After a very long winter it is finally feeling like spring around here. I am excited at the prospect of taking some of our indoor learning activities outside.
With that in mind, I am delighted to be guest posting at The Measured Mom today with a post about outdoor learning in spring. In my post you’ll find ideas for experiments, art activities, and nature studies that you and your little ones can enjoy together in the fresh air.
To read my post at The Measured Mom please click here: Ways to Learn Outside in Spring. While you’re there, be sure to poke around Anna’s fantastic site. She has a wealth of resources for teachers and parents of young children.
This week Peanut (age 3.5) enjoyed some creative, open-ended play with an Easter playdough activity.
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Never one to miss an opportunity to bake something, Peanut made the playdough almost entirely by himself, hence the flour seen all over the table in my photos below. We used the super easy, no cook play dough recipe from The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book. (A quick note about that: I am never going back to playdough cooked on the stove! The no cook method is much easier to make, produces a lovely soft dough, and doesn’t leave you with a pot to scrape clean).
Once our first batch of dough was complete (we started with a green batch and then I made a small batch each of blue and pink while he was playing), I gave my son a few goodies to play with: Easter themed cookie cutters, plastic eggs, and a beautiful Easter egg that we bought at Michaels a couple of weeks ago.
From there, I left Peanut to his play while I bustled about the kitchen.
We love playdough. In fact, we have a batch or two out on our kitchen table most days of the week. As a mom and a former home daycare operator, I have counted on it time and again as an open-ended play material that never fails to engage a child’s imagination as well as her hands.
Whether you use playdough regularly or you’ve never made a batch in your life, The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book by Cathy James is for you. In the book you’ll find endless inspiration in the form of recipes and ideas for a whole year of play.
The book includes:
Such recipes as non-cook and cooked play dough, gluten-free dough, salt dough, modelling dough, and real bread.
Ideas for 52 weeks of loose parts play, in a great printable poster format
A whole year of play dough activities, arranged seasonally. There’s an idea for every week of the year, from storytelling and role play activities, sensory play, and small worlds, to creative art prompts and math-based play.
Earth Day 2014 is Tuesday, April 22nd. One of the easiest ways to celebrate Earth Day is by heading outside with your kids and picking up litter in your neighbourhood. This is a great, hands-on way to teach children how to care for the environment. Plus, spending time together while working toward a common goal is a wonderful way to strengthen your family bond.
I’m delighted to once again be teaming up with a group of nature-minded bloggers (unofficial group name: The Woodsy Mamas). Previously we’ve collaborated on posts about nature tables. Today we’re sharing ideas for celebrating Earth Day with kids. Be sure to visit their sites by clicking on the links at the bottom of this post.
Celebrate Earth Day by Picking Up Litter
The idea is simple. Grab a garbage bag and go for a walk around your neighbourhood. Pick up any and all litter that you see.
Dress appropriately. Wear gloves to protect your hands and boots so that you can get down into ditches.
To save yourself from having to sort litter when you get home, bring a few bags on your walk. One for garbage and one or two for recyclables.
Review the rules of the road (looking both ways before crossing, etc.)
Talk to your children about why littering is a problem (it can make animals sick, it can prevent plants from flourishing, it looks bad, etc.)
If you’re having trouble motivating your child to participate, try making a game of it. Who can collect the most litter or who can find the most unusual item. Or, invite friends along. Many hands make light work and make the work more fun!
We have an unusual amount of snow for this time of year so Peanut (age 3.5) and I came back from a recent neighbourhood clean up with hardly any litter at all. I’m afraid that the plow has pushed it all deep under the snow. Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile experience. He was a boy on a mission, spotting the tiniest pieces of trash! I’m looking forward to getting out for another litter collection walk when the snow has melted.
Looking for an easy Easter craft that doesn’t require fancy materials or a whole lot of time? Than this one’s for you! Our little friend (age 3) enjoyed working on these sparkly eggs so much that she made seven!
Easy Easter Craft
Cut egg shapes from construction paper
Apply glue (we made dots with a liquid glue stick)
Sprinkle confetti or glitter on the paper egg. Shake off excess.
That’s all there is to it. These colourful eggs were fun to make and they look cute as can be displayed on the fridge.
After a long, Canadian winter, we are more than happy to welcome spring. It’s the perfect time of year to get outside, explore, and connect with nature. Here are 8 simple outdoor activities for kids of all ages to do this spring.
1. Play in the Mud!
My son, Peanut (age 3.5) cannot resist a patch of mud. It’s ultra appealing if there is still a bit of snow around that he can toss onto the mud patch to make even more mud!
Dress your child appropriately (i’d recommend a full rainsuit and rubber boots ) and let him splash away. It’ll wash off.
Despite my affinity for nature, I do not have a green thumb. My twin sister, Lucy does, however. You can read about how she makes gardening fun and educational for her son in her post, Gardening with Kids: Sharing a Passion.
There are so many fun, playful ways to learn about and enjoy birds. Here are a few ideas: On a calendar or in a nature journal record where and when you saw the first spring Robin. Make and/or decorate a birdhouse. Try to identify different bird songs and sounds. Look for signs of nest building. Better yet, help out our fine feathered friends - What Do We Do All Day shows us How to Help Backyard Birds Build Their Nests.
