Category: Family

Primary Color Blending Sludge

Primary Color Blending Sludge

I can’t think of an eloquent word for the consistency that this creates. Paste? Slop? Sludge? It’s gooey and colorful and a little bit gross, which I think makes it perfect for young kids, always happy to stick their hands in goop.

This little activity is super simple and great entertainment for the kids. It’s messy, it’s fun, and my kids always love some good quality sensory play. As an added benefit, you can choose to do primary colors as an educational example of color blending.

A word of warning: this is an outdoor activity! Make sure that you immediately wash vinegar off of wood. I am a little embarrassed to admit that by letting my children do this inside on our table, I accidentally ruined the table by rushing them off to the bathtub rather than cleaning up first. On the bright side, it was a very old, beat up table, so now I get to learn how to fix it.

Supplies:

Baking soda

Water

Food coloring or watercolors (food coloring may stain hands)

Bowls and utensils for mixing

(Optional) squirt bottles with vinegar water–careful where you do this!

Steps:

1. In your bowls, add a cup or so of baking soda. You may use as many bowls/colors as you like.

2. Add water until it turns into a pasty consistency and stir together.

3. Add food coloring and stir.

4. Separate colors into containers. I did some stripes of color in a large Tupperware container for each kid.

 

5. Give them their squirt bottles and watch them have fun.

Stamp Chart Reward System

Stamp Chart Reward System

Sometimes it can be really difficult to get kids to cooperate when you need them to. Believe me, I know. My kids can be as stubborn and ornery as their mom and dad.

One of the best ways that I’ve come up with to get the kids to help out is a stamp chart. It looks like this:

Stamps could easily be exchanged for stickers, but we use stickers elsewhere and my girls really enjoy the process of getting to ink the stamp and press it on paper, so it’s more rewarding for them.

The kids can earn a stamp in a few different ways:

1. Picking up their own messes/cleaning up toys

2. Eating like a civilized person and not throwing stuff

3. Not whining or hitting, aka trying to express emotions with words

4. A day without TV

5. Filling a row on the potty sticker chart

The rewards on the chart are usually a fun trip or activity that the kids enjoy. We try to keep the cheap, easy rewards towards the top and more expensive rewards for the end of the chart. This requires quite a bit of help from the girls to actually get to go do something like go out to eat or go to the riverwalk. The chart ends on the last day of the month, so it’s possible to reach the end without acquiring every reward–and that’s okay, too. It’s okay to not get everything. I want them to see that sometimes you don’t win, and working harder improves your odds. Right now when one of them earns a stamp they both get it, but that will change soon.

This is intended as an active, exciting way to engage them in the process of learning how to help out and pick up after themselves. It’s also a precursor to earning an allowance, or “salary.”

Having said all of this, sometimes it doesn’t work. One kid is almost 3 and the other is going on 2, so they often know better than mom and dad or just want to be bratty (as indicated by the accompanying smirk they give), but it’s alright. Some kind of system is better and more successful than no system at all.

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Hey, hey, hey! Today, as with many August days here in San Antonio, it’s nice and sweltering. Sure, it may get down to 90, but you’d never know it with the humidity. Of course, the heat keeps us indoors in an attempt to avoid it a lot of the time, but it’s still important to get out and go somewhere. I’m a serious believer in the importance of exposure to nature for so many reasons, so we always try to go out and explore outside a couple of times a week.

Here’s my personal list of what makes something a great day (morning or afternoon) destination:

$$$–is it cheap, or even better, free?

Will my small children be happy there?

Safety, weather, and you know, preparedness things

We moved back in February, so I have certainly not scoped out the hottest mom spots in San Antonio by any means, but here’s our favorite spots to kill some time outside with the kid monsters!

1. Guadalupe River State Park

Okay, so not in the city, I know. But hear me out! This beautiful state park is easy to get to, just a drive up Blanco Road to 46. In addition it’s extremely family friendly: they have camping, hiking, a playground (currently closed, boo), a children’s discovery center, a ton of picnic tables, and of course, swimming. There’s deeper water for parents and older kids, but for smaller children there’s also a wonderful section of shallow water. My water-timid 3 year old gets to play and splash around without being worried here. We like to take a big mat and lounge in the shade. Hands down my favorite spot to cool off.

$$$–We have a state parks pass so it’s worth it for us to go. If you don’t, you will have to pay a day use fee.

