course always use sunscreen, but when we have been at the beach for awhile I tend to throw one of these on my youngest to make sure her less-experienced skin doesn’t get too much color.
This may seem like a no brainer, but a trash bag is always a must when packing for the beach. There is already so much trash on our beaches that we do not need to add anymore. Bringing your own trash bag allows you to easily transport all your trash and anything that you may find while walking the shore from the beach. Help safe those cute little sea animals and help our beaches clean.
Seine Net & Kritter Keeper
If you have little nature lovers like we do, a seine net (or casting net) is a great thing to have. On my family beach trips my dad always brought one along. We would set up a glass tank on the deck of our beach house and have a little aquarium to watch for the week, and then we’d set them all free. For a day trip option, bring along a portable Kritter Keeper. There are so many creatures right there in the waves- seahorses, shrimp, small fish, hermit craps, pipe fish…your little ones will LOVE IT and you almost always catch SOMETHING with a seine net. It’s a great way to slow down and take the time to touch and learn on the beach.
Apply before you unleash your kiddos to the beach, then reapply, and reapply again. Sunscreen is such an important part of going to the beach. If you apply before they see the waves, you have a better chase of them staying still long enough to cover their entire body. Then once snack or lunch time rolls around reapply again. They will be too focused on eating to escape. Finding a good spray sunscreen is great for quick and mess-free reapplication.
This is a wonderful beach hack that I have to credit my husband for! Our oldest always gets sand in her eyes, but hates hates hates water in her eyes, so trying to flush out the sand is a NIGHTMARE. We have started throwing an unused make-up brush (just a cheap, soft one I grabbed at Target!) and using that to brush sand from eyes and eyelashes. Usually it does the trick! For rubbed-in sand you may have to break out the water bottle too, but this has definitely saved us a few tears on multiple occasions.
As you head to the beach, go with an open mind. Know that the beach with kids is a completely different experience than going alone. There will be so much sand, in bathing suits, their mouths, and your car. Don’t stress it, it will eventually disappear. Just think of sand as the glitter of the beach. So, go and enjoy making those memories with your little ones, and we hope some of these ideas helped make it that much more fun!
It’s officially summer break, and while we love the pool, the beach, and park dates with our friends, sometimes we have to stay home, stay indoors, and most importantly KEEP BUSY. Anyone else find that a challenge sometimes during the longest, hottest days of the year? We have plenty of indoor activities but sometimes I yearn for an opportunity to teach them new things. I often forget how easy (and impactful) it can be without even leaving the house. Or maybe, without leaving the backyard.
Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting the house ready for bed. I had to pull a few toys in from outside and saw a little toad on our back step. One day this past April we let Addie stay up late and “hunt toads” outside, knowing there were two hopping around. She had the best time and has been asking about hunting toads ever since, but we haven’t seen any, plus it gets dark SO LATE. So I scooped this little guy up, put him in our Kritter Keeper (one of the best kid-oriented purchases I’ve ever made) and let him hang out in the kitchen until the morning. Excited is an understatement. He ate breakfast right beside her. And me, being the worrisome mom I am, felt bad for starving him all night. I tried to find a cricket or moth outside and ended up finding a green tree frog (and an unlucky rollie poly) and a summer lesson was born.
Observing how things around us are alike and different is such a good exercise for growing minds. How often do we ask our littles critical thinking questions? So today we learned about frogs vs. toads. We started with the differences. I asked her which was the frog and she got it right! When I asked her to tell me about the frog. What does he look like? What color are his eyes? And then I just asked “What else?” letting her connect the dots and think of more things she could tell me about the frog. Then we did the same thing with the toad, and we started looking at how they were different. At the end of our “lesson” she was pointing out similarities herself. My favorite was that they both hop and say “ribbit ribbit.” When talking about differences, she noticed their toes the most of all things. Is that something we, as adults, would focus on?! But toddlers do. The frog’s toes were round, smooth, and sticky. The toad’s toes were pointy and “furry” as she said, but we decided she meant bumpy. She wanted to hold the frog first because she concluded that the toad’s toes would hurt. I assured her they wouldn’t, but how amazing are children?! I love how they look at the world and how they put things together.
We spent about an hour talking about the frog and the toad, naming them, and then playing with them outside before letting them go. Some quick research on the internet over breakfast gave me some facts I could share with her, like the fact that toads don’t have many predators since they taste terrible, but frogs have several predators. Frogs also like to live near water, but toads don’t have to. This helped us decide where to let them go and we talked about what bugs they like to eat. Before I knew it it was lunch time and I felt like we had a very successful summer morning!
