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Volume II
March 31, 2006

Spring Fever

Springtime is finally here! What a beautiful time of year. Are you and your kids just itching to play outside? I can’t wait to start hauling my kids to the park everyday to soak up the sunshine.

Here are some inexpensive springtime activities from the Penn State Extension Service.

Ages 2-3

-- Visit a farm. A lot of things happen on farms in the spring. Plan to show your child the field work and animals, particularly baby ones. Look at the farm equipment.

-- Watch the road repair crew. Spring is a good time to watch crews repair winter damage. Children love trucks, bulldozers and cement mixers. You also might visit a construction site.

-- A "make-myself" salad. Your child can design a salad portrait using a peach half for the body, a half of a hard-cooked egg for the head, shredded cheese for the hair, etc.

-- Force leaves and flowers. Put a branch that is just beginning to bud, such as forsythia, pussy willow or a fruit tree, in water. Pussy willows that root can be planted outside.

-- Act out nursery rhymes and stories. One person can recite a nursery rhyme while another acts it out. An easy one is "Jack Be Nimble." Try acting out a rhyme for your child to guess. Good plays include "The Three Bears" and "Three Billy Goats Gruff."

-- Family stories. Tell your children stories from early babyhood. They also will love to hear about what they did that day, or things that have happened to them or the rest of the family. If they have stories to tell, write them down and share them with the others.

-- Play dough. Mix one cup flour, a half cup of salt, a half cup of oil and enough water to make dough. Add food coloring to the water or two tablespoons of dry tempera to the flour.

-- Make Mother's and Father's Day cards. It's never too soon to encourage your children to do special things for the family. Write on the card the messages they give you.

Ages 4-6

-- Learn signs. If your children get lost, they will feel -- and be -- safer if they recognize familiar signs. Point out signs as you walk or drive. Talk about their shapes and colors. Draw signs or cut them from magazines and paste them on paper to take along.

-- Grocery shop. Let your children help make a store list. They can gather nonbreakable items that they know by the pictures, like cereal or crackers. They can choose a vegetable, fruit or bread. They also can help put food on the checkout counter and hand the cashier any coupons.

-- Make cottage cheese. Heat one cup of milk to boiling, add two tablespoons of lemon juice and stir. Strain to separate the curds and whey.

-- Cheese tasting party. Use different cheeses, such as mozzarella, brick, cheddar and Edam. Compare color, taste and appearances: "Swiss cheese has holes, cheddar is orange."

-- Animal babies. Watch for calves, lambs, foals or chicks as you drive. Visit a zoo. Look at a book with pictures, such as "Animal Babies." Cut baby animals from magazines and make a scrapbook. You can print the name of the animal on the page.

-- Grow a garden in an eggshell. Save washed eggshells that have been broken in half. Prick the bottoms with a long needle. Stand them in an egg carton (lined with foil if cardboard). Add a little coarse sand or pebbles to each shell, then add soil to a half inch from the top. Plant two or three seeds, then place your garden in a sunny window. Water it daily. When the weather warms, you can plant the shell and all outside.

-- My very own place. It may be only a drawer in a chest, but all children should have a private place to store their treasures. Make and decorate a box together for special things.

Ages 7-8

-- Plan a family night. Your children will enjoy a turn planning a family night with games that they suggest. Ideas include charades, a puppet show, dancing to records and reading stories.

-- "Great Moments" family scrapbook. Give each "great moment" plenty of room for expression. Great moments might be the time you were trapped during the "big blizzard," or your child's first day of school. You might start the book during a family vacation.

-- Visit a jug farm dairy store. Some farms process and bottle milk. Check ahead to see if and when you might tour the barns, watch the cows get milked and watch the milk being bottled. Follow the process from calf to heifer to milk cow to milking to bottling, and -- if possible -- the making of ice cream. An ice cream treat might be a special ending.

-- Visit the lumber yard or hardware store. Explain the various nuts and bolts. Watch a key get made. If the store cuts glass or planes wood, watch the workers. Watch paint being mixed and let your child take home color samples. Look at the tools and let your child help decide which one to buy. At home, your child can help use the new tool or play with the paint samples or other things you got at the store.

-- Tadpoles. Listen to a marsh or pond in early spring. If you hear frogs, walk gently into the water with a jar and wading boots. Frog eggs are found in masses, like strings of pearl, or floating clumps. Scoop them into the jar with some pond plants. Feed them a little corn meal daily. Add water when needed. Return them to the same pond when they become large.

-- Grow an American flag. Design a flag garden in a sunny area about 28 by 36 inches. Draw the flag on dug-up earth with sticks or clothespins and string. Plant blue petunias for the star area and red and white petunias for the stripes. The strings help keep colors separated.

-- Tie dye paper. Pour a half-cup of warm water into several plastic containers. Add five or more drops of food coloring. Fold tissue paper or paper towels and dip the corners into the dye. Unfold the paper and let it dry. Refold it another way and dip into another color, etc.

-- Bottle symphony. Fill eight bottles or glasses with varying amounts of water until you have the eight tones of the scale. Tap the bottles with a spoon and try playing some favorite tunes.

For more information on "Family Time," a program designed to help parents and children spend time together, contact your county Penn State Cooperative Extension office.

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