Outdoor Learning Ideas for Spring

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.

Ideas for Outdoor Learning in Spring. Take experiments, art activities, and nature studies into 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.

Thanks for reading!

-Ann

 

Easter Playdough Activity

This week Peanut (age 3.5) enjoyed some creative, open-ended play with an Easter playdough activity.

Easter Playdough Activity. Open-ended play for toddlers and preschoolers.
This post contains affiliate links.

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.

Easter Playdough Activity from My Nearest and Dearest blog. Open-ended creative play for toddlers and preschoolers.

Open-ended creative play with Easter Playdough.

Easter Playdough Activity with cookie cutters and eggs. Great open-ended creative play!

More Easter Fun:

Visit our Easter Activities and Crafts page.
Follow my Spring and Easter Activities and Crafts board on Pinterest.

The Homemade Play Dough Recipe Book

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.

homemade play dough recipe book from Nurturestore

 

Celebrate Earth Day by Picking Up Litter

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.

Celebrate Earth Day by picking up litter. Includes tips and resources for learning about litter.

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.

Tips:

  1. Dress appropriately. Wear gloves to protect your hands and boots so that you can get down into ditches.
  2. 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.
  3. Review the rules of the road (looking both ways before crossing, etc.)
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.

Picking up Litter: Related Links

Learning About Litter from Cure Litter (a Canadian site)
Catch That Litterbug from Eco Kids USA
Bin It Campaign from Keep Australia Beautiful

More Earth Day Activities:

From our blog: Six Earth Day Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

From my friends:

Backyard Chores for Kids from Fireflies and Mud Pies
Earth Day Nature Walk Ideas for Kids from How Wee Learn
Earth Day is Your Day. So Make a Difference! from Mommy Loves Trees
Recycling for Kids from Rain or Shine Mamma
Earth Day Activities for Everyone from Natural Beach Living

Are you on Google+? If so, you’re invited to join us at my Kids and Nature Community. Help us promote outdoor play and connecting kids with nature!

Thanks for reading,

-Ann

Sparkle Dot Eggs: An Easy Easter Craft

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 for toddlers or preschoolers.

Easy Easter Craft

  1. Cut egg shapes from construction paper
  2. Apply glue (we made dots with a liquid glue stick)
  3. 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.

Making easy Easter craft

making easy Easter egg craft

More Easter Fun:

Easter Activities and Crafts landing page
Spring and Easter Activities and Crafts on Pinterest

Thanks for reading!
-Ann

Nature Play: Eight Outdoor Activities for Spring

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.

Spring Nature Play. 8 Simple Outdoor Activities to connect kids with nature. My Nearest and Dearest blog.

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!

Outdoor Activities for Spring from My Nearest and Dearest blog. Play in the Mud.

Dress your child appropriately (i’d recommend a full rainsuit and rubber boots ) and let him splash away. It’ll wash off. ;)

Outdoor Activities for Spring. Splashing in puddles.

I love this post from Melissa of Fireflies and Mud Pies celebrating The First Mud Puddles of Spring.

2. Start a Garden

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.

As for me, I’ll be reading A Beginners Guide to Gardening with Kids from Dirt and Boogers.

Spring outdoor activities for kids from My Nearest and Dearest blog. Gardening.

3. Welcome Back the Birds

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!

We’re a tad bird-obsessed. Visit my Bird Themed Activities and Crafts page for more bird fun.

Nest with eggs

4. Look for Tadpoles

My son and daycare kids really enjoyed finding frogspawn and then tadpoles in our neighbourhood last spring. I am hoping we’ll get to experience that again this year. Here’s the post about our fun with frogs: Discovering the Natural World: The Life Cycle of a Frog.

Spring Outdoor Activities for Kids. Looking for tadpoles. My Nearest and Dearest.

 

5. Embrace the Wind

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: Learn how to make a windsock from 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.

apple blossoms

8. Measure the Rainfall

Make the most of those April showers be measuring the rainfall. Try this easy homemade 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:

Kids and Nature page
Spring Activities and Crafts page
Let’s Play Outside Pinterest board
Spring and Easter Activities and Crafts for Kids Pinterest board

And be sure to check out my Ultimate Gift Guide for Nature Kids.

