Our Mystery Map and Backyard Treasure Hunt was so much fun!
This is a great outdoor activity, and while it’s still quite hot outside as I write this, fall is coming. (Please hurry!!)
When I did this with my girls, I actually drew the map. I love maps, and I love floor plans, so for me it was astounding fun to create a layout of the backyard. Another option, however, is letting your kids make the map. Or make it a collaborate effort. It really depend on the ages of your children.
My main goal here, however, was the treasure hunt, as opposed to the map making. The latter, of course, is a great activity too, but instead of making the map, I had my kids navigate the one I made. With the goal of finding treasure!
I got some new small toys (in this case, Tsum Tsums mini plush) and hid them inside some large-sized Easter eggs. Then I hid the eggs outside, handed the kids the map, and let them loose.
The instructions I had given them were to search the yard and make marks on the map to assist in the search.
Essentially, their mission was to mark off on the map each time they found an egg, and to cross off sections they searched which did not contain eggs.
As you can see below, I included everything from a bird bath to the tree swing on my map, but it doesn’t have to be that detailed. Unless you’re obsessive like me – then go all out!
My kids decided to use the two colors of markers for different purposes. They chose purple to circle the places where they found eggs, and pink to cross off the places they looked that were egg-less. I’d let them know there were four eggs, so they also knew when to stop.
Then they got to open their treasure eggs. So the hunt was fun, the treasure was exciting, and I was happy because they were outside in the fresh air. Wins all around.
No backyard? No worries! This can also be done inside (drawing couches and tables instead of trees), or you can head to your local park. If you’re planning a treasure hunt in a public place, however, you may want to hide vouchers of a sort that they can trade in for eggs, so that your kid can still find something but you don’t have to worry about someone else walking off with the treasure.
And, of course, y’all know I’m gonna talk about books if I get the change, right??
This was a project we did awhile ago (what can I say – it’s been a weird few years *shrugs*), but I got excited when I found a recent picture book that goes along with nicely with this type of activity.
The Boy Who Loved Maps by Kari Allen and G. Brian Karas is such a fun exploration of map making! It follows two children through the process of making a map of their neighborhood – and also exploring different places around the neighborhood – so if you’re already making a map of your backyard like we did here, this book makes a great visual for kids.
It has some educational backmatter to help you describe map making to kids, and it can give them ideas for drawing their own. Plus, it’s also an adorable story! The language used to describe their environment is nothing short of magical. I definitely recommend reading it.
This year, my kids and I did a painting activity and a cookie project that mimicked fireworks. First, we stamped fireworks with toilet paper rolls, and then we baked some chocolate cookies and iced them in patterns to represent bursts of color.
Both of these things were done on dark backgrounds to make it look like our paint and sugar fireworks were exploding against a nighttime sky.
Even threw in some glitter (edible and not-so-much) for a little extra spark!
First up: the painting project.
We reused some toilet paper rolls by transforming them into stamps.
To make the firework-shaped stamps, cut slits around one side of the cardboard roll, making the incisions about a quarter-inch wide (my kids made a few slivers; don’t aim for uniformity here), and then bend back the strips against the palm of your hand to make the pieces stick out.
I put some red, white, and blue (washable) paint into three small paper plates, and we dipped the stamps into the plates and then pressed them into the paper to make our fireworks.
To get a neat effect, overlap your stamps.
After you’ve covered your paper in fireworks, sprinkle with glitter for a fun sparkly touch!
Allow the paint to dry before shaking off the excess glitter and displaying your art.
These cookies were not only fun to make – they were delicious too!
Just like the painting activity, we used the red, white, and blue colors against a dark background (in this case chocolate) to represent the fireworks bursting against a night sky.
You don’t actually NEED to double the icing – the recipe already makes plenty – but I wanted to make extra, double, totally sure that we’d still have enough icing if my girls ended up squirting most of it onto the counter instead of the cookies.
It turned out, one batch probably would have been more than enough . . . except that one of my containers burst and half of the blue icing spilled out onto a couple of cookies.
But that’s an anomaly. (Hopefully.)
When you make the icing, be sure to stir it well until there are no lumps and it drips easily from the fork or spoon in thin ribbons.
Not watery – just thin. If it’s too thick or clumpy it will clog your spout.
I used my Wilton Candy Making Decorating Bottles. Mine are quite old but they usually work fine only sometimes explode. (But seriously, this is the first time I’ve had a problem.) I’ve been meaning to pick up some new ones anyway. They’re pretty easy to clean and my girls just love using them.
But if you don’t have bottles like these, you could just as easily put the icing into three separate plastic baggies and snip off the ends to squeeze out the patterns.
