Thursday, June 20, 2019

Creative Activities with Sidewalk Chalk


Sidewalk chalk: a summer staple in the home of many children. But after drawing some pictures and writing your names in bubble letters, what else can you do? Check out some ideas for ways you can use your sidewalk chalk today!

Obstacle Course or Maze

Draw a maze big enough for you to walk through. Ask a sibling or friend to collaborate with you and see who can make their way out of the maze first without getting stuck in a deadend! Or draw an obstacle course with different directions for each part. For example, “walk with big giant steps through this section”, “tiptoe through this area”, or “jump through this section, but make sure your feet both land inside the chalk circles or you have to start again”. Time yourself making your way through the course and try to get better and better each time!

Hopscotch Skill Review

You may get bored of the same old hopscotch pattern and game after jumping back and forth on it a few times. But add something to the squares and it becomes a summer skill review!

If you have a child just learning colors or shapes, you can draw them in the squares and as they hop through them, they can name the color and shape. “Green square! Blue triangle! Pink star!” Then take it a step further… Can you find something in nature or your neighborhood that is that shape?

If your child is a bit more advanced and focusing on letters or numbers, add those to the squares. Hop on a letter G? What starts with G? Grapes! What sound does the letter G make? Hop on the number 7? Count to 7! Count backward from 7 to 0! Name 7 types of animals! There are so many possibilities!

Other suggestions for things to add to your hopscotch squares are: sight words, math facts, and tricky words to spell.

Finish the Picture

Draw a line, a squiggle, a shape, a blob… Just draw anything to start with, and then challenge your child to “finish” the picture. Turn that line into a fishing pole… Turn the squiggle into the crazy hairdo of a mad scientist… Turn the square into the frame of your grandma’s house… Turn the blob into the body of a silly monster… Test your creativity and collaborate on your chalk artwork together!

Life-Size Comics

Have you always wanted to star in your own comic strip? Create your own giant, outdoor comic on your driveway this summer! Trace your body (or have a friend trace your shadow if it’s too hot to get down onto the driveway!) and then draw speech bubbles over your head. Become your alter ego, draw a conversation with a friend, or join your favorite team of superheroes! Your imagination is limitless.

Village Map

If you bring your cars, dolls, or animals outside with you when you play, you need a place for them to hang out, too! Draw a map of a town or city for them to play in. Drive your cars around a city and have them ride to some fun places you design, have your dolls visit a park you make and decorate the houses you create, or let your animals explore a jungle or other habitat you draw.

Games

Tic-tac-toe, hangman, even checkers are a few of the games you can play on your driveway if you draw your game board with sidewalk chalk. Draw a checkers board and use acorns, rocks, bottlecaps, or even blocks as checkers. If you want to “erase” your letters to start over with hangman or tic-tac-toe, just grab a wet sponge and wait a few minutes for the hot summer sun to dry your game board.

Broad Jump Challenge!

Draw a line with chalk as your starting position, then jump! Mark your landing spot, then go back to the starting line and try again. Challenge your brother, your sister, your friend, your mom, your dad, or someone else to beat your record!

Special Greeting

Is it someone’s birthday in your house? Is someone going on a trip and you want to welcome them back in a memorable way? Are your parents celebrating their anniversary this summer? Celebrate the special event with a greeting written in sidewalk chalk! When they see your message, they’ll feel so special!

Happy Drawing!

The best thing about sidewalk chalk art is you can try something new next time, so you have all summer to try these ideas. Just wait till the next time it rains to have a blank canvas to start again!

Monday, June 10, 2019

10 Tips to De-Stress



Stress. 

From Tony Soprano or Homer Simpson, no one is immune to feeling overwhelmed from time to time. I know a lot of teachers in particular who get stressed out over the balancing act they constantly have to master in their busy jobs. I thought the end of the school year would be a perfect time to discuss some of the ways you can de-stress your life and break away from the pressure you're feeling to get everything done right this minute.


#1: Take a Deep Breath


Totally cliche, but it is said time and time again for a reason. Taking a deep breath in through your nose and blowing out from your mouth slowly can lower your heart rate and make you feel much calmer in a short period of time. If you need to take a second for yourself, this is the first thing you can try to calm yourself down. 


