Summer break is (almost) here.
I, however, still have 4 more school days.

My kids are already done. So is my teacher husband. 
So I've had a lot of self-pity these last few days!

The biggest question I have every summer is...

What am I going to do with my kids?!

I have four of them. Ages 1, 3, 4, and 5.

And yes, I know the correct answer is "spend time with them." 
We do have a lot of fun vacations planned this year.

But if I am not careful, we'll be at each other's throats in no time.

So as I was thinking up my summer not-on-vacation activity wish list, 
I thought I'd share my top eight.

You might find something here to add to your list as well. 

Every summer we renew our Brookfield Zoo membership.

Last year they had the giant bug exhibit. 

I hear the dinosaurs are coming back this summer. 
Hopefully the kids won't be freaked out like they 
were a few summers ago!

We spend a few days a week there. I love it because the kids 
never bore of the animals. It's big enough that we 
can switch up what animals we see each time. 

They love the giraffes the best. 
Ever since they saw one drinking another's...
well, never mind! The reason is not that important! 

They like to fight over the map too. We've learned to just ask for 
four maps rather than have them take turns...that didn't really work!

Plus, if it's rainy, we can go into the Hamill Play Zoo 
and spend the day in there where there are a lot of crafts, 
exploration activities, petting and holding animals, and more!

I've been meaning to try this awesome activity for awhile now!

You freeze a bunch of toys and gadgets in a pan or bucket overnight. 
The next morning, the kids have to use a variety of 
techniques and substances (salt, sand, warm water, sugar) to try 
and melt the ice to get to the toys.

Click to see the Counting Coconuts blog where I first saw this idea!

My kids love playing with the Crayola bath crayons. So I bet they 
would LOVE making these vivid, fun shaped bath crayons too.

All you need is glycerin soap, food coloring, and 
something like a fun shaped ice cube tray.

Find the homemade bath crayon recipe here.

Look how easy this is!

Some flour and stiff paper are all you need. 
You can make any shape, letters, or pictures that you want.

My kids love Sprite. This magic potion mixes clear 
Sprite with various colors of frozen Kool-Aid ice cubes. 
Watch them mix and observe what happens!

Around the Fourth of July, my kids go Glow-Stick crazy
We love buying them at the store, Michaels. 
You can get 10 or more for only $1.

Now, we happen to have a small cotton-candy machine at our house, 
but I was thinking, even buying the small bags of cotton candy 
at the store would work just fine I bet.

This verdant cottage sprouts up from four kitchen sponges 
and a handful of grass seed, with no glue required!
Find the directions for how to make this here.

A Shark Attack Party Snack is the perfect platter 
for a summer celebration. Blue jello and Swedish Fish complete this hilarious, 
but healthy idea for fun food crafts and party food platters.

Click here to find out more details. get my pencil and get going on these activities 
so I can check them off my list!

Hope you found something fun that inspires you for this summer. 
I'd love to hear any fun ideas you have on your list. 
Just leave them in the comments below!

Til next time~
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If you haven't read "What's in the Ocean?" Activities for Kids - Part 1, you'll want to read that first. There are a lot of FREE downloads you won't want to miss! 

This week, we continued our exploration of what exactly is in the ocean. 
I'm going to show you a ton more activities (including free downloads) that you can use with your students.  
But before we dive in, let me show you an Ocean Themed Color-By-Number Resource that you can download right now for absolutely FREE!
Use it for fast finishers, recess time, to reinforce number and color recognition, or just for fun!

We also took a look at the land that borders the ocean. You know it best as...
THE BEACH! Woo-hoo! 

I found an adorable little series called Stella and Sam by 
Mary-Louise Gay that I definitely will be using again in the future. The 
one used for this theme was Stella Star of the Sea.

Stella and her little brother spend the day at the sea.
Stella has been to the sea before and knows all its secrets,
but Sam has so many questions!

We talked about the various things you would find as 
you walked along the beach. Starfish was one of the 
first answers the kids gave. I found that the kids mostly only know 
that a starfish had five arms and "stuck" on to things! 

I found some neat videos that helped the students 
understand more about them:

We learned that although we call them "starfish", their real name is 
"sea stars" and they are not a fish at all! They do not have gills, scales, or fins like fish do and they do not move the same through the water. 
Fish use their tails to push them forward in the water, 
but a sea star uses tiny tube suction feet to 
help them move along.

Watch how they move. 
(Click to the side of the play arrow.)

This next video shows how a starfish uses its rays (or arms) 
and the suction tube feet underneath to flip over.

We learned an amazing ability that the sea stars have...
They can RE-GROW their arms!

This one shows a starfish being fed.

We also learned that...

