Indoor Playtime

Some days, the weather just does not cooperate with outdoor play plans.  Whether it's a torrential downpour or oppressive heat, the climate can make the great outdoors into an uninviting space.  Before being inside drives anyone stir crazy, try one of these restlessness-curing activities for playing in the house.

Giver'slog recently shared an indoor-play project that combines several of my favorite qualities: it's fun, it's recycled, and you can send it to a friend through the mail!
This hopscotch kit is made from scraps of bubble wrap.  The non-recyclable material sneaks into the house inside packages received through the mail.  But, kids (and big kids) love the sensory experience of playing with this bubbly plastic, so it's easy to reuse.  Kids will have fun hopping and popping with this indoor game.

You can also convert recycled materials like cereal boxes into an action figure play scene.
 This Summer Olympics track and field scene was created by Rachel at AlphaMom.  Use any favorite activity or story as inspiration for your setting.  Kids won't have to be asked to imagine dialogue, character traits, and action for their toys once the stage is set.

Fishing is another activity that usually takes place outside, but with this magnetic bathtub fishing idea from Pigtails and Tutus, the outdoor hobby comes in.
You can use a dowel rod and string for the fishing pole.  Then add a magnet as the "hook" and more magnets to the items you want to fish.  This is a great activity for experiencing magnetic and buoyant properties of objects.

Visit this past article to get even more inside-play ideas.


Digital Paper Dolls

Paper dolls and their cousins, pop-up books, have been captivating readers for a couple of centuries. Kids since at least 1810 have loved paper dolls for storytelling and imaginative play.  I mentioned their long history a few years ago when I wrote about lots of places to find printable paper dolls online.  Wonder how today's paper dolls compare to the earliest examples?  You can see for yourself at Pop-Up and Moveable Books: A Tour Through Their History, a digital exhibit by The University of North Texas Libraries.  The site even includes a feature that allows you to digitally try on the outfits for a pair S. & J. Fuller dolls from 1811.
Frank Feignwell doll by S & J Fuller, UNT Libraries
The worst part about antique toys is that you can't play with them.  With these digitized dolls, there's no need to worry about tearing the fragile paper.  After trying on the dolls' clothes, kids can compare and contrast the 200-year-old fashions with modern clothing preferences.


4th of July - Primary Documents and Perspective

July 4th 2008 fireworks, Washington, D.C., loc.gov
 The Fourth of July has always been my second favorite summer holiday (after my birthday).  The commemoration of the USA's 1776 revolution falls during warm weather which naturally accommodates swimming, picnics, popsicles, sprinklers, bubbles and other outdoor fun.  And then there are fireworks!  Even for a chicken like me, fireworks are a spectacle too exciting to pass up (as long as I have earplugs).  In addition to bringing summertime festivities all made up in red, white, and blue ribbons and paints, Independence Day is the perfect time to practice analyzing centuries-old documents and ideas in order to understand the patriotic tradition.  While many holidays are based on ephemeral concepts or folklore that are difficult to attach to a timeline, Independence Day commemorates a specific event in history that students can explore for themselves using important information literacy skills.  Between the barbeques and bottle rockets, let students find out what the day is all about.

Lee Resolution, ourdocuments.gov
Let students begin by reading Richard Henry Lee's June 7, 1776 resolution upon which the idea of independence from Britain was based.  This is a great time to discuss what primary documents are, and how they differ from secondary accounts of history.  The National Archives website provides lots of resources for teaching students to evaluate primary resources, including printable analysis worksheets.

Students can also see an image of the July 4 Declaration of Independence, courtesy of the Library of Congress, along with a timeline of 1776 events related to the famous document as noted in the Journals of the Continental Congress.  Encourage students to imagine what kind of dissatisfaction could lead a group of people to make a bold statement as was made that day.

Puck fourth of July 1905 / Frank A. Nankivell, loc.gov
Explore the history of fireworks displays for the annual observance, which date back the the revolution's first anniversary in 1777.

Then turn the subject into a discussion of perspective by introducing Frederick Douglass' 1852 speech, What to the Slave is the 4th of July?  For a short activity, share just an excerpt of the former slave's composition:
Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.
They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was "settled" that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were "final;" not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times...The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn...Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them...To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.
Students can discuss who Douglass' audience might have been and what his purpose and meaning were in the speech.  Then, they can compare Douglass' perspective on the July 4th holiday to that of the 1852 audience or to the view represented through modern Independence Day celebrations.

Let students get an idea of how the holiday traditions have evolved over 236 years by reading "What the Presidents did on the Fourth of July" compiled by James Heintz.  Ask students to pick which year's presidential celebration they think best fits the meaning of the holiday.

Kids can also find a personal connection to the day's history by interviewing family members about how they have celebrated the day in the past.  Visit Climbing My Family Tree One Branch at a Time to get a printable family interview form kids can use to prepare questions and then record family members' answers. 
Then transition from study time to play time by listening to examples of how Independence Day has inspired music through The Washington Post's User-Poll Fourth of July playlist.