Gift Guide for Nature Kids

Thanks for reading!

-Ann

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Easter Gifts for Kids

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. Gift Guide includes beautiful keepsakes, classic books, and fun toys. My Nearest and Dearest blog.

Easter Gifts for Kids

Toys

Cuddly and cute lovies for your little one to snuggle with:

The World of Beatrix Potter: Collectible Peter Rabbit
The World of Beatrix Potter: Collectible Mrs. Rabbit
Melissa & Doug Bunny
Gund Easter Dilly Dallies Duck

Kid favorites for outdoor fun:

Bubble Wand Assortment
Funrise Gazillion Bubble 62 oz. Solution
Crayola 48 Count Sidewalk Chalk

Well made miniatures for pretend play and learning:

Safari Ltd Fairy Fantasies TOOB
Safari Ltd Insects TOOB
Safari LTD. Replica Toys Set of 5 Life Cycle of a Frog

Classic kids toys:

Classic Tin Kaleidoscope We have and love this kaleidoscope.
Bunny Easter Nesting Dolls

Books

Beautiful books for spring and Easter:

Beatrix Potter The Complete Tales
The Easter Egg by Jan Brett We don’t have this book (yet!) but do own a couple of Jan Brett’s other books. They are well written and feature stunningly detailed illustrations.
God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren
Happy Easter, Curious George Curious George is VERY popular at our house!
It’s Spring by Susan Swan
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (miniature edition) I recommend this particular edition for two reasons: it’s a board book (perfect for toddlers!) and it has holes punched out of each piece of food the caterpillar eats. It’s fun for the kids to see and touch where he’s “chewed through” the book.

Coloring Books

Backyard Nature Coloring Book (Dover Nature Coloring Book)
Melissa & Doug Stained Glass Coloring Pad-Fairies

Bunnykins Collection

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.

Royal Doulton Bunnykins 3-Piece Children’s Set
Royal Doulton Bunnykins Spoon And Fork Set
Royal Doulton Bunnykins Melamine 5 Pc Set

Easter Gifts for Kids. Classic toys, books and more! My Nearest and Dearest blog.

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.

Be sure to visit our Easter Activities and Crafts landing page for fun things to do and make with your kids.

Thanks for reading!

-Ann

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DIY Flower Stencil

Raid your recycling bin to make a cute DIY flower stencil for your spring crafts.

DIY Flower Stencil. Raid your recycling bin for this. Great for kids crafts!

Today I’m at CBC Parents with 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 Parents to find out how we made it.

More Flower Fun for Kids:

Spring Kids’ Craft: Sticks and Tissue Paper  Blossoms

Sensory Water Play with Wildflowers

Playdough and Fall Wildflowers

Thanks for reading!

-Ann

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Healthy Easter Lunch or Snack

Cookie cutters are the secret to an easy, cute, and healthy Easter lunch or snack for kids.

A healthy Easter lunch or snack for kids from My Nearest and Dearest blog.
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!).

Easy peasy!

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.

More Easter Fun for Kids:

Easter Activities and Crafts landing page
Spring and Easter Activities for Kids Pinterest Board

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.

Thanks for reading,

-Ann

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Coffee Bean Sensory Play

This coffee bean sensory play activity looks beautiful, smells wonderful, and feels great. A true feast for the senses!

Coffee Bean Sensory Play. Plus more sensory play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers at My Nearest and Dearest blog.

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!

Sensory Play with Coffee Beans.

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.

Coffee Bean Sensory Play from My Nearest and Dearest blog.

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.

Coffee Bean Sensory Play at My Nearest and Dearest blog.

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. :)

Spiced Coffee Bean Sensory Play. My Nearest and Dearest blog.

More Scented Sensory Play Ideas:

Sensory Play with Whole Beans and Spices

Pinecones, Oats, and Cinnamon Sticks Sensory Bin

Lime Cloud Dough

Cinnamon Maple Salt Tray

Thanks for reading!

-Ann

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