If you don’t have an abundance of wildlife around you, this is still an activity you can do with your children, with anything! The difference between mommy’s & daddy’s car, the difference between two stuffed animals, the difference between seashells, etc. It may sound like a silly start, frogs, but it has really made me ask my daughter more prompting questions. WHY is that your favorite doll, WHY do you like strawberries, WHAT do you love about your sister? It gets their hamster wheel turning and gives my chatterbox something new to talk about.
We also pulled out the books we had which talk about differences. One of my favorites is Hello, Hello which shows how very different animals still have things in common. Another is You’re All My Favorites, which is about three bear siblings who are different and wonder who is their parents’ favorite bear. Several of the kids books already in our collection reinforced differences in animals and people, so we rode that wave all day.
How do you teach kids about differences? What are some of the questions you ask? What conversations do you have? We are all about teaching our kids the most we can about the world around them, people and animals alike, so please share your words of wisdom! Happy summering!
Summertime. The time for cookouts, sushiney holidays, swimming, and FATHER’S DAY! Anyone else struggle to find good Father’s Day gifts? Trying to find the perfect thing to fit in to his work/home/hobby balance that he will actually use? Tricky! But we think we’ve been pretty clever over the years.
I gave my husband this wallet last year and he cried! It is the perfect practical gift with a twist. You are able to personalize the wallet with their initials and a cute engraved note. It has held up well to daily use and is going to be hard to top this year.
A Personalized Watch or Bracelet
You are somewhat restricted with what personal effects you can wear in a military uniform, but I wanted to get my husband something he could wear with a personal message from us. I settled on a leather bracelet with a latin phrase on it and our kids’ initials. He can wear it under his sleeve. I was iffy about this gift, because again, he isn’t one for jewelry, but he loved it and wore it throughout deployment as a reminder of us.
Kids Mad Libs
There are a ton of free and cute Father’s Day themed mad libs all over Pinterest. We have done this with our kiddo the past two years and the answers are always adorable. They are a free and fun way our showing your spouse how special they are to the kids in your life. It is also easy to store away and read years down the road.
Building Memories with Legos
Both my husband and son love Legos, so this was perfect for them. Just find a mason jar, some big Legos, and brainstorm some activities with your little ones. We used twelve Legos, so they would get to pick a fun activity each month. It was truly the gift that kept on giving. To see exactly how it’s done click here.
I mean look how cute these are! You can make a card with any theme that suits your family. The best part, you can do this with the smallest of babies to older children. Just grab some paper or canvas, paint, and paintbrushes and you are ready to go. I love to look back at all of their hand/footprints art over the years to see how much they have grown. Sometimes we forget just how tiny they once were.
Have your kids help make a scavenger hunt to find his gift that includes some of dad’s favorite places. Stop by a hiking trail, park, coffee shop, sporting goods store, etc! This is something you can do in a pinch with whatever gift(s) you already have and your kids will love being involved.
Create a Dad-worthy Snack
Get kids in the kitchen and make dad a custom snack mix, just for him. Get a mason jar or other container and they can even design the label! Sweet tooth? More of a savory fan? Add in chex, cheese puffs, gummy bears, M&Ms, etc! Anything dad would like to sit down on the couch with while he relaxes. Then have your kids name the snack. This one is fun and super easy to do last minute. Plus he will probably get a good laugh from whatever name the kids go with!
A Fishing License
Father’s Day gifts don’t have to be something tangible you can hand Dad on the day-of. We sprung for a long overdue gift, a lifetime hunting and fishing license. While the lifetime license costs more, an annual permit can be purchased online for as little as $15 and let dad fish his heart out all year! Plus the money spent for these permits goes back into helping our state and our wildlife. Win-win! Check our the options for your state, or if he’s not a fisherman or hunter, consider another membership he might like! Crossfit? Golf Club? Coffee of the month club? Magazine subscription?
While maybe not every year, sometimes it’s fun to give dad a sentimental gift like us moms get often. Even if it’s not something practical. I found this music box on Etsy and had a picture of the girls from our last Father’s Day camping trip put in with it, and it plays his favorite song. It also has to do with a childhood memory of his, so checking all the sentimental boxes! Picturing our kids taking this off the shelf and playing the song for years to come made me tear up a little, I’ll admit!
If nothing else catches your fancy, DO SOMETHING DAD LIKES! Go to a baseball game, sleep under the stars, hit up a (family-friendly) brewery tour, take a hike, find a food festival. The possibilities are endless! But sometimes the best gift is simply time together and memories made.
If you have any other fun or creative Father’s Day gift ideas drop them below. We love seeing how everyone celebrates the holidays.