Last spring a Robin built her nest on the windowsill right outside my parents living room. What an amazing thing it was to watch the entire process of baby birds beginning their lives!
Spring is a wonderful time of year to get outside and fly a kite or watch a windsock blow in the breeze. Haven’t got either? Here are two great tutorials: Learnhow to make a windsockfrom My Little 3 and Me and How to Make a Kite from Learn Play Imagine. Or, keep it super simple and tie some ribbons or scarves to a tree branch and watch them twist and flap!
6. Go on a Bug Hunt
Does your little one love creepy crawlies? Set her loose outside to see what insects she can find under rocks, tucked behind tree bark, or hiding in the grass. Read Let’s Go on a Critter Hunt!from Rain or Shine Mamma for tips on playing with bugs.
7. Check the Trees for Buds and Blossoms
Encourage your child to inspect the trees around your house and in your neighbourhood for buds and/or blossoms. Talk about what happens to trees during winter (here’s a helpful post on the subject from Mommy Loves Trees: Activities for Teaching Your Kiddos About Trees in the Winter) and what changes they go through during the spring.
8. Measure the Rainfall
Make the most of those April showers be measuring the rainfall. Try this easyhomemade rain gauge from The Imagination Tree. This is a fantastic, hands-on learning activity that I can’t wait to try!
And speaking of rain, don’t feel that you have to stay inside just because it’s raining! Some of the most fun we’ve had outside has been playing in downpours (see #1 Play in the Mud, above!).
More Nature Play, Outdoor Activities, and Spring Themed Fun:
I had so much fun putting together this list of Easter gifts for kids! While we don’t go overboard with presents at Easter, it is nice to put one or two special gifts in my son’s basket. This gift guide includes some of our favourite toys and books, as well as some items that I have my eye on. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
Note: this gift guide is aimed at the preschool set but many of these items would also be appropriate for toddlers or elementary school aged children. For your convenience, this post includes affiliate links.
Easter Gifts for Kids
Cuddly and cute lovies for your little one to snuggle with:
While dishes might not be ideal for a child’s Easter basket, a classic Bunnykins set would make a lovely gift from a grandparent, Auntie, or special family friend. We own all the pieces in the Bunnykins collection and use them daily. I know that many people put them away to be used only on special occasions, but take it from me – these dishes are surprisingly durable! Plus they are adorable and add a little fun to meal time.
Do have an outdoor enthusiast or little naturalist in your life? You’ll find some fantastic gift ideas for him or her on my Ultimate Gift Guide for Nature Kids. The guide includes gifts for young campers, gardeners, artists, and explorers.
Raid your recycling bin to make a cute DIY flower stencil for your spring crafts.
Today I’m at CBC Parentswith an easy tutorial for this flower stencil. Peanut (age 3.5) loved painting colourful flowers with our stencil. I had fun with it too! Be sure to head over to CBC Parentsto find out how we made it.
Cookie cutters are the secret to an easy, cute, and healthy Easter lunch or snack for kids.
I can’t resist picking up one or two cookie cutters whenever I go to the Bulk Ban (yes, I mention that store alot!). They have a great assortment of shapes and sizes and they are so inexpensive. At this point I have amassed quite a good little collection of them. We use our cookie cutters with playdough, for stamping, and of course, for making cookies.
When I bought egg and bunny shaped cookie cutters recently I knew they would be perfect for making an Easter lunch or snack.
Here’s how to make this Easter Lunch:.
1. Spread cream cheese on bread (I used a whole wheat English Muffin).
2. Use cookie cutters to cut out the shape of a bunny and an egg.
3. Decorate each piece with fresh or dried fruit, nuts. etc. I used blueberries, strawberries, dried apricot, and chocolate chips.
4. Round out the meal with a glass of milk and carrots (a bunny’s favourite snack!).
Cookie cutters also lend themselves well to cutting shapes in melon. Have a look at our Farm Themed Birthday Party to see our watermelon pigs.
Here’s the link to a set of Easter cookie cutters from Wilton. Please note that this is an affiliate link, meaning that I will be compensated, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase this item by clicking this link.
This coffee bean sensory play activity looks beautiful, smells wonderful, and feels great. A true feast for the senses!
I get inspiration for our kids activities from many different places. I often plan invitations to play, create, or build based on my son’s current interests, the seasons, or holidays. I also draw on my own childhood experiences. Occasionally though, I find inspiration in unexpected places. This sensory activity came about after a gorgeous photo of coffee beans popped up in my Pinterest feed. I had to turn it into a sensory play experience!
Coffee Bean Sensory Play
To the Bulk Barn we went! I purchased two types of coffee beans: decaffeinated and German Chocolate Cake flavoured. They smelled heavenly. Once home I poured the beans into our favourite, thrifted wooden bowl and added star anise and cinnamon sticks. I almost included tools and containers for scooping and pouring but decided against doing so. I wanted to keep this activity simple. I, or my son, can always add items later on to take the play in a new direction.
My son, like most preschoolers, is very hands-on. I knew that he would love digging his hands into the coffee beans. I loved it too! He also enjoyed slowly letting the beans escape his fingers and land in the bowl. He remarked that they sounded like rain.
Our bowl of coffee beans remains in the living room (our main play space) and Peanut spends a few quiet minutes playing with it every now and then. I do too.