If you’re using the bottles, I poured the white icing into them and then mixed in the food coloring with a wooden skewer, the kind used for making shish kabobs. You could do the same with the baggies, or, if you’re not lazy like me, you could put the icing into three bowls and add the red and blue food coloring to two of them, and mix them before pouring them into the containers.
I made the icing while the cookies were in the oven. You could make it much earlier in the day, but the longer it sits, the more likely to thicken and then you’ll have to worry about mixing in more water or stirring it to thin it again.
As you can see, we took the easy way out with these “cut out” cookies: no cookie cutters. We just sliced them up with a pizza cutter. Easy Peasy. Re-roll and slice again.
(If you’re wondering, that’s cocoa powder sprinkled over the counter to keep the dough from sticking, which you can use instead of flour when making chocolate cookies.)
We made the cookies into rectangles or large squares, all slightly different. Once baked and fully cooled, I spread some waxed paper to catch the drippings and we all drizzled the icing onto the cookies, overlapping the colors, in a bit of a star burst pattern so that they would kind of look like fireworks exploding.
And, before the icing could harden, we added some white sparkling sugar to add a little extra spark to our cookies and to match the glitter on our paintings.
We read The BFG by Roald Dahl recently and my kids LOVED it.
It may have been a bit of a trogglehumper to gobblefunk around with some of those propsposterous words – especially at bedtime when my coffee has long worn off – but it was SO worth it! It was totally whoopsey-splunkers to see my girls burst into fits of laughter worthy of a big friendly giant.
Now, I don’t know exactly what we did wrong, since baking with two kids can be … distracting … but somehow we had too much batter for our little pan. I put it in the oven like that anyway, but with some foil below it to catch the drippings.
(And – just FYI – dripped cake is actually kinda fabulous.)
It’s a pretty typical coffee cake recipe, but with a really beautiful sentiment, since it references how the BFG mixes up dreams:
“It is a little bit like mixing a cake,”the BFG said. “If you is putting the right amounts of all the different things into it, you is making the cake come out any way you want, sugary, splongy curranty, Christmassy or grobswitchy. It is the same with dreams.”
This was a neat craft I enjoyed doing with my girls, and the Tissue Paper Cut Out Cards make great presents.
You can give the cards for Mother’s Day, birthday, Thank You cards, or even Thinking Of You cards.
They’re versatile that way, and you can let your kids get hands-on with the crafting.
I cut the tissue paper strips ahead of time by rolling up some colorful sheets of tissue paper into a tube-like shape and snipping off inch-wide pieces with sharp scissors.
I did do the cutting myself for these flower shapes because I wanted them to have the detailed shapes cut out of the middle of the paper, which is a little hard for small fingers to do. But they had plenty of fun with the glue and tissue paper.
I used cookie cutters from a couple of different sets, kind of like this Spring Set and this Nesting Set. We went with flowers because we made this during the springtime, but you could use any shape you like.
Fold a piece of construction or craft paper in half to make your card.
Trace the shape inside the cookie cutter, just like you would use a stencil, onto the front of the card.
Then poke your scissor in the middle of the shape and cut it out of the front of the card. Or your could open the card and place it flat on some cardboard and use an X-Acto knife to carve out the shape, or let an older kid or teen do it.
Take a white sheet of paper and cut it to fit just inside the cards.
Let your kids slather the white paper with glue or glue sticks, and then lay out the tissue paper pieces in stripes that go across and touch each other or slightly overlap.
Once the sheet of white paper covered in tissue paper strips is mostly dry, slather the inside of the card where the cut out shapes are.
Lay the white paper carefully against the glue with the tissue paper facing the cut out shapes.
Then your colorful tissue paper will show through like this:
Isn’t that darling?
The recipients were quite charmed, and the girls enjoyed making them.
You could make these cards for other holidays, too.
You could do Christmas shapes and use red and white tissue in a green card, for example. Or orange and purple tissue paper in a black card cut with Halloween shapes.
Follow me on Pinterestfor more great crafting and activity ideas!
First, as always, we did our construction paper craft. But instead of one big letter that we decorated, we did a bunch of little letters.
I had cut out a pile of Letter Js and a rounded top so that my kids could make their own jellyfish with the letters as tentacles.
And googly eyes. I swear they get more excited about the letters that need eyes…
Then for our Letter Sorting activity, where they needed to separate out the capital and lowercase letters, I went with jack o’ lanterns.
My kids were still kind of little at this point in out Alphabet Activities, so I had cut out the pumpkins and faces ahead of time and all they did was glue the finished jack o’ lantern to the paper before gluing on the letters.
