Category Archives: Tonya Staab

25 Free Summer Activities for Kids

25 free summer activities for kids

Summer is here, kids are at home, and the never-ending sound of ‘I’m bored’ is probably already ringing through the house.

Here are 25 free summer activities for kids:

  1. Geocaching – Visit to learn more. It’s also a great way to get rid of some of the trinkets and small toys you’ve collected over the years.
  2. Outdoor Play – Set up stations for the kids including chalk hopscotch, egg and spoon races, jump rope, hula hooping and more.
  3. Dance Party – Crank up the music and have a dance party. Teach the kids some of your best moves including line dancing, the chicken dance, the moonwalk, and the Macarena.
  4. Be a Tourist – Take a tour of your city and see it through the eyes of a tourist. Find out about the history and discover hidden gems.
  5. Game Day – Make it a board game day. Every person gets to pick a board game. Don’t forget to put out lots of snacks and drinks.
  6. Backyard Camping – Pitch a tent in the backyard or sleep under the stars. Don’t forget flashlights and some great stories to share.
  7. Visit the Park – Head to the local playground or park. Take a ball, or frisbee and pack a picnic lunch. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen.
  8. Movie Marathon – Everybody gets a choice on movie marathon day. Get the popcorn popping, grab some beverages, blankets and pillows. You can even stay in your pj’s.
  9. Scavenger Hunt – Grab a paper bag and attach pictures of things kids need to find and collect or draw a picture of. Head outdoors and start looking for your treasures. I’ve compiled a list of fun activities kids can do on nature walks too.
  10. Kitchen Fun – Teach your kids how to cook. This can be a great time to teach them how to make their own breakfast, make a fun treat for game or movie night, or you could make things such as popsicles, smoothies, trail mix, or even decorate cookies and cupcakes. Teach them everything from cracking eggs to measuring ingredients.
  11. Water Play – Turn on the sprinklers, throw water balloons, visit the beach, or simply soak in a tub full of bubbles with bathtub markers and toys. There’s plenty of water fun to be had.
  12. Volunteer – Contact your local church, volunteer organization and see how you and your kids can help out this summer. Maybe you could visit a nursing home, put smiles on the faces of sick children, take a care package to someone who’s all alone or ill, play with the animals at a local animal shelter, or pick up trash in your neighborhood.
  13. Visit the Library – Read books, stay for story time and see if you can borrow passes to local attractions. See if they have any special events coming up while you are there.
  14. Free Clinics – Did you know that Lowe’s, Home Depot, Apple and Microsoft offer free clinics to kids? Well they do. Also check with your local national park, state park, parks & rec office and nature centers to see if they have any free clinics or Jr Ranger programs happening over the summer.
  15. Fly Kites – Make kites at home and then head outdoors to fly them.
  16. Create – Grab a big tub and fill it with paper rolls, paper plates, scraps of ribbon, fabric, paper, buttons and more. Don’t forget scissors and glue. Let the kids get creative.
  17. Put on a Show – Have the kids create their own show such as a magic show, play, puppet theater or maybe they’d like to try and create their own video.
  18. Make a Time Capsule – This is a great activity for the whole family – maybe you could include a copy of the video the kids made (see no. 17).
  19. Free Downloads – Get on-line. There are tons of free coloring pages, activity pages and downloads available, particularly for the kids favorite movies, TV shows and characters.
  20. Have a Bonfire – Grab the marshmallows, firewood and blankets and head outdoors. Make s’mores, tell stories or sing songs around the fire.
  21. Indoor Fun – you could build a fort, do a jigsaw puzzle, put on that dance party, or show, or play balloon toss
  22. Photo Walk - Go on a photo walk, really look around you, take photographs of flowers, of new leaves and plants growing, bugs, birds, spider webs and anything else you find interesting.
  23. Clean Out and Donate – Now is a great time to do a clean out. Have the kids go through their toys and clothes and donate unused items, too small clothes, or other things they just don’t want anymore.
  24. Pack a Picnic – Whether it’s in the backyard, on the living room floor, at the park or the beach, let the kids set up a picnic, they will love it.
  25. Summer Events – Check local listings for free concerts in the park, movies, street fairs and parades.

