Stargazing party for kids: Eclipse and astronomy activities for children's backyard birthday party

Here's a fun and easy end of summer party for kids. To celebrate the solar eclipse, why not host an astronomy themed backyard birthday party? Enjoy a family stargazing campout  or backyard slumber party under the night sky. Here's all you need for this simple to plan, inexpensive (darn near free) stargazer fest.

Walk the beach if you can. Sleep on the beach if possible. That's the best sky panorama. Or just sleep outside under the stars. No need for a fancy-schmancy RV. You bring the backyard or apartment deck, Mother Nature does the rest.

Pitch a tent. Don't have a tent? Borrow one or make one by hanging a tarp over a suspended rope and securing with clothespins. Stay close to home in case rain drives you indoors.

Don't have expensive camping sleeping bags? Haul out old blankets and pillows and make a tent wall to tent-wall family bed. Plan on family pets nabbing the choicest napping spots.

Have a campfire. Campfires lend the ambiance. Portable fire pits are fairly inexpensive, like $35 at Walmart. Some communities allow you to dig your own (line it with a few old cement blocks). Collect brush and burn recycled paper to clean up the environment and do a little volunteer work too.

Sing camp songs. Ultimate Camp Resource has lyrics for all the old camp songs we learned as kids (and some we'd like to forget). Focus on songs about the sky, stars and nature. Play astronomy trivia. Check skymap.com for ideas.

Teach fire safety to get some learning time in. Have a bucket of sand at the ready to douse the flames and first aid kit. Discuss wildfires and caring for the environment. Show kids how to outen fires correctly.

S'mores and hot dogs are camping haute cuisine, but you can simply roast marshmallows if it's easier. Make your own roasting sticks by whittling down tree branches. (many pointed ends means more marshmallows). Teach knife safety and whittling for good survivalist-scouting lessons.

Dress warm. Summer nights can be chilly. Young children may wet the bed (or sleeping bag) if they get cold, even if potty-trained. Make sure they're bundled up. If it gets hot they can peel. Wearing long clothes means kids won't need as much bug repellent.

Have kids make stargazer survival kit (another great scout activity) Pack in waterproof container:
flashlight, cheap notebook (to draw stars, constellations, night sky), water bottle, midnight snack, field glasses, portable telescopes, cuddle toy (just in case) and umbrella. Allow nothing digital except a camera to take pictures (no texting, movies, TV, games).

Print an interactive night sky map from Your Sky that you can personalize for day and area. Here are free printable star charts, night sky maps and constellation maps. Here's a kids astronomy activities link with printables. Help kids track stars and learn the names of the constellations they're seeing. Provide notebooks and pencils and let them draw stars and constellations.

'Counting On' Joe Duggar, bachelorette Kendra Caldwell share odd bachelor party

Duggars, bachelorette parties, stag bashes and co-ed sleepovers: which of these don't belong? If you said the duggar family, you're wrong. People magazine showed the Christian morality experts of "Counting On" engaging in some pretty worldly activities since the fall of "19 Kids and Counting."



Joseph Duggar and his girlfriend, Kendra Caldwell shared a bachelor party. Joy-Anna Duggar and Austin Forsyth had a joint stag party with a co-ed slumber party. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were onboard for the unorthodox premarital events.   'Counting On' Joe Duggar, bachelorette Kendra Caldwell share odd bachelor party

Mothers Day gifts, Teacher Appreciation presents from recycled valentines

Little Miss took her neatly-labeled valentines to school and arrived home with reciprocal Valentine cards from friends. So now, what to do with these prized missives? Clean freaks will toss when she isn't looking. Sentimental (ahem, packrat) parents will urge saving. Artsy (messy) moms won't know what happens to valentines because they will filter into general room litter. None of these is very satisfying considering cost, work and love put into valentines. Here are five cheap, homemade crafts using recycled and repurposed children's valentines. Perfect to use as gift crafts for Easter, Teacher Appreciation Month, Mother's Day, Father's Day or Grandparent birthday gift.



Scrapbook/Journal: Give child a cheap notebook (picked up at back-to-school sales and squirreled away by practical mama). Provide scissors, tape, crayons and pencil. Label the page with school year and teacher. Show how her how to arrange valentines, collage-style. She might cut pretty bits from

each or line them up like gallery next to each friend's picture. Add stickers or decorations.



