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The Forest Guided Nature Journal

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It’s finally HERE!

The Wild Child’s Nature Journal ~ The Forest is done and up in my Etsy shop.

This project feels a bit like my fourth child, and I hope it’s something that can be a blessing to you and your kiddos.

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Inside The Forest, I’ve included 8.5×11 posters, flash cards, coloring pages and journaling prompts for eight fascinating organisms you can find in the forest:

Autumn Leaves
Forest Beetles
Fungi
Conifer Trees
Woodpeckers
Ferns
Forest Animals
Moss and Lichen 

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This guided journal is a great option for those of you who have kids just getting started with nature study and nature journaling. It presents a variety of information on species, nature anatomy and life cycles, while keeping it simple and non-intimidating (is that a word???).

Use it alongside your favorite nature study curriculum, or bring it along on your nature walks. 

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” -Charlotte Mason

We bound ours in a pocket folder (minus the flashcards – those hang above our nature table), and when it’s time for nature study we just pull out the folder and it’s all there.

Nature study is something that is really important to our family, and I believe it’s an essential piece of my children’s education.

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Please let me know how you like it! And feel free to share your experience with the journal on Instagram by using #journalingthewild ~ I would love to see and share your photos.

 

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Autumn Play Dough Recipe + Nature Stamps

The Autumn Journal is Here! Explore the seasons with your little one this year with this beautiful, gentle nature study.

 

Our favorite thing to do now that the weather is cooling off and the leaves are changing is to collect autumn “treasures” on our nature walks.

Pine cones, acorns, leaves and berries make wonderful loose parts to play with – but they make even better play dough stamps! (And, they’re freeeeeee)

This cinnamon scented play dough is velvety smooth and soft, and it smells DIVINE. Trust me, you will want to eat it. (But don’t, it tastes pretty terrible)

Cinnamon Play Dough Recipe

2 cups white flour
1 cup fine sea salt
3 Tbsp cream of tartar (it makes the playdough more smooth and elastic)
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil

  • Mix all ingredients above together in a large bowl
  • Slowly and CAREFULLY stir in 2 cups of boiling water
  • Optional: knead in 5-10 drops of cinnamon essential oil and several drops of orange (or red+yellow) food coloring
  • Keep kneading on a countertop or flat surface until it’s a smooth consistency (this should take a minute or two)

**Note – please be aware, if you add food coloring, some of the color may transfer to your hands and countertop during the mixing process. I was able to easily wipe it off my solid surface counters without it staining, but keep this in mind if you are working on a very porous surface.**

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(This is the brand of cinnamon essential oil I use – you can find it on Amazon and it’s very affordable.)

I hope you try this simple and fun autumn activity! And make sure you take time to slow down and join in on the fun, too. #notjustforkids

😉

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

 

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Moss+Lichen Nature Journal Pages – FREE Download

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Click to Download MOSS + LICHEN Nature Journaling Pack

Hello, friends!

I’ve been working on something super exciting (and a little nerve-wracking, truth be told) over the past few months and I am finally ready to share.

First — some background info.

If you follow me over on Instagram, you know how important nature study is to our family. My husband is a forester for goodness sake. 🙂

My oldest just turned six, and he’s at that great age of wanting to discover all nature has to offer, and learn the names of everything and how it all fits together. But nature journaling was daunting for him. The interest was there — but he just doesn’t have the skill set yet to express all of his wonderful thoughts on paper.

That’s why I started putting together these little nature journal guides. My hope is that they will help children journal through subjects within a specific habitat:

The Forest, The Pond, The Meadow, The Mountain, The Garden, The Night Sky.

Each habitat will cover 6-8 subjects, with an 8.5×11 poster and flashcards (hand-painted by yours truly), a coloring sheet and a nature journaling prompt.

(Side note: I love that younger siblings can do the coloring sheet and be included in the lesson)

Sometimes my boy likes drawing his observations right on the page and sometimes he’ll draw in his blank journal. Sometimes he’ll use the illustrations as a guide to sketch out what he’s observing. Sometimes I’ll print the coloring page on cardstock paper and he paints with watercolors.

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We use these a lot of ways — I usually let his interest guide how we use them.

very much hope these little nature journaling guides can be helpful for others getting started with nature study – and trust me – they have been kid tested!

(Fun Fact: when I presented my son with the first – very different – version, he said it was and I quote, “too boring.” Ouch!! Brutal honesty, folks.)