Tip: Write things to do on popsicle sticks with a permanent marker and place the sticks in a jar. Whenever the kids are looking for a fun activity, have them close their eyes and draw a stick to choose that day’s activity!

Summer Reading Challenges for Kids

complete guide to summer reading challenges for kids

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate a little learning (and fun) into our kids summer program. Encourage them to read, and they just might get rewarded too.

Here are some great summer reading challenges for kids.

  1. Barnes & Noble: Read 8 books and record them in the Barnes & Noble reading journal, take it into the store and choose a free book from their selection on the reading journal list.
  2. Pottery Barn Kids: Read 8 books from the Pottery Barn Kids recommended book list and kids will receive a free book.  They also have weekly in-store activities including story time, activities, character appearances and snacks.
  3. Scholastic: From now until September 5, 2014 kids can read, log entries, earn rewards and enter to win prizes with the Scholastic Reading Under the Stars Reading Challenge.
  4. Pizza Hut: Spark Your Greatness with the Pizza Hut Summer Reading Challenge from June 1 to August 15, 2014 and your kid could win a prize pack including books and a Pizza Hut gift card.
  5. Chuck E. Cheese: Download and print the free reading calendar from Chuck E. Cheese, mark it off and take it in to your local venue and your child will earn 10 tokens.
  6. Half Price Books: Join the Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Challenge, log 300 minutes to earn a $5 Bookworm Bucks and one lucky child (in each age group) each month will win a $20 gift card.
  7. Reading is Fundamental: Take a look at their monthly calendar for inspiration on reading activities with kids.
  8. Stop by for a free do-it-yourself summer reading guide for kids.

Tip: Check with your local library whether they have a summer reading program too.

More resources:

  • Rusty and Rosy: Right here on Rusty and Rosy we have thousands of reading activities for kids.
  • Amazon books: Take a look at the summer reading list for kids on Amazon, it’s broken down by ages.
  • Dr Seuss: Visit where you’ll find a great selection of Summer of Seuss fun activities and kids can create their own ‘Who’ and earn Dooklas.
  • PBS Kids: raise a reader and make reading fun with tips from PBS.

Easy Origami Whales for Kids


Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper, most often into shapes, animals, birds and people.

Origami doesn’t happen easily for me, however my daughter has taken a recent liking to it. She can only make whales right now, of which we have no less than about 50 floating around our house in various colors and patterns, but she is eager to learn how to make other things too.

She has put together a simple tutorial on how to make these with your children because she is sure that your kids will love this art form as much as she does.

What you need:

  • Square piece of paper. That’s it.
  • Optional: googly eye or pencil to draw an eye.

Follow the images below to create your own paper whale.

Here are some books that will teach children origami:

  • Origami Kids: 32 Projects Designed by and for Kids, by JC Nolan
  • Origami Games: Hands-on Fun for Kids, by Joel Stern
  • Origami on the Go: 40 Paper-Folding Projects for Kids Who Love to Travel, by Margaret Van Sicklen
  • Origami Activities for Children, by Chiyo Araki
  • Origami Dinosaurs for Beginners, by John Montroll

There is also a great kit by Creativity for Kids called Awesome Origami, that contains step-by-step instructions for making origami animals and other shapes along with 100 papers for making them.

There are many benefits to kids in learning origami, such as:

  • Following instructions
  • Multi-cultural awareness
  • Hand eye co-ordination
  • Patience
  • Creativity

Have your kids tried their hand at origami yet?

Pet Care Tips for Kids

pet care for kids

I grew up with pets. We had dogs, chickens and goats when I was younger, and so when I had my own children, I wanted them to grow up having a pet too, and they absolutely love their dog Sparky.

