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Sunny days are ideal for kids to get outside and have fun with nature. They are also days that are suited for family bonding and exercise. Although some pursuits are scientific in nature, others are all about fun or are geared toward simply exploring Mother Nature. There are even activities to help a child feel as if he is on vacation even if he can't venture farther than the backyard.
Make the science of astronomy entertaining through outdoor experiments. Onetime science teacher, Janice VanCleave, offers ideas in her book "Astronomy For Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work." One experiment helps kids understand the movement of the sun. Find a glass bowl that can handle 2 litres of water. Take it outside along with a pencil, compass, a piece of paper and a marker. After drawing an X in the middle of the paper, put it on the lawn in the sun. Turn the bowl upside down on the paper so that the X is in the centre. Angle the pencil on the bowl so that the pencil's shadow makes a straight line that starts at the X. Use the marker to draw a dot on the part of the glass where the pencil rests. At every hour throughout the day, place the pencil on the X and make a new dot. The trajectory of the sun will make the dots change. The compass will help prove how the fact that, because the earth rotates eastward, it makes it seem as though the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
The beach is a popular summer vacation destination, but it's not always possible to get there. Start by visiting local gardening stores and purchase bags of sand. Pick an area of the garden and spread out the sand to make a miniature beach. Place beach chairs on the sand and stake a beach umbrella in the ground. Fill an inflatable kiddie pool with water and place seashells and starfish on the bottom. Put on swimsuits, slap on sunscreen and munch on beach snacks such as saltwater taffy. For an extra touch, set up a sprinkler system and pretend that its mist from the ocean waves.
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Plan an afternoon picnic. Have kids help make miniature sandwiches and celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins, (to make them look like ants on a log). In her "Hands-on Finger Foods" article for "Family Fun" magazine, Emily B. Todd suggests taking thick cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes and fill them with soft cream cheese and basil leaves to crate bite-sized, healthy treats. Add juice boxes to the basket and head outside. Once everyone has eaten, play outdoor games. One idea is to plan a scavenger hunt. Have kids find certain flowers, pine cones, leaves and rocks of certain colours. Or, make it an alphabetic scavenger hunt and tell kids to find items for every letter of the alphabet. Other post-picnic activities include catching butterflies or playing frisbee.
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Take advantage of sunny days to help kids show off their artistic streak. Let children go crazy with chalk and cover a driveway with colourful images. Or, have them draw a hopscotch outline so that they can play the game. Another idea is to create a miniature fairy village. Either take pieces of wood or cardboard and cut and paint them to look like small doors. Use gorilla glue to attach them to the bottom of tree trunks. Take a square of styrofoam and paint it green. Stick twigs in the styrofoam to create a fairy hut. Build a roof with a layer of twigs and glue leaves on top. Place them in a circle around the tree trunk with the door. Purchase paper butterfly wings from a local craft store and glue them in place on the twigs and styrofoam. Another outdoor artistic endeavour to have under the sun is to give kids a sketchbook and an assortment of coloured pencils so that they can explore the lawn and draw what they see. Once these images are done, kids can crate an indoor mural to enjoy on rainy days when they can't get outside.
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Certain games are ideal for outdoor play dates. If the weather is especially hot, separate kids into teams and have them toss water balloons back and forth. Award points to teams based on who doesn't let the balloon break. Another outdoorsy game is Capture the Flag. Divide kids into 2 teams and have each team hide a flag in either the backyard or the front. Each team then hunts for the opponent's flag. If an opponent tags them while they are searching, they have to go to jail. The only way to get out of jail is if a person from the same team taps them while the opponents are distracted. There is a list of other games that are ideal for sunshine-soaked days such as touch football, baseball, soccer and outdoor bowling using a beach ball and litres of old soda bottles.
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