So – friends – I’d love for you to download this Moss + Lichen pack, use it with your kids and tell me what you think.

Click to Download MOSS + LICHEN Nature Journaling Pack

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The Forest Nature Journaling Guide is Coming Soon!

(We use Exploring Nature With Children for our nature curriculum and love it – I highly recommend!)

 

 

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Salt-Dough Nature Pendants

The boys and I needed a handcraft to make for the Wild + Free handicraft fair and this was the perfect little project. While I plan on teaching my boys practical handcrafts – like sewing and woodworking – this time I needed something simple enough that my three year old could participate in.

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Salt-dough is such a neat medium to work with and very easy to mix up (my favorite recipe is below). We used cookie cutters to cut out the pendants and nature treasures from our nature collection to use as stamps.

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Straws work perfectly to make holes for stringing the pendants into necklaces.

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Once the pendants were all designed, we let them dry. Air drying is an option, but we were in a bit of a time crunch so we dried ours in the oven. We placed them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and dried them at 200 degrees for an hour on both sides. Then we left them on the counter overnight to completely dry out before painting.

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Both of the boys got a paintbrush and some acrylic paint and painted the nature impressions, leaving the rest white. (You can also use watercolors or even crayons)

Once the paint was dry, I went ahead and brushed on a coat of clear polycrylic. Then, the boys strung some colorful beads onto a string and through the hole in the pendants. I tied them off and viola!

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These would also make sweet little gifts for Christmas or birthdays.

Salt-Dough Recipe

2 cups of flour

1 cup of salt

1 cup of water

Thoroughly mix the first two ingredients together. Gradually stir in the water bit by bit, until you get a dough-like consistency. Form it into a ball and knead on a floured surface for 5 minutes. (If the dough gets too sticky, add some more flour.) Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness before cutting out the pendants with cookie cutters.

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Our Favorite Picture Books for Kindergartners

favorite picture books for kindergarten

We are big into books over here.

Like really, really into books.

Picture books hold a special place in my heart because they spark a love for reading at literally any age. Both of my boys will look at picture books and listen to me read them for hours.

“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.”
― Charlotte Mason

Ever since I posted a list of my preschooler’s favorite picture books, my bigger boy has been wanting to gather his favorites. So here is our list of our family’s absolute favorite picture books for kindergartners (although I should say my preschooler loves them, too.)

{This list doesn’t include holiday-themed books, non-fiction – except the Storybook Bible, he wouldn’t let me leave it out – or chapter books… another post for another day}

favorite picture books for kindergarten

My Kindergartner’s Favorite Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

Roxaboxen

 

The Tree House that Jack Built

The Lorax

Mike Mulligan and More: Four Classic Stories by Virginia Lee Burton

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (picture book edition)

Children of the Forest

Frog and Toad Together

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Jesus Storybook Bible

The First Bear in Africa!

Bread and Jam for Frances

A Year in Brambly Hedge

Richard Scarry’s Bedtime Stories

The Storybook Knight

Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose

Thy Friend, Obadiah

One of my favorite places to find good book recommendations is over at Read Aloud Revival – go hop over there and be amazed at the amazing resources Sarah has! I especially love her holiday and seasonal book lists.

I hope you found some new books to read with your Kindergartner!

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Introducing Young Children to Classic Literature — Feast on What is Good

One thing we are real big on in our home is literature.

I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t really into the classics as a child – I loved reading, but I read mostly twaddle. You know, horse books and the like. 🙂

It wasn’t until my college years did I start getting into the classics. Despite being a latecomer, I now have a deep love for Lucy Montgomery, J.M. Barrie, C.S. Lewis, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, etc. etc.

“Reading a classic story when you are young opens your heart. Reading a classic story again — anew — when you are older fills your heart to the brim.”   – Kenneth Grahame

My kids are still pretty young (6 and 3), but they LOVE read-alouds. We usually try to make them special when we are starting a new book or series with a themed tea-time or snack to enjoy while I’m reading to them.

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I don’t have to bribe or convince my kids to love reading (or in the case of my youngest, love listening to me reading) — they love it because it’s presented to them in a fun, relaxed, interesting and delightful way.

The more goodness, beauty and truth they feast on now, the more their hearts will be inclined toward it as they grow.

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Some of our very favorite versions of classic literature are from KinderGuides. They are heavily abridged and in picture book form – which is ideal for longer or more complex books, like the one we are reading now for the kids’ upcoming book club celebration (Around the World in Eighty Days).