It’s important though to teach your children to love and care for your family pet, this not only teaches them responsibility, but also compassion and loyalty, and encourages them to spend more time outdoors.

Here are some simple things that young children can do to help care for your pet. Just make sure that what you are doing is age appropriate, that you have discussed pet safety with your child and that they are supervised.

  • Feed their pet and ensure they have water
  • If they have a dog they can help walk it (supervised), throw a ball, gentle play, and with grooming.
  • Assist in cleaning the cage, crate or tank. They can also help clean up after other pets such as changing the kitty litter or picking up after the dog.

Encourage your child to read and learn more about the pet they are caring for. Here are some great books to get you started.

  • Pets, by Dr. John Hutton
  • If I Ran The Dog Show, by Dr. Seuss
  • ASPCA Pet Care Guides for Kids – various pets covered.
  • Everything Pets, National Geographic
  • Oh, The Pets You Can Get, Dr. Seuss
  • The House of a Million Pets, by Ann Hodgman
  • Tails Are Not For Pulling, by Elizabeth Verdick
  • Please Don’t Torment Tootsie, by Margaret Chamberlain

St. Patrick’s Day Books and Fun Food for Kids

St Patricks Day books and fun food for kids

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17 and honors Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

Although we tend to celebrate with St. Patrick’s Day parties, wearing green and indulging in a combination of Irish dishes and food that is green, it’s important for children to learn about the history of St. Patrick’s Day too.

Here 15 great books to read to your children this St. Patrick’s Day.

  • It’s St. Patrick’s Day, by Rebecca Gomez
  • The Story of Saint Patrick’s Day, by Patricia A. Pingry
  • The Story of the Leprechaun, by Katherine Tegen
  • Shamrocks, Harps and Shillelaghs: The Story of the St. Patrick’s Day Symbols, by Edna Barth
  • Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland, by Tomie dePaola
  • A Fine St. Patrick’s Day, by Susan Wojciechowski
  • Fiona’s Luck, by Teresa Bateman
  • That’s What Leprechauns Do, by Eve Bunting
  • The Luckiest St. Patrick’s Day Ever, by Teddy Slater
  • St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning, by Eve Bunting
  • Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale, by Tomie dePaola
  • The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day, by Natasha Wing
  • Tales From Old Ireland (includes CD’s), by Malachy Doyle
  • Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk, by Gerald McDermott
  • Clever Tom and the Leprechaun: An Old Irish Story, by Linda Shute

While reading these fabulous books, here some yummy green treats to enjoy too.

Valentine’s Day Lunch for Kids

Valentine's Day lunch for kids

Valentine’s Day is a day to be celebrated with all of your loved ones, that means the kids too.

They are bound to love this fun love themed lunch.

It’s delicious, simple, and so very sweet.


What you need:

  • cookie cutters in two sizes (large and small)
  • bread
  • sandwich filling – I used ham and cheese

Cut each slice of bread with the large cookie cutter. On one slice per sandwich cut out a smaller heart in the center. Add your favorite sandwich filling and assemble.

Trail Mix

What you need:

  • Popcorn or kettlecorn
  • Rice Chex
  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Marshmallows

I used the flat ‘stacker mallows’ and cut each with a small heart-shaped fondant cutter.

Combine all ingredients in a container and gently mix.

Other Treats

  • Elli: Quark (red velvet) – it looks like yogurt, but it’s actually a cheese. Top with fun Valentine’s Day themed sprinkles.
  • Strawberries – to make heart-shaped strawberries trim the top off the strawberry, turn the strawberry so that the narrowest part at the bottom is facing you. Make a ‘v’ shaped cut in the top of the strawberry, and then using a sharp knife cut the strawberry into thin slices.
  • Fruit Roll Ups – cut into thin strips and curled.


National Children’s Dental Health Month

National Children's Dental Health Month

Every year National Children’s Dental Health Month is celebrated in February.