Now that they’re older, I might still have cut out the face pieces but I would have let them make the faces themselves first, probably from a selection of eyes and mouths.
Back to the chalk!
I love that my girls love being outdoors, so chalk letters are great way to get them moving.
I drew a bunch of big Letter Js to represent the word “jump.” And then we did just that – jump from J to J.
This was a TON of fun for my girls.
The night before Letter J Day, I made a couple of boxes of Jell-O in a big plastic bin and I threw a bunch of toys into it that started with the Letter J.
I didn’t get all fancy with worrying about where the toys would stay once the Jell-O solidified. I just tossed ’em in. Most of the toys floated to the top, but they were still partially submerged and, thus, still had to be dug out by little fingers that were eager to get messy.
We did it outside to keep the mess out of the house, but I suppose you could do it on a tile floor somewhere if you covered it in a tarp or with a tablecloth.
We made a pile of the toys in another bin (the sand castle-shaped container you see at the bottom), and then we rinsed off everything with the hose when we were done.
So we watched the video above, which my girls love because they enjoy watching kids doing things (plus he’s really good), and then we tried juggling with some light balls we had around the house.
We weren’t terribly successful, except at producing lots of giggles. :)
Gotta love jelly toast!
I cut out the J shapes with our letter cookie cutters, then slathered the toast in some butter and strawberry jelly.
I didn’t want to make a big, complicated dinner in between our projects, so I kept things simple with this chicken.
I marinated a package of boneless thighs in some Jamaican Jerk Marinade that I picked up in the supermarket and threw them on a grill pan. Easy Peasy. (Don’t forget to have the Little Ones seek out the Letter J on the bottle of marinade!)
That’s it for Letter J! Except for the free printable worksheets I made, which you can get here:
Our construction paper project was making an island.
The island itself, in the shape of an uppercase I, is cut from brown paper. I made some little palm trees ahead of time (I free-handed those and they must have been close enough because my daughter knew what they were ;).
They we used some craft sand to represent the beach. You can sometimes find craft sand in the same place where they sell artificial flowers, or just in the craft section.
We probably should have tried gluing the trees down first, but my daughter was excited about the sand. We used white glue (not glue sticks) for this project, though, so that helped with getting the palm trees to stick to the sand once the glue below it was dry.
For our Letter Sorting, we made inchworms.
And watched the Sesame Street version of the Inchworm Song:
Then we tried to make marshmallow igloos.
This particular attempt didn’t work. We spread white glue all over a Styrofoam dome, and tied to stick mini marshmallows to it.
They fell off.
It occurred to me a few days afterwards that what we should have done instead was to slather the dome in white cake icing (icing is an I word!) and stick the marshmallows into that. That would have totally worked. And if I owned a dome cake pan we could have made a cake interior for our marshmallow igloo.
Or, you know, you could just turn a bowl upside down and slather that with icing. There are actually plenty of options.
Either way, I would suggest having a separate (small) bowl of marshmallows available for snacking, to help keep the kiddos from eating the ones for the project.
You glue down some course salt or raw sugar and, once the glue is dry, add some watercolor paints.
We used kosher salt which was attached via glue stick.
It’s a fun way to play with texture. Just make sure you shake off all of the excess salt once the glue is dry and before you paint. That way you won’t end up with pieces of salt in your watercolor tray.
Oh – and this project is meant to represent an “Icee,” which is a crushed ice drink. Just in case that’s not a thing where you lived and you were wondering why I spelled “icy” incorrectly. ;)
I found this really cool ice cream shaped chalk at the dollar store, so we did some chalk drawings.
We often do practice our letters with chalk, but it was even more exciting this time around. :)
Then, we used our ice cream shaped chalk to trace around some letters we made out of sticks we found in the yard.
This was a lot of fun, especially since my girls love puzzles. I still have these in our Folder Games binder.
You can find similar things by doing an internet search, but these are a color matching worksheet with ice cream cones and an insect shadow matching worksheet which I got from Busy Little Bugs.
First we found all the states that began with our letter of the day, colored them and the letters in the title green, and then my daughter colored the rest of the map however she felt like it. (We also underlined the “island” part of Rhode Island.)
We made a construction paper Hamburger, and although my daughter didn’t put it together quite as I had conceived she would, we still got the point across. :)
I had cut out an H in brown to represent the burger patty, and there’s a bun in orange, a tomato in red, lettuce in green, and some Swiss cheese in white.
I also made a lowercase H and cut out some pieces in white that vaguely represented a horse’s head, tail, and hooves.
