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Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


6 Fun Summer Activities for Free-Range Kids

Calvin Picks a Strawberry

Growing up on 1800 acres of farmland in Rural Kentucky meant that when summer came, I was on a hiatus from people for 3 solid months. While my older brother typically worked alongside my dad during any off time, as a clumsy young female, I was often left to my own devices. Since I had no one to complain to about being bored, I found ways to keep myself busy.

The ability to entertain yourself is a crucial skill for children of any background. The key to self-driven summer fun is setting acceptable boundaries of when and where your children may go, how long they can stay out, a communication plan to get in touch with them if needed, and to provide them easy access to tools and supplies that will enrich their experience.

1. Explore It never gets old. Adventuring was, and still is, one of my favorite lazy day activities. And I never got lost, even once. Why? Because I knew that no one knew where I was, and it was up to me to get myself back out of there. This made me more cautious and more aware of my surroundings, and ultimately lead to a greater sense of confidence in my abilities to manage the world on my own.

Farm Girl Tip: Create a survival backpack for your child to take if you are concerned about them being out on their own. This should include things like a bottle of water or two, a healthy snack, and a long-range walkie-talkie for communication.

2. Make A Wreath. A wreath is a classic homesteading craft that can add beauty to your home or be given as a gift, and is relatively simple for a child to construct.

Wreaths can be created from most vines. While grape is one of the most common materials for wreath making, honeysuckle is one of the easiest vines to work with and is one of the most prolific (at least in my area) so this is a great place to start. Be careful, however, as poison ivy grows enjoys in many of the same areas as honeysuckle, so be aware of what you are selecting!

The great thing about wreaths is that you can create them entirely from supplies available to you in nature, which makes them completely free to create, enjoy, and give as gifts.

How to Make a Wreath

Tools Required: Knife or Snippers for cutting lengths of vines, wire for holding vines in place (if needed), Ribbon or Decorative Elements

1. Start by collecting several long lengths of vines and stripping their leaves. While the leaves look pretty now, they will get crumbly and make a huge mess as the wreath dries.

2. Form one vine into a circle about the size you want your completed wreath to be. Remember as you add more vines it will increase in size as well as close the hole in the middle a bit. Once you have the size that you want, take the ends of the vine and twist them around the vine to help hold it in place.

3. Continue wrapping and weaving vines around your original vine until you have the thickness that you desire. Make sure to start your new vines in different places, and to wrap in different directions to help strengthen your wreath.

4. Decorate your wreath with items you find around you, leave it as is, or decorate with ribbons and other craft items. Make sure to pick items that will dry well, or treat them with lacquer or another spray to maintain their beauty.

Farm Girl Tip: There are tons of natural crafts that you can create beyond wreaths that may be of more interest to your child. They can create their own paints, carve a walking stick, make a picture frame, create mixed media art, totems, dream catchers, and more! The only limit is their creativity and imagination. Your local 4-H is a great resource for finding more craft activities that may be able to be entered in the county/state fair, earning you some extra cash!

3. Farm Animal Photography. Kids love to take pictures, and farm animals make the perfect subject! It is easiest to focus on one animal at a time and work to capture that perfect shot. Allow them to take as many pictures as they would like, and afterward, they can print their pictures out and use them to create their own farm storybook or scrapbook.

Farm Girl Tip: Try to get pictures from different angles. A picture of a cow snout and of a cow hoof or tail are very different pictures, and can make for some unique shots. There are photography categories in most county/state fairs, so this could be another great opportunity to earn some extra spending money.

4. Rubber Eggs. If your kids enjoy science, then this is a very cool project. Did you know that you can melt the shell off an egg using only white vinegar? Simply place the egg in a cup, fill with white vinegar until the egg is covered, then wait.

Within a few days, you will notice that the outer, calcium shell has completely disintegrated in the vinegar, leaving you with an egg dressed only in the inner membrane. Test with eggs from different chickens, or against different types of birds to see which ones take the longest.

Farm Girl Tip: This activity is best enjoyed outside. Once the egg shell has disintegrated, the eggs are fragile and the membrane may split at any time, leaving a mess that you will be glad isn’t in your kitchen.  

5. Farm Projects. While your child may not be able to manage a lot of farm responsibilities, giving them specific, short-term projects can help them feel like they are contributing. Growing up, I was responsible for things like bottle-feeding calves, assisting with sheep shearing, administering inoculations, and other tasks that got me involved without requiring a huge amount of effort or knowledge.

Many kids who grow up in rural areas enjoy farm activities, but their level of involvement should be reflective of their ability to complete the task. While it would be perfectly reasonable to expect a child to use an egg incubator to hatch chicken eggs, or to plant and maintain a small garden, it may be less realistic to expect them to plow a field or assist a cow during labor.

Farm Girl Tip: Choose farm activities that meet your child’s ability and skill level. You want to set them up for success and build a love for the outdoors and farm life. Assigning them a responsibility that is too challenging, or too complex, will only work against your efforts to get them engaged.

6. Pokemon Go! Take advantage of the craze to get your kids oustide! It's taking over the world, and with good reason. It is a fun and exciting way to get kids outside, exploring their natural environment, while still being able to play a video game. Encourage them to explore different landscapes to try to capture different Pokemon. The Pokemon that are hiding near bodies of water are different from those in fields and green areas, so the more exploring they do, the wider variety of Pokemon they will find!

Farm Girl Tip: Make sure that your children understand safety and boundaries. It is not ok to wander onto other people's property to obtain Pokemon, and being alert of their surroundings is crucial. If adventuring in a wooded area, make sure that they stay on a path that they are familiar with, or are able to navigate their way back out on their own. Since it is a mobile game, if they do get into a sticky situation, they can easily call you for assistance.

Feel free to share your summer fun suggestions and stories in the comments, we would love to hear your ideas!

Emily Baker launched the Incubators.org website in 2010 with her husband, Christopher. The site offers a complete incubation and poultry supply business. Emily has personally assisted thousands of hobbyists and breeders in selecting appropriate incubation equipment and supplies, proper use of that equipment, and providing general incubation support. She has also had multiple articles published regarding incubator selection and technique. Read all of Emily's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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