I am thrilled to be posting for the first time at CBC Parents. CBC was one of only three t.v. channels that my family got when I was a kid growing up in a rural part of Atlantic Canada. It is now home to my son’s favourite show, Busytown Mysteries (and no, they are not paying me to plug their shows. It really is a smart and cute show that I feel good about my three-year old watching!). Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to join them at their family-friendly website.
If you’re just joining us, I shared a simple Christmas sensory bin on Day one. Today I’d like to show you the beautiful wreaths that the kids and I made recently. We used naturally scented materials (cinnamon bark and star anise) and acorns, which my son and I have gathered at various parks around town.
These wreaths have a subtle scent and make nice keepsakes. We used 8 inch (I think? Let me measure them and get back to you on that! ) grapevine wreaths so they are small enough to fit on the Christmas tree as ornaments but also hold their own on a wall, mantle, or windowsill.
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Our lovely raw materials (below). I always have an assortment of nature finds (acorns, rocks, pinecones, shells, etc.) accessible to the kids. They make great little loose parts to use in pretend play (as food for farm animals for example), as building materials, or simply just to fiddle with. You can see my son using cinnamon bark and acorns with playdough in my Pomegranate Playdough post.
I have to admit that the process of making our wreaths was a bit of trial and error. Essentially, this is what we did:
Coat wreaths in Mod Podge (we did this using paint brushes). Clear glue would also work fine.
Apply glitter. I had the kids place their wreaths sticky side down in a small box that I’d sprinkled some glitter into. Then they rubbed the wreaths around in the glitter. I had them try this method in an attempt to keep them from dumping glitter everywhere. In the end though I transferred the wreaths to a big shallow box and let them go at it.
Add cinnamon bark, star anise, and acorns. I would recommend using a glue gun for this step because of the uneven surface of the wreaths. We used a low temperature glue gun and I allowed the kids to give it a try themselves (with me sitting right beside them, of course!).
Add more glitter if desired and allow the wreaths to sit so that the Mod Podge and glue can dry.
They’re awfully pretty if I do say so myself.
Now, please visit my friends’ blogs to see the creative activities they’ve shared today. I’m already planning to try some of the stellar ideas that they shared for day one of this series.
Yes, the navy beans do escape the bowl every now and then. In fact, handfuls of them have been shuttled around by small tractors and dump trucks. They are much easier to pick up than rice though, so it’s not really a big deal. Having now used navy beans as a sensory bin base a few times, I will never go back to rice.
This activity only took a couple of minutes to set up but it has already led to hours of play over the last few days. There has been lots of scooping, pouring, and using the little containers as musical shakers. Since my son loves cooking, he’s been quite busy with the bowl making ”Gruffalo stew” (The Gruffalo is a current favorite book here).
I’ll be interested to see how he and my daycare kids play with this over the coming days.
Now, please pop over to see what my friends came up with for the first of our Christmas Play Days.
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If you’re a regular reader of this blog than you know that we love playing outside, learning about the natural world, and using our nature finds in craft projects. The items in this gift guide all help facilitate those pursuits. They are either things we own and regularly use, are similar to ones that we have, or are on our wish list. I’ve made a point to choose toys that allow for open-ended and/or imaginative play and that encourage a love of nature.
I’ve included gift ideas for kids from toddlers to tweens and divided them into categories based on common outdoor and nature hobbies. I had so much fun creating this gift guide and I hope that you’ll find it helpful. Let’s get started!
The Ultimate Gift Guide for Nature Kids
Gifts for Little Nature Lovers:
We have a Magnifying Glass just like this one. My son and daycare kids use it all the time. It’s perfect for taking a closer look at plants and bugs.
Peterson First Guide to Birds of North America. The Peterson series of guide books are the ones I grew up on and the ones we still use at our house. There is sure to be a volume for whatever plant or animal your child is interested in.
Backyard Safari Field Tools. Do you have a little paleontologist or archaeologist in training? This would be a perfect gift for him/her!
First Nature Encyclopedia . As kids my sisters and I turned to encyclopedias for information. These days, everything you could possibly need to know can be found online. That being said, I want my son to know that he can turn to books for answers and this nature encyclopedia for kids is a great place to start.
Backyard Safari Cargo Vest. What a cute vest for pretend play or for wearing on a nature walk. I love that it has plenty of pockets and places to hang tools and gear.
Green Toys Indoor Gardening Kit. Made from recycled milk containers and including seeds and soil discs, this eco-friendly kit has everything needed to grow an indoor garden. Perfect for apartment dwellers.
