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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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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.

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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.**

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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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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

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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.**

 

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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.

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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

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Spring Pond + Frog Life Cycle Study

Last week we learned about the spring pond with our Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. The boys learned about the ecosystem of the pond and the lifecycle of a frog through play-based learning, lots of good books and outdoor exploration.

Here’s what we did:

Spring Pond Loose Parts Play

For this activity, I set out some kinetic sand along with mini pond animals, marbles, small stones and some leaves I pulled off a silk plant (because they need lilypads, of course!).

The boys played with this setup for days.

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Life Cycle of a Frog

The boys colored this free printable while I read aloud from one of our favorite nature study books: Nature Anatomy. There are a couple of pages dedicated to frogs and toads.

If your kids are a bit older, you could also have them make a Venn diagram that illustrates the differences between frogs and toads. And if you have access to frog eggs or tadpoles, nothing beats seeing the life cycle play out in real life!

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Pond Nature Walk

Nature study is somewhat limited unless you actually go outside and experience nature, right? Most of our ponds are still partly frozen, but we followed the recommendation of a friend and went to a sweet little neighborhood pond. There were geese, ducks and we looked for frog eggs but unfortunately didn’t find any (although we did find other cool pond creatures in the water).

The kids brought their nature journals and colored pencils, some buckets, nets, a good magnifying glass and we made a picnic lunch out of it.

And only one kid fell in the pond so I call that a success. 🙂

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Pond Study 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!**

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner (This book is really neat)

Pond by Jim LaMarche (A wonderful and beautiful story that left us all smiling)

Turtle Pond by James Gladstone

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel  (My five year old loves these stories)

Seasons of the Freshwater Pond Biome by Shirley Duke

National Geographic Kids Tadpole to Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

**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 Tide Pool – Ocean Science Activity for Kids

This week we studied ocean zones while following the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 curriculum – and to add an extra element of fun, we also studied the Intertidal Zone.

Did you know that the Intertidal Zone is one of the harshest environments on earth? It’s true. Animals who live there have to withstand extreme variations in temperature and water levels, not to mention crashing waves and predators.

Amazingly, so many little creatures still make tide pools their home, like sea stars, puffer fish, crabs, anemones, barnacles, mussels and even baby octopuses!

See, I bet you learned something. Class dismissed.

Jk.

One of the ways we studied tide pools was this fun little backyard activity. I know it’s winter and 30 degrees outside, but my boys were not opposed to playing in the water. It’s a mystery, but it’s true.

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DIY Tide Pool

  • First, get some sort of large container to act as your tide pool. We used the top of an old plastic bird bath, which was perfect. You could also use a trash can lid or storage container.
  • Put a few scoops of sand or crushed rock in the bottom.
  • Add some seashells or small rocks. Check your local dollar store or craft store for shells, sand dollars and starfish. We got a very inexpensive bag of shells (since we live nowhere near the beach) and it was so worth it!
  • Add some mini sea creatures – but only ones that live in the intertidal zone! We used sea stars, sea turtles, crabs and a little octopus.
  • Have your kids fill up the tide pool with buckets of water. They can take turns making it high tide and low tide. My boys especially loved making waves by rocking the container back and forth.

This activity kept my boys occupied for hours!

Further Resources

 

Wild Kratts Stars of the Tides episode

Tide Pool Secrets

Look Inside a Tide Pool

 

 

 

 

**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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Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 Activities + Resources

cc cycle 1 week 19 lesson plan

Science

We did a lot for science this week, since we LOVE learning about the ocean.

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Ocean Layers Activity
This was a great way to visualize the epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathypelagic and abyssopelagic layers they learned about at CC.

Learn how to do it here.

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Tide Pool Sensory Play
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I’m all about sensory play. We created a little tide pool from a discarded bird bath top (you could use any kind of container), play sand, pebbles, shells and mini sea creatures from the dollar store. Add water and let them play in their mini tide pool.

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Ocean Layers Felt Board
My biggest boy and I made this scene out of felt scraps and it ended up being such a great tool to learn about which species live in each layer of the ocean. So fun!

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Growing Overnight Crystals
My kids could not get enough of crystals at CC day and begged to do more, so we followed this lesson and they turned out amazing!

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History Resources

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History

About the Anasazi

Fine Arts

To go a little more in-depth, I set out all of our instruments with some labels and had my big boy try and group them into types of instruments: percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds.

If you’re looking for a good book that introduces little ones to the orchestra, we LOVE this First Book About the Orchestra and can’t recommend it enough!

(This is the musical instruments set we used.)

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Nature Study

This week was field trip week with Exploring Nature With Children, so we went to a local trail to search for tracks and wildlife signs. Luckily, everything in Colorado this time of year is super muddy – perfect for spotting animal tracks. We recorded what we saw in our nature journals and even played around with making tracks in Kinetic Sand.

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Resources

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!

Super Simple Ocean Projects

Oceans: A Journey from the Surface to the Seafloor (3-D Explorer)

Tide Pool Secrets

See Under the Sea: Lift-the-Flap Book

Wild Tracks: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints

Who Pooped in the Park?

Tell me what you’re doing with your kids this week!

 

 

 

**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.**