Happy kids? Very. Always have a hard time leaving.

Preparation–sunscreen (please use a non-toxic kind!), swimsuits, shade, water, snacks, water shoes (don’t underestimate how painful river rocks can be on bare feet), and whatever water safety devices you feel appropriate.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

If you’ve never been to Hardberger Park with your kids it’s definitely worth a trip. This place is huge and even has two entrances, one on Blanco Rd and one on Military. There are dog parks and playgrounds on each side near the parking lots. In addition, the hiking trails just can’t be beat. There’s a large picnic area on each side, benches on some of the trails, and even a large overlook. We go hiking here a couple of times a week and always have a great time. Sometimes we do nature scavenger hunts here while hiking to engage the kids.

$$$–free

Happy kids? Usually. Sometimes a kid gets mad that she has to walk or ride in the stroller instead of being carried.

Preparation–sunscreen (or sun hat and sleeves), water

3. San Antonio Zoo + Brackenridge Park

We purchased zoo memberships as soon as we moved. It was a no brainer for us, we went to the LA Zoo all the time in California, and it wasn’t even particularly close! The girls absolutely love it. And with all the fun enclosures (sorry, animals) and features I can’t blame them. Plus, summer animatronic dinosaurs! You can take a (very short) ride on the carousel, see the pigs and goats at the petting zoo or ride the train. You could spend hours in the splashpad area. There’s all sorts of outdoor things over in the kid’s area, including adorable mini benches. There’s even a small discovery center for the kiddos. If that’s not enough (and let’s be real, you might be beat, but the munchkins have some magical reserve of energy just for moments like this) Brackenridge park is right outside!

$$$–just buy a membership. If you go twice it’s worth it.

Happiness factor? Kids always enjoy it. Even Matt and I are usually glad we went. Exhausted, but glad.

Preparation–sun protection, water

4. Eisenhower Park

I really enjoy this place. There are more difficult hiking trails if that’s what you’re looking for, easy paved trails if you need something simpler. There are nice, wooded trails, too. I like taking the double stroller here. There’s a nice little playground and a large climbing wall for older kids.

$$$–free

Fun level–decent. My kids are always happy if they get to play on a playground.

Preparation–sun protection, water

5. Orsinger Park

Now you should have a very good idea of where I live! This is our basic time-killing place. It’s got a large pavillion for events, bathrooms, a sandbox, and a very large, nice playground. Karissa is obsessed with the sandbox, but Madilyn always has to be coaxed into playing in the sand. There’s lots of lovely cedar elms and picnic tables scattered throughout the grove behind the play equipment. We always go for a little walk through the trails, too.

$$$–free (ca-ching!)

Happy? Oh, so very happy.

Preparation–a diligent parent might bring hydration? I usually don’t…eek. It’s okay, though, because water fountains.

Big Kid Bonus: Tom Slick Park

I’ve only been here once, but the playground was awesome. It was definitely better for older kids, but the play equipment was shaded and I was impressed. There’s a lake with a nice, easy trail to walk, exercise equipment, and what I’m pretty sure was a baseball diamond. This one is on the west side but was a really fun adventure.

$$$–free

Happiness–thumbs up

Preparation–sun protection, water

 

Top Ten Baby Shower Gifts

Top Ten Baby Shower Gifts

We are just emerging from baby territory into young kids and it wasn’t long ago that we were having gifts showered upon us in preparation for an entire new phase of our lives.

