Play Right: Springtime Activities for the Kids

Bug's Life PJ Short Set

New Jammies Bug’s Life PJ Short Set

To spring means to move or jump suddenly or rapidly upward and forward, so it’s only appropriate for New Jammies kids to get out and get some exercise this month. Enter Spring, and Earth Day on April 22, and the chance to establish an active lifestyle while celebrating Mother Earth.

“Regular exercise in nature is proven to improve children’s physical and mental health. Outdoor activity helps kids maintain a healthy weight, boosts their immunity and bone health, and lowers stress,” says letsmove.gov, a government initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids.

“Kids need at least 60 minutes of active and vigorous play each day to stay healthy, and one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to meet this goal is by playing outside. By linking parents to nearby parks, trails and waters – and providing tips and ideas – Let’s Move! Outside can help families develop a more active lifestyle.”

Let’s Move! Outside was created to get kids and families to take advantage of America’s great outdoors. Earth Day and Spring are the perfect moments to try some new games and activities outside with the kids, including biking.

“Biking is a fun, family-friendly activity that can help improve endurance and balance,” says letsmove.org. “Use your bike as a means of ‘active transport’ to get places faster while also getting healthier. Explore your community by bike with your family and get everyone active.”

Walking and hiking around, exploring the outdoors, and collecting found items while learning about science can also be great springtime activities for the kids.

“Traveling by foot is a fun, easy and affordable way to get moving and get outside. From a walk around the block to a mountain hike — there are a lot of new places to explore,” says letsmove.org. “Activities like hiking and walking have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and build stronger bones. Stay healthy by making physical activity a part of your family’s routine.”

New Jammies StripesOn PBS.org, PBS Kids encourages children to turn off electronics and play, offering a variety of games to play outdoors. One includes Clothespin Tag, a game submitted by Craig of Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Here are the fun and easy rules:

• Keep your clothespin to win.
• This game is for 5 or more players and should be played outside or in an open area.
• To play, you need one clothespin for each player.
• Clip a clothespin to the back of your shirt. On the word “Go!,” try to steal the other players’ clothespins without letting anyone get your clothespin.
• When your clothespin is taken or falls off, you’re out.
• The last player with a clothespin wins.

Another creative game to encourage imagination outdoors is Snake in the Grass, sent in by Alexis of Texas:

A slithery game of tag, this game is for 4 or more players and should be played in an open area.

• To play, mark off an area to be your playing field.
• One player is the snake. That person has to crawl around and move like a snake.
• The snake tries to tag the other players, who run around trying to stay away from the snake.
• If the snake tags you, then you become a snake, too. (That means you have to move like a snake and try to tag the other players!)
• Snakes and runners are not allowed to go outside the playing area.
• The last runner left is the winner.

This game challenges the mind and stimulates imagination as well, and can be played indoors if the spring weather turns to rain or cold:

Casting Call, sent in by Lyndsay of Blythe, California
If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. To play, you’ll need at least 3 people.

• Pick one person to be the director.
• The game is played like Simon Says. The director tells the other players what to do.
• Instead of saying, “Simon Says,” the director will say, “Action!”
• The other players will only stop when the director says, “Cut!”
• If the director says, “Act like a chicken, NOW!” and a player acts like a chicken, he’s out because the director didn’t say, “Action!”
• The last person left in the game gets to be the director in the next round.

Lastly, from allfreekidscrafts.com, these activities are perfect for Earth Day, Earth Month and all year long:

Mason JarsMini Mason Jar Grass Heads
By Jennifer Martin from Mom vs the Boys

Your kids can learn how to grow grass in a jar with this craft idea for kids. A great spring craft idea for all ages, you and your little ones can use these Mini Mason Jar Grass Heads to celebrate the coming of spring or to celebrate Earth Day. This easy kids’ craft also doubles as a cool science project idea. This recycled craft is budget-friendly because it gives you the chance to reuse empty baby food jars, and it does not require too many crafting supplies. Your kids can use whatever materials they wish to create their funky and fun jar faces. Each jar turns out with its own, unique personality!

