"We do not remember days, we remember moments." ~ Cesare Pavese

Create some of those memorable moments with your children this summer, without leaving home and without spending much money. Here are some thrifty, old-fashioned, fun ideas to get you started. Even now as an adult, I recall the joy of discovery in some of these simple pleasures. Do you remember the first time you did a crayon rubbing of a leaf and saw those intricate veins and patterns appear like magic on your paper?

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder . . . he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” ~ Rachel Carson 

This summer, be that companion to your children, and enjoy the adventure together. All of the activities I’ve listed can be outstanding learning experiences—pure science without a textbook in sight! But focus on the fun and the discovery. That’s the foundation. To quote Rachel Carson again, “Once the emotions have been aroused—a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown . . . then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. . . . It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.”

So, are you ready for some frugal fun (and catalysts to learning)? Well, put on your “sense of wonder” glasses, and let’s get started!  

Sleep Outside and Do Some Stargazing

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Have you ever thought about the meaning of declare? These are some of the definitions recorded in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “to make known formally, officially, or explicitly; to make clear; to make evident; to state emphatically; to make a full statement of. ” If you want your child to know about God, it sounds like looking at the sky is a wonderful place to start.

Sleeping outside is an adventure in itself, an experience for all the senses. Plan your outing for a clear night with moderate temperatures. New Moon days are the best times to stargaze. If you’d like to take in a meteor shower, this year’s peak of the Perseids meteor shower will fall on August 12–13, 2009. October 20–22 is the best time to observe the Orionids meteor shower. Can you find Polaris, the “North Star” that doesn’t move? (Hint: find the Big Dipper first—it will point you in the right direction!) You might want to do a little homework ahead of time in case your children have questions. How big are stars? How far away are they? Why are they different colors? What is our closest star? Why do they twinkle? Remember though, it’s perfectly fine to say “I don’t know—let’s look it up tomorrow!”

It’s especially fun to listen for nighttime sounds. Who knows what you might hear? Yes, you might miss your comfy bed—but sleeping outside is an experience your child will long remember!

Make Crayon Rubbings

We talked about this a little already. Could there be anything simpler? All you’ll need is paper and some crayons—old broken ones will work just fine. Simply place a leaf under a sheet of paper on a hard surface, and rub with crayon over the paper to see the leaf pattern appear. It’s that easy! But you don’t have to stop with leaves. Children can also do bark rubbings and make a scrapbook showing the bark and leaves of different trees on each page. Identify the trees using the Internet or books from the library. Coins, brick patterns, engravings, and other textures make for fascinating crayon rubbing.