Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:50 am

Bike Safety for Kids

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Just this weekend while my son was riding his bike, he wiped out and got some bad scrapes on his elbow. Of course, I found this out after I cleaned off the mud from the huge puddle he fell into. My first tip is for parents (one I need to follow myself) – ALWAYS make sure your first aid supplies are stocked and on hand. You can never have enough bandaids (in every size), antibiotic cream or antibacterial/alcohol wipes. It’s summer and kids (especially boys) are prone to injuries, so be ready!

Accidents happen, but there are safety measures that can be taken to help prevent or lessen the degree of injuries. One of the most important areas to protect is your child’s head. Helmets provide protection for your face, head, and brain…I don’t think I need to mention why this is crucial!

Make sure your child’s bike is the right size for them. All too often, children ride bikes that are too big or too small for them, which increases the likelihood of accidents. If your child stands straddling the bike, there should be 1-3 inches of space between them and the top bar. If not, its time to move up to the next bike size.

Make sure wheels, handlebars and seats are tightly fastened to the bike. Add air to the tires if they need more. Check the chain and oil it regularly. Also check that the brakes are working correctly.

If your child is riding with you on the street or sidewalk, make sure they have bright clothing on, even in daylight. Also make sure shoes are tied and clothing isn’t too loose that it would get caught on anything. Sneakers are the best to wear when bike riding because the treads grip the pedals.

Define what area around your neighborhood is appropriate for your child to ride. This can change as your child gets older. Go over safety rules and make sure your child checks for cars backing out of driveways, and is mindful of road signs. Also teach them about obstacles like sticks, puddles, rocks, and other children! Discourage them from doing “tricks” with their bikes like jumping obstacles, bumping friends’ tires with their own, or racing down steep hills.

With these guidelines, children can be a little safer on their bicycles!

 

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June 20th, 2014 at 9:25 am

Outside Water Fun

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For my boys, one of the best parts of summer is WATER!! The only problem is the boys get bored with the same old fun in the pool. I wanted to share some other ideas for having fun with water!

I think this sprinkler might be a fun way to celebrate summer. A simple 2-liter bottle in the premix behind it. Or create a fun Water Blob to play on. That just requires some strong tape and plastic sheeting.

One of the projects we plan on tackling this summer are sponge bombs. With some sponges and zip ties you can make hours of water fun! Think of the possibilities – dodgeball, relay races to empty the water out of the sponges the fastest, or even a simple game of catch!

We love going to the local splash pad and running through the sprinklers, but why not bring the splash pad to you with some simple pvc pipe! Check out this way to make your own PVC sprinkler at home.

We host several gatherings with friends throughout the summer. Party games are so much fun for the kids and there are some great water games here. I especially can’t wait to have the kids play Catch the Water Bombs or Dip, Drip, Dunk! I think I may even pull these out during playdates when I start to hear, “I’m bored.”

Whether it be a store bought water toy, super soakers, a homemade water sponge or even just the hose itself – make sure to turn the water on when the temperature goes up to help the summer fun begin!

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June 19th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Summer Birthday Party Themes

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If you’ve got a summer baby, you might already be thinking about their upcoming birthday party. As a winter baby myself, I was always jealous of friends who were able to have pool and beach parties during the summer. Technically, you can make anything work in any season with just a little creativity and imagination, but for the purposes of this post we’ll focus on some great themes and ideas for summer parties specifically.

  • Birthday Luau – Flower leis, grass skirts, blow-up palm trees, pineapple and coconut treats, hula hoops, etc.
  • Jungle Party - Everything animal print, scavenger hunt, exploration and adventure!
  • Garden Party – Tea time with juice and petit sandwiches, fairy tutus and wings, face painting, etc.
  • Splish-Splash Party – Slip and slide, water balloon toss, bubble fun, and everything wet!
  • Beach Party – Have it at the beach or bring the beach to your home with a sandbox and a kiddie pool.
  • Picnic In the Park – Sandwiches and easy on-the-go food, frisbee, t-ball, playground fun and more.
  • Wild West Party – Cowboys and cowgirls, pretend horse races, horseshoe toss, etc.
  • Mexican Fiesta - Build-a-taco bar and other delicious Mexican fare, Piñata, maracas, etc.
  • Carnival Party  – Popcorn, clown fun with balloon animals and face painting, funnel cake, etc.
  • Nature Party  - Nature walk and discovery! Learn about bugs, flowers, etc. Educational and fun at the same time!

What summer birthday party themes have you done?

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June 16th, 2014 at 9:36 am

It’s Strawberry Season!

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Since I was a little girl, my favorite fruit has been the strawberry, and it was always SO much fun to go strawberry picking with my mom. Now, as a parent, I keep that tradition with my boys. In Wisconsin, the strawberries will be starting to ripen in the next week, so you will definitely find us in the strawberry field picking away! Once I fill up a box with fresh strawberries, the actual work begins, and I wanted to share with you what I do to freeze strawberries so we can enjoy them all year long.

