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Exploring "Home" with Kids

Wondering what to do to keep the excitement and fun of spring break going indefinitely? In these uncertain times that call for staying close to home, I’ll be posting an idea a day of things to do to keep kids busy and engaged in their world. Watch out. The longer the list goes and the potential of boredom and stir craziness sets in, the more creative the ideas will likely become!

1) It’s spring! Support the wildlife in your backyard, off your porch, or from a nearby tree with some of these bird-loving acts of kindness. The birds will repay you with bird watching activities in the upcoming mornings!

* Create a bird bath with the lid of a garbage pail. Fill it with fresh water each day.

* Make a bird feeder with a toilet paper roll or pine cone. Attach pipe cleaner or string so it can hang from a tree. Roll it in honey and then roll it in bird seed. (Warning: messy! Might want to do this activity outside.)

* Create your own binoculars with two toilet paper rolls and some tape. Add decoration! Then get ready to watch for birds in the morning.


* Draw the birds you see! Or take pictures. Listen for them and try to identify different birds by their chirps, calls and tweets.

* For the go-getter types, get a bird identification book or look up birding websites and create your own bird book.

2) Create a stuffed animal fashion show! Design clothes using yarn, string, mismatched socks, pipe cleaner, scraps of fabric, cut up rags, etc. We’ve wrapped Barbies in yarn and popped cats into socks to give them a fresh look. Then follow it up with a fashion shoot! Below is Buttons, our first catwalk model.

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3) Build a Fort! Are you a cozy fort builder who makes living room forts of blankets draped over chairs, filled with bean bags and pillows for a day of reading or tea parties? Are you the backyard builder who constructs with outdoor materials you collected yourself? Or are you the practical type that builds of boxes decorated with markers, stickers and cloth curtains? Whatever your type, enjoy Fort Day!

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4) Spa Day! Even boys like bubble baths. Drop in some boats, balls and bath dyes for fun. Then cozy up in robes or pajamas and rub on some lotions, make your own foot scrub, paint nails, do temporary tattoos, fix your hair fancy (or silly) and look glorious and glowing for another relaxing day at home!

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5) What can you make with a box? All kinds of things! One of my favorite projects as a kid happened on a day my mom gave me access to all the gift boxes in our house and some string. I spent hours making a train of decorated box cars strung together to pull my entire stuffed animal collection.

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With my own kids, we’ve made houses from giant boxes with doors that swing and windows with curtains. If you have a lot of big boxes, link them together to make a tunnel or train cars. Smaller boxes can become homes, buildings, docks or cars for Lego people and small plastic friends. Or make your own car with a box and paper plates wheels and steering wheel. For a completely different project, hide surprises for each other in boxes and play a guessing game. Or have a “very unbirthday” party with suprises in boxes. Unless today is really your birthday. Then Happy Birthday! I think I’ll give you . . . a box!

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6) Go biking! All ages love a good bike ride. Check the “Biking” section of the Exploring Austin with Kids guidebook or app for great spots to bike with kids. For now, you can take advantage of the lessened traffic and empty parking lots. Wear your helmet and bike friendly!

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7) Make your very own playdough! Not only is this the BEST playdough in the world – super soft and squishy – but you can custom color it. (We once tried all the food colors together. Helpful tip: it makes grey.) This recipe uses Kool Aid packets to color and scent the dough (the mysterious step #3 that is missing from our recipe). A few drops of food coloring works well too. Let it cool while you collect cookie cutters, plasticware, rolling pins, and molds from kitchen drawers and cabinets. Then have fun creating!

8) Make stuff! Pull out the yarn, string, scissors, glue, tape, paper, markers and crayons. Then go on a scavenger hunt around the house for more supplies - recycles, cardboard, sticks, flowers, bottle caps, toilet paper holders, plastic bottle tops, pipe cleaners, glitter (???), stickers, stamps, stamp pads, odds and ends, rubber bands, wine corks, bubble wrap, paper clips, magazines, boxes . . . Tip: Best place to look for supplies? The recycling bin!


Then start making. You can offer a theme or just follow your kid’s lead. They’ll know what to do!

9) Pick flowers. Find a good isolated spot with lots of flowers and get pickin’! Fill small jars or fancy vases with your finds and sprinkle them throughout your house for springtime cheeriness. In fact, I bet you have time now that you can even plant some from seed and watch them grow! Give your young waterers the job to keep them wet every day until they start sprouting. Then you’ll have made your own real live flowers.

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10) Bring out the mad scientists! Collect those science activity books from your shelves, google some fun experiments, or recreate the projects you tried as a kid. (I know you all made a baking soda volcano!) If you have a favorite project, link, or photo, help another parent out and add it in the comments.


11) Do a puzzle - or a few! Here’s a challenge for young puzzlers - arrange ALL your puzzles around the room from easiest to hardest. Then dump them out (one by one! unless you’re either REALLY good or like messes) and complete every puzzle that you own. For older puzzlers - pull out that 100, 500 or 1000 piece puzzle and get started! Are you a do-the-edges-first type? By color type? By shape? Go!


11) Find your secret hiding spot. With a break in the weather, get out and explore while the creeks are flowing and everything is green! Think of greenbelt trails you’ve passed that have looked empty and begged for exploring, creek areas in your neighborhood, green spaces, or hiking trails. For ideas, pull out your Exploring Austin with Kids guidebook or app to search under “Hikes,” “Creek Play,” or “Parks” in the Table of Contents. [Note that some parks are temporarily closed or have closed their restroom facilities. Stay spaced out when exploring too.]

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12) Have a fancy dinner party! Or snack or lunch picnic or high tea…. Pull out your fancy tea cups, candles, table cloths, freshly picked flowers, and cloth napkins. You can even make fancy tea cakes or little cookies to add to the occasion. Of course, you’ll need to get dressed up for this occasion. Bon appetit, mes amis!


13) You don’t need to go farther than your backyard to go camping. Ready for a change of scene? Pop up a tent and you’ve got a whole new space to play! You can make it a reading room, a place for cars, Lego building space (put them on a sheet for easy cleanup), a napping room, a doll hangout, or a game room. Or it could change every day….. Let me know what you do!

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14) Cozy up with a good book! If you’ve already read everything on your shelves, check out the Austin Public virtual Library. Or if you’re tired of the screen, support these local stores who are still keeping hungry readers fed: BookPeople with online shopping and Terra Toys curbside service! Follow your favorite bookstores and authors too. Many are offering amazing storytimes each day on Instagram!


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