A Camp Chair that is just their size. My son has two camp chairs (received as gifts) and they have both gotten a ton of use, everywhere from the beach, to the campground, to our own backyard. I really like that this one has a mesh seat that allows crumbs or spilled drinks to fall through. And the cup holder is a must!
Toy Swiss Army Knife. What little boy doesn’t want to be just like Daddy (or Grandpa?). Great fun for pretend play.
When We Go Camping. A beautifully illustrated book that can serve either as an introduction to or a reminder of the simple pleasures of camping and being outside from dusk to dawn.
Lightsticks for Kids. One of the best things about camping is getting to stay up outside while it’s dark. Thrill your kids with these colorful, non-toxic lightsticks.
Learning Resources Pretend and Play Camp Set. My 3.5 year old son is always engaging in pretend play, often acting out things he’s experienced. He loves to play camping and this 9 piece set (including battery powered stove and lantern) would be the perfect addition to his little at home campsites.
Educational Insights Grill-And-Go Camp Stove. Another fantastic gift for toddlers and preschoolers who love pretend play. This little camp stove features 2 light-up surfaces with realistic sizzling and boiling sounds. My son loves both cooking and camping so this set is at the top of my wish list for him! Hear that, family?
S Is for S’mores: A Camping Alphabet . This is not only a fun, camping themed alphabet book for pre or beginning readers, it’s also a treasure trove of information for older kids, covering everything from the history of various U.S. National parks, to famous conservationists.
A Headlight for Kids. This lets your child keep her hands free while playing or reading in the dark. It would make a great stocking stuffer.
Pine Cones. We’re fortunate to be able to find pine cones where we live but if you’re an urban family they can be a little tougher to come by. The suggestions I made above for playing with shells also apply to playing with pine cones.
Have you ever made oobleck? I’d all but forgotten about it until one day last week when I was browsing through my blogging buddy Asia’s website Fun at Home with Kids for a quick and easy sensory play recipe. It was one of those days when the kids seemed to be craving a messy, tactile experience. I landed on Asia’ 15 Ways to Play with Cornstarch post and had an aha moment. Gingerbread oobleck!
Oobleck is made by combining corn starch and water. To make our gingerbread scented version I added ground ginger, cinnamon, and ground cloves. There is no real recipe. Half the fun of oobleck is making it. I let the kids play with just the corn starch before we added the water and spices.
There were many requests for more water and more spices and soon we had a fabulous, ooey, gooey texture to explore. Oobleck is wonderfully messy and is perfect for sensory seeking toddlers or preschoolers. It can be pushed around like a solid but it runs through your fingers if you try to pick it up. Very cool.
As usually happens during sensory activities at our house, the kids’ play took on a cooking theme. Pretend play is big at our house!
Despite the disaster zone in these pictures, the clean up wasn’t that big a deal. I stripped the kids down, rinsed the containers and measuring cups in the sink and shook out the table cloth outside before putting it in the laundry pile. That being said, if you have a baby or young toddler you might want to try this activity outdoors or even in the bath tub.
As for our big Gingerbread Man container, I bought him at Atlantic Superstore (Loblaw’s) here in Canada. I found a similar one on Amazon (below). We’ve been having lots of fun with him as you’ll see in upcoming posts.
If you go down in the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic
Here in Atlantic Canada, we get more than our fair share of snow and cold in the winter. Although it’s tempting to stay inside when the thermostat goes below zero (celsius) I make the effort to go outside with my son (now 3.5) and my daycare kiddos. I’ve learned that playing outside in cold, wet, or snowy weather can be just as enjoyable as playing outside on a warm summer day. Really!
If I could give one piece of advice to parents of young children it would be to invest in proper outdoor clothes for everyone in the family. Having your own good pair of boots and snowsuit and/or rainsuit (depending on the climate where you live) can mean the difference between having fun outside and feeling trapped inside with wild monkeys (er, children) bouncing off the walls.
In addition to being dressed appropriately, a snack and a warm drink can also help make outdoor playtime in winter more pleasant. Before heading outside I often toss a snack or two, and sometimes a small thermos, into a bag. Occasionally we enjoy a winter picnic.
With the amount of snow that we typically get here, our play is pretty simple. My son loves nothing better than to just roll around in it! I’m looking forward to building snow forts with him when he gets older.
Trucks in the snow was a popular winter activity last year as I’m sure it will be again this year.
Snow cooking is another fun way to play outside in winter. Think of it as the winter version of making mud pies. Use pine needles, cedar, and small sticks as herbs and spices.
As a family, we like to go snowshoeing. When our daycare pals are here we go for walks. These excursions often lead to interesting discoveries and opportunities to learn about nature.