The first step is to wash the strawberries. I put a cup or so at a time in a colander and rinse them off. I then lay them out on kitchen towels and pat dry. Once they are all done, I then hull all the strawberries. I personally use this strawberry huller, but there are all kinds of models you can look into, or you can even do it with a simple drinking straw.

At this point, all the major prep work is done. Now you have to decide how you will use the berries. If you are just going to eat or serve them, leave them whole or cut into quarters or halves. If you plan to freeze them, you can cut them in a variety of ways.

I like to freeze most of my berries for use at a later time. Some I will freeze whole, and others I will mash for use on strawberry shortcake or on waffles. To freeze berries whole, put the hulled berries on a pan and stick in the freezer. Once they have frozen, remove them and fill freezer bags, remembering to seal them tightly. When you thaw, they are almost as fresh as when you picked them! To mash strawberries, I put them in a large bowl and use my potato masher to break them up. I also add a pinch of sugar, to taste, so they have a little more sweetness to them. These I ladle into freezer safe jars or plastic containers and then thaw right on the countertop when I am ready to use. Out of season, berries from the supermarket can get very expensive, so this saves money in the long run!

The picking process can get boring for the kids, but all you have to do is remind them of all the delicious treats they can eat with them! Strawberry shortcake is a great summer dessert dish, and smoothies are healthy and filling for breakfast, lunch or a snack. There are so many things you can do with this great fruit, so get out there and pick some strawberries!

 

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May 26th, 2014 at 9:00 am

Summer Fun Bucket

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One of my favorite things to surprise the kids with is a summer fun bucket! I take a bucket and stuff it with all the fun items we need for summer vacation. Here is a list of fun things to fill your bucket with:

  • Sandals or flip-flops
  • Inner tube or pool float
  • Goggles
  • Beach towel
  • Water balloons
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Bubbles
  • Fun craft set
  • Tickets to the zoo, pool, or another local attraction
  • Popsicle sticks and dixie cups
  • Water gun
  • Sparklers
  • Journal to document summer activities
  • Water bottle
  • Sandbox toys
  • Frisbee
  • Cards – to play War, Go Fish or other games
  • New coloring book and crayons
  • Sporting items
  • Glo sticks

What other things would you fill your bucket with?

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May 22nd, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Memorial Day BBQ Planning

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Memorial Day Weekend is almost here! Usually the first big weekend for pools and BBQs, we’re following the tradition and inviting friends and family for a good old-fashioned cookout. BBQs can be pretty simple to plan with some burgers and hot dogs, but if you want to really make a splash, consider some of these ideas during preparation.

  • “Make Your Own” Stations - The best part about hamburgers and hot dogs is the many ways you can customize them to your taste. Consider setting up different stations. Grill chicken, sausage, hot dogs, and hamburgers as the base. Put out a variety of breads and toppers (different kinds of cheeses, sliced onions and tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, etc.) and all the condiments you can think of. Add a chalk board “menu” of ideas so your guests have some inspiration (see our recent hamburger post for some great recipes).  You can do this for drinks, desserts, etc. as well.
  • Signature Drinks – It’s easy to throw some beer, soft drinks, and bottled water into a tub of ice and call it a day, but you’ll wow your guests if you offer some delicious and refreshing mixes. Some ideas: A sangria with fresh fruit, a lemonade/iced tea mix, a fruit punch, etc. Walmart has a great drink dispenser with an ice core, so your guests can help themselves.
  • A Fun Music Playlist – There’s nothing like a good playlist to get a party going! Consider fun, upbeat classics and top 40 that guests of all ages can enjoy. Try searching for some summer playlists online if you don’t know where to start, or ask your friends what some of their favorites are!
  • Lawn/Outdoor Games – We don’t have a pool, so we’re planning on setting up a few games to pass the time. Bocce ball, badminton, horseshoes, beanbag toss, and frisbee are some great choices. For kids, a slip and slide or water balloons can provide hours of fun!

Do you have anything special planned for your Memorial Day BBQ? Share your ideas with us on our Facebook page!

Photo Credit: “Burger Bar” - http://www.lovethispic.com/image/14660/burger-bar

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April 28th, 2014 at 9:13 am

Planting a Container Herb Garden

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I like to think I have a green thumb, but I’m not really good at gardening. In the spring I get excited about plants and the colors and greenery, but as the summer wears on I get tired of weeding and trimming and watering. Then I let everything go wild and out of control.

Regardless, I am good at growing herbs in a container. First, they require little to no weeding, they are trimmed all the time, and because I pick them often, I tend to water them regularly. I love to use fresh herbs in the summer, adding basil to pasta salads, cilantro to my black bean salsa, and parsley to meatballs and tomato sauce. They are the three herbs you will always find on my patio, but I have also grown mint, thyme, rosemary, and lavender.

Some of the best herbs for container gardens are:

  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Tarragon
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

I like to mix several herbs in a pot. Most herbs need full sun or at least 8 hours of sunlight and dry conditions, and they tend to thrive in soil that is lean (meaning not a lot of fertilizer). I’ve never tried growing my herbs inside, but I do love to dry them towards the end of the summer. They will grow in different types of pots and can be worked into your deck, patio, window box, or front steps. When the plant reaches 6-8″ tall, you can harvest by cutting 1/3 of the branches. This will replenish and you will have amazing herbs all summer long. Plus, the scent off of the plants is amazing!

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April 10th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

10 Easter Egg Hunt Tips

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As a child, my favorite part of Easter was the egg hunt in our backyard. My siblings, cousins and I would search the entire property for colorful eggs left by the Easter bunny! Now, as an adult, I love watching the kids have that same experience. Some of you may have only a few children and the hunt coordination is fairly easy, but if you do a multi-family egg hunt it can get pretty complicated…especially when it comes to keeping the peace when the kids have free reign and goodies are involved! Here are ten egg hunt tips to make sure everything goes smoothly.

  1. Decide on a set number of eggs each child will get. I recommend plastic eggs so you can hide prizes inside, but some people like to hide real eggs.
  2. Choose a variety of prizes to fill the eggs with. Make sure things are age appropriate. Some good ideas are: Change or dollar bills, candy, erasers, whistles, stickers, hair clips, small toys, temporary tattoos, bracelets, etc. You can also have one or two special eggs for each child with a note inside that they can trade in for a big toy that wouldn’t fit. You can find some great, affordable prizes at your local Walmart!
  3. If you have a small scale egg hunt, give each child an egg color or size so there is no confusion as to which eggs they should look for. If you have a large scale egg hunt, decide on egg colors or size per age group, i.e. Ages 2-4 can only take red and yellow eggs, ages 5-9 can only take blue and green eggs, etc. That way, they will get the appropriate goodies for their age group and you know how to appropriately hide them so that they’re not too difficult for little ones, or too easy for older ones, to find.
  4. Set an appropriate time for the hunt. Keep in mind when it starts to get dark in your area and allow the kids ample time before sundown. Also keep in mind that the kids will want to play with and eat their prizes right away, so plan it around your meals.
  5. Decide on the area you will hide the eggs in and,  if necessary, use flags to create boundaries so the kids don’t go looking in the wrong places. It also provides an element of safety so you can make sure that they don’t wander off or go into areas where they might get hurt.
  6. Write down where you hide the eggs. I can tell you from experience that it’s easy to forget after hiding a bunch of them!
  7. Hand out baskets to make it easy for the kids to collect their eggs. A fun way to prepare for this is to let them decorate and personalize their egg hunt baskets a day or two before Easter!
  8. Designate egg hunt “moderators” who can help the kids find the eggs if they have trouble and get frustrated. For little ones, they can guide them in the right direction.
  9. Designate a few people to handle photography and take pictures of the kids hunting for the eggs. These moments are precious and will be special memories to look back on!
  10. Make a rule that no one can open their eggs until each child has found all of their eggs. Patience is a virtue!

What do YOU have planned for the egg hunt this year? Share with us on our Facebook wall!

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March 27th, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Spring Gardening Preparation

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If you like to garden, or want to start one, now’s the time to get ready for planting! (Did we mention that April is National Gardening Month?) As the ground thaws, soil needs to be prepared in order to create the best growing medium for your plants. Different types of plants require different kinds of care, including the timing of their planting, exposure to sunlight, supplemented nutrition, watering, spacing, and harvesting. Get your kids involved and let them help you however they can. Here are some basic guidelines for starting your spring planting.

  1. Determine your frost date. If you live in an area where you get a true winter, it’s important that you know your area’s frost date to avoid planting too soon. There are quite a few online resources to help you figure it out. Try Dave’s Garden…you just put in your zip code and it tells you your frost risks and timing.
  2. Choose your plants. Gather your bulbs and seeds and determine which ones need to be planted first. Some plants can survive colder temperatures.
  3. Section your garden. Plants should be grouped by type and care. Vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, etc. should have their own sections. Keep their “requirements” in mind when you create your sections…some need lots of direct sunlight, while others thrive in shady spots.
  4. Test your soil. You should first make sure the soil is ready to be prepared. Heavy soil that is still wet from snow and rain will not let your plants breathe. You can tell it’s ready when you pick it up, squeeze it into a ball with your hands, and then drop it, or poke it. If it crumbles into small particles, it is dry enough to be worked. If it breaks into large clumps or stays in form, it is still too moist. Not all soil is equal, so learning a bit about your native soil will help you understand when it’s ready.
  5. Prepare your soil. There are a lot of things you can do to improve the medium your plants grow in. Without going into too much detail, consider looking into the various soil-improvement methods, including pH testing, composting, fertilizing, tilling, mulching, etc. Hint: Used coffee grounds and egg shells make great fertilizers!
  6. Plant! When your soil is ready, plant your seeds and bulbs, take care of them and watch them grow! Garden maintenance can be tedious, but rewarding. Make sure you water and fertilize as needed, and don’t forget to pick those pesky weeds!

Do you have a garden and have tips to share? Post them and/or pictures of your garden on our Facebook page!

 

Photo Credit: www.ivillage.com

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