Materials: Nature Crafts, Recycled Crafts, Mixed Media/Miscellaneous
Age Group: Preschool & Kindergarten, Elementary School

Read more at http://www.allfreekidscrafts.com/Kids-Outdoor-Crafts-and-Activities/Mini-Mason-Jar-Grass-Heads#9MfL4twrs5RRh6RB.99

Homemade Chalk PaintHomemade Chalk Paint Adventure Trail
By Craftingconnections.net

“Sidewalk chalk paint is a great way to enjoy these cooler summer days (when you dont melt every time you step outside) and is a fun twist on your typical outdoor chalk. Take it a step farther by letting your little one take you on an Adventure Trail that they create. By letting your toddler or preschooler lead the way, you both are sure to go on a grand adventure. And when you are ready to head back? Just follow your trail home!”

What you’ll need:

• 1/4 cup of corn starch
• 1/4 cup of water
• Fold coloring
• Container with a tight-fitting lid
• Paintbrush
• (Optional) Bucket

Age Group: Toddlers, Preschool & Kindergarten

• Pour the 1/3-1/2 cup of water into a container.

• Add 1/4 cup of corn starch to the water.

• Add a few drops of food coloring, making it as light or dark as you would like.

(Psst – we tried this with washable tempera paint too, but found that the tempera-colored sidewalk paint didn’t wash away easily, so we suggest that you stick with food coloring. If you are concerned about staining, use just a little bit of food coloring – your paint will be more pastel, but will easily wash away.)

• Shake it up and paint!

Read more at http://www.allfreekidscrafts.com/Kids-Outdoor-Crafts-and-Activities/Chalk-Paint-Adventure-Trail#fQVjc0TDdjp0C9hz.99 and craftingconnections.net

Eat Right: Teaching Kids About Sustainable Foods for Earth Month

Sunflowers_New JammiesApril is Earth Month, and it gives New Jammies kids and their parents the chance to learn more about sustainability and how to be better stewards of the earth while eating healthy.

We owe it to the planet to work harder and do better. According to the Earth Day Network, the planet loses more than 15 billion trees each year — 56 acres of forest every minute. The Network reports that for every dollar spent on tree planting, $2.5 dollars is generated in local income and benefits, so it is planting trees to help communities, especially impoverished ones. This year’s Earth Day celebration on April 22 is focusing on the need to plant new trees and forests worldwide.

Planting new trees helps the environment in many ways. In one year, an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people, absorbing the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles, according to treepeople.org. Trees also shield kids from ultra-violet rays by about 50 percent, and helps heal children as well as adults.

“Trees provide protection to children on school campuses and playgrounds — where children spend hours outdoors,” says treepeople.org. “Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue.”

And, trees provide homegrown food. Healthy, farm-to-table food.

“An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on the tiniest urban lot,” says treepeople.org.

AppleEarth Month in April is a great way to focus on growing your own food, partaking in farm-to-table practices and eating healthy. Advocates and practitioners of the farm-to-table model and slow food movement focus on fresh, local ingredients while avoiding genetically modified and fast foods, and emphasize the importance of small family farms known to plant heirloom and open-pollinated fruits and vegetables.

“It’s clear that what we put on our plates has a big impact on the environment. Eating more healthfully and more sustainably go hand-in-hand, meaning we can develop sustainable eating practices that improve our own health while also benefiting the health of the planet,” says Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“One of the simplest things you can do to eat more sustainably is to practice mindful eating. Focusing on what you’re eating allows you to reflect on where your food came from and how it is nourishing your body. Additionally, by tuning in to your hunger signals you may learn that you don’t need as much food as you thought, and resize your meals accordingly.”

Harvard says by paying more attention to how we eat and thinking about the “bigger picture,” we may alter our food consumption and reduce food waste.

“As well as become encouraged to seek out more sustainable food sources,” the school says.

