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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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The Ultimate Nature Themed Holiday Gift List for Kids

Field Supplies


Huckleberry Dual Wooden Magnifying Glass

Child-Sized Binoculars

Wooden Digitial Camera - Point and Shoot

Wooden Digital Point-and-Shoot

Hiking Rucksack

Explorer Backpack

Explorer Backpack


Stellarscope Star Finder

Lensatic Compass

Blank Watercolor Nature Journal


Beginner watercolor Paints and Brushes

Watercolor Paints Pocket Box

Audubon Bird Caller Necklace

Audubon Bird Caller Necklace

My First Pocket Knife

Pocket Swing/Portable Hammock for Kids

Educational Toys and Puzzles


Insect Specimens Pack


Catch and Release Bug Catcher

Flower Press

Animal tracks play dough stampers  animal track stamps  image 1

Animal Track Stampers

Life cycle of a monarch butterfly butterfly life cycle image 2

Butterfly Life Cycle Puzzle 

Honey bee puzzle  honeycomb  bee life cycle  types of bees image 3

Honeycomb + Bee Life Cycle Puzzle

Leaf puzzle Montessori puzzle Christmas gift wooden puzzle image 0

Wooden Leaf Puzzle


Kikkerland Wood Magnifier

National Geographic Break Open Geodes Science Kit

Nature Games

Bird Bingo

Bug Bingo

Match A Track Game

Ocean Bingo

Books and Field Guides

The Backyard Birdsong Guide

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World

On the Nature Trail

Cavallini Nature Posters

Curious Kids Nature Guide

 Curiositree: Natural World

Wild Tracks: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints

Fandex Butterfly Cards

Fandex Bug Cards

Fandex Wildflowers Cards

The Big Book of Bugs

The Big Book of Beasts

The Big Book of Birds

National Parks of the U.S.A.

Sounds of Nature: World of Birds

A Year of Nature Poems

I am the Seed That Grew the Tree

 

 

**Note:  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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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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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.

caterpillar unit study

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

caterpillar craft

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.

diy sun catchers

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.

flower sun catchers

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!

diy sun catchers

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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Spring Nesting Bird Study and Egg Craft

nesting bird spring study

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

nest and egg spring craft

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.

nesting bird spring study

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.

bird feeder DIY craft

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.**

 

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Easy, Budget-Friendly Spring Flower Craft

spring craft for kids daffodil

We are just starting to see the daffodils pop up and man, am I happy about it. This winter seemed longer than usual, and we are all ready for longer days and more time out in the sunshine.

My boys love doing crafts, so in the spirit of spring I put together this simple and easy craft you can probably do with items you already have in your home.

Easy Daffodil Craft

You’ll need:

  • Paper muffin tin liners (preferably white but any light color will work)
  • Paint (not watercolor) and paint brushes
  • Gluesticks
  • Green pipe cleaners, optional

Each flower will require two muffin liners. Have them spread out one nice and flat, and keep the shape of the second one intact.

With the yellow paint, have them cover one side of both muffin liners, making sure they don’t smush the cup-shaped one. This can be made easier by having them cup the liner in one hand while they paint it with the other. They’ll get paint on their hands, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. 😉  I always keep a pack of baby wipes nearby for emergencies.

(Because if you’re not cleaning your house and kids with baby wipes, are you even a mom?)

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Okay, now let them dry for a bit.

Next, they take a smaller paint brush and paint dots on the inner liner, which will represent the pollen. We used orange and white for this part. Allow a few minutes for it to dry.

Finally, have them glue the cupped liner to the middle of the flat one.

spring craft for kids

You can also glue or staple on a green pipe cleaner to use as a stem, but my kids just wanted to keep making more flowers, so we didn’t get to that part.

How pretty would these be sitting in a little vase?

Happy Spring!

spring craft for kids daffodil