#2: Laugh Out Loud


Just the act of laughing can make you feel better. Start with a smile (fake it till you make it, to add another cliche!) and then think of something that'll make you chuckle. 

Can't make yourself laugh on command? Hop onto YouTube for a few minutes and search for funny videos... Just taking a beat away from what's troubling you can help you feel better. And when you go back to deal with your responsibilities, you'll be doing so with a fresh attitude and lighter demeanor.


#3: Make a List


When I am feeling overwhelmed, it's usually due to the fact that my mind is racing faster than I can keep up and, while I'm usually intensely motivated to be productive, I end up accomplishing nothing substantial because the ideas are just bouncing around up there. I solve the problem by writing out a list of tasks I'm excited to do (or not excited, in some cases) and then order them by level of importance. I find that this organizes my thoughts better and holds me accountable for actually doing the things I need to get done. 

Plus, it feels sooo good to cross those things off as I complete them! Bonus!


#4: Listen to Music


Music is incredibly therapeutic for me. Sometimes there's nothing better than a great song to get you out of a funk!

When I'm listening to music to de-stress, it helps to use headphones. I feel like then I really concentrate on listening to the lyrics or the instruments and it helps me avoid distractions. (This also works well if you're alone in your car and you can crank the volume up to the max!)


#5: Go for a Drive


Sort of hand-in-hand with the music thing, going for a drive can really help you clear your mind and feel better. (If you are going for a drive and listening to music, please DO NOT wear headphones for the sake of safety!) I remember going for a LOT of drives by myself during one of the most stressful times in my life... When I was planning my wedding (I swear I wasn't a bridezilla and I never once had cold feet, but just the idea of spending so much time and money on ONE DAY made me stress like crazy!). I totally felt better after driving down some winding country roads for a while. Now with two kids under 3 years old, it's a little harder to just hop in the car and go, but I can't say I've never done it!


#6: Write About It 


This works well if you find writing relaxing. If it's going to stress you out to write or if your hand is going to cramp because you haven't written since you had a high school book report, then this strategy may not be for you.

If you DO enjoy writing, however, this is a great way to figure out the source of your stress and get it out of your head. Occasionally, if I am super stressed, but don't exactly know why, I just start typing without any real plan of where I'm going. It's amazing how I can usually end up figuring out what's irking me once I start venting to my word processor. (No, you guys don't get to read those pieces... Trust me, you're better off!)


#7: Do Something Nice for Someone Else

I always feel better when I do something nice for someone else. It gets my mind off of myself and my worries and onto how I can make someone else's day. It could be as simple as doing a chore around the house that your spouse usually takes care of... It could be sending a friend a text to let them know you've been thinking about them and want to get together... It could be sending a "just because" gift to someone... It could be stopping by to visit someone you haven't seen in a while... It could be baking cookies and dropping them off... 

Bottom line is, it doesn't have to be fancy, grand, or expensive... It really is the thought that counts and when you're thinking of how to make someone else happy, oftentimes your own happiness grows exponentially, too. 


#8: Have a Snack


Have you eaten today? If you're stressed out, running on fumes isn't helping! Trust me, there are some days where I start feeling anxious and worried about getting everything on my to-do list done and an embarrassingly LARGE majority of those times, I realize all I've had that day was a few cups of coffee and a handful of Cheerios I snarfed down when I poured my son's bowl. For me, I usually need carbs when I feel like this, so I keep my favorite cinnamon bread on hand or have some pasta for lunch... But figure out what works for you and take a break to have a meal.


#9: Play a Game


While I have often heard that stepping away from your smartphone can eliminate your level of stress, sometimes your smartphone can be used as a tool to help get rid of that stress that's building. I have four games on my phone - Solitaire, Sodoku, Bejeweled, and Wordscapes. When I'm feeling stressed out or worried or if I'm waiting for something anxiously, I can open my Games folder and play whichever one I'm in the mood for. 

For me, I need to be creating words, working with numbers, or matching colors to feel distracted. For you, it might be something else that works... Maybe you're into sports or roleplaying games... Find something you enjoy that makes you feel relaxed and remember that it's always just in your back pocket if you need it (or wherever you happen to keep your phone, ha ha!).


#10: Ask for Help!


This is by far my weakest area of expertise, even though I know it is sometimes very, very, VERY necessary to eliminate stress. But I despise asking for help or admitting I need assistance of any kind. I like to do things myself, figure things out for myself, and look back and feel like I accomplished something all on my own. 

Let's face it, we are human beings and we need other human beings to survive. Asking for help does not make you weak (I need to write this down 100 times on a chalkboard) and accepting help will more than likely help you solve some of the stress you're dealing with. If you're lucky enough to have people in your life who CAN help, then please don't try to be a superhero and take it on all by yourself.

So if you're a parent stressing out about all the things you need to do around the house while you're pulling your hair out because your kids are sick and they just want to cuddle, tell your spouse or your best friend or your mom that you could really use someone to vent to or someone to throw a load of laundry in... If you're a teacher worrying about getting end-of-the-year assessments completed before that Father's Day project and then starting your report cards, walk across the hall and tell your coworker what you're going through (she's probably stressed about similar tasks, too!)... If you're a college student who's working on top of all of your classes and trying to find an hour a week to have some semblance of a social life, go out with that friend and take a load off... Trust me, it pays off.


Good Luck!!

I really hope that you can utilize some of the strategies above. I know they've helped me out when I've been stressed out! If you have some other great ways to de-stress that you'd like to share, post them in the comments. 


I'd like to add a little disclaimer here that these are just strategies I use personally... I am not a doctor and if your stress is the type that needs medical attention, please seek it. Best of luck!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Summer Journal Prompts

Are you trying to keep your students or children writing over the summer, but finding it challenging to come up with topics for them to write about? Encourage them to start a summer journal (seriously, you can grab a composition book from Walmart for less than a buck!) and use the prompts below to get their words flowing.

Remember, writing doesn't have to be like pulling teeth! Especially during the summer, it should be a fun and creative process! So without further ado, here are the prompts...

The "Fiver" Lists:


Name five people you'd like to spend time with this summer.

List five places you'd like to visit this summer.

Think of five foods you'd love to eat this summer.


The "Goals" Prompts:


Tell about a goal you have this summer. 

Is there a skill you'd like to improve upon this summer? Is it a sport, hobby, or academic skill? What is your plan for getting better at it?

What goal would you like to achieve before you start school again?


The "Favorites" Entries:


Describe your favorite story. Why is it your favorite? Who is the main character? What is your favorite part in it?

Describe your favorite television show. What is it about? Who else would enjoy watching it? Do you have a favorite episode?

Describe your favorite junk food. Does it satisfy your sweet tooth or is it a salty snack? How often do you eat it? 


The "Fiction" Story Starters:


I woke up this morning and realized I'd overslept! How did my alarm not go off? Why didn't my parents wake me up? I rushed to get ready and flew downstairs to grab my backpack before the bus drove away without me. I found my mom and little sister in the kitchen having breakfast. "What's wrong?" My mom looked at me strangely. "Anxious to get your first day of summer vacation started?"

It was just like any other regular day at the beach. I was digging in the sand with my friends. We were going to build a giant moat around our sandcastle. Suddenly, my shovel hit something hard. A rock must've been buried deep in the sand. I kept digging. Hmm, rocks don't normally make a clanking sound like that... I dug some more and realized what I was uncovering. It was a treasure chest!

We were on the boat and getting further and further away from the shore. It wasn't my first time on a boat before, but for some reason, I was feeling nervous. Just then, I heard a splash and turned my head toward the sound. "What was that?!" My brother shouted, voicing the question that was on my mind, too. "It looked like a sea monster!" He added, eyes wide and full of shock. It couldn't have been... Sea monsters aren't real... I tried to rationalize the ideas in my head, but just then, something jumped out of the water again...

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Just for Summer! Fun Resources for Break

Looking for activities for your children this summer? Look no further! New this year, I have created some resources for parents (and teachers) to do with their kids. I will be adding more throughout the summer, so be sure to check back for updates!


Currently, I have the following printables available...

Playground Challenge Charts

License Plate Challenge

Road Trip Bingo

Summer Reading Wish List & Log

Summer Journal

Summer Fun Activity Bingo