Karissa is officially a kid and Madi, sadly, is no longer a baby in many ways. It’s a very bittersweet thing. But because we are fresh out of baby phase, I definitely still know what my favorite baby products are.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

1. Diapers

This is the practical parent in me speaking! Unless someone is doing EC, they’re going to need a ton of diapers. Why not give them a bit of a head start! We were given many, many different varieties and sizes of diapers at our baby showers for Karissa, and we didn’t have any left over. My favorites at the time were the Honest Company, they seemed comfortable enough, baby friendly, lots of cute prints/patterns, and most importantly (in my opinion), they didn’t leak like a lot of the other natural brands did. Since our kids are older now, I’ve actually changed to cheaper diapers, HEB store brand or Pampers depending on where we’re shopping.

2. Animal Pacifiers

I’ve written in depth about my experience with losing my breastmilk when Karissa was young. Because of this, she used a pacifier as a soothing mechanism frequently for a few months while we adjusted to the situation. I was bound and determined not to use pacifiers in our lives, but let’s be honest, sometimes life doesn’t care about our plans.

It only seemed natural to make sure that Madilyn had a pacifier that she liked, just in case. We settled on this cute moose pacifier  pretty quickly, and she loved it! Neither of my kids used pacifiers for long, maybe 2-4 months, but Madi still carried it around as a dear toy and chewing device for a long time. Worth every cent.

3. Books

We have a million books in our house. We have so many, in fact, that recently I made some cardboard bookshelves to try and keep them from being thrown across the floor every day. Which didn’t work, by the way–now the kids just take pleasure in removing them from the shelves to peruse and then toss on the floor. Argh.

Anyway, books are a great way to get a child interested in learning! I try really hard to read to the girls every day, and when I’m just not feeling it thankfully their dad steps in and handles things.

Some of our family favorites include: Little Yellow Bee, the GruffaloBlue Hat Green Hat, Dinosaur Dance (most Sandra Boynton), Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Mr. Paint Pig, Karen Katz lift the flaps, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

4. Baby Carrier/Sling

Hands down the number one most used item in my day to day life every day for the last (almost) three years is a ring sling. A family member gifted me a wonderful Maya wrap for Karissa’s baby shower and I was instantly in love. I actually ended up buying a second one, a lightweight summer sling, and a water sling.

Matt and I both tried many varieties of carriers and the ring sling is what we were both most comfortable with. The learning curve is so-so, but once you figure out how to comfortably sit baby in one it’s so fast and easy. I personally couldn’t do any of the front carriers well and I had a Moby wrap that I genuinely tried to get the hang of, but the way she sat in it always felt unstable for me. User error, surely. A big plus to the ring sling for me was that the kid sits on one side/hip, so my dominant hand and other side remained largely free. Usually it’s helpful for doing whatever work I’m trying to do or carry the other kid.

5. Multipurpose Healing Balm/Diaper Ointment

We use Kuumba Made salve for EVERYTHING. Any cut, rash, itch, or skin problem at all gets this salve slathered all over it. It’s just wonderful to not have to worry about having multiple tubes of stuff for different purposes when one great concoction will do the trick.

6. The Nosefrida

The Nosefrida is the modern parent’s solution to the uncomfortable problem of snot and congestion. This wonderful device replaces a traditional bulb syringe and is, in my opinion, easier to use and easier to clean.

7. Toys: Manhattan Toys, blocks, musical Caterpillar

This ridiculous caterpillar lived in our house until the batteries finally died, and then for a year after that, that’s how popular he was. As babies the girls both just loved the little mirror and the tune he played, and frequently it was the only thing that would calm them down when upset.

Some other wonderful toys for young ones include almost anything from Manhattan toys: we had the winkel rattle, classic baby beads, skwish classic rattle, and bababall. The bababall is still very popular with everyone for throwing because mom doesn’t get mad if soft toys are thrown in the house. These blocks are also still very popular. Blocks are really great. We used Megabloks for a while but swapped them out for Duplos now because I really like the size and options better.

Now that the kids are older, this LeapFrog music player, dubbed “the green thing”, is the most popular toy around. Someone gave this to Karissa when she was really young and soon after Madilyn was able, they began to fight over it. We actually bought a second one, which I kid you not to my horror perished in an open cup of water about two weeks after we bought it. We finally replaced the one that we lost with a pink one, which is now the “pink green thing”. The original one, now nearly 3 years old, is on it’s last legs, so I am both amused and embarrassed to admit that serious talks have begun on whether or not to buy another “pink green thing” to replace the original. I am probably making a mistake in revealing the most popular toy in our house, because we seem to heavily rely on Amazon’s stock of these and may rely on it until our kids turn 18 and move out of the house.

