Bookshelf & Beyond
with Curriculum Consultants:
Gina Burmeier & Amber Gracia
Family playing with crafts
Summer Learning
Summer is a great time to learn while building family relationships through fun activities. We’ve put together some of our favorite resources to help you do just that.
Outdoor Ideas
Outdoor Ideas
Books abound that assist with nature walks and outdoor excursions. Outdoor School Nature Guides by Odd Dot are perfect to take to a state park. These interactive guides are available for Animal Watching, Hiking and Camping, and Rock, Fossil, and Shell Hunting. Each guide follows a similar format. Read on the topic in the “Try It!” section, and then track it! Observe and interact, then document your experiences in the places provided. Skills progress so that you master the skill and take it to the next level. If you have a child who loves to document and journal, this is a helpful resource.

I remember being entertained for hours making mud patties, gathering sticks to build with mud, and jumping through lots of mud puddles. Muddy Boots: Outdoor Activities for Children by Down East Books is an outdoor project book providing 50 different projects. Each chapter focuses on different types of projects and activities, from making mud pies to building forts. There are even stick and stone activities. The final chapter offers more nature-focused explorations and hands-on activities. Nature scavenger hunts, pressing flowers, bird-watching, cloud watching, and identifying animal tracks are presented. Most activities take 30-60 minutes; a few may take 2+ hours.

If you need some fresh ideas for outdoor activity, 101 Things for Kids to do Outside by Firefly Books is geared for ages 4-11. This book is full of creative and practical outdoor ideas. Take a matchbox challenge—what interesting things can you find in 15 minutes that will fill a matchbox? Play Shark and have a blindfold shoot-out with your water guns. Follow ant trails or build a human sundial. Activities vary from single person to group, with differing amounts of supplies and time commitment. The colorful photos and clear directions make the projects very doable. A well-organized list in the back helps you find specific activities based on season, location, age, or project length.

Fort Time Fun Time
Childhood memories seem to always include some sort of habitat building. From sheets draped over furniture to outside lean-tos made from wood. Kids love forts! Creative play is so rewarding for kids, and they will spend hours making the perfect hideout.

Take the love of fort building and include some nature study with a Garden Fort from HearthSong. This is easy to assemble and is constructed of metal, with PVC connectors and polyethylene netting mesh. Once you find a place to put your fort, you plant the sweet pea and scarlet runner beans that are included or pick a seed of your choice. Children will enjoy watching plants grow while having fun with this fortress of solitude. As a color option, Morning Glories would make a beautiful garden fort!

Slackers® is a trusted go-to for outdoor fun with their NinjaLine™ and SwingLine™. Turn any round swing with a diameter between 30” – 40” into a floating playhouse with Swing House Swing. Imagine the fun your child will have! This house measures around 40” x 40” and is tall enough for multiple children to sit under. The UV-resistant material has a vented-top, roll-up door, and see-through mesh allowing fresh air and sky views.

In the event of a rainy day, you can let your children have fun with a variety of AirForts (Cabin, Cottage, Farmer’s Barn, Jungle Camo, Mod About Gray, Pretty in Pink, Starry Night, Beach Ball Blue, Tiki, UFO). No assembly is required. These inflate in about 30 seconds with a regular box fan. Forts are made from parachute fabric and measure 6.5 feet in diameter and about 4 feet tall in the center peak—big enough for several kids inside. The divider keeps kids from touching the fan and effectively minimizes the air flow. No windy blast inside! Air forts break down easily! Turn off the fan, pull the Velcro® strips apart, and return to the carrying bag until next time. Easy set up and tear down is a win-win for the parent!

Critter Fun
Critter Fun
Bug Habitat
So many options are available for bug and insect lovers! If you have a simple container filled with dirt and holes in the lid, you can observe a great deal about different insects.

Educational Insights also makes a GeoSafari® Jr. Critter Habitat to keep your living treasures safe. This portable, clear plastic, waterproof container measures 5” square and 5.5” deep for wet or dry specimens. The lid snaps on securely and has two built-in magnified viewers and a feeder. There are also magnified viewing spots on two sides of the container. If your child desires to learn more about their collection of insects, there are also YouTube® videos, library books, coloring pages, encyclopedias, or other resources.

Have you studied the stages of metamorphosis but haven’t witnessed it happening? The whole family can enjoy watching ladybug larvae and caterpillars morph into beautiful critters with kits by Insect Lore. The Butterfly Garden® Home School Edition With Prepaid Voucher has a pop-up style tent for a habitat with a front-facing viewing panel. Instructions, a life cycle learning panel, a nectar feeder, and 12-page STEM-oriented Life Cycle Journal is included. Send in for your 5 caterpillars. Ladybug Land® has an online redemption voucher for 10-13 live ladybug larvae with an additional $7.95 charge for shipping, larvae, and food. The habitat is a plastic dome with a colorful diorama. Included is a guidebook, a magnifying lid, and a pipette for feeding your ladybugs. Shipping is only offered during favorable temperatures (50-85 degrees). Ladybugs cannot be sent to Hawaii, Mexico, Puerto Rico, or Canada. Spring and summer are ideal seasons to enjoy these critters.

