Updated: Aug 15
A Companion to Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home
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Summer has always been synonymous with freedom for me. I mean, Independence Day pretty much falls smack dab in the middle. But this year, with social distancing and so many closures and restrictions due to COVID-19, it feels much less so.
While a pandemic certainly put a damper on the hottest season of the year, I feel fortunate my children are little and their world is so small that they don't really know the difference. Even so, when the school year officially came to an end (my husband is a teacher and my toddler and I finished Year 1 of Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum in May), we were ready for a change of pace.
Still, with playgrounds, splash pad and other types of summer fun off the table, the question remained "what am I going to do with my toddler all day?" Our library had reopened for curbside pick up, so I knew we were going to be able to keep reading but there were still lots of hours to fill. Just when I was starting to miss the routine we had with structured learning time, Busy Toddler came to the rescue again.
Susie Saves Summer
I was scrolling Instagram on one day in June bookmarking activities to infuse some fun in our day (my best friend call this role "Cruise Director" - another mom responsibility) when Susie of Busy Toddler released her FREE "Summer Camp at Home" resource. Her opening line really struck a chord:
Day camps canceled. Vacations postponed. School’s out so what will the kids do all day? Summer will still be great and magical – I promise. - Busy Toddler
In a matter of seconds I had clicked, downloaded and printed the free PDF (like, I-didn't even-have-to-enter-my-email FREE). Now, you may be one of those people that excels in coming up with fun and creative ways to keep your toddler entertained and engaged but I'm not... This was exactly what I needed - a flexible "itinerary" of summer fun! Summer was going to be magical after all!
The resource includes six weeks of themed activities and is designed to accommodate a wide age range - from toddlers to elementary students.
STEM WEEK – Science experiments - all the fun, no test --> Scroll down!
CAMPING WEEK – Camping activities are must for summer camp!
NATURE WEEK – Fun in the great outdoors or your own backyard
ART WEEK – Explore new art techniques and ways to create
GAMES WEEK – Get ready for some good family fun and games
WATER & ICE WEEK – What says summer more than water play?
As a parent I am in pursuit of raising readers and as a former teacher, I know the importance of front loading, so of course I headed straight to my library's website to put some books on hold related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to supplement our home library.
I did this with each unit and I love having a "theme" to guide me when I'm picking out books. Because raising readers is my passion, I scoured the internet to find the best books to go along with each week and I'm happy to share them with you!
Summer Camp at Home with Busy Toddler: STEM Week
I decided to kick things off with STEM Week. Here are some of the activities we did:
STEM Week Activities
This is not as messy as it looks, I promise! Oobleck is a non-Newtonian substance that is gooey but not sticky and rinses right off. I didn't get many good photos because the lighting in my bathroom is terrible, but we did this activity in the bathtub to make clean-up that much easier. See the Oobleck Party post on Busy Toddler's site.
This one's pretty self-explanatory, but there's more going on here than meets the eye. Susie explains it all in her Make a DIY Ball Ramp blog post.
This activity was "unusual" in that it actually required me to prep something the night before. But since the name implies something frozen, I should have expected. My toddler loves doing "science" as he calls it and the baking soda being frozen made it last longer! See Suise's post Fizzy Ice Cubes for more details.
DIY Rock Candy
My toddler helped me dissolve the sugar and water to create the sugary substance that becomes rock candy, then I poured half the liquid into one mason jar and the other half in another. I dipped a wooden skewer in a jar, then rolled it back and forth on a sheet tray lined with more sugar. Then my son repeated the process (with a little help) with another skewer. Then we propped each one up in the middle of a jar and kinda forgot about them for a few days... A week later, the sugar had crystallized and I had to work to break them out. I wish I had added some food coloring to make the finished product more visually appealing, but they were still pretty!
It was a sweet end to a fun week of reading and STEM-related activities.
STEM Week Book List
Boxitects - Smith, Kim <-- A new favorite in our house!
Be a Maker - Howes, Katey
Iggy Peck, Architect - Beaty, Andrea
Ada Twist, Scientist - Beaty, Andrea
Rosie Revere, Engineer - Beaty, Andrea
If I Built a School - Van Dusen, Chris
If I Built a House - Van Dusen, Chris
If I Built a Car - Van Dusen, Chris
Dreaming Up - A Celebration of Building - Hale, Christy
Look at that Building!: A First Book of Structures - Ritchie, Scot
The Most Magnificent Thing - Spire, Ashley
Gravity - Chin, Jason
The Darkest Dark - Hadfield, Chris
Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle - Paul, Miranda
I Get Wet (Vicki Cobb Science Play) - Cobb, Vicki
Mighty, Mighty Construction Site - Rinker, Sherri Duskey
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site - Rinker, Sherri Duskey
When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox - Deenihan, Jamie, L.B.
The Princess and the Petri Dish - Fliess, Sue
Visit my website to shop the STEM Book List or discover more great books based on your child's interest.
Next up: Summer Camp at Home: Camping Week
See Also: Busy Toddler's FREE Summer Camp at Home, Summer Camp at Home: Nature Week, Summer Camp at Home: Art Week, Summer Camp at Home: Water and Ice Week, Summer Camp at Home: Games Week, An Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler, A Day in the Life of Raising a Reader