Is it ever too hot?

I wrote this piece during the last heat wave in July 2011. Now that we’re deep into a serious heat wave of 2012, it’s a good time to re-post. See my comments below for my new take on heat.  

I didn’t want to, but I cancelled Bike for Life on Friday afternoon (July 1) because the temperatures were 90 degrees with a heat index of 97.

Wisconsin licensing rules forbid children from engaging in outdoor activity when it’s above 90 degrees (except swimming of course). The rule is designed to keep kids safe, but it is also restrictive.

Yes, it was hot, but it wasn’t too hot for a healthy kid to bike less than a mile to Olbrich Park, go swimming, and then bike back. Imagine what kids do in the south?  They would never go outside in the summer with a rule like that.

I believe that rules like this teach kids to fear the outdoors. For example, we went skiing in sub zero temperatures and the kids were fine. They learned what to do to stay warm. The same is true of heat. The kids lost a valuable opportunity.

Next year, I’ll plan bike club in the mornings to avoid cancellations. I can’t change the rules, but I can change the times that we ride.

And, if it’s hot on Friday, I’ll be planning to do something else.

What do you do when the weather’s hot? 


Car Games: Getting outside without going crazy

Sometimes, the worst part of a trip is the van ride. If the kids act up it stresses me out before we even get there. Car games are a great way to occupy kids on long bus or car rides.

Tell me what you think of these games. Some of them are old classics and others are new to me. Have fun with them and add your own. Modify them to suit your own needs.

recommended age 8 and above
Someone thinks of an object that falls under the category of animal,
mineral, or vegetable and then tells the other players which group it is in. The players then take turns asking questions that can be answered with a YES or NO. For example, if the object is a marble its made from glass so its mineral, and the questions might go
…’Is it alive?’… ‘No’
‘Can I use it?’… ‘Yes’
‘Is it useful?’…’No’
‘is it small?’…’yes”
‘Can I play with it?’…’Yes’
‘Is it a marble?’ ‘Yes’
After 20 questions everyone has one last go and then its the next persons turn to choose something

Make up a Story
8 and up
Someone starts with a sentence about absolutely anything…ie. PLAYER 1 Charlie was walking along the street when out of the corner of his eye he saw something that made his blood freeze. PLAYER 2 He saw an ice cream van and ran to order a 99. The next person has to follow on with their own sentence that may or may not be what player one had intended. We have had huge fun with this game where one child has been determined to make the story a horror whereas another child has wanted to make it a humour / romance…let the battle commence!

Alphabet Game
Fine for all children who know their alphabet
This is a game of speed and observation. Everyone looks around them and has to find the letters of the alphabet from A-Z in order. Only one person can have any one letter (if there is a P on a signpost only one person can have it) so there is a lot of shouting to stake the claim! Letters can be found on number plates, billboards, road signs, place names etc. although the letter Q is very tricky (bus stops often have QUEUE THIS SIDE for those with eagle eyes!) The winner is the first to Z.

recommended age 8 and above
Someone starts by choosing a country ie. France. The next person must
name a country whose name begins with the last letter of the previously named country. In this case the last letter of France is E, so the next person must name a country beginning with E, ie England then Denmark until someone gives up. This game could work with any subject from animals to pop stars!

recommended age 6 and above
Choose a subject such as girls names and everyone has to give the name of a girl in alphabetical order ie Alyson, Betty, Carol etc. When you get to Z go back to A again. Players drop out as they can’t think of anything and the winner is the last one in.

recommended age 8 and above
The first person starts with the letter A and says ‘A’ is for (choose a word beginning with A). Player 2 then says ‘A’ is for (names from first person said) B is for (choose a word beginning with B).

This continues down the alphabet until at Z the player needs to remember all the letters and the things attached to them from A-Z.
The winner is the last person to do it correctly.This is very good for your memory and you can make it more fun by using silly words like T is for mom’s temper.

recommended age 2 and above

Each person chooses a color and this is then written on a piece of paper next to your name. Mark 1 point next to your name each time you spot a car of your chosen color. The winner is the first to reach 25.
Colored cars helps small children with their colors and attention levels.

Each player chooses a number between ten and 99, then has to spot their number on a license plate. Whoever spots their number on a plate wins the game.

One person has to answer questions about themselves from everyone else for a minute without stopping. But they’re not allowed to answer yes or no. If they do, they’re given the gong  –  ‘bong!’  –  and they’re out.

The children shout out a first name and the adults have to think of a famous person with that name. If they manage it, the adults get a point, but if they’re stumped, the kids get it.

recommended age 8 and above

I adapted this game from Cricket to Baseball (it’s from the UK). Give it a try and let me know if it works. Look out for Pubs and Restaurants, and look at what they are called. Take turns to ‘bat’ you score ‘runs’ by the number of “legs” in the title ie. the ‘Red Lobster’ would score 10 runs because lobster’s have 10 legs, and the ‘Big Boy’ would score 2 because a big boy has two legs. Your inning is over when a pub/restaurant name has no legs for example ‘Subway’. The winner is whoever scores the most during their innings. This game works best when driving through towns.  Click here for detailed instructions on how to play and then modify the rules to make them work.

recommended age 4 and above
One person starts off with a single word eg. dog, the next person has to say the first word they think of related to dog eg. animal, the next person the first word they think of connected to animal eg donkey, and so on until you get completely stuck. You can also play this game by remembering the words that have gone before and if anyone repeats one they are out. This is very good for lateral thinking

recommended age 8 and above
The first person starts off with a single word (this game is easiest if you write it down), the next person has to change one letter and make a different word, and so on until no more words can be made. (For example, “James, Games, Gates, Mates, Mites, Mines, Minus”)

recommended age 6 and above
Take turns calling out five letters in any order, such as ‘E, H, A, S, and W.’ All players write them down. Then everyone gets a few minutes (or a few miles) to figure out a silly message about an animal using the letters to start words. For example, with the letters above you could write ‘Emus have a silly walk’. After you’ve taken turns reading your messages, another person calls out a new set of letters.

all ages because you work as a team
Take turns naming animals you think you might see in the next 20 miles (or longer if you are on a motorway). Everyone makes the same list. For example, you might put these on the list: baby in a car, bird of prey, a dragon on a pub sign, some cows, etc. The adult in the car decides if they are either too difficult or easy. The car then work together as a team and cross the animals off as you find them. Sometimes its easier for an adult to cross off the list especially with the under 5’s. The driver doesn’t help because he has to give each of the players a little treat for everything found on the list by the time you’ve covered in the given amount of miles.

recommended age 6 and above
Each player has an 9 innings (or less if you want). During your inning you have to spot vehicles and count the wheels on them adding up as you go along. For example, if a car passes, you get 4 points and if a bike passes, you get 2 points. If a vehicle with 6 or more wheels passes, your innings is over and the next player gets a go. The person with the most points at the end of all the innings wins.

recommended age 2 and above
The first player thinks of something they can see and says ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with…’ The winner is the first to guess correctly then its their turn. For smaller children it can be I spy a cat and the child looks for the cat. I spy some thing red and the child can find a red car.

recommended age 6 and above
Make phrases with the car registration numbers e.g. WWW 435D could be Wierd Wooly Wombats.

recommended age 8 and above
I don’t get this game at all.  Maybe you will.  You will need a paper and pencil for this to keep track of the score, its probably best if one person scores and everyone else plays (to avoid arguments). Starting with the player behind the driver the game starts after the first silver car. The player has to put balls in order until the next silver car which ends his or her go. The winner is the person with the most points after the black has been spotted at the end of the whole sequence (see a black car) after ‘spotting’ all the other colours in order. (pink balls are a car with a caravan, brown balls are a white van)

The order of colors is: red 1 point, followed by any of the colors below (do this 15 times). yellow 2 points, green 3 points, brown 4 points, blue 5 points, pink 6 points, black 7 points. Hold on I haven’t finished yet! if you see two red cars behind each other, when you are doing the first bit of red followed by color, you loose 4 points and your go!

recommended age 6 and above
Decide on a category. Starting with the person behind the driver each player has to name something in that category. As each player can’t think of something new they drop out of the game. The winner is the last person left. Categories can include: trees, flowers, animals, colours, etc

recommended for 2 players age 5 and above
Players count to three then make their hands into the shape of a rock (clenched fist) paper (flat hand) or scissors (hands clenched with index and middle finger stretched out into the shape of scissors). Rock smothers scissors but is smothered by paper, Paper smothers rock but is cut by scissors and Scissors cut paper but are smothered by rock. Winner is the best of three

any age
See who can stay quiet for the longest…the winner (the last person to make a noise) gets a treat. A brilliant game for when things are getting fraut, if you’re lucky they might even fall asleep!!