Ant Mountain
Ant Mountain™ is another interesting habitat. Ants dig underground tunnels, and the “cross-cut” design features an oversized tunneling chamber for easy observation. The habitat stands 8.5” high and its base is 11” x 5”, which makes tipping over virtually impossible. A locking lid also makes escape impossible for the ants! The habitat comes with “easy dig” sand, a sand rod, and instructions. A voucher for 25 harvester ants is also included with additional shipping fees. Ants cannot be shipped to Oregon or Hawaii.
Boy holding up an ant mountain
Garden Play
KA-POW! While not as explosive as actual bombs, seed bombs are as close as the plant world gets! Seed Stones (bombs) are made by Silver Circle Products. Not only do seed bombs grow very speedily, but they also require almost no attention. This makes them perfect for those who don’t have a green thumb. The “bomb” is really clay that encases and locks in moisture for the seeds, shielding them from the dangers of the world like wind and hungry critters. With this armor-like resistance, seed bombs can sprout up virtually anywhere. They’ve even been known to grow in rocky areas or desolate concrete wastelands. Each set comes with six seed bombs and each seed bomb covers about a square foot of land with lush vegetation. No more lamenting over an ugly yard, plant warrior! Harness the awesome creative power of seed bombs. Bam—chlorophyll!
Garden Activities
Stepping Stone Kits by Saunders Midwest are truly easy to make and look great when they are finished: perfect for accenting your garden, walkway, flowerbed, or even for house display! Each kit includes everything you need to make one stepping stone, including stone mix cement, decorative elements, a mixing paddle, a writing tool (or stamps) and easy-to-follow instructions. Contents will vary slightly depending on the type of kit purchased. All you need to supply is the mixing bucket, water, and a dose of inspiration! The mold, paddle, and stamps/writing tool are all reusable, so if you purchase additional mix and mosaic pieces (from a craft store or from us), you can keep making stones. Suggested designs are included, but you are always free to create your own design! Available in two kit styles: regular Stepping Stone and Kids’ Stepping Stone.

With Grow-A-Tree Kits by Channel Craft, you can grow trees and so much more with one of these quality germination kits that come with a 100% guarantee! Tree kits include everything you need to grow a tree from seed: mini greenhouse, soil, seeds, pebbles, and step-by-step instructions. Just add water! The Sunflower and Wild Flowers kits include seeds for outdoor planting and complete instructions for successful growth. These are not paltry packages of seeds to plant! For example, the Wild Flowers Kit contains ample seeds for sowing an area of approximately 300 feet. Enhance your botany lessons or beautify your home or yard with these exceptional kits.

Active Fun
Outdoor activities
Active kids love to try new activities! Sport Pogo Sticks from Newbounce® are ideal for the beginner or intermediate rider. The handles are easy-grip, and the non-slip foot pads are replaceable. The Sport version is for riders 40-80 pounds (ages 5-9) and the Pro Sport for riders is 80-160 pounds (ages 9 and up). A helmet is advised for safety precautions. Kids can have fun while building their leg muscle strength with this activity.

Jump ropes have always been a fun cardio exercise to improve coordination and agility. Jump Ropes from Just Jump It come in 2 lengths—8′ or 16′ and they come in multiple colors. These high-quality ropes are double-braided. There are no painful or breakable handles, just knots. Additionally, the ropes are well weighted for a good throw, kink-resistant, and machine washable. If you want to add some poetry and humor to the jumping, Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes by Joanna Cole includes over 100 traditional jump rope rhymes, including counting rhymes, rhymes for jumping very fast, rhymes for jumping in and out of the rope, future-telling rhymes, and more.

To develop hand-eye coordination, try this new twist on golf. Birdie Golf™ by Hog Wild® toys is a fun combination of badminton and golf. Create your own course using the included clubs to hit the birdie balls at the flag. Once the flag is hit, the hole and the flag can be tossed somewhere else for the next hole. Birdie balls are easy to hit, and kids can decide where to place the flag for their holes. The set includes two clubs, a flag, four birdie balls, and one caddy pack.

If you are playing in the water, the award winning Water Balls by Waboba® have a weighted core and are perfect for water games. Throw it like you would a skipping stone, and it will bounce across the water. These will ramp up simple games like “catch” or “monkey in the middle.” Use it to play crazy variants of catch, throw through inner tubes, make trick shots into sand buckets, and more! There are so many varieties to choose from!

Building Relationships
Building Relationships
Taking an interest in each other’s lives by creating and sharing memories helps to build strong family relationships. Just Between Us Journals by Chronicle Books are a great way to connect with a family member while polishing writing skills. These sentimental journals have creative writing prompts and intriguing questions and are meant to be shared back and forth amongst two writers with a designated spot for each person. You can answer prompts, write down ideas, doodle, or write special messages. At the end of the journey, the journal will make a tangible keepsake to reflect on and cherish through the years. Journals are available for a mother and daughter, mother and son, grandmother and granddaughter, and sisters.

Reading aloud also makes a wonderful bonding time as you enjoy a good book together and talk about it. Children may even want to role-play some of the scenes, cook or bake something you have read about in the book, or simply talk about the characters.