And my kids always love combining glue and construction paper, but if you throw in a googly eye then it’s really a party.
For our Letter Sorting, I cut out two shapes that looked kind of like houses and drew on some doors and windows and roof shingles. My daughter was pretty young when I did this, but she’s old enough now that I’d let her draw the doors and windows herself if we did it again.
Then she put the lowercase Hs on one house and the uppercase on the other.
Making Hidden Messages was pretty fun. This was the example I did for her, and I can’t remember why I don’t have a picture of the one she did. I think I didn’t photograph as well.
Anyway, you draw designs on a white piece of heavy or construction paper with a white crayon, and then you paint over it with water colors.
The crayon resists the paint and your designs show through.
You could always prep some hidden messages for them, kind of like I did. I used Letter H words: Hi, Hello, and Howdy.
Hopscotch is always a big hit in our house, and it’s great for practicing numbers.
This time I drew a big and little H at the start of the Hopscotch.
You could also make a version that’s like our Power Word Hopscotch, and fill the squares with H words (Hi, Hello, Hand, Happy, etc.) instead of numbers and have your child shout out the words as they hop over the board.
This was SO much fun. After discussing how “hula” started with H, we pretty much went right into dancing and dressing up.
During the summertime, it’s pretty easy to find hula skirts and leis at the local dollar stores around here. Or you could try a party store or check online.
Then we danced to some videos, including The Hula Song from The Lion King (just for laughs):
Then we watched the He Mele No Lilo scene from Lilo & Stitch:
And finally, we watched a more traditional He Mele No Lilo. My girls really loved this and we watched it over and over, dancing along with them. My older daughter also spent some time studying the little girls and the way they moved:
Then it was back to our projects…
I found these little wooden helicopters in the craft section of Walmart.
I think I paid about a dollar apiece for them.
After we painted them, we attached some of the little foam letter stickers that I had picked up in the bargain section of Target.
You can also see our LeapFrog Fridge Phonics magnet in the background (which is the older version of this one and kind of similar to this bucket set), because – of course – we had to discuss how both Hungry and Hippos started with H before we went on a crazy marble-eating rampage.
This was a fun activity for practicing fine motor skills.
I found some plastic hard hats and the dollar store and we hammered some gold tees into a piece of Styrofoam with a rubber mallet.
This one definitely needs close supervision because you may have to hold the golf tee steady for them at first or (preferably) you may want to stick it in the foam a little before allowing them to hammer it further down.
But it was fun. And we still play with the hats sometimes. :)
It just wouldn’t be Letter H day without a discussion of my favorite play.
My girls are quite familiar with Shakespeare and a few of his plays, and one of these days I’ll get around to posting some of the Hamlet crafts and recipes we’ve done, but for now you can still see some of the kid-friendly books about him.
The one pictured above is from the very first Usborne book I ever purchased (which has led to a serious obsession with Usborne, but that’s a little off topic). It’s called Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare, and is filled with gorgeous paintings and a story version of Hamlet and five other plays that are short enough to read to children.
Depending on the age of your kids, there’s also the Shakespeare Sticker Dressing, recommended for age 5 and up, where you can dress up characters from the plays (like Hamlet) with stickers, and then there’s also the incredible Where’s Will book that’s like a “Where’s Waldo” book but with characters from Shakespeare’s plays (like Hamlet). The second book is recommended from ages 7 and up (and I really bought it for myself anyway….) but even my three-year-old enjoyed searching with me.
Sooo… Easter’s kind of around the corner and I’m over here like, gee… I haven’t posted any of my Halloween stuff yet…
Well, better late than never, right?
Hopefully you agree. :)
For last Halloween, I made these to help my kids practice counting. My girls are in preschool and kindergarten, and these worksheets have a variety of activities for them, including counting the shapes, matching the candy to the shapes, figuring out which is biggest and smallest group, and tracing the numbers both as figures and as words.
For the Candy Corn Counting worksheet we used regular candy corn. For the Pumpkin Patch Counting worksheet, we used the pumpkins out of a bag of mixed mallowcremes, but you could also get a bag of just the pumpkins, or even something like these jelly pumpkins.
If you’re trying to avoid giving your kids any extra candy, you could pick up some Halloween erasers instead, which you can usually find at a dollar store if it’s actually, you know, around Halloween. Or you could pick up some on Amazon instead. The erasers are also good because you can keep using them for other math activities afterwards.
Or, you could avoid both the candy and the toys altogether and just color in the shapes. No toys to lose and nothing to eat.
Even though the eating was, you know, my kids’ favorite part.
Here are the free printable worksheets – just click the names to download the PDF: