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Autumn Activities to Celebrate the Season

Fall is here! It’s my very favorite season, and because of that I tend to go *slightly* overboard with all of the fall things. (Can you relate?)

I put together a list of all the things the boys and I have done over the past few years, as well as some on our list for the future. All of these are simple, no-fuss activities, and a great way to lean into the season.

Leaf Masks

A fun way to use those beautiful leaves gathering up in your yard. Find the tutorial here.

Cinnamon-Scented Playdough

Seasonal playdough is always a hit around here. Add autumn nature finds and you’ve got yourself a winner! Get the recipe here.

Beeswax Leaf Dipping

Our favorite way to preserve and use those stunning autumn leaves – beeswax dipping is simple and fun. Here’s how to do it.

Mushroom Spore Prints

This is a great time of year to hunt for mushrooms, and making spore prints is a fun way to observe your finds.

Leaf Lanterns

With the nights getting longer, these sweet leaf lanterns add a bit of cozy magic. Here’s how to make them.

Bat Study (Free Printable)

My boys always want to learn about bats this time of year, and we always try and make a visit to our local bathouse to watch these little furry creatures. Download the free bat printable.

Leaf Animals

Some glue, googley eyes and leaves are all you need to make these adorable leaf animals.

Leaf Ghosts

I mean, how cute are these? If I could choose one Halloween decoration to display in my home, this would be it. Check out the tutorial.

Leaf Symmetry

Leaf symmetry combines math, art and nature study – plus, it’s fun!

Maple Syrup Playdough

Mmmm, I can almost smell it now. Check out this recipe for maple syrup-scented playdough.

Leaf Crowns

Dandelion crowns in spring, flower crowns in summer… and these leaf crowns are so perfect for your autumn prince or princess.

Exploring Moss and Lichen (Free Printable)

When the weather turns cooler and damper, it’s a great time to study moss and lichen. Go on a nature walk, bring a magnifying glass and see what you can find. Bring this free moss and lichen printable with you.

No-Carve Pumpkins

I love this alternative to carved pumpkins. Learn how to make these sweet, nature pumpkins here.

The Autumn Journal is Here!

A complete nature study to embrace the season.

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12 Nature Play Ideas for May

Now that our yard is waking up and everything is blooming, I though it would be fun to do a roundup of nature play ideas you can do from your own backyard:

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Nature Playdough Caterpillars

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Nature Butterfly Symmetry

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Nature Weaving Craft

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Nature Salt-Dough Pendants

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Nature Scavenger Hunt

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Nature Bugs

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Grass Weaving

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Sun Catchers

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Nature Letters

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Nature Mandalas

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Leaf Shape Match

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Flower Mud Kitchen Play

You don’t need anything fancy to do these fun nature crafts – in fact, simpler is often better.

I would love to hear if you try any of these!

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Night Sky Playdough; Our Favorite Way to Study Space

Let me begin this post by saying we made this night sky playdough NINE MONTHS ago and it is still going strong!

I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but this playdough lasts forever. (We store it in a ziploc storage bag inside a cupboard inside a cool room).

We’ve used it to study constellations, galaxies, planets and for just plain fun. The glitter – which was my main concern – magically stays contained inside the playdough.

Again, I don’t know how. It’s just plain magic, folks.

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Here is the Recipe for Night Sky Playdough:

Mix together:

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup fine salt
  • 3 Tbsp cream of tartar (helps make it smooth and elastic)

Stir in:

  • 1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of boiling water (carefully!)
  • 5-10 drops blue or purple food coloring

Knead it together until it’s nice and smooth. Then, pour a small amount of glitter in the center of the dough, and knead it in a little at a time.

Add star sequence or beads and press them in to make constellations.

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Or, use stars or marbles to make galaxy spirals.

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Use different colors of playdough to form planets and create a solar system.

There are so many ways you can play with this playdough!

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Little Brown Bat FREE download

Little Brown Bat Printable

What with Halloween approaching, my kids are currently obsessed with bats – and after watching the Wild Kratt’s little brown bat episode – well, now we are the proud owners of a backyard bat house.

What can I say. Nature is my weakness.

I’ve created these Little Brown Bat nature study pages, if you and your littles would like to study bats along with us.

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And here’s a fun craft to go along with it, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Download the FREE Little Brown Bats Printable

 

 

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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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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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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

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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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Celebrating Easter with a Resurrection Garden

Easter is one of those holidays we try to be intentional about at our home. We don’t do much with the Easter Bunny (the kids do get baskets) and instead aim to remember the most crucial event of our faith.

An Easter Resurrection Garden is a simple and lovely way to visualize that declaration spoken all over the world – “He is risen!”

It’s best to start this activity a couple of weeks before Easter so the grass has time to grow.

How to Make an Easter Resurrection Garden

Start with a shallow dish, tray or planter saucer. It should have sides tall enough to contain the soil.

First, lay a small empty planter pot on its side in the middle of the tray. This will symbolize the empty tomb. Fill the container around the pot with planting soil, pressing some on to the top of the pot as well. You could even make a pathway to the tomb using small rocks or gravel.

Using sticks, cut and tie three crosses together to place on the hill over the tomb. Then, sprinkle grass seed over the soil, raking it in with your fingers, and spray with a water bottle until the soil is damp. You can use other types of seeds that are quick to germinate, like wheat grass and alfalfa. The kids can take turns spraying the soil to keep it damp over the next few days while the seeds germinate and sprout.

If you’re in a pinch for time, you can take the kids on a nature walk and collect some live moss to spread on your garden instead of grass. Just be sure to check for critters first. 😉

On Good Friday, place a large-ish rock in front of the tomb – this would be a good time to read the story of Jesus’ final days and crucifixion. (We LOVE The Jesus Storybook Bible. So, so good.)

On Easter morning, roll the stone away with your kiddos and pick up your reading at the story of the resurrection.

We have really enjoyed adding this to our list of traditions each year. It’s a simple way to illustrate that the tomb is empty – Hallelujah!