 

8. O Ball

My aunt gave us the O Ball  when Karisssa was 3 months old and uh honestly, I wasn’t all that excited. I mean, I got the concept of it, but it seemed really lackluster. So very, very wrong. This wonderful contraption mounts onto strollers, carseats, rockers, and probably bouncers (don’t know, never tried one) and so many things can be attached to it! This was a wonderful distraction for a year or so for Karissa, and then about 3 months for Madi because her sister would come over and take the toys that were hanging away from her.

This pairs wonderfully with the musical caterpillar from earlier. There were many, many hours of musical caterpillar hanging on O Ball when Karissa was small.

9. Rocker or bouncer

A lot of hours were also spent, for both of my girls, in a rocker a lot like this one. I can’t find the actual one that we used, I guess the latest and greatest model has replaced it. Any time I needed my hands free I could put them in here, usually with the O Ball to play with, and feel confident that they were comfortable and secure. Some naps were even taken in here, huzzah!

10. Money

I know, money is such a lame gift, but if you don’t know what they need they will be ever grateful for the donation.

Dinosaur Week!

Dinosaur Week!

Sometimes I like to do themes for the kids for a day, a few days, a week, or whatever. The local zoo has a fun summer thing set up where there are animatronic dinosaurs throughout the place, so I thought that this would be a really fun way to get the girls excited about going to the zoo to see the dinosaurs! If you aren’t near San Antonio, and thus don’t have a zoo or something to take them to see the dinosaurs, you can add a fifth day of dinosaur activities.

Warning: this post is a bit long extreme. I’m going to put a link to some of the recipes instead of inserting the whole recipe so that the length will be a little more reasonable.

Pro tip: my kids are young enough that we can add the word dinosaur to almost anything and make it more exciting, hence the general basis of my naming theme.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Day 1

Recipe: Prehistoric Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe here.

Activity: Dinosaur Dance Party

My girls play this silly game where they put blankets on their heads and run around saying, “I’m a scary dinosaur!” They also really like to dance and listen to music. I thought, why not try to combine these two things? Plus, thanks to Sandra Boynton, we have a pretty good idea of how dinosaurs like to dance. So throw a blanket on your head and break out your best velociraptor moves!

Day 2

Craft: Dinosaur Sticker Collage

We found these awesome holographic dinosaur stickers at the dollar tree and have some others from Michaels. With the ridiculous amount of stickers I’ve collected, it’s hard to keep track of where they come from. These stickers seem like a lot of fun.

When we do focused crafts like these I like to do them with the kids so they can see my idea of how to do it. They do whatever they want, of course, but it’s fun to do together. First, with a green piece of paper, cut out a basic “ground” shape. You might need to do this for kids, too. On a second piece of paper (orange, yellow, or blue), glue this ground to the bottom. Now the dinosaurs have somewhere to roam!

Next, bust out the markers. We’re going to add some rocks, grass, trees, and a sun–or whatever you want to, that’s just what I’m adding. Landscape complete!

Add dinosaur stickers! Proudly display artwork on wall.

Activity: Dinosaur pool party

On this nice summer afternoon we’re filling up our cheesy eight dollar blow up pool and adding plastic dinosaur toys. Voila! Simple and still on theme.

Day 3

Craft: Dinosaur watercolors

I know, it sounds lame. I’ll be totally honest, too: it’s pretty lame. The kids will be happy, though. For this you’re just going to cut out the most basic dinosaur shape that you can out of construction or printer paper (you can trace, sketch, draw, or print one out if you need to–there are a ton of awesome free printable coloring pages available via a quick google image search).

Looking at Google images for assistance

Once you have your dinosaur, simply hand it to them with some watercolors. They will have a blast painting their own dinosaur. Once done, I like to let them (or do it myself) glue this to a second piece of colored paper and display on the wall once dry.

Recipe: Stone Age Soup

So, here’s the deal with Stone Age Soup…it’s really just a way to get everything that’s been sitting unused in the fridge into edible form. Squash, carrots, onion, frozen veggies, old meat or a scoop of gelatin…What I’m saying is that you probably don’t need to go out and buy ingredients. It’s a mom way of framing something dull into something a little more fun.

Day 4

Activity: Dinosaur Containers

These are what we’ve been using as our portable busy boxes lately due to the current dinosaur obsession. But it turns out every morning before breakfast they want to play with these while I cook. Win!

Recipe: T-Rex Treats

Recipe here.

Day 5

Day 5 must be awesome. It’s what all the days have been leading up to, which is why on day 5, we have zoo day! Alternatively, you can use these awesome endings.

Recipe: Dinosaur Pancakes

Recipe here.

I tried dinosaurs three ways: freehand, using a squirt bottle, and pouring into cookie cutters.

The squirt bottle probably would have been amazing if I used regular pancake batter, but I had some almond flour clump and clog the nozzle.

Cookie cutters worked the best, but the first batch I didn’t remove the cookie cutter quick enough and they got stuck.

Some of these attempts were just plain hilarious:

Strange monster and swirls
Turtle and witch “dinosaurs”

Activity: Paleontological Excavation

This might seem like a bit of work, but it’s really not so bad. Just bear with me.

First, you need to decide where your “dig” is going to happen. If you want to fill a tub with sand or dirt, that’s great. I’m going to pick a little patch of dirt outside because I think my girls will enjoy that a lot, and I’m not using it. Plus, it’s good for them to be in the dirt.

Next, locate some plain rocks that you can draw or paint on. I’m going to be lazy about it and just draw with a white paint marker. I have two kids, so I’m doing about 10 each. Draw some bones on there–the beauty of this is that they can be ugly/imperfect and it’s no big deal.

Bury your dinosaur “bones” in your excavation site. Be sure to spread them out a bit. If you’re doing this outside like us, stick some small sticks around the outside to mark the area and “rope” it off with some string.  Be sure to create separate dig sites for each kid.

Hand them a shovel and let them dig!

Personalized Family Tree

Personalized Family Tree

Creating a visual representation of your family tree can be incredibly fun and rewarding. Whether you want one for yourself or need a special gift for someone you care for, this tree is a great personal project that’s sure to have lots of people smiling as they contribute their fingerprint leaves.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Supplies:

Colored buttons (I used these green ones for one and these orange ones for another)

Ink pads in shades of green (or whatever color you choose, I bought these ink pads)

Canvas (any size, I’m using 11 × 14)

Pencil and scrap paper

Embossing ink pen

Brown permanent marker

Needle and color coordinated thread OR hot glue gun

Embossing powder in shades of brown. I use Reflections embossing powder in copper, champagne, gold, and vintage mahogany. You can paint instead, but the embossing is really worth the effort.

Embossing heat gun

Directions:

  1. Make your family list and sketch a quick rough draft of the tree. The sketch isn’t important, you just need to have a general idea of where you want everything to go. 
    Number one terrible sketch.

    2. Using a pencil, lightly draw your tree on the canvas. Don’t overthink it! It’s okay for the lines to be wobbly and jagged, most trees aren’t perfectly straight. If you feel like you’ve messed up you can erase, but it might not all come off, it just depends on the pencil, eraser, and canvas. I like to write each person’s name on the inside of the branch. I also like to do parent’s names in a heart shape on the trunk with kids up in the canopy of the tree.

    3. Trace over your pencil with brown permanent marker. If you mess up you can use a cotton swab and alcohol or nail polish remover to very carefully remove the errors and correct them. 4. Using your embossing pen, draw some (many) lines through the branches of the tree and down the trunk. We’re emulating bark here, so it should be sort of erratic and natural looking. Once you’re satisfied with the amount of ink down, sprinkle with the first embossing powder color. I use copper as my first color because I prefer it as the dominant trunk color. 

