For the next 6-8 weeks I’ll be forgoing Mila Mondays in favor of something new that I’m really looking forward to.
See, over spring break I experimented with choosing a theme + activities to keep us busy while school was out. I talked briefly about our Egypt activities in this post. I loved having a little bit of structure and some ideas to fall back on when we got bored. The kids loved trying new things and going on adventures. For the most part, it was a success…which is why I’m trying it again this summer!
Every week we will pick a new country to explore. Ideally each week will include an art project, a STEM project, a reading list, a recipe to try, and a movie or outing that relates to our theme. We will probably look at maps & photos, learn a little about the culture & maybe a few words in the language spoken there, and read lots & lots. If we learn some things, great! But mostly I just want to keep us busy and have fun this summer.
Want to join us? The first country we explored this summer is France!
(Yes, I absolutely started out easy for myself. Call me when I’m struggling to find children’s books based in Djibouti and we’ll see how I’m doing.)
We had so many options for French artists! Monet, Renoir, Fragonard, Ingres, Delacroix, Cezanne…I could’ve got so many different directions. However, I’ve got a 4-year-old who is obsessed with ballet, so the choice for her was pretty obvious: watercolor ballerinas à la Degas.
I pulled out some of my old art history books for inspiration and set up the watercolors while Ryan napped. Letting them paint always feels like such a huge concession on my part (so much potential for mess!) so to say they were excited about this is putting it mildly. #sometimesimafunmom I’m trying to say yes to creative projects more often, though, and this is the perfect opportunity for me to practice.
I grabbed a bag of generic mini marshmallows + a box of toothpicks at the grocery store, which cost maybe $3 total. We looked at pictures of the Eiffel tower to get some ideas—how do the beams fit together to make it strong? how wide should the base be to build a tall tower?—then showed them how use the marshmallows to hold the toothpicks together. Then I turned them loose.
Mila started by building a small tower and, once she figured out a basic scaffold structure, quickly moved on to bridges and more. Margot, on the other hand, got upset that I wouldn’t let her stuff marshmallows into her face and decided just to make necklaces with marshmallow “beads.”
Lesson learned: either be okay with younger kids eating their building materials or expect them to pitch a fit within a few minutes.
I tried to find a decent mix of fictional picture books set in France and nonfiction books about places, people, or culture. Fortunately there was plenty to work with. We’ve read about Jacques Cousteau, Joan of Arc, and Julia Child’s cat. Margot looooooved looking at pictures of Versailles, and Mila was super excited to learn about fireworks on Bastille Day. (All book links are affilates, by the way.)
A few other picture books we are enjoying:
- Mirette on the High Wire
- Adele & Simon
- A Walk in Paris
- Harry and Lulu
- The Cat Who Walked Across France
- Ollie & Moon
- Paris in the Spring with Picasso
On Sunday we had crepes for dinner + dessert. Chicken, ham, swiss, & mustard (like deconstructed chicken cordon bleu) for our savory meal and fresh strawberries for some sweetness. The girls loved it! We hadn’t made crepes in years; they couldn’t remember ever having them. I’m not sure either one liked the crepes as much as they thought they would, but Ryan ate like six, so…
We don’t call him Lunch Bucket for nothing.
Movie or outing
We have a standing date at the water park every week, which takes up an entire morning. When we come home we’ll watch Ratatouille or Madeline, though, both of which are in keeping with our French theme. I love Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame but I already know Mila won’t be up for it. She has a hard time with “scary stuff” and I think Frollo is hands-down the most terrifying Disney villain ever. Better to keep it tame for now, just in case.
So far, so good! Everyone seems to be having fun + learning, and I get more credit than usual for being a fun mom. Score!
I’m really looking forward to planning things for the rest of the summer! What countries should we explore next?
All posts in this series: