Ideas on April Fool's Day Activities

April Fool's Day is quite an appropriate way to begin National Humor Month. Here is some background information plus a few activities for you to enjoy.

Did you know that April Fool's Day began in France in 1564? Before then, the new year was celebrated on April 1! As some Europeans continued celebrating the new year on that day, they were called April fools and their friends would play silly tricks on them.

The harmless pranks of April Fool's Day take place in the US, Germany, France, Great Britain, and other countries. In France, an April fool is a poisson d'Avril, an April fish, and chocolate fish are a special treat. In Scotland, people call you an April cuckoo.

Be sure not to play a joke after 12 noon or you will be the fool!

Now, for a few activities:

1. Cut out a 1" square for every child playing this game. Write "A" on one of them and put them all in a bag. Have all children choose a square, not telling anyone which they chose, and put them back in the bag. As children sit in a circle, a child is chosen to go first. If he did not choose the "A", he will walk around the circle and return to his spot; another child is chosen. Only the child who chose the "A" will walk around the circle, tap another on the shoulder, say "April Fool!" and start running. The tapped child chases him. If the tapped child does not beat the first child back to his spot, he continues walking around the circle and taps someone else; if he DOES beat the first child back, the first child has another turn to walk, tap, and run.

2. For older children, follow the same directions for the squares. After the squares have all been chosen, let the children scatter in the play area. At the Start signal, have children start moving around. The child who chose the "A" is IT and tries to tag the other children by whispering "April Fool!" each time he tags someone. Children that are tagged must freeze into statues. IT must be subtle in order to sneak up and tag the other children.

NOTE: The top two games are easily adapted to any letter of the alphabet for any theme. Try one for a birthday party!

3. Have children create their own lists of ten things (a good way to review nouns) or create a class list. Have an interesting variety. Without letting children see the silly story they are going to create, call on ten to say one of their words or to call out one from the class list. Fill in the blanks of this story (from Spring is Here, Macmillan Seasonal Activity Packs, 1987) as they provide the words:

One day, I put on my beautiful brand- new _____. Then I went out for a walk. The first thing I saw was a funny _____. It was right next to a striped _____! Then a tiny little _____wearing a huge _____walked past me. I was so surprised that I forgot to watch where I was going. I walked right into a big _____and bumped my _____. Then I saw a huge _____riding on a small _____. I laughed so hard I almost dropped my _____. What a silly way to start the day!

4. See if you are fooled by these riddles!

a. Which animals can jump higher than a tree?
b. What are the things you'll never eat for lunch?
c. What do you lose every time you stand up?
d. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
e. Why can't you tell a secret in a vegetable garden?

5. Remember that any time is great for a SMILE BREAK! Try it when you feel tense!

I hope these ideas are useful and ignite your own creativity. Enjoy!

Garden arbors are set up as shaded places in home gardens or public parks where one can relax and rest. These open frameworks are typically made of latticework or rustic work, functioning also as a trellis for climbing or creeping plants. Arbors can also be constructed for decks or patios. Today's garden arbors were not the first attempt to enhance the beauty of gardens. In the 400s B.C. and A.D. 400's, elaborate courtyards were a hallmark of many Roman homes. Landscape architecture was also given a premium in Japanese gardens (A.D. 500's) and Persian gardens (A.D.200's-600's). Beauty was also a priority for civic plazas and hillside estates for Italians in the 1400's-1500's. City gardens and majestic palaces were the highlight of France during the 1600's and 1700's, while country estates with a natural look were the main theme followed by English designers in the 1800's.

1. Landscape Architecture

For a good number of these early country estates and gardens, designers were known as landscape gardeners. An American - Frederick Law Olmsted - was the first to use 'landscape architect'. He indicated this title when he approved design plans for Manhattan's Central Park in New York City with Calvert Vaux as his partner in the 1850's. Landsape architecture is not limited to major projects. Some homeowners tap the services of professionals to add beauty to their gardens. However, others now feel confident in do-it-yourself projects as a cost-effective alternative to make their gardens beautiful.

2. Use Quality Materials

Creating a small garden arbor is an easy task, with costs becoming significantly less if the homeowner is patient enough to shop around and compare prices, particularly for pressure-treated lumber. Other items that may vary slightly across discount stores in price terms are deck screws, scrap lumber, crushed stone or gravel, washers, bolts and nuts. The same principles apply to building larger arbors, although some ideas and items would tend to increase in scale. As an example, using two posts for a small arbor may mean using four posts for a large one, as a bigger arbor would need greater support for strength and stability, and also to enhance alignment.

3. Designing a Garden Arbor: Some Do-It-Yourself Fundamentals

- To stabilize the arbor, the homeowner should have the main posts of the structure sunk into concrete poured into holes below the garden's ground level.

- The carpenter's level is used to determine if the posts stand at equal heights. The tool is also used to establish plumbness, or if the posts are vertically 'level.'

- Wooden crosspieces in varying measurements can be attached perpendicular to the posts for further support.

- Since some rejects still make their way to lumber stores, one should be patient enough to sort through many boards until a good quality board is found.

- Buyers should remember that conventional measurements are not exact: a 4 by 4 may actually measure 3.5 by 3.5, while 2 by 4 may measure 1.5 by 3.5.

- The same consideration for post height must also be given, as part of the arbor posts will be underground. Galvanized post anchors is one option homeowners have if they intends to make use of the post's full height - or have all posts above ground level - for their garden.

4. Tools For Do-It-Yourself Projects

These will actually cost a lot more if one does not have the necessary tools at home for building garden arbors.

- Circular saw or handsaw
- Stepladder
- Wheelbarrow
- Hammer
- Wrench
- Spade bit
- Garden hose
- Carpenter's level
- Shovel
- Drill
- File
- Wood chisel

5. Building Tips

- Arbor boards can already be pre-drilled and pre-cut as a time-saving step.

- The wooden crosspieces can be designed at the ends. Patterns can be drawn using a pencil and later cut using a jigsaw.