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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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DIY Kids’ Space Room – With REMOVABLE Wallpaper!

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My boys share a room – and they’ve been collectively asking for a space room for, well, years. So a few weekends ago, we sent the boys away to their grandparents’ house and surprised them with their new space room.

By far, the coolest part of their new room is this Constellations wallpaper from Coloray.

This isn’t traditional wallpaper. This is actually PEEL-AND-STICK wallpaper. That’s right, folks. Slap it up there, and then when they change their minds or change rooms or if we decide to move – it PEELS RIGHT OFF. And, it’s REUSABLE.

(I am talking in all caps because I have spent a month slowly scraping wallpaper off four walls and THIS IS A BIG DEAL.)

So, yes, this is a life-changing home décor product – but, you do need to know how to hang it properly or you are going to get yourself in trouble. Ask me how I know.

**Note – make sure to remove all jewelry before hanging the wallpaper. We noticed our rings made tiny scratch marks when we first started out – so learn from our mistake!**

Step One – Clean and Prime Your Walls

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This is the most important step.

I repeat – the most important step!

Wipe your walls down with a wet cloth (because you know if it’s in a kid’s room, it’s going to be covered in all sorts of grime). If the wall is painted with a latex paint (especially a gloss paint), the wallpaper won’t stick properly. Your best bet is to lay a quick coat of primer on the wall and let it dry completely.

Step Two – Remove Baseboards and Outlet/Light Switch Covers

Our baseboards were a bit tricky to remove in one piece, but we were able to get them off without doing any damage.

Step Three – Lay Out the Wallpaper Panels

Carefully lay out your wallpaper panels on the floor (with clean hands). Make sure the design on the edges line up and double check the length of your wall. If you have slightly more length than you need, you may be able to overlap the panels a bit, as long as the designs still match up.

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Step Four – Start Hanging

Once you’ve determined your left-to-right panel order, get ready to hang. Starting at the top of the wall (and working in a left-to-right fashion), peel back the first four or so inches of the backing.

(Note: I would NOT recommend peeling the backing on the carpet or bed or any surface that may have dust or hair on it. The first time we did this on the floor, all kinds of little things immediately stuck to the back of the wallpaper and affected its sticking power in those spots.)

Line up the top of the panel with the top of your wall and press it down, making sure it is straight across. Have someone step back and verify that it’s straight. If not, you can peel if off and try again.

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Step Five – Work Your Way Down

You’ll want two people for this step – one person to pull the backing off from behind, about a foot at a time, and one to smooth down the paper by pressing from the middle out to the edges. Smooth out all those little creases and bubbles.

If you’re finding that the paper isn’t laying flat, peel it up a bit and try again. Continue smoothing it down, one foot at a time, until you get to the bottom of the wall.

Step Six – Cut Around Outlets and Light Switches

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If you run into an outlet or light switch as you’re laying the paper down, make note of where it is and lay the paper right over it.

Then, before you do anything else – GO TURN OFF THE POWER.

Seriously, don’t try to cut the hole out with the switch power on. Use a flashlight if you must for this part (we did).

Using a sharp utility knife or a single edge razor blade, carefully cut a hole as big as the opening in the drywall. The cover will give you some leeway to work with, so don’t worry about it being perfect.

Step Seven – Cut Off the Excess

Once you reach the bottom of the wall, cut off the excess below where the top of your baseboards will be. (You’ll want a little wiggle room.) Then, press really well and voila! You’ve just finished your first panel.

Step Eight – Repeat Steps One Through Seven

Keep following this process with additional panels until you’ve finished your wall.

You may want to run your hands over it once more to smooth out any additional bubbles. If there’s a tricky spot, you can run a blow dryer over it and then try smoothing it out – this works surprisingly well.

Step Nine – Install Your Baseboard

(Or convince your husband to do it thirty minutes before your kids’ bedtime while you get the kids dressed for bed. I mean, he’s a lucky guy.)

That’s it! So much easier than traditional wallpaper – as long as you follow the important preparation steps.

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We chose the Constellations pattern, but there are so many beautiful categories to choose from:

Coloray Vintage

Coloray Floral

Coloray Patterns

and Coloray Kids

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Have you ever tried removable wallpaper? Tell me what questions you have!