Farm to TableThe PBS show “From Farm to Table” encourages viewers to discover the bounty of New York’s Capital Region, from the fields to the dinner table. Nutrition educator Kim Sopczyk shows viewers how to make the most out of fresh local produce, offers valuable cooking ideas and tips on how to stretch food dollars. These “From Farm to Table” recipes can be a healthy way to motivate your family to grow your own food and shop for fresh fruits and vegetables with the kids at farmer’s markets, and cook with them at home in the kitchen.

Farmers’ Market Stir Fry
Recipe courtesy of “From Farm to Table”
Source: Kim Sopczyk, CCE Warren County
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
2 cups broccoli, cut up
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1 cup red pepper, sliced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms
1 pound pork, cut in to small strips
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions
1. Heat oil in skillet. Add broccoli, carrots, onion, red pepper and garlic powder.

2. Cook for 5 minutes (vegetables should be firm and crisp).

3. Remove vegetable mixture from skillet and cover to keep warm. Add mushrooms.

4. Next, add the pork strips to the skillet. Then, add soy sauce.

5. Return the vegetables to the skillet and cook over medium high heat until heated through.

6.Serve over brown rice.

 

Garden Barley Soup
Recipe courtesy of “From Farm to Table”
Yield: 6 servings

A hearty mix of vegetables and barley, its a perfect comfort food for a cold night. Prepare the vegetables the night before and then throw them in the slow cooker in the morning to come home to a great smelling kitchen and a finished dinner.

Ingredients
1 large sweet potato peeled and cubed
1 cups corn
1 cups carrots diced
1 cups cut green beans
3 celery ribs thinly sliced
1 small onion chopped
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 garlic cloves minced
6 cups water
2 can (14.5 ounces) vegetable broth
1 cup medium pearl barley
1 bayleaf
1 teaspoon fennel seed crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

Directions
1. In a 5-qt slow cooker, combine first eight ingredients.

2. Stir in the water, broth, barley, and seasonings.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or until barley and vegetables are tender.

4. Stir in tomatoes; cover and cook on high 10-20 minutes or until heated through. Discard bay leaf before serving.

Tips/Techniques
Substitutions: use white potatoes, any assorted frozen vegetables on hand; leftover fresh vegetables from farmers market, etc.

Chocolate Beet Cake
Recipe courtesy of “From Farm to Table”
Cook time: 35 Minutes
Yield: 12 servings

Beets aren’t just a side vegetables but can be used in sweet recipes such as dessert. Purchase your favorite box of chocolate cake mix and beets for a surprisingly delicious treat.

Ingredients
1 box of chocolate cake mix (use your favorite, just make sure it is the kind you have to add water, eggs and oil to)
1 cup pureed red beets ( you can use canned, just make sure they do not have added salt)
1 1/2 cups water
3 eggs (one whole egg, two egg whites)
confectionery sugar

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350° F for shiny metal or glass pan or 325° F for dark or non-stick pan. Grease bottom only of 13×9 inch pan or bundt pan. Puree beets using a food processor.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, pureed red beets, water and eggs by hand or use a hand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. (You may need to add a little more water to the mixture—it depends on the consistency of your beets). Pour into pan.

3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. If using a non-stick pan, lengthen cooking time (approximately 5 minutes).

4. Cool for 20 minutes, then frost as desired or sprinkle top with confectioners’ sugar.

CarrotsHomemade Granola Bars
Recipe courtesy of “From Farm to Table”
Source: Adapted from Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network Website Recipes, The Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Program

Ingredients
1 cup honey
1 cup peanut butter
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup coconut

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and grate the carrots.

2. Put the honey and peanut butter in a large saucepan. Cook on low heat until they melt.

3.Remove the pan from the heat. Turn off the burner.

4. Add oatmeal, raisins, carrots, and coconut to the saucepan.

5. Stir well, and let it cool until you can safely touch it with your hands. Put the mix in the baking pan. Press the mix firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25 minutes.

5. Cut into 24 bars.