If your little ones haven’t had their first check-up, now is the perfect time to schedule an appointment. This is also a great time for teaching children the importance of taking care of their teeth, along with correct brushing and flossing techniques.

Whether this is their first appointment or they’ve been to the dentist several times before, some children are nervous about these check-ups. Here are some books that might help with those dentist visit jitters, as well as those that offer advice on caring for teeth.

  • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, by Stan Berenstain
  • The Tooth Book, by Dr. Seuss
  • My Dentist, My Friend, by P. K. Hallinan
  • Brush, Brush, Brush, by Alicia Padron
  • Sesame Street Ready, Set, Brush: A Pop-Up Book, by Sesame Street
  • Food for Healthy Teeth, by Helen Frost
  • Dentist, by Jess Stockham
  • The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums, by Edward Miller
  • ABC Dentist: Healthy Teeth from A to Z, by Harriet Ziefert
  • Brush Your Teeth, Max and Millie, by Felicity Brooks

There is also a lot of excitement around losing baby teeth, leaving the tooth under the pillow and waking up to find money from the tooth fairy. In our house the tooth fairy leaves a gold coin for every tooth.

Here are a few more books kids will love about the tooth fairy and losing those first teeth.

  • Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder, by Barbara Park
  • The Tooth That’s on the Loose!, by Chris Robertson
  • The Night Before The Tooth Fairy, by Natasha Wing
  • Fancy Nancy and the Too-Loose Tooth, by Jane O’Connor
  • You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?, by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt
  • Tooth Fairy, by Audrey Wood
  • Dear Tooth Fairy, by Alan Durant
  • Loose Tooth (My First I Can Read Series), by Lola M. Schaefer
  • The Missing Tooth (Step into Reading Books Series: A Step 3 Book), by Joanna Cole
  • Trevor’s Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth, by Lester L. Laminack

Kids will love these felt craft projects too:

For more information visit the American Academy of Pediatrics and Healthy Children.

Bucket List Ideas for Kids

bucket list ideas for kids

Each year I write a bucket list. It’s not a bucket list for the rest of my life, but a bucket list for the next year; things I want to accomplish or learn, places I want to visit and fun things I want to try.

Last year for the first time I had my eldest son make a bucket list for this year. He scoffed at the idea at first, but a little pressure and discussion about it and he gave in and made one. Throughout the year we’ve been crossing things off that bucket list, things that I never knew he wanted to do – like get his scuba diving certification, bench press a certain weight, attend the release of Jordan shoes (who even knew you could line up at the crack of dawn for shoes, but you can apparently) and learn to drive a car. We haven’t crossed everything off his list, but because of this list I was able to help and support him in accomplishing as many things as possible.

This holiday season I will be sitting down with my younger kids and have them create their own bucket lists for next year. They will probably need a little more help coming up with ideas, so I’ve been making notes of things to suggest to them.

Before I share some of those ideas with you though, let me share a few tips for helping kids create a bucket list:

  • Make it doable. You may not get everything crossed off and that’s okay, this is just a guide, where they will feel a sense of accomplishment as they cross things off, and you will gain creative ideas on activities to do with them.
  • Keep it small. You don’t need 100 things on the list. Start with 20, kids won’t feel so overwhelmed.
  • Variety. Give them a variety of options for example – something to learn, something to do, a fun place to go, something totally for fun.
  • Alternatives. Instead of making a bucket list for a year, you could make a summer or autumn bucket list, or a list of things to do before they turn a certain age.

Now, here are a few ideas that might help you and your children make their bucket lists.

