July 10, 2012
Educational Activities, Working with Kids
Dear Friends and Readers,
We have this OUTSTANDING summer Front Desk Manager who happens to also be our AMAZING Education Director during the school year, a former teacher/professional tutor, and pretty much my hero. Each week, she takes a step back from the administrative miracles she works at our front desk to lead our Summer Reading Club.
The kids track how many minutes they each read. They practice their silly voices and read aloud to one another. Our kids have been loving every minute of it! One of the girls is currently crushing me in a “who can read more” competition.
Unfortunately, field trips and days of chaos and vacations and this little thing called Independence Day have all fallen on reading club days. In an effort to keep kids engaged in reading club, I lead a “bonus” meeting a few days ago.
Gasp! I know, right? I got to pause from supervising staff and debriefing timeouts and talking to parents and ducking out for 2 minutes at a time (on a good day) to check my email. I got to play!
To celebrate this momentous occasion, (and because we already had the books checked out from the library for reading club), we had Mo Willems Day, also known as Miss Brenda’s Favorite Children’s Author Day. But, Miss Brenda, I thought Mo Willems books were only for preschoolers? Not anymore. Our elementary angels were…
Here is what we did:
- I read the Pigeon books aloud to the kids. They reacted & spoke the other half of the conversation to get warmed up. Since the whole group did it, no one was put on the spot. The kids loved it.
- Kids then read the Elephant and Piggie books in partners. I held back the desire to give any tips ahead of time and just waited & watched. Some kids used funny voices. Some kids used dramatic pauses. Some kids read LARGE PRINT VERY LOUDLY and small print in barely a whisper. Some kids stuttered and struggled but stuck with it. They all did amazing!
- Then we moved on to individuals reading books of their own. They each chose from the Pigeon books or Elephant and Piggie books or Knuffle Bunny books. They did equally outstanding with their solo efforts.
- And then, at the end, because I am and will always be a social worker at heart, we took turns telling each member how great of a job they did. I asked each of them to say at least one nice thing about one other person. Each one of them wanted to say something nice about every other person. Awwwww… I held in my I-am-emotionally-spent-and-need-a-vacation/can’t-hold-in-my-emotions-when-kids-encourage-each-other tears until they left the room. Once they went to their next programs? *Cue Niagara.*
What summer successes have you had this year?
May 16, 2012
Camp Themes, Elementary/Jr High Camp, Games & Activities, Preschool Camp, Working with Kids
camp activities, camp games, camp themes, day camp, summer camp
Dear Friends and Readers,
It’s that time of year, and we are all gearing up for a few months of Summer Camp Glory. If you are like me and have yet to plan activities for each of your wonderful themes, then this post is for you. Here is my list of 15 summer camp themes and corresponding activities. More will be added to the list in the future.
- An Indiana Jones Adventure
- Around the World
- Club Hollywood with the activities Survivor and The Amazing Race and Movie Day
- Harry Potter Day
- It’s A Jungle Out There
- MLK: Community Service Program with the activity LIFE
- More Than Conquerers
- Mud Pie
- Mystery Day Camp with the activity Clue
- Mystery Day Event (Preteen Girls)
- Ocean Commotion
- Outside the Box with the activities Safari Dodgeball, Big Taboo and Movie Day
- Pirates Versus Ninjas Day
- Summer Olympics
- Super Hero Day
What camp themes have you found successful?
April 21, 2012
Games & Activities, Just for Fun!, Working with Kids
adapted games, big taboo, board games, camp games, imaginative games, improv games, pictionary, puppet show
Dear Friends and Readers,
If you have never played this board game, you should. Now. It is sooo much fun!
You have to get your team to guess the word either by describing it without saying the Taboo words, describing it using as few words as possible, playing Pictionary, or using “Bendy Bob” to demonstrate.
We took this game and adapted it to fit camp and the kids loved it! Here’s how you play…
- Kids are divided into teams. I usually go with 2 or 4 teams to keep things easy.
- Create and cut out a list of objects or phrases and place them in a hat or bucket (or if you are short on supplies like us, an orange cone).
- Write the words “Pictionary,” “Charades,” “15 Words or Less” and “Puppet Show” onto sheets of paper and put those in a separate hat, bucket or cone.
- Kids have to select one word or phrase and one method of communicating it.
- They then worked to get their team to guess what the word or phrase was.
We used a bunch of donated beanie babies for the puppets. There is nothing like watching Selena Gomez the three inch ostrich and Justin Beiber the bright orange squid act out the phrase “Happily Ever After.”
Some of the younger kids needed a little extra help with charades, but this activity worked really well for kids 2nd – 6th grade. We have repeated the game a few times and kids always remember/get excited when we say we will play.
Thanks for reading!
April 1, 2012
Character Building Activities, Educational Activities, Games & Activities
health and wellness, Kick Butts Day, kids games and activites, smoke free, tobacco education for kids, tobacco free kids
Dear Friends and Readers,
Each March on Kick Butts Day, organizations throughout the country join with The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to spend one day promoting tobacco-free lifestyles amongst kids.
Last year for KBD, I planned a program for our members (6 – 15). We called it The ULTIMATE Smoke Free Challenge. Here is what we did:
6TH GRADE AND UP
- Challenge 1: Research Race.
- Kids divided into partners, went onto google, and raced to find the answers to questions on a worksheet. Teams got points for which ever questions they finished and got correct. They were SO into it!
- The questions focused on the cost of smoking v the cost of other things that kids want. Did you know that smoking costs in Indiana costs more each year than was cut from school budgets? SIGNIFICANTLY more. If half as many people smoked, and instead invested in our nations future, no teachers would have been laid off.