Starfish have spines on their backs that they use for protection. 
We made a craft that emphasizes these spines.

First, we painted the starfish a tan color from the 
FREE starfish template I found. 
We cut it out and glue it to a blue "ocean" background.

Then we painted it again and sprinkled rice 
on it to represent the starfish's spines.

I made a sentence
template for the kids to 
cut out so they could glue on:
"The spines give the sea star protection."

They turned out great! We hung them around our classroom for decoration:

We also spent some time exploring jellyfish

Did you know...
… some jellyfish are bigger than a human 
and others are as small as a pinhead?

… people in some countries eat jellyfish?

… jellyfish have no brain but some kinds have eyes?

… that jellyfish are mainly made up of water and protein?

… a group of jellyfish is called a smack

Learned something new, didn't you?!

I found this great link on
 that let us really explore jellyfish.
Click here to see it.

We got to read about them, watch a short video, see a map, print out a trading card, and even email an e-card to our principal!

We watched some really neat videos that let us see jelly fish in action.

...watched a jellyfish dance...

...saw a jellyfish get eaten by a sea turtle...

...and learned about a relative of the jellyfish-
the Manowar!

We made our very own jellyfish using balloons and streamers!

First, we cut strips of streamers into skinny strips.

I taught the kids how to use a tape dispenser...
they don't have that lesson in the curriculum! (wink)

Then we taped them onto the bottom half of the balloon. 

We added some eyeballs...even though 
we know jellyfish don't have eyes.
Before you knew it, our classroom was swarming with jellyfish!

Did I mention we got a new class pet?!
Why, it's a jelly fish, of course!

Hard to see it, but it's in there!

First, fill one of the bottom corners with water and rubber-band it closed.

Now, I should say that the directions I used were unclear as to 
how big the corner of water should be. Just think to yourself that 
it has to be able to squeeze into a 2 Liter jug.

Then we cut the remainder of the baggie into strips. 
And trimmed some to be shorter than others.

The kids decided his name was going to be "Squishy." 
So we stuffed Squishy into the empty 2 Liter jug.

Then we filled up the bottle to the top with water and added a few 
drops of blue food coloring to accent the look.
(Shout out to the wonderful teacher across the hall 
who loaned me her blue food coloring since I forgot mine!)

Get your very own Jelly Fish in a bottle directions here.

I also sent home instructions on 
how to make jelly fish flashlights!

Click here to make a flashlight for yourself!

We didn't make these...but I thought about it! 

Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, author Jane Clarke introduced us 
to a new friend named Gilbert. 

I love how this book enhances the learning we did on remoras as well. 

We followed up with a great sequel:

And on a different day, we read another book 
about our new friend titled: 

Continuing our exploration of sharks, we worked on one 
of my favorite labeling activities....

First we used the smart board to 
learn andtalk about the various parts of a shark.

Then we spread out on the carpet 
with clipboards and filled in our sheet.

We also cut out the parts and glued them on.

Go to Regina Davis's store to find this shark labeling writing activity.

Have you seen this awesome shark video before?
(Click to the side of the play arrow.)

I could sing that song all day long! Ha!

In this next book...

...Stanley the fish encounters a scary shark as 
he is searches for his school of friends.

Most of all, I love the vivid colors author/illustrator, 
Matt Buckingham, uses in this book.

One of our writing times brought out all kinds of fishy stories! 
These are some of Deanna Jump's writing sheets that 
we've been using this year.

I gave the students the following prompt:

If you could be any ocean animal in the world, what would you be? 
And what would you do?

Here are a couple of responses!

"I'm a jellyfish. I'm stinging people."

and this one...

"I am a yarn fish. And I hide."

I don't know what a yarn fish don't ask!

In other beach-y news...

I buried a bunch of different types of shells in the 
bottom of a foil pan and covered them more with sand. 

Then we explored and compared/contrasted the different 
shells as we found them. I had enough so that the kids could 
each pick one to take home.
Some pieces of coral were even found in there!

I also had ordered these fun sandcastle picture frames 
from Oriental Trading. This craft is a great activity for practicing 
patience and self-control with glue! Ha!

First we punched out all the pieces.

 Then we slowly started putting it all together.

Before we knew it, it was done!

Wrapping things up,
We had a special visitor today...

We had a guest teacher come in and give us a little demonstration and tutorial on how to use and put on scuba equipment

The kids were absolutely thrilled! They listened completely 
bug-eyed and had a million questions for her!
It was quite a special treat!

Well, this diver is wiped out from all that ocean exploration we did! 
There are 8 more days left of students in attendance.

14 more days til summer break.

(Not that I'm counting...)

Til next time...
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