Tag Archives: activity

Fall Traditions: Decorating Pumpkins

A treasured fall/Halloween tradition in the United States is pumpkin carving or making “jack-o’-lanterns”. Whether this is your first time decorating a pumpkin or you are a seasoned pro, these videos have a few tips and ideas you may find helpful.

How do I make it safe for the children? If you are carving a pumpkin with your host child(ren), remember to be very careful with them around sharp tools. You can purchase kid-safe pumpkin carving tools that cut without a sharp blade. If you don’t have those, let kids help with all of the tasks that don’t involve a knife such as: picking the pumpkin, scooping out the insides, choosing the design and adding any other decorative touches. You can buy or print pumpkin templates online and school aged kids can use a thumbtack to mark the pattern on the pumpkin. Here you can find a free template and instructions on how to do this.

How long do they last? Carved jack-o-lanterns begin to deteriorate after just a few days outside (depending on the weather). Temperatures over 60˚F (15˚C), rain, and freezing then thawing all make them rot more quickly. So, if you want your pumpkin to be fresh on the big night, don’t carve it more than a few days before Halloween and/or keep it in a cool place.

Check out Au Pair in America’s Halloween Fun Pinterest board and our Fall Bucket List for more fall traditions and activities to try.

Here are video readings of two of my favorite pumpkin stories.

Image: Jeff Kramer

Fall Traditions: Visiting a Pumpkin Patch

The pandemic has changed lots of things this year, but one tradition that experts seem to agree poses a low to moderate risk is visiting a pumpkin patch. Social distancing, mask-wearing and general hand sanitizing precautions should be taken to reduce the risk. We cannot go to the pumpkin patch as a cluster meeting, but it is still a great fall tradition you could experience with your host family or a friend.

From the CDC website:

Below is a list of some local pumpkin patches. Visit their websites for details before you go. Many are requiring advance registration to eliminate crowds and comply with social distancing requirements.

Anne Arundel County:

Charles County:

Howard County:

Montgomery County:

Prince George’s County:

* These are my personal recommendations. 

Photo:  Don Graham

Make Your Own Play Dough

Play dough is the perfect modeling material for children. Their small hands can pat, poke, pinch, roll and knead it into many shapes. Keep it in an airtight container to use another day, or let it air dry into favorite shapes.

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Measure 2 cups of flour, one cup of salt and 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of oil to one cup of water in a separate bowl then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. For colored play dough, squeeze 10-20 drops of food coloring into the water before you add it to the mixture. Cook the dough at low heat in a wide pan, stirring constantly until it becomes rubbery. Remove the dough from the heat and knead it for a few minutes. When it cools the kids can play too!

Photo: Kevin Jarrett (Flickr)

Looking for Valentine’s Day Activities?

valentine Clever CupcakesValentine’s Day (February 14) is a time of love, friendship, giving, and caring. Americans use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell friends and family how much they care.  Children usually exchange cards at school.

Are you looking for Valentine’s day activity and craft ideas?

Look no further…  Au Pair in America has a Pinterest pinboard devoted to Valentine’s Day:

APIA Valentine’s Day Pinboard

Photo: Clever Cupcakes (Flickr)

Snow Days are Here!

Looking for ideas to keep the kids busy on a snow day (when they are home from school for winter weather?)

Here is a simple snow day game plan…

  1. Play in the snow. Do you wanna build a snowman? Here’s a great how-to video.
  2. Come inside and warm up with hot chocolate (don’t forget the marshmallows.)
  3. May your own play dough.
  4. Play board games or legos together.
  5. Ever heard of Snow Ice Cream? Great for freshly fallen snow.
  6. Look for more fun things to do on the APIA Pinterest Boards:
  7. Bake cookies together or make some other fun recipe.
  8. Play in the snow again.
  9. Warm up inside taking turns on the Make a Snowflake Website.
  10. Make a blanket fort.

Stay warm & have fun!

Photo: Tony Crider (Flickr)

Big Kids Need Interaction, Too

Just because a child is old enough to occupy themselves, doesn’t mean that they should be expected to do so the majority of the time.  Host families have a certain expectation of activity and involvement for their children. Get the kids engaged and active. You can be more fun than the TV or video game.

Problem:
But, my kids don’t want to do anything but watch TV or play video games.

Solution:
Instead of saying – “Would you like to (fill in the blank with any activity)?  The answer will often be, “No.”

Try this – “Now we are going to (fill in the blank with any activity.) or “Would you rather do  ___ or ____?”  (Make sure both the choices are things you approve of.)
Your chances of co-operation are greatly increased. Even kids who are reluctant to try new things will usually get in the spirit of things and have fun, if you pick a good activity.

Problem:
I don’t know what to do with school age kids?

Solution:
Here are a few easy ideas to start with.  Look for more on the internet and the library.  Google “activities school age kids” or “activities tweens”
-Cooking
-Making things (check craft stores like Michael’s for kits and models that are age appropriate)
-Going fun places (check the Cluster Google Map for all kinds of great places in the local area including pottery making, jewelry making, farms, museums and more)
-Sports (soccer, tennis, swimming, bicycling, roller skating, ice skating, and more)
-Visit places in the area like the library, museums and attractions in DC, mini-golf and go-karts
-Let them teach you to do something they enjoy.  Kids this age love being the expert.
-Get outdoors and visit local parks.  You can even make a project of reviewing all the local parks (what kind of equipment they have, is there shade, water fountain?)  They can write this up and keep, so they remember which ones they want to go to again and which ones to skip in the future.
-Let them help you search and plan some activities.
-Check on the APIA Pinterest page and here on our cluster blog for ideas.
-If your host children are in scouts, find out if there are things that they need to complete that you can work on with them.  Even if they are not in scouts, I suggest you check your local library for Cub Scout Handbooks (Tiger, Wolf, Bear & Webelos.)  They are full of activities appropriate for boys (and girls) from age 7-11.
-If you have a GPS, try taking them geocaching. Here is a website with all the details.

Note: Always get permission from your host parents before taking the kids places.

Make Your Own Play Dough

Play dough is the perfect modeling material for children. Their small hands can pat, poke, pinch, roll and knead it into many shapes. Keep it in an airtight container to use another day, or let it air dry into favorite shapes.

8640007416_3170564961_m

Measure 2 cups of flour, one cup of salt and 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of oil to one cup of water in a separate bowl then add the mixture to the dry ingredients. For colored play dough, squeeze 10-20 drops of food coloring into the water before you add it to the mixture. Cook the dough at low heat in a wide pan, stirring constantly until it becomes rubbery. Remove the dough from the heat and knead it for a few minutes. When it cools the kids can play too!

Photo: Kevin Jarrett (Flickr)