- Challenge 2: Make Your Own PSA.
- Kids were divided into groups of about 5 kids each.
- Each group planned and taped their own PSA for the younger kids to watch later. They brainstormed reasons to not smoke, chose one or two and focused on that issue in their PSA.
- Challenge 1: Name your group! Kids chose a smoke-free themed name for their group of kids.
- Challenge 2: What is in a Cigarette? A Matching Game.
- In groups, members were given a stack of notecards that had ingredients listed on it (examples: unicorn blood, pesticides (things that kill bugs or animals), acetone, gummy worms, etc).
- Members placed ingredients in two piles: things in cigarettes and things not in cigarettes.
- Kids were amazed at how many poisonous things were in cigarettes!
- Challenge 3: Clean Your Lungs!
- In groups, members were given 2 styrofoam bowls of chocolate pudding, 2 empty styrofoam bowls and a handful of toothpicks.
- Members were given 5 minutes to scrape out all of the chocolate pudding and put it in the empty bowls.
- The pudding represented the pollution in your lungs from smoking. Kids had a ton of fun and learned that once you smoke, you can never un-do the damage you have caused to your lungs.
- Challenge 4: Ignore the Ads!
- Members took turns blocking bouncy balls or ping-pong balls that were bounced towards them (like a goalie).
- For every ball that went behind them, kids had to give a reason why they shouldn’t smoke.
- As a group, we talked about how it is hard to defend yourself against the media and your friends when others want you to smoke.
- Challenge 5: Dare to Be Tobacco Free! Interested members signed pledges to be tobacco free.
What “tobacco free” programs have you lead with children?
March 21, 2012
Games & Activities
active games, camp games, creative reuses, definition of irony, dodgeball, elementary students, kids games and activities, outside the box dodgeball, physical education
Dear Friends and Readers,
Have you ever been in Kohls and seen those adorable, soft, cuddly, made-in-a-sweat-shop-by-child-slaves stuffed animals that raise money to help kids? 1. See previous sentence for the definition of irony. 2. We were given over 50 of these stuffed animals as a donation. OVER FIFTY.
All were lions except for one lonely little dolphin that has been adopted by one of our teen leaders. What on earth are we going to do with a bunch of stuffed lions? They are cute, and kids would love to have them as prizes or presents, but really? 50 lions?
Never fear, creative co-workers are here. Their idea? LION DODGEBALL!
During our “Outside the Box” themed Spring Break Camp, we took members down to a conference room in our building, cleared out the pictures hanging on walls and any tables and chairs, and played what was perhaps the best game of dodgeball I have ever witnessed.
Some of the lions tore along the seems, but for the post part they stayed in decent shape… decent enough that we will be able to use them for many more games in the future. We nicknamed one “Tail-less Tucker” because of an injury that he sustained in battle and touted him as our camp mascot for the remainder of the week. We later used the lions for relays and circle games.
What creative substitutes have you used for dodgeballs?
February 27, 2012
Educational Activities, Games & Activities
Hello Friends and Readers,
There are hundreds and thousands of wonderful people in my community who make donations to the Boys and Girls Club. Some donate money, some donate time, some donate art supplies and pencils and notebooks. Others donate books.
We have 1000+ books that kids could read and learn to love, but more often than not, they are ignored. They are left untouched on dusty shelves that are warping under their weight. Enter “Favorite Books.”
My friend Angie at Let Other Pens has been donating her time and librarian expertise to organize our library, and one of the ideas to promote reading that she proposed is to feature books like they do in real libraries and at school. Our staff could select their favorite books, but in reality, everyone has a hundred things to do all the time already. Adding this to their weekly schedules? Probably not going to happen.
So if our widely read, super-intelligent, rock star staff aren’t going to pick out favorite books to describe and highlight, who will? Why the kids of course!
Here is the worksheet we use for kids (mostly late elementary or older) to nominate their favorite books to be featured. Kids fill this out (during our homework/educational activities time or during free time) and turn it into staff. I then pick out a few of the books they nominated and display them along with a quote/their description.
How do you promote reading with kids?
February 25, 2012
Games & Activities, Just for Fun!, Preschool Camp
Dear Friends and Readers,
Sometimes, one word acts as a miracle all on its own. When working with kids, that one word is parachute, as in, it is time to play with the PARACHUTE! I remember loving the one day a year that we got to use the parachute in gym class as I was growing up. In the years since then, the power of the parachute has not faded.
When I was in college, a few friends and myself went to Romania to volunteer with children. In our limited space to pack our things and donations for the missionaries we stayed with, we made sure to make room for a parachute. And the kids loved it!
When I worked at the YMCA preschool camp, we brought out the parachute one day mid summer. It made at least a weekly appearance from then on for the rest of the summer.
Here are some games that we have played with the parachute:
- Making a Bubble: Lift up the parachute all at once, step underneath the parachute and sit down/bring it to the ground swiftly. This creates a “dome” that you can sit on the edge of… it lasts for only a few seconds but is a ton of fun!
- Making Waves: Try doing this fast, slow, medium, big, little, etc.
- Keep Off: Kids try to bounce balls off of the parachute by waving it as counselors/staff run around and throw the balls back onto the parachute.
- Popcorn: Kids try to bounce balls on the parachute making sure they are all moving but none “pop” off!
- Running Underneath: Kids wave the parachute. Call out two or three names and those kids get to run beneath the parachute to the other side.
What parachute games have you played with kids?