The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie is an inspiring book showing us how family reading builds strong relationships, even when children are older. She includes reading lists for different age levels and gives practical strategies for establishing this practice in your family.

Another helpful resource for good literature to read aloud is Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson. This is a great compilation of literature books for all kinds of subjects. The newly revised edition contains the classics from the original edition along with wonderful new selections reflecting good moral values. The author took great effort to look for books that hold the interest of the young reader, provide entertainment, stimulate imagination, encourage logical thought, and present accurate information. The book is divided into subject areas and includes suggested grade levels and a short synopsis.

Travel Days
Travel Days
Vacation times are great memory-making opportunities and your kids can record special memories in the Kids’ Travel Journal by Peter Pauper Press, featuring puzzles, games, maps, and fun facts. Write what you did, sketch what you saw, rate each day, and paste photos and more on 96 pages of acid-free paper. A hardback cover with an elastic band keeps your things in place. The Traveler’s Journal by Journals Unlimited is a 200-page, spiral-bound hardcover with guided questions to document your trip. The back of every page is blank for filling in your extra thoughts.

Seeing how many of the 50 states you can find on license plates is a fun way to pass the time. Use the Ultimate Sticker Puzzles of License Plates Across the States by Penguin Random House to keep track of the states you see. This activity book is also full of state and famous monument stickers, mazes, word searches, crossword puzzles, and trivia about the states.

Games can be fun to play in the car with these Magnetic Game Tins from PlayMonster. You can choose from the old favorites of Tic-Tac-Toe, Chess, and Checkers. The durable hinged tin box holds all the pieces inside until game time, then folds open to expose the playing surfaces and instructions. Playing pieces are a good size and stick well on their magnetized side.

You can also pass the time in the car with Classic Starts® audio CD versions by Oasis Audio. Enjoy listening to some classics like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Call of the Wild, Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables, and many more!

Rainy Day Play
Rainy Day Activities
When the kids wake up and it looks like it’s going to be a rainy day, you can plan some fun inside projects to chase the boredom away. Have some options on hand so you are ready to go!

The Ultimate Art & Craft Boxes by Rainbow Resource Center are great for your creative kids. You’ll find everything you need except the paper. The art boxes contain quality art products including watercolors, colored pencils, felt tip markers, drawing pencils, oil pastels, and more. The craft boxes are full of crafting supplies like crayons, glitter glue, craft sticks, acrylic paints, wiggle eyes, and more. The art box is translucent with a removable storage tray, sturdy latches, and handy carrying handle. Refill with the materials of your choice!

Our kids love to play dress-up, and Little Adventures Costumes offer reasonably priced, beautiful costumes. They are designed by moms, constructed out of durable and comfortable fabrics, and are machine washable. Be a mermaid, princess, pirate, Prince Charming, and so much more! Lots of accessories are available as well. Most costumes come in a variety of sizes.

Creating with clay and dough is a fun indoor pastime to save for rainy days. Clay Lab for Kids by Hachette Book Group offers 52 projects to make and model, with air-dry, polymer, or homemade clay. Let your kids’ creativity go wild as they choose and build a project.

Build-A-Beast by Crayola® are snap-together skeleton pieces that you add Model Magic® to in order to create a custom creature. These kits allow you to create a clay animal that can wiggle and move, even after being assembled and dried. Each kit includes 4.5 oz of air-dry Model Magic® in a variety of colors, instructions, skeleton pieces, detailing tools, and additional facts and information about the animal.

Music can be a wonderful rainy-day activity. Alfred Publishing has a Teach Yourself to Play series for guitar, harmonica, or piano. The series is designed for beginning musicians. Students will learn notes, rhythms, important chords, music reading, and other musical concepts related to the instrument they are learning. A CD is available to listen and play along with as well as a CD-ROM to allow you to hear the music via computer. It has an interactive song player so you can see the music played, change the tempo or audio levels, or record as you play.

Unstructured playtime with your children creates strong family bonds as you make lasting memories together. Summertime is a season to take advantage of this opportunity. Explore other options besides screen time to pique your child’s interest, stay active, and have fun together.
Gina & Amber Signature
Gina and Amber

ina Burmeier and her husband homeschooled their three kids using many Charlotte Mason and classical programs. Realizing all three kids were very different, taking an eclectic approach gave them a great opportunity to meet all their children’s needs. For years, they traveled together as a family to homeschool conventions representing Rainbow Resource Center. She has thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with many homeschoolers over the years. With all three kids now college graduates, she is a consultant in the office at Rainbow and continues to enjoy helping homeschoolers with curriculum questions. She is very passionate about researching curriculum and learning styles as she helps other homeschoolers find the best fit for their children.


mber Gracia studied Elementary Education and music at Bible college. There she met her husband and began the journey of ministry and family. Giving their four children a Christian education became the focus and they purposed making that happen by putting them in a Christian school where they were teaching some years and homeschooling other years. Now Amber is a homeschool consultant at Rainbow Resource Center helping other homeschoolers with curriculum questions. Amber loves finding the key to help each student learn in their own way.