Pictured are Shannon Collins and her husband Mike, live in Omaha, Neb., with their children Cody, 16, Emily, 12, and Noah, 6.
Pictured are Shannon Collins and her husband Mike, live in Omaha, Neb., with their children Cody, 16, Emily, 12, and Noah, 6.
Monday, May 21, 2012

School is almost out for summer vacation and parents may be wondering how to keep their children busy and active. Shannon Collins has already come up with ideas to enjoy summer with her three children, as well as her daycare children.

Shannon and her husband, Mike, live in Omaha, Neb., with their children Cody, 16, Emily, 12, and Noah, 6. Mike is originally from Lake View and is a maintenance engineer at Yahoo! Data Center. He is the son of Nora and Elroy Panbecker of Pocahontas and the late Gerald Collins.

Shannon said, “With all the craziness of having three active children we still find time to do things as a family. Summertime goes by so fast so this summer we made a bucket list.”

Shannon found the idea for a “bucket list” on Pinterest. She bought an inexpensive tin bucket and some wooden clothespins. With 12 full weeks of summer on their calendar, the family chose 24 things to do as a family, planning to do two each week. They wrote one thing on each clothespin and pinned it around the rim of the bucket. Some examples chosen by the Collins family are: going fishing, outside game night, attending a Storm Chasers baseball game, Adventureland, horseback riding, and stargazing. As Shannon explains, “It doesn’t have to be expensive things to do just summertime fun stuff.”

As the family completes each activity, they will take off the corresponding clothespin and drop it into the bucket.

Shannon said, “This way when we get to the end of summer we don’t have any regrets about forgetting any of the activities that make summer fun or saying, Summer’s over and we didn’t do everything we planned.”

Shannon is a 1994 Carroll High School graduate and the daughter of Darlene of Carroll and the late Bruce Warnke. She’s an in-home daycare provider to children ranging from 9 months to 6 years old. She enjoys finding fun and creative projects to keep the children occupied while in her care. Her youngest, Noah, 6, also enjoys the activities. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Shannon was a teacher’s assistant at Head Start in Sac City. She also worked in a kindergarten classroom at Karen Western Elementary in Omaha.

Shannon finds many of her ideas on www.pinterest.com and likes to use recyclables such as cardboard or plastic for the projects. Instead of throwing those items away, she keeps them for future use.

Following are some ideas Shannon will be doing this summer with her daycare children.

Magic Milk Painting

Shannon found this exciting way to paint on Pinterest. Be sure to use whole milk, as skim, 1% and 2% milk don’t work as well.

You will need:

— Shallow bowl (for children under 3) or a plastic lid (ice cream bucket lids work great)
— Whole milk (you need just enough to fill the bowl or lid halfway)
— Food coloring (4 colors)
— Couple of drops of dish soap in a cup
— Toothpick
— Cake pan
— White or colored paper
— Paint brush

Pour the milk into the bowl or lid. Squeeze two drops of each color of food coloring on the milk, placing the drops in different areas of the milk. Dab the tip of the toothpick into the dish soap and then into the middle of the food coloring dots. The dots will explode! Just keep repeating until the children are ready to use the milk to paint.

When the children are ready to paint place the paper into the bottom of the cake pan and have them dip the paintbrush into the magic milk paint. Then watch a masterpiece come to life.


Shannon said this is a neat science project for preschoolers and school-age children. Young children enjoy squeezing it as a way to calm down. It should keep well in a Ziploc baggie for about two weeks.

What you will need:

— 1½ cups warm water, divided
— 1 teaspoon Borax (it comes in a box, found in the detergent aisle)
— 1 bottle (4 ounces) Elmer’s Glue (only Elmer’s will work)
— 1 color of food coloring
— 2 bowls
— A whisk
— Ziploc sandwich bag

 In a bowl, pour a ½ cup of the warm water and mix it with the Borax until the detergent dissolves. In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of warm water, food coloring (just a few drops) and the glue. Mix until the glue is dissolved. Then mix the contents of both bowls together with the whisk until it firms up a little. Continue the mixing process with your hands. The flubber becomes firmer the more you mix it. When children are finished playing with it store it in the baggie.

Outdoor Bowling

Here is a game to play on a summer day or at your next family barbecue. Children of all ages and adults can join in on the fun.

What you will need:

— 9 empty 2 liter pop bottles (remove labels)
— Water
— Food coloring
— Round ball (soccer ball, volleyball, or basketball)
— 9 glow sticks (optional)
— Paper and pen for scoring

 Find a flat surface about 10 to 15 feet long (cement works best). Fill the pop bottles about 3 inches from the top of the bottle with water.  Add a few drops of food coloring to the water and screw the lid on tight. If you want to do nighttime bowling, snap a glow stick and put it into the bottle before putting on the lid. Set your pop bottle pins up in a triangle like it is done for actual bowling. Get your ball of choice and bowl away. You don’t have to keep score, but children usually like to see who wins.

Frozen Dino Excavation

If you have a dino fan or just need something to keep those little hands busy, create your own dinosaur excavation that bring children back to the Ice Age.

What you will need:

— Handful or a bag of small plastic dinosaurs
— Tupperware or plastic container (the largest size you can fit into your freezer)
— Water
— Toothbrush, plastic shovel and a spoon (or any other tool that is safe for children)
— A warm, sunny day!

 Place several plastic dinosaurs in the bottom of the plastic container. Pour in enough water to cover them. If you prefer, you can make one large container of ice or individual ones for each child. Place in freezer until water is frozen and then repeat the steps until you have several layers of frozen dinosaurs in ice. Take the container outside and put it upside down wherever children will work.

Shannon’s Note: Sometimes it is easier to pour some hot water over the container when it is upside down to get the ice out. When the ice is separated from the container little ones are ready to dig for dinosaurs.

Homemade Binoculars

Shannon made these with her preschool class and still makes them with her daycare children. She collects toilet paper tubes and other household items to make crafts.

What you will need:

— 2 empty toilet paper rolls
— Stapler or craft glue
— 2 feet of yarn
— Markers
— Stickers
— Paper hole puncher
— Paper

Take the two toilet-paper rolls and staple those together to form what looks like binoculars (I use this method, but it can be a little tricky to fit the stapler into the rolls). If you are unable to staple them, you can use craft glue and allow to dry overnight. Then use the paper hole puncher and make two holes, one on either side of the rolls about 1 inch from the opening of the rolls. Use the 2 feet of yarn and tie it through the holes out to make a strap. Two feet of yarn is a good starting point, and then cut to fit each child. Give the children markers or stickers and let them decorate their binoculars. Use the piece of paper to write down things they can look for with their binoculars. This is a great way to play I Spy in the house on a rainy day or on a trip to the park or zoo.

Cloud Dough

This inexpensive, moldable dough is the same as what is sold in children’s museums. Shannon said children love playing with this because it feels like flour when you run your hands through it. Shannon loves it because the children smell like baby oil the rest of the day. However, it can be a bit messy, and Shannon suggests playing with it outdoors on a table.

What you will need:

— 8 cups of flour
— 1 cup of baby oil
— Large plastic container
— Digging tools

Mix the flour and baby oil together in the plastic container until the dough is moldable. It may take a couple of minutes to get the oil all the way mixed with the flour. When children are finished playing, store it in an airtight plastic container.