Rhubarb Game
Any age
You must only answer rhubarb to any question you are asked…ie ‘what do you like taking to bed with you’…answer rhubarb’ but if you laugh your turns over. Time each go and the one who stays in the longest is the winner. This can be played using the word of your choice. My children like playing it with the word poo, giving hours of hilarity, but I’m sure your kids are far more sensible!!

any age
A version of the game above but you’re only allowed to say yes, no, black or white

3 upwards
Dish out some jelly sweets (or sweets that don’t melt) between the players. If you see a horse you must yell ‘sheep’. The last one to yell it gives one of their sweets to the person on their left…if they yell horse by mistake they give a sweet to the player on their right too. To make it more fun for older children, and adults! if you see a sheep you must yell ‘horse’ a caravan ‘bird’ a bird ‘caravan’ a police car ‘dog’ and a dog ‘police car’

any age
Count a specific animal if  in the country people, cats or dogs if you’re in the town that you see on your side of the car. If you pass an animal on your side of the car, you go back to zero, but only if the opposing team calls out “your (cows, sheep, men etc) are buried!”.  This game gets interesting when distraction tactics are used to either cause your opponent to miss the thing they are counting on their side of the road or to miss a graveyard on your side of the road. A white horse can count as 10 bonus points and a postbox can cancel out a graveyard like a get out of gaol free card (for this it is probably a good idea to have a piece of paper that the adults can issue out when a post box has been seen and surrendered when used to stop the points being taken off because of a graveyard) The team with the most points wins.

– Travel With Kids on
– Are We There Yet? Favorite Car Games To Keep Families Sane!

Big Trip Tomorrow: Must get Zzzzzzz

Tomorrow I am taking 45 people to Maple Syrup Fest at MacKenzie Environmental Education Center.

Tonight I will be in bed by 8 pm.  Promise.

Preparing for a trip like this is exciting and tiring. The permission slips are probably the thing I hate most. They are a necessary part of working with kids, but paperwork is never fun for me. Then I worry about everything going well. What will the weather be like?  Will everyone show up? Will the bus be on time? And on and on…. Of course, everything always goes just fine, but that doesn’t mean my brain shuts off.  It doesn’t.  This is tiring.

That’s why sleep is especially important before a big trip.

Well gotta get ready for bed. Goodnight.

As a teacher, parent or childcare provider, how do you take care of yourself?

When awake, Diane Schwartz is the Outdoor Education Specialist at the Goodman Community Center. She also manages Schumacher Farm County Park in Waunakee. Subscribe to this blog now and receive a free 11-page Bubble Activity Guide.

No recess equals wild and crazy kids

I dare anyone to say that kids don’t need recess to learn. There is no better way to prove this than an old-fashioned rainy day.

Today was such a day.

By 3:00 pm (when we pick up kids from school for afterschool), they were jumping out of their skin. The noise level on the bus was loud and a few kids were standing up on their seats and acting crazy. I addressed the noise and behavior by using the “clap once if you can hear me” strategy. When I had their attention, I acknowledged their day and the lack of outside time.

Think about it. They had been in school for 7 hours without recess. When they got on the bus, all that energy exploded. It had to.

When we got to the Center, the noise and activity continued and it took
a while for the kids to calm down. Snack helped.

Meanwhile, the rain kept coming down with no sign of stopping.
We made it through the day, but hopefully, the sun will come out tomorrow.

The kids need their outside time and so do the teachers.
Pent up energy causes behavior problems and shorter attention spans.
Rainy days can be fun sometimes, but let’s hear it for recess.

Share your stories about recess and why it’s important. Have you ever had an outside recess on a rainy day?

Diane Schwartz is an Outdoor Education Teacher at Goodman Community Center in Madison.  Today, she subbed in the after school and stayed inside with 19 K-1 students. Subscribe to this blog now and receive a free 11-page bubble activity guide. Thanks for reading.



Bad Van Behavior Kills Ski Fun

What is fun? Cross Country Skiing

What kills fun? Driving a 15-passenger-van full of kids, three of which are  fighting in the back.

Last week Thursday was the first day of ski lessons and everything was going great: the trip to Blackhawk Ski Club went well; the kids loved skiing; and the weather was perfect.

And then we got in the van to go home.

Joan started talking trash and couldn’t keep her mouth shut. To make things worse, her brother and another girl egged her on.

Things got so loud I had to pull over and sort things out. I split up Joan and her brother which meant displacing two other kids who were acting fine. I hate this.

Being a teacher is tough sometimes. I want to have fun with the kids, but I also have to be safe and take action when necessary. I’ll talk to the kids and parents and make sure they understand behavior expectations and the consequences. Right now, I’m thinking that if behavior results in pulling over the van, then the children involved will be removed from lessons. This may sounds harsh, but when it comes to safety, I’m not going to mess around. Besides, most of the kids are fine.  It’s not fair to the others to allow this kind of behavior.

One thing is clear, if I don’t take action, it will be a very long 8 weeks.

I’ll let you know what happens after this week’s lesson.

What are you doing to help kids with behavior issues? What works? What doesn’t? How do you decide when to remove children from an activity?

Diane Schwartz is an Outdoor Education Teacher at Goodman Community Center in Madison, Wisconsin. She is also the Site Coordinator at Schumacher Farm County Park in Waunakee. Register for this blog now and receive your free 11-page Bubble Activity Guide.  Thank you for visiting.