    5. Repeat this step with the rest of your brown colored embossing powders, filling in empty spots with ink, dusting the tree, and then pouring it off. You might want to keep a paper towel next to you to wipe off the embossing powder that sticks to the embossing pen as you fill in the tree. 6. Now for the really fun part. Using your embossing gun, apply heat. Start at the bottom and work your way up. You will see the embossing powder flash in golden glory as it transforms. Move up the trunk and across the branches. Once you’re finished and all of the powder has been transformed, everything should have a wonderful golden shine.7. Grab your buttons! Pick some places that look to you like maybe there should be some leaves there to fill out the tree. Be sure to leave enough space that fingerprints won’t be obstructed. Sew into place or hot glue. I sewed onto this canvas, but my orange tree is on a board canvas (because I was worried that cats would rip canvas) so the orange buttons were hot glued on. 8. Add family fingerprints! I did one at home with just the kids and cats as an example. The green tree is going with us to our next family gathering to be filled in there.

Fun Summer Hats

Fun Summer Hats

Well it’s pretty hot here. I’m really not used to the Texas heat, so I’m just staying inside most of the time, which is a bummer. This means lots of indoor activities and crafts.

Today we made fun, colorful summer hats by repurposing old hats whose decorations had fallen (read: were pulled) off.

This was a lot of fun to do with the girls.

Supplies: Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

An old or cheap hat (these and these both look like great starters to me!)

Decorations: ribbon, bows, feathers, flowers, butterflies, pom poms

A hot glue gun (for adult use only)

 

Steps:

1. Place ribbon around brim. Glue in place.

2. Add some flowers or butterflies. Hot glue them in place. I used butterflies because I’m not sure where all my flowers are, and really like how it turned out.

3. Glue some feathers down on the “front.” You can add more flowers and such on top of the feathers. It starts to look really cute here.

4. We also put pom poms on the brim for a fun and silly addition.

Happy kids, happy life.

 

 

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Well, sometimes it’s hard to keep your kiddos actively engaged, isn’t it? My younger daughter loves cups and pouring, usually with water, but sometimes I don’t want to deal with 2 soaking wet girls when it’s all over.

HEB had a coupon for a free bag of bird seed, which is just perfect for playing with! We can go sit outside and play as long as we like with it, then just sweep it into the yard when we’re done. No worries.

Supplies:

Bird seed

Buckets, cups, spoons, shovels, whatever else you think might be fun to play with

Kids

Steps:

Kind of a no brainer here. Just divide up your bird seed into small tubs or buckets and distribute play equipment. Being outside is a good idea. My older daughter doesn’t share well, so I have to split everything evenly.

Have fun with this relatively messless sensory activity!

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Learning about nature and understanding the outdoors is an important and often underestimated component of a well rounded education. My children love to be outside, but on the rare occasion that they need a little bit of motivation to get moving, this is what we use!

A nature scavenger hunt is an ideal way to get kids outdoors, moving, and engaged in the world around them. It encourages development of motor skills, spatial awareness, and identification skills. I am always astonished at their ability to identify and remember information about plants and animals that we do this with.

My girls are 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, so short and simple works best for us right now. If your children are older a longer list will work better.

You will need:

Paper (I use standard 8 1/2 x 11)
Colored pencils, clip art, or printed pictures

Google for some quick facts

Pen or dry erase marker

(Optional) Laminator or water protective sheet cover and tape

Making the List:

Choose the objects, plants, or animals to be found. I enjoy doing plant hunts, so a plant themed list for us might look like this:

Acorn

Catbriar

Elm leaf

Oak leaf

Dewberry leaf

Wood sorrel

A mixed list might look something like this:

Squirrel

Cactus pad

Sunflower

Flint

Cardinal

Butterfly

Have fun and be creative. The more fun you have the more they will enjoy it, too.
Hand draw, insert clip art, or print pictures and place them on a sheet of paper as a visual guideline. I like to hand draw, even though I’m not the best at it, because it helps demonstrate that what you’re looking for will not always look the same and encourage critical thinking. Print the name of the object next to the image.