Pirate Treasure Box: If Johnny B Goode made a particularly nice valentine box for school, save and use to store special stuff--treasures, awards, collectibles, tchotchkis, trinkets, medals, feathers, rocks, keys, bits of a disused bird's nest---so dear to a boy's heart. Or decorate a box using valentines, old maps, scrap aluminum foil, colored plastic, pictures, recycled bin fodder to and magazines. Water down school glue and paint over decorations to to "laminate" or decoupage. He could use his box as a "mailbox" too.



Jewelry box: Repupose old pasteboard, metal or wooden boxes. If decorations are peeling, scrub them off, down to basic box shape. If box is wooden, sand down blemishes. If metal, clean rust and grime with scrubber or Mr. Clean white sponge. Dry thoroughly. Paint box or decoupage valentines on with thin glue. Glue on flowers, faux gems, sequins, ribbon or lace if desired. If clasp is broken, glue a button on the bottom of the opening and a loop of yarn to the top. Loop yarn over button to close.



Picture frame: Buy a wide-edge photo frame or cut your own. Measure opening to fit picture and cut from cereal box. Cut inner edge with decorative scissors. Paint frame or cover with plain covered fabric or wrapping paper. Cut pictures from valentines or magazines. Use decoupage method to decorate edge with cut valentines.



Bookmarks: Decorate cardboard strips cut from dry goods boxes. Paint with fabric paints. Decoupage valentines on bookmark and write message ("Grandma-You're my Valentine Year-Round", "Dad I'm always thinking of you.") Give as Mother's Day, Father's Day or Grandparents' Day gifts.

Any of these would make a lovely gift for a lonely senior friend or shut-in. Why not pay it forward in the upcoming Easter holiday? Find a lonely old person and share your time and talent. You can find more recycled crafts at my blog Green Crafts.


Kate Gosselin feels sad but justified excluding Collin Gosselin from his birthday party

You've heard of kids being excluded from other children's birthday celebrations? Well, Kate Gosselin took it one step further--she didn't invite her son Collin Gosselin to his own birthday party. The Nov. 29 episode of TLC show "Kate Plus 8" showed the sextuplets' lavish birthday bash minus one sextuplet (Collin) who's in some kind of behavior therapy. Mom says she's sorry for herself and Collin's siblings that he couldn't attend his party but says it's best for everyone. Who does this kind of thing?? No matter what his behavior problems are he deserves a party! I've a feeling he's just a little strong-willed--hmm who does that remind you of?? Kate Gosselin feels sad but justified excluding Collin Gosselin from his birthday party

Kate Gosselin feels sad but justified excluding Collin Gosselin from his birthday party

You've heard of kids being excluded from other children's birthday celebrations? Well, Kate Gosselin took it one step further--she didn't invite her son Collin Gosselin to his own birthday party. What kind of mother does that? The Nov. 29 episode of TLC show "Kate Plus 8" showed the sextuplets' lavish birthday bash minus one sextuplet (Collin) who's in some kind of behavior therapy. Mom says she's sorry for herself and Collin's siblings that he couldn't attend his party but says it's best for everyone. But no matter how naughty he may have been the child deserves a birthday. It sounds to me like this is just control freak Kate Gosselin at work again. Kate Gosselin feels sad but justified excluding Collin Gosselin from his birthday party

Candy alternatives for birthday party game prizes, loot bags: 100+ cheap non-food, non-candy, giveaways that are cheap

Are you in charge of planning some kind of huge party for kids, say a Christmas or Halloween shindig? You'll need prizes for games, most likely. Parents, do you need ideas for birthday party prizes that are cheap (er, I mean frugal)? Perhaps you need low-cost stocking stuffers. If you want to avoid the whole candy thing, use these 100 plus treat ideas for stocking stuffers, Valentines Day, Easter, birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, year round! Halloween alternatives: 100+ non-food, non-candy Trick-or-Treat prizes, giveways

Jinger Duggar, Jeremy Vuolo hushed, rushed wedding plans bypass parents: why the secrecy?

A rogue Duggar wedding? That's what Jeremy Vuolo and Jinger Duggar are planning and their nuptials don't include the parents Jim Bob or Michelle Duggar. The "Jill & Jessa: Counting On" reality TV couple has flouted courtship, hands-off engagement and now even marriage traditions, saying they're doing relationships their way. Family members hint Jinger will be pregnant in the new year, so that suggests a wedding in the next two months. The couple are keeping wedding plans secret but say it will be small, so a destination wedding leaps to mind. Why all the hushed rush with these two?  Jinger Dugger, Jeremy Vuolo hushed, rushed wedding plans bypass parents: why the secrecy?

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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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