By Amy Baskin
From the print edition, April/May 2006
1. Get Wheelin’ Parade
Invite neighbours to meet at your house for an all-wheels rally. Outside, set up a decorating station with crepe-paper streamers, stickers, balloons, stuffed animals, boxes, duct tape and string. Guests can gussy up their wagons, bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs or in-line skates for the parade. Carry a boom box with marching tunes and ride to the park or around the block. Give out awards for wheels that are the most loved, oldest, newest, funniest, noisiest, most creative, etc.
2. Mango Magic
After eating a mango, carefully cut along the edge of the large white pit with sharp scissors or a knife (adults only, please!). Pry it open and gently remove the kidney-shaped seed. Place the seed in a resealable plastic sandwich bag with one cup (250 mL) of potting soil mixed with two tablespoons (25 mL) of water. Set it on the kitchen counter away from direct sunlight. Every few days examine the seed to look for a root shoot that resembles a bean sprout. When the root’s about two centimetres, plant the seed (root down) in a pot with more soil. Place in a sunny spot, keep it moist and watch for a plant to poke out in two to four weeks. If this seed doesn’t grow, munch another mango and try again!
3. Smooth Sailing Celebration
Make waves with this fun, all-ages activity. Divide guests into teams and challenge them to make a boat within a time limit. Provide materials that float such as clean Styrofoam trays, plastic jugs, corks, plastic straws and milk cartons, plus duct tape. Launch the vessels at a nearby pond, puddle or backyard splash pool with celebratory lemonade (maybe even sparkling wine for the moms and dads?). Bring along plastic action figures and dolls to act as passengers. To test watercraft stability, see how many pennies each can hold before it sinks.
4. Perfect playdough
Make this non-toxic, fruit-fragranced dough for your centrepiece (no. 13) and for rainy day fun.
5. Clear your Closet Bash
Reduce, recycle and refresh your daughter’s wardrobe with this fashionable party. Ask your preteen or teen to search her closet for clothes (in good condition) that she no longer wears. Make sure to include costume jewellery, scarves, purses and shoes. Then invite her friends to bring their own previously loved items for a stylish swap. Designate the bedrooms as change rooms so guests can model clothes for one another. Provide each person with a shopping bag to hold her fashion finds. At the end of the evening, donate unclaimed items to charity. Got younger kids? Try a toy or book swap party.
6. Outdoor Toy Wash
Liberate ride-on toys from the basement or garage for a spring car wash. Set the scene with spray bottles of water, dish soap, sponges and a hose (or water from your rain barrel). Kids can also bathe their plastic dolls and action figures outside in a baby bathtub or splash pool. For more clean fun, let them wash doll clothes and pin them to the line (or a string tied at kid height).
7. Signs of Spring Party
Divide guests into teams and give each a digital camera for a neighbourhood signs-of-spring scavenger hunt. Each team must find and photograph themselves with stuff such as: animal tracks, a crocus or daffodil, a bird, an ice cream truck, laundry on a clothesline, kids on bikes, a pogo stick, etc. Back home, load the pics onto your computer for a slide show and have each team present its signs of spring. Celebrate with butterfly sandwiches (cut in triangles for wings). For fabulous fridge magnets, print off the photos and cover favourites with clear, self-adhesive shelf paper. Attach a small magnet to the back of each one.
8. World’s Best Bubbles
Make your own super bubbles by whisking together 1Â½ cups (375 mL) water, Â½ cup (125 mL) liquid dish soap and Â¼ cup (50 mL) corn syrup in a large bowl, or shake it up in a jar. Experiment with different homemade bubble wands. Try dipping a plastic berry basket and fly swatter in the solution and waving them through the air. Or blow bubbles through a cardboard tube!
9. Ultimate Umbrella
Visit a dollar or craft store to buy a child-sized umbrella, fabric paint in squeezable tubes and a bag of small, colourful foam shapes. Decorate the outside of the umbrella with fabric-paint squiggles, flowers and suns. With white glue attach foam shapes along the umbrella’s rim. Try decorating matching rubber rain boots, too. Let dry, then revel in the raindrops.
10. Backyard Bliss
Once your soil is no longer soggy, you can start to prepare your garden. Just spread a five-centimetre layer of compost, manure or peat moss over the soil and dig it in. Little ones can help dig with smaller shovels or toy dump trucks. Older kids can lightly rake the grass to clear out debris. And if you’re anxious for some immediate gratification, transplant cheery pansies to spruce things up (to get the timing right, ask your local nursery).
11. Visions of Veggies
Starting to see daffodils bloom? It’s the perfect time to plant a cool-weather crop such as lettuce or peas. Browse the garden centres with your kids; choose a seed packet and follow the instructions.
12. It’s a Wonderful Worm Walk
Don your rain gear to hunt for nature’s craft materials. Hike a trail, hit a park or just walk around your block. Carry a fruit basket or plastic bag and gather interesting twigs, rocks, leaves or wildflowers to make your spring centrepiece (no. 13). And see who can spot the biggest, skinniest or fattest worm along the way.
13. Spring Centrepiece
Press a thin layer of playdough (for a homemade recipe, see no. 4) onto the bottom of a sturdy paper plate or tinfoil pie plate. Then stick your worm walk nature finds (no. 12) into the playdough. Add colour and interest with seashells, feathers, silk flowers or beads from a dollar store.
14. Spring into Cleaning
With their own mini cleaning kits, even little ones can help out. Give each child a plastic bucket or wooden fruit basket filled with plastic gloves, a spray bottle with water and vinegar, paper towels and disposable dust wipes or cleaning cloths. Assign them tasks with kid appeal, such as spraying a window or dusting the tv. What you might think is a chore can be an adventure for your little guys…just don’t stress about the results.
15. Chocolate Egg Olympics
Here’s a great way to use mini chocolate Easter eggs or candy treats discounted after the holidays.