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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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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).

caterpillar butterfly unit study

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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What Makes the Seasons? {Spring Equinox Science Experiment}

spring equinox seasons

Have your kids ever asked you what makes the seasons?

The days are finally getting longer around here and the snow is almost gone, which is making us all slightly giddy. After a long, cold winter, the spring sunshine feels GOOD.

A few weeks ago, I prepared a little lesson to teach my boys about the spring equinox, and what makes the seasons. We ran a quick little experiment to visualize how the tilt of the earth makes it summer, fall, winter and spring in different parts of the world.

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It was a great way for them to see why we have seasons and I think it’ll really stick with them.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Orange
  • Marker
  • Pencil or Wood Skewer
  • Pushpin
  • At Least 2 People

First, grab your orange (the “earth”) and label the equator and Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Place the pushpin approximately where you live. Push the pencil or skewer through the center of the orange – this will act as the earth’s axis.

Now, assign one kid to hold the flashlight in the center of the room – he/she is the sun. Kid number two will hold the earth and move in a wide circle around the sun. The person with the flashlight keeps it pointed at the orange as it moves around the circle.

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The MOST important part of this experiment is to make sure whoever is holding the earth is keeping it tilted slightly, with the top tilted towards them and bottom tilted away from them. The trickiest part of this activity is making sure the earth remains tilted in the same direction as their body moves around the sun. So, on the opposite side of the circle, the top of the orange will be tilted away from them and the bottom will be tilted toward them.

On opposite sides of the circle, have the person holding the earth pause and note which hemisphere is receiving more light. As the earth moves around the circle, you’ll be able to see the sun hit each hemisphere differently – full strength in the Northern Hemisphere (our summer), partial strength in the Northern Hemisphere (our fall), full strength in the Southern Hemisphere (our winter), and partial strength in the Southern Hemisphere (our spring).

You can also ask them to make the earth rotate as it moves around the circle (this requires slightly more hand-eye coordination, a little trickier for smaller kids). observing night and day.

For more reading on the spring equinox and seasons, we loved these books:

The Reasons for Seasons

A New Beginning – Celebrating the Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox

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Happy Spring, friends!

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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!

 

 

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Spring Nesting Bird Study and Egg Craft

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This week we studied all things birds with our nature study curriculum, Exploring Nature with Children. We are crazy about birds over at our house, so I thought I’d share our activities and resources here.

Bird Study Activities

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Nest Building and Egg Painting

This spring craft is a bit messy but worth it! The boys each painted wooden eggs with acrylic paint (you could use any paint) and then using moss, twigs, string, yarn and rubber bands, they made a nest. A good book to go with this activity is Mama Built a Little Nest (listed below in Resources).

There are so many materials birds use in their nests – you could have the kids search your house for other items birds commonly use, like socks, feathers, hair, shoelaces – the list is practically endless.

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The best thing about this craft? It doubles as a pretty Easter decoration!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

birds nest cookies for spring

A fun and tasty way to celebrate the birds coming back for the season.

Get the recipe here.

DIY Bird Feeders

Remember making these growing up?

Gather some cardboard toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, bird seed and some string and let the kids go at it. Sunflower butter works just as well if there are any peanut allergies.

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If you wanted to make it into a “bird store” of sorts, you could also hang nest building materials in the toilet paper roll – string, shoelaces, etc. This is a fun spring craft to do with friends.

Bird Bingo

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Such a fun way to learn about bird species and play at the same time!

Find the Bird Bingo Game on Amazon (it’s very affordable)

Bird Watching Nature Walk

Take the kiddos on a nature walk and look for birds flying back and forth to their nests. Listen to the new bird calls of spring, bring along a bird call identification guide and nature journals if you wish.

Resources

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The Backyard Birdsong Guide – An absolute must-have! Our whole family has learned so much about birds just by keeping this book on our table by the window

Bird Feather Identification Cards by Chickie & Roo

Nature Journal

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!**

Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest

Mama Built a Little Nest

Robins, Songbirds of Spring

Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?

My Book of Birds

Blue Sky Bluebird

A Nest is Noisy

 

 

 

 

 

**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.**