On the back it’s great to include some information about the things that you’re looking for. Hit up google or Wikipedia for two or three interesting tidbits. I find that engaging in conversation about the hunt really excites my 2 1/2 year old and stimulates her curiosity much more than just telling her what to look for. So, for example, I might put:

Acorn: Nuts of oak trees. Can be processed to make flour.

Catbriar: climbing vine with tendrils and thorns. Soft tips can be eaten.

Elm: Grow very tall. mistletoe likes to grow on elm trees.

Oak: Oak trees grow acorns. Wood is used for building.

Dewberry: small, thorny shrub. Relative of blackberries. White flowers turn into edible berries.

Wood sorrel: commonly mistaken for clover. Has heart shaped leaves. Leaves and flowers taste like lemon.

Laminate:

Laminate the scavenger hunt page if you have access to a laminator so that you can check the list off with a dry erase marker as you go. You can forego laminating if you want to use a plastic sheet protector and tape the top. I like to reuse these, and they can be customized appropriately for your location. In California, for example, we found pine cones and sweet gum seed pods, but in central Texas those things are notably absent, so they’ve been replaced with local flora.

I skipped this step because I do not have a laminator and can’t find my sheet protectors.

The Hunt:

Take your (hopefully) eager participant out into the great outdoors and turn them loose.

If you are on private property it’s really fun to collect the items that are collectible as you go. Afterwards we set the page down, lay the objects on top over the pictures, and talk about everything we found. This is a great way to engage in active learning with the kids–lots of times I’m learning along with them!

If you’re in a state park or other similar location, however, you may have to simply check your list off as you go and take pictures if you can. My daughters really love talking about everything we saw on our walks, so I highly encourage you to review afterwards.

Safety Tips:

I do think that a list of things to be cautious of is very important to cover at some point. Snakes, scorpions, ticks, wasps, and centipedes are obvious dangers, but some inconspicuous aggressors may lurk in the underbrush. Plants that might be listed include poison ivy, oak, or sumac, cactuses, agave, giant hogweed, and hemlock. Things like lilies, oleander, datura, and azaleas are commonly used in landscaping and are lovely, but toxic. Children as well as adults should be aware of this.

Use caution with any kind of foraging/edible information with kids. I’ve had problems with my older girl wanting to eat stuff outside when I’m not looking, so I’ve been withholding that kind of stuff for now or only under supervised situations.

It’s always a good idea to have a safe word for when you’re out and about. We use “hot” as an all-encompassing signal for danger. (This was a tip from Merriwether at http://www.foragingtexas.com/)

Happy Hunting!

Originally written as an Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Educational-Nature-Scavenger-Hunt/

Bubble Painting

Bubble Painting

I wrote an instructable for paper flower bouquet last week. This project creates my preferred paper to use in those bouquets–bubble painted paper. I used to do this even before I had the kids just because it’s so much fun.

This is, however, my first attempt with the girls. I’m sure it’s going to be a bit messy. Heck, my kids are always messy, so it doesn’t matter much. Just be prepared for the cleanup. On the bright side, it’s soap! Cleanup is always better when what you’re cleaning up is soap.

Let’s do this!

Supplies:

white paper (8 1/2 x 11 printer paper is what we used)

Cups or bowls

straws

soap and water or bubble solution

water

food coloring

 

Steps:

 

1. Pour soap and water or bubble solution into bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring (adjust according to how bold you would like your colors to be). Give the cups or bowls a little swirl to distribute the color.
2. Distribute straws, bubble mix, and paper among all involved adults and kids. I had a 2 1/2 year old and an 18 month old participating. I quickly found out that the bubble mixture was inappropriate for my younger daughter, who tried to drink it. We then substituted her solution for colored almond milk, which she painted with and drank happily.

3. Blow bubbles onto your paper. They should cascade across your paper, clinging to it, creating fun marbling effects, and splattering color everywhere! It’s delightful.

 

4. Set aside to dry.

Once dry, these papers make lovely origami bases. I do suggest trying out a Paper Tulip Bouquet, which is fun and beautiful. Next week maybe we’ll do another related project!