  1. Jump in mud puddles and make mud pies.
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt.
  3. Learn how to make my own breakfast.
  4. Plant and care for my own garden.
  5. Learn how to skip rocks.
  6. Go geocaching.
  7. Make a snowman that looks like Olaf from Disney’s Frozen.
  8. Learn how to hula hoop.
  9. Hike to a waterfall or to the top of a mountain.
  10. Write (or draw a picture of what you did) every day in a journal.
  11. Become a Jr Ranger at a State or National Park.
  12. Do something nice for someone else, just because.
  13. Go to the library every week, or at least once month.
  14. Fly a kite.
  15. Put on a magic show or puppet show.
  16. Camp outside under the stars and learn about the constellations.
  17. Watch a sunset and sunrise.
  18. Pay someone a compliment.
  19. Go tidepooling.
  20. Find a pen pal and write them a letter – contact your friends in other states or countries who have children to arrange this.
  21. Learn to play an instrument.
  22. Tie their own shoelaces.
  23. Go to the County Fair and indulge in the food and rides.
  24. Build a sandcastle and swim in the ocean.
  25. Have an egg and spoon or potato sack race.


Last-Minute Healthy Holiday Snack for Kids

last minute holiday snack for kids

With all of the special treats and fun food that come with holiday celebrations, it’s nice to add a few healthy ones into the mix too.

These melon Christmas trees are not only healthy, but simple enough for kids to make for themselves.

What you need:

  • Melon – you can use just honeydew, or get creative and layer honeydew with watermelon and cantaloupe.
  • Grapes
  • Wood skewers

Cut a slice of melon and then cut it into three uneven sized pieces.

Layer the melon on the wood skewer with the largest piece on the bottom and the smallest on top. Add a grape to the very top of your tree.

Kids will love the healthy holiday treat.

14 Days of Holiday Giving for Children

14 ways kids can give back over the holiday season

With the holidays upon us, it’s important to remind children that this is not only a time for receiving, but also a time for giving.

Here are 14 ways children can do something nice for others this holiday season.

  1. Clean out and donate: Have your kids clean out their closets and toy boxes. Donate clothing and shoes that no longer fit and toys and books they haven’t played with for a while to a local thrift store. There are many parents out there looking for gifts for their own children for their holidays.
  2. Donate money: Encourage them to put a few coins from their money box into holiday collection bins to help those less fortunate.
  3. Adopt a family: Adopt a family in need for the holidays, have your kids pick out special toys and games to give to the family’s children.
  4. Toy collections: Find out which organizations in your area are collecting new toys for kids. Take your child to the toy store and have them choose the new toy that will be donated.
  5. Bake and give: Bake delicious holiday treats with your kids. Help them to deliver these treats to neighbors or your local nursing home.
  6. Holiday bags for the homeless: Take your kids to the local dollar store and help them collect items for the homeless including hygiene items, warm hats and gloves, and non-perishable food items. Let the kids bag the items and then deliver to local homeless men and women, or to a local shelter.
  7. Sing Christmas Carols: Last year was the first time I’d had carolers knock on our door and sing. I cannot begin to tell you the joy it brought to our evening. My kids continued singing long after the carolers had left. So teach your kids a few Christmas carols and sing for your neighbors.
  8. Hospital donations: If you child is upgrading, or has lost interest in, the gaming console or games, encourage them to donate them to a local children’s hospital.
  9. Cook and serve meals: Sign up to serve meals at your local shelter, soup kitchen or Ronald McDonald House. Younger kids may not be able to serve food, but they could play games, or do crafts with any children there.
  10. Write letters: Even the youngest child can draw special pictures, while the older ones write letters to family and friends who do not live close by over the holidays. There is something special about receiving a handwritten letter, especially if you are feeling isolated over the holiday season.
  11. Gifts for the troops: Package up a box of leftover tinsel, handmade ornaments, candy canes, and more Christmas goodies to send to the troops. They will appreciate that little piece of home.
  12. Volunteer: Reach out to local volunteer organizations and find out if your kids can help hand out toys at hospitals, help out at local organizations, or package food items at the food bank. Generally the minimum age for volunteering is 6.
  13. Handmade cards: Have your kids make handmade holiday cards for children who will be spending the holiday season in hospital.
  14. Give love to animals: The holiday season is a prime time for families to drop their pets off for boarding while they travel to visit family. Contact these organizations and see if your children can help walk, play with, or feed the animals.