Summertime Activities for You and the Kids

Here’s a list of fun projects and activities for you can do with your kids or grandkids this summer, rain or shine with the help of Pioneer Press Lifestyle Columnist, Donna Erickson.

Shark planter


Recycle a plastic water bottle into a shark-themed planter for succulents

Here’s the stuff you’ll need to make a fish-themed planter:

1 empty liter size soda or water bottle with lid, label removed
Craft foam sheets in 3-4 colors
Non-toxic craft glue
Craft paint and brush (optional)
Fast-draining soil, like cactus potting mix
3 small succulent plants

How to make it:

Set the bottle on its side. Let your child measure and draw a 2-inch-by-6-inch rectangle lengthwise where the label was removed. An adult should cut out the rectangle. (Tip: use a pushpin to poke a few holes in the plastic on a line for ease in getting the cutting started.) The opening will be the top of the planter.

Use the craft foam to decorate the outside of the bottle to look like a shark. The spout with lid already looks like a fish mouth. Refer to a picture or photo of a shark in a book or online to sketch and cut out shapes resembling a shark’s mouth, eyes, gills, fins and tail. Glue cutouts to the bottle. Add details with craft paint, if you wish. Let dry. Scoop a half-inch layer of pebbles into the bottle and about 1 1/2 inches of damp potting soil. Plant succulents, sprinkle more pebbles around them and display in a sunny spot. Let your child care for the plants by giving them a drink of water when the soil is thoroughly dried out.

Puzzle Box

Before you begin, scroll through your photo library and look for a group photo of people you’ll be seeing, and photos of homes or landmarks of places on your itinerary. You’ll be enlarging the images and cutting them into rectangular puzzle pieces to adapt to the size of the boxes.

What you need:

-9 small, empty rectangular single portion cereal boxes
-2 photocopied photographs of extended family members, and/or a place where you will be traveling (about 8-inches by 12-inches)
-paint or wide colored tape
-household glue or spray craft glue
-Empty grapefruit or orange net bag for storage (optional)


1.Lay one copied photo or art face down on a table. Line the boxes side by side on the backside of the photocopy in thee vertical rows. Draw around each box with a pencil, and then cut out the pieces.

2.Cover the printing on the sides of the food boxes with paint or colored packing tape, if you wish, then glue the paper photo pieces on the front of each box.

3.Turn the boxes over, and add another printed photo following the same instructions.

4.To play, mix up the boxes and start puzzling them on one side, then another. Say the names of the people or places as you go. Tell your child how they are related, and share a story or two about individual people.

When done, I like to keep these puzzle pieces in empty net bags. If you weave a string through the tops, you can hang them on a hook for easy storage between play.

Extra idea: For a mini puzzle, use a set of same size boxes in small sizes such as single portion raisin boxes. Adjust the dimensions of the enlarged photos to fit accordingly.

Slow Cooker Yogurt
Makes 7 cups

8 cups whole milk (I use organic)
Food thermometer for testing milk temperature
1/2 cup whole-milk, unflavored (plain) yogurt with live/active cultures for starter
Thick bath or beach towel
Storage containers with lids


1. Midafternoon, pour milk into your slow cooker and turn setting to low. Cover. Set a timer for 2 1/2 hours.

2. At 2 1/2 hours, use a kitchen thermometer to check that milk has reached 180-185 F.

3. Turn off, unplug, cover, and let the milk temp drop to around 115 F. Skim any milk film off the top of the milk with a spoon.

4. Remove 1 cup of the warmed milk and combine with room temperature yogurt in a small bowl. Gently stir.

5. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker and stir with a couple of strokes.

6. Cover and wrap the towel all around the slow cooker to help insulate. Culture 8-12 hours overnight.

7. In the morning, stir yogurt and ladle into storage containers. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before eating. Save 1/2 cup to use as a starter for your next batch.

Donna says for variety, make Greek-style yogurt. Spoon two cups of the slow cooker yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or coffee filters. Let the liquid (whey) drip through for about 30 minutes. Makes 1 1/4 cups of yummy thick yogurt. Delicious!

Cookie Card Grad Gift

Directions: Put a self-addressed post card in the grad card to be sent back to you when the student wants the “box of a dozen cookies” during the school year.

Here’s what is written on the postcard. “Congratulations on your Graduation! When you’re away at college and need some extra inspiration to help you study, just send me this postcard and homemade cookies will soon be on their way to you!”

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