Invitation to Nature-Based Play: Snow Kitchen

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The Snow Kitchen was an instant success and provided my boys with endless scenarios of imaginative play”

Towards the end of summer, we posted an invitation that described how you might make an outdoor Mud Kitchen for messy, but fulfilling, nature based play. Recently I was giving some thought to repurposing this mud kitchen into a Snow Kitchen. The homemade cooktop, all of the pots, pans and utensils, the various dishes and muffin tins could be reused. The water and mud would be replaced with endless amounts of snow. To sweeten this kitchen experience, and to add a couple of new touches, I gave my sons spray bottles filled with colored water and a few more ice gems (see previous post: Snow Gems).

The Snow Kitchen, just like the mud kitchen, was an instant success and provided my boys with endless scenarios of imaginative play, rich vocabulary, and (fleeting but appreciated) moments of cooperative play.

They made a dozen snow muffins, a variety of snow cakes (formed by compacting snow in a potato ricer), bowls of snow ice cream (using an ice cream scoop), trays of snow cubes, and mugs of snow cocoa, all decorated with the red and blue water sprayed on top.

This time the boys realized that the space below the cooktop could be used as an oven to bake the snow creations.

IMG_1390Once all of their goodies were made, they opened a Snow Café and served their Dad snow drinks and snow snacks.

IMG_1429This was so much fun that we all forgot how cold is was outside (at least, for a little while). Happy Nature-Based Snow Playing!

Invitation by: Laura Grunze-Franz

Invitation to Nature-Based Play: Snow Gems

Invitation by: Laura Grunze-Franz

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There are days when getting the boys out into the snow and cold is very difficult. The difficulty does not lie in the fact that it is cold and snowy, but in their desire to stay in the cozy, warm house. However, they can be easily coaxed out. Ice Gems are one way to coax them out…

All you need are ice cube trays, food coloring, and water. If you want to add a teachable science moment, use only primary (red, yellow and blue) colors and show your kids how to mix them to make other colors. My young boys think color mixing is rather magical.

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Just mix the food color into the water, pour the colors into the different ice cube molds, and freeze. Make as many different colored ice cubes as you want. We made two trays full. I set the ice trays outside to freeze the water, just to avoid any color spill “mishaps” in my freezer. Once they are frozen, let the kids take them to the snow and play with them as they see fit.

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We did an ice gem search in the snow. My youngest boy made a little cave for his gems and stored them in there. We let ours sit out for days until they melted and turn the snow many pretty colors. This is just a little invitation to add even more fun to nature’s wonderful playground of snow.  Happy ice gem hunting!

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Invitations to Nature-Based Play: Gobble Gobble Gourds

By-Laura Grunze Franz

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This week we brought home a few gourds from the market, and my son and I were joking about how they looked like birds. Thus was born the idea of turning our gourds into turkeys.

To set up this nature-based invitation, we collected maple leaves, oak leaves, gingko leaves, and maple tree “helicopter” seeds. I added small pinecones and whole cloves to the mix.

First we painted the helicopter seeds red to be used as waddles. gourd7

Next, I thought we could push the cloves into the gourds to make the eyes. I was so very wrong. Nothing can penetrate those gourds, although I did not try a drill. So the boys decided they would like to use googly eyes instead. This was a good, cute choice but the sticky backs wouldn’t adhere to the gourds.

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Finally, we decided that the boys would loosely tape their materials (eyes, waddles and feathers) to their gourd turkeys and then I would use the hot glue gun to secure it all when they were finished.

It can be a good learning opportunity to be part of a project that hits roadblocks; it allows for creative problem solving. This bumpy, but creative, process ended in some very cute birds and two very happy boys.

Happy Nature Crafting!

Invitation to Nature-Based Play: Mud Kitchen

mudkitch5 If you know children who, like my boys, love to help out in the kitchen and love playing in the mud, this nature play invitation is a slam dunk!

I know it looks involved, but the preparation was not complicated. The kitchen is made of cinder blocks that were lying next to our shed, a particle board “cook top” that was collecting dust in the basement, and stones from the garden. The dishes and utensils were old ones from our basement and the pots are from the kids’ play kitchen.

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I went around the yard and cut off flower heads and leaves for them to use as they wished. We dug a small hole in the ground for them to access the dirt and kept the hose nearby for water access. And then I let them at it!

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They got to work making all sorts of mud concoctions. Mud cake. Mud pie. Mud soup. Mud muffins. Mud ice. They were in Mud Heaven. I was delighted to hear all of the vocabulary they were using, all the new tools they were trying out, all the imaginative play they were engaging in, and all the time they were spending together getting along.

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When the play was done, I turned on the sprinkler and they rinsed each and every dish and spoon until everything was clean. The clean up was actually just as fun. These boys love water! Then I sprayed down the “cook top” and the mud kitchen was ready for the next day.

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I know it’s messy, but it’s sooooooo fun!

Happy Outdoor, Imaginative Playing!

This “Invitation” was contributed by: Laura Grunze Franz