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

Getting Creative with Paint-Simple Outdoor Paint Projects for Kids!

    char painting leaf sheetAs the days are getting warmer the draw to be outside more and more hours of the day is clearly being felt by my young daughters and their friends.  I have started to get creative with doing those afternoon art projects outside around my yard-here are a few fun and simple ideas to help you soak up some sun, have fun, and get messy in nature!

Leaf Painting on an Old Sheet:

I have been doing some nature-based early childhood education work with Project Learning Tree lately and came across this great idea.  I just had to try it out!

I headed to Goodwill and picked up a white sheet for $4.00.  I grabbed some plates and put on a variety of washable finger paints.  My daughters then put their hand and footprints all over and took leaves and painted all around the leaf-leaving the imprint behind.  We can now use the sheet for a variety of things, a roof for a homemade playhouse, a picnic blanket or just a huge ever-changing canvas!  SO MUCH FUN!

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The Dirty and Clean Car Wash

We took a bunch of small cars and ran them through washable paint…then drove them all over paper leaving colorful tracks behind….I set up a car wash station with rags and bubbles in an old plastic bin…they LOVED cleaning the cars and then getting them dirty driving them through the paint again and again!

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Fish Printing

Catch a fish lately on your spring camp out or making fish for dinner?  Before you eat it consider this fun and easy art project-Fish Printing!

Take the fish and put it on a flat surface like a tray or piece of newspaper.  Use a paper towel to dry off the fish.  Paint paint directly on the fish with a brush.  Lay the fish down on paper or on a T-shirt (use fabric paint for the T-shirts).  Press gently on the fish.  Pull it off carefully and enjoy the fun results!

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Giant Yard Paintings

Take your paintbrushes then tie them to sticks to make them extra long.  Unroll a huge piece of paper on the grass.  Let the kids be creative with the extra long paintbrushes or walking along making footprints on the paper.  Certain to be a fun, messy afternoon project!  To recycle the final product use the painting for wrapping paper all year-long!

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Children’s Nature Book Review: Good-Night Owl

Book Review By: Kyle Koyle

good night owlWhat makes a book your kids’ favorite? In short it’s the book’s ability to be read over and over and still create wonder and excitement. Good-Night Owl, by Pat Hutchins, is that book for my three year old. This delightful story is full of bright, jovial illustrations backed up by witty yet melodic text. Kids learn a bit of ecology and animal science through the point of view of Owl, who just wants to go to sleep! I have honestly read this book about one hundred times, and I’m not even tired of it yet!  Good-Night Owl is best suited for toddlers to six years old, but can be used as a learn-to-read book for beginning readers. This book is available through most book stores and your local library. If you are interested in exploring this book further check it out here on Amazon.

Reviewer’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Acorns

This Book is Perfect For: Ages 1-6

“Growing Paperwhites”: A Winter Nature Journal Project

Project Created and Written by: Janimarie Lester DeRose

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Using watercolor to capture the Paperwhites in the nature journal.

A few years ago I spent two winters in interior Alaska. For several months of deepest winter we had only four hours of a dusky-rose sky, and the rest of our days and nights were spent living by reflected starlight on the snow. I desperately missed growing green life. It was during this time that I developed a tradition of growing Paper Whites or Narcissus, and recording their growth through a watercolor field journal.

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“Hope for a Bloom”

This is a perfect antidote to the long colorless scapes that fill our winter months, and a great activity to get your young ones and yourself to really observe the changes in growth carefully. Drawing what you observe, measuring the height with a ruler, and watering the living plant every few days really drives home the amazing metamorphosis taking place!

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Full Bloom

Narcissus are a common bulb that you can find at most garden stores during the winter months. These flowers amazingly grow in even a small amount of sunlight, as long as you keep them amply supplied with water.

Place the bulbs in a small pot with only rocks and water for the roots to cling to.

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Growing the Bulbs

The water should be kept at the base of the roots where they emerge from the bulb and no higher. If the water touches the bulb too much it will begin to decompose.

You will need to check the water every few days and more when they start to grow.

Give them a good two weeks in a sunny window (or a bit longer if you live with little light) before you will start seeing growth.

As they grow, measure, and sketch the plant at different stages of their growth and development.

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A page from the author’s nature journal

Enjoy the process and have fun adding some life to your winter days!

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The flowers in bloom!

The Natural Start Alliance Highlights Our Family Nature Club “Nature Nuts” as Their Spotlight of the Month

The Natural Start Alliance which is the North American Association for Environmental Education’s early childhood education group is highlighting our family nature club “Nature Nuts” as it’s Spotlight member this month.  We are so excited to share the story of our family nature club with the world!  We hope this story can inspire others to start their own family nature club, as we know how imperative it is we provide time for our children to play outside in nature.  Please check out the article about Nature Nuts!

http://naturalstart.org/about/member-spotlight/nature-nuts-family-nature-club

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