A long standing tradition in the 4th grade at my school is a 3-day, 2-night science field trip to learn about the ecosystems of barrier islands in South Carolina. For many students, it is their first time away from home without their parents.
We stay in cabins and eat in a dining hall, so we don’t expect the students to pitch a tent or cook meals over an open fire. However, the children do need to be able to eat family style at a table of 12, and they have to make their own bed. Whether a child is attending a sleepaway camp or just a sleepover at a friend’s house, there are a few handy life skills that are good to know by about age 10.
Children should be able to roll a sleeping bag and get it back into a stuff sack or tied into the roll. Even if kids don’t ever attend a campout, they might need to use a sleeping bag on a sleepover at a friend’s house and will need to be able to put the sleeping bag away.
Kids need to know how to make a bed. I think hospital corners would be aiming a little high, but it is helpful to know how to get a fitted sheet around the edges of a mattress and pull blankets up straight.
Have the ability to fold clothing and pack a bag in a semi-organized fashion. Folding clothing does not have to be the perfect fold in thirds around a shirt board, but kids should be able to get a shirt or pants folded in half, socks together, and have an idea about layering items in their bag.
Many families have activities after school that run through dinner time, and it can be difficult to sit together at the dinner table. When you do have family meals, remind kids that they should pass food to everyone at the table. Don’t serve yourself and then set the dish right in front of you forgetting to offer food to other people.
Leave enough food in the dish, so everyone gets a first helping.
Practice asking to have salt and pepper, ketchup, or seconds on an item passed rather than standing up and reaching across others at the table.
Show kids how to wipe a counter or table. Push the sponge (or cloth) in one direction, so all the food crumbs stay in front of the sponge rather than wiping in a rapid circular motion. The circular motion smears dropped food all over the eating space grossing out the potentially OCD adult sitting nearby.
My son, Mr. Star Wars, still needs occasional help washing his hair to get it clean and rinsed well. Most days, he can wash it by himself, but I do a deep clean every few weeks. Help your child practice washing hair on his own and understand all the pieces and parts that are supposed to be washed in the shower. Part of our 4th grade trip is a visit to the pluff mud pit. Several students needed a second turn in the shower after this particular activity.
Learn how to get and use Kleenex when needed.
Let kids apply their own sunblock every once in awhile. The sunblock sticks work well on faces for inexperienced sunblock appliers. Using a mirror while applying sunblock helps too.
What are other good skills kids need to have when they are away from home? One skill I learned at camp is how useful a poncho can be for many things besides rainy weather– like bug protection, sun protection, mud protection…
Aunt B will be visiting with her two boys for Easter. I have my parents in town too. That means I need to prepare food for a group, which is actually something I like to do. I am not sure why cooking for a large group is so much more appealing to me than the daily cooking for my own small(er) family, but it is (see previous post). One idea I have for Easter brunch is Hash Brown Casserole. It is easy to assemble ahead, and it includes melted cheese, which automatically gives the recipe bonus points.
There are many variations of this casserole available, but I am sharing the recipe I use. I like to serve this casserole with ham or scrambled eggs. I also think it works well with steak or hamburgers later in the day.
1 2-lb package frozen, diced hash brown potatoes– thawed (the cubes)
1/2 c. melted butter
1 10-oz. can Campbell’s cream of celery soup (could replace with cream of chicken)
8-oz. sour cream
1/2 c. chopped green onions
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese (+ a little extra to sprinkle on the top before baking)
1 t. salt (or to taste)
1/4 t. pepper (or to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined.
Spread in a 9×11 casserole dish.
Sprinkle extra shredded cheddar cheese on top.
Cover in foil and bake for ~35 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 5 minutes or so until the top is slightly golden and edges are bubbly.
I so enjoy making party food, cooking a big dish for a group, or assembling appetizers and class snack foods, but I avoid the daily grind of cooking family dinner that will be eaten in 3.7 minutes followed by kitchen clean-up like the plague (and don’t even get me started on packing school lunches).
If TheRoomDad has taken care of the grocery shopping, I can be persuaded to make fast dinners during the week that have minimal clean up. I have a recipe for turkey apple quesadillas that is acceptable as a mid-week meal. It is an odd combination of ingredients, but the adults and children at my house love them. The other nice thing about the recipe is the fact that all of the key food groups are in one bite, so I don’t have the pressure of having to come up with a side dish TOO. Utensils are not required to eat this “meal”, and we really don’t have to have plates either, so clean-up is a breeze.
Have you developed a resistance to making weeknight dinners night after night after night, or is it just me?
Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
flour tortillas (any size– I like large then folded in half when heating)
Munster cheese slices (our grocery’s deli section has pre-sliced packs. Cut or break each slice into halves or thirds when assembling the quesadilla)
Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced (or another tart, green apple)
deli turkey, thinly sliced
Mix equal parts honey and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. I start with 1 tablespoon each of mustard and honey. That is usually enough for 4 quesadillas (4 large tortillas folded in half).
If using the large tortillas, spread the honey mustard on half of the tortilla.
Layer 1 1/2 slices of Munster on the honey mustard spread. Since I cut the deli slices into smaller strips, I place ~3 1/2-slices across the half of the tortilla with the honey mustard.
Add 1-2 slices of turkey on top of the cheese.
Place several apple slices on the turkey.
Top the apple slices with 1/2 to 1 cheese slice.
Fold the tortilla in half to close.
Spray a skillet with Pam and using medium heat, cook the quesadilla on both sides until the cheese is melted, and the tortilla is browned.
Remove from heat, cut in thirds or quarters, and serve immediately.
You can purchase a “brick” of Munster cheese and grate the cheese instead of using slices.
A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.
This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.
Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.
The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
Floors series by Patrick Carman
Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)