The books are beautifully illustrated and adapted well enough for a 6 and 3 year old to sit for the entire book in one sitting, begging me to read it again.

So I’d say that’s a win.

There are also quiz questions to help jump start narration, character profiles, key words, analyses and an about the author section.

(These can only be ordered through the kickstarter campaign that is running now through the end of June, and backers receive half off the set.)

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We are excited to read Jane Eyre next – one of my favorites!

What are your favorite classics?

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How to Set Up an Art Center for Kids – and Inspire Creativity in Your Home

Do your kids love to create? My boys will literally craft and create things all day long if given the opportunity.

I’ve been reading Julie Bogart’s new book, Brave Learner, and it’s inspired me to up my game in my own home when it comes to carving out spaces for my kids to express their creativity.

I love Julie’s heart for creating an “enchanted childhood,” as she calls it, with space and opportunity for our children to chase their creative spark.

We’ve always kept markers and coloring books out, but why limit their imagination? My boys are alllllllways asking to “do a craft,” so why not just let them come up with their own craft when the mood strikes?

And for some reason, my boys are in total craft mode as soon as they wake up in the morning.

Which is why I love the idea of an “always open for business art table,” as Julie calls it.

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How to Create an Art Center in Your Home

Requirements to preserve your sanity:

  • Stable table and chairs (ones you don’t care about)
  • Floor protector if your area is carpeted
  • Smocks for hanging on the wall next to the table
  • Butcher paper attached to the walls adjacent to the art table (if you’re opposed to paint on your walls)

Organizational must-haves:

  • A storage cart for art supplies – a must! We have this one and I LOVE it – and it’s on wheels!
  • Buckets and containers for holding supplies (get ones that are open or easily opened by a little person)
  • Hanging rod (like this one) for storing rolls of craft paper
  • An area for displaying artwork using string and clips

Supplies:

You can find a lot of these items at the dollar store, if you don’t already have them!

  • Drawing paper
  • Watercolor paper
  • Construction paper
  • Craft paper
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Washable craft paint
  • Colored pencils
  • Crayons
  • Washable markers
  • Wooden stamps and inkpad
  • Scissors
  • Gluesticks
  • Glitter glue
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Googly eyes
  • Feathers
  • Stickers
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Beads (you may want to skip this one if you have toddlers… I can just hear them being dumped out on the floor…)
  • Stencils for tracing

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Another key to sparking creativity is keeping the art center or table and supplies out in the open, in a frequently used area. As Julie says in her book — art tables in spare bedrooms or basements are lonely tables.

Sure, you may have to clean the area (or better yet, train your kids to clean up!) once a day, but at least it’ll get used – and that’s the point, right?

Of course, you can always start small. Try leaving watercolors, markers and papers out and see how your kids wander over to paint multiple times a day. It’s magic!

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Caterpillars Unit Study and Caterpillar Craft

caterpillar craft

For the past few weeks we have been studying caterpillars with our nature study curriculum, Exploring Nature With Children. I have to say, this has been one of the most exciting subjects to study (for all of us).

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Along with our curriculum, here are some of the other resources we used:

Anatomy of a Caterpillar Craft with Homemade Playdough

Since we couldn’t find any real caterpillars for a hands-on study, we made one! Here is the video we watched for instructions on how to make a Swallowtail Caterpillar out of playdough.

We then used a small chalkboard to label the parts of the caterpillar.

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Have you tried homemade playdough before? I just recently became a believer and will never go back to the store bought stuff! My boys played for hours after we made the caterpillar craft, literal hours.

Here is the recipe I used (taken from @wovenchildhood on Instagram):

  • 2 Cups White Flour
  • 1 Cup Iodized Salt
  • 3 Tbs Cream of Tartar
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Cups Boiling Water
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Essential oils (optional, for an extra sensory element)
  1. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl
  2. Carefully add in oil and hot water
  3. Add 10-20 drops of essential oil of your choosing (we added lemon EO)
  4. Stir together until blended
  5. Add food coloring, then stir again
  6. Knead and sprinkle a little more flour until your preferred consistency

Caterpillar and Butterfly Free Printables

Butterfly life cycle sequencing cards

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Here’s another fun, hands-on craft we found for teaching kids about the butterfly life cycle and metamorphosis.

What better way to study caterpillars than to observe them in real life? We’ve ordered this butterfly kit from Amazon before to grow and release our own butterflies and it was an incredible experience! (Sadly, we didn’t get to it this year)

Caterpillar Unit Study and Life Cycle Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

Summer Birds – The Butterflies of Maria Merian (so fascinating!)

Caterpillar Dreams

Ten Little Caterpillars

The Caterpillar and the Polliwog

Monarch and Milkweed

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

 

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DIY Flower Sun Catcher Craft for Kids

A few weeks back, the kids and I made some simple sun catchers with the wildflowers (and weeds) we collected on some nature walks. Of course, my pockets are ALWAYS loaded with all kinds of treasures from our walks – rocks, leaves, flowers, etc.

This was a fun way to turn their nature treasures into a little keepsake and eye candy for my windows! The boys loved arranging their treasures to make their flower sun catchers. I can’t get over how gorgeous they turned out, considering how easy this project was.

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You’ll need:

First, go on a hike, nature walk, or a field trip out to your garden. Let the kiddos gather some flowers – heck, even weeds look good in these DIY sun catchers. My boys picked dandelion and skunk flower (yep, it smells bad), and they look beautiful.

Next, press your leaves/flowers. The less moisture you end up with, the longer they will last in your sun catchers.

*Note: you can also make these with fresh, flattened flowers and they will last for a few weeks before the moisture from the flowers will start to interfere with the contact paper. We’ve made them this way and they’re still pretty – but temporary.

Once your flowers are pressed, lay down one square of contact paper big enough to cover the embroidery hoop with a few extra inches on each side – sticky side UP.

Arrange the flowers on the contact paper however you wish. I mean, however your kids wish. Because this is an activity for them, not for you. Obviously. 😉

Next, place another square of contact paper on top of the flowers, sticky side DOWN. Make sure you push down on all of the air bubbles as much as possible to get a tight seal.

The flowers will now be sandwiched in between the contact paper.

Now have your kids unscrew the embroidery hoops and help them sandwich the flower-filled contact paper in between the hoops, screwing it back together tightly.

Finally, cut off the excess contact paper and hang your pretty DIY flower sun catchers up on a window, preferably one that you walk by frequently.

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All the heart eyes emojis. 😍

These would make a great Mother’s Day gift or homemade gift for someone special.

But I kept ours. Because 😍😍😍

These homemade sun catchers also make a great hands-on nature study activity or flower craft. We looked up our flowers in one of our favorite field guide books to see what we had collected. And our favorite picture book to go along with this craft is Miss Rumphius – it’s SO good!

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Did you make these with your kiddos? I’d love to hear how they turned out!

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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My Preschooler’s Favorite Picture Books for Preschoolers

It’s no secret that we are a book-loving family. My big boy was reading short chapter books by the time he was four, and both boys will sit for hours and let me read to them. Because of them and their love for reading, I’ve become a huge fan of children’s literature.

For posterity’s sake, I went ahead and compiled a list of our family’s favorite fiction books for toddler to preschool aged children – all selected and approved by my own little one. If he didn’t love it, I didn’t include it.

(This list doesn’t include holiday-themed books, non-fiction books or books my Kindergartner loves – those will be in a separate post!)

A few of these I’m borrowing from the library until I can snatch them up, but most we own, because we love them and read them endlessly. I consider these books heirlooms, to be passed down someday to my grandchildren (good Lord, that’s scary to think about).

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One of my favorite places to find good book recommendations is over at Read Aloud Revival – go hop over there and be amazed at the amazing resources Sarah has! I especially love her holiday and seasonal book lists.

Some of these are new books, some are classics – but we love them all!

Our Favorite Picture Books for Preschoolers

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

10 Little Rubber Ducks

Blueberries for Sal

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Climb the Family Tree, Jesse Bear!

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury

Green Eggs and Ham

Go Dog, Go!

Goodnight Gorilla

Goodnight Moon

Home for a Bunny

How to Be a Bigger Bunny

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If you Give a Moose a Muffin

Inch by Inch

Jamberry

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

Little Blue Truck

Looking for a Moose

Olivia

Run, Peter, Run!

Sophie’s Squash

Stellaluna

Stone Soup

The Cat in the Hat

The Grouchy Ladybug

The Little Fireman

The Little Red Hen

The Story About Ping

Where the Wild Things Are

 

I hope you found some new books to check out with your little ones!

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**