Sensory Play with Nature

One of the best ways littles can learn is through sensory play. There are so many wonderful things to learn, and littles learn by doing!

_My goal is to build a life I don't need a vacation from._ (7)

Here are a few of our favorite hands-on learning activities for children!

 

 

 

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The winter sensory garden from barley&birch!

 

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Full Moon Schedule for 2018!

January makes getting outdoors even harder, which also means cabin fever is starting to set in. This is why we love this full moon schedule! It gives us a fun January activity!

Gear up with some blankets and a thermos full of hot coffee and enjoy some night sky gazing! alex-6726

  • January 31- Wolf Moon

  • March 1st- Worm Moon

  • March 31st- Blue Moon

  • April 29th- Pink Moon

  • May 29th- Corn Planting Moon

  • June 28th- Strawberry Moon

  • July 27th- Thunder Moon

  • August 26th- Green Corn Moon

  • September 24th- Harvest Moon

  • October 24th- Hunter’s Moon

  • November 23rd- Frost Moon

  • December 22nd- Long Night Moon

 

Achievable Goals for 2018

These are some of our goals for 2018!

 

#1. Get Outdoors!

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It’s easy to get caught up in the daily little tasks. This year, we’re making time to simply be. 

 

#2. Plan Ahead

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 Taking time to prepare on the weekends, make such a huge difference in how our week goes! We prep meals, plan our lessons, and take time to rest.

 

#3. Declutter

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Clean room, clean mind!

 

#4. Read More

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There are so many wonderful books on our reading list this year!

 

#5. Try New Food

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We don’t branch out from what we know too often, so we’re looking forward to trying new things this year!

 

#6. Make Time For What Truly Matters

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Stop, unplug, and savor. 

 

#7. Travel

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Even though we travel a lot for work, we’re looking forward to planning some extra trips to explore new areas!

 

#8. Camping

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We can’t wait for some October camping this fall!

 

#9. Nature Journaling

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Take time to be observant of nature!

 

#10. Perfect Something New

 

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Attempting to write an original is on this bucket list!

 

 

 

Have any more ideas!? We would LOVE to hear!

Stocking Stuffer Fun!

Stockings! It’s one of our favorite Christmas traditions. There is just something about opening a gift full of wonderful little surprises. Here are a few of our favorite stocking stuffers! 🙂

#1. Mini Tins of Thinking Putty

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We LOVE thinking putty. Especially since it has a new scented evergreen edition.

#2. Glow Mars Mud

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Once you start playing with this, you won’t stop! 🙂

#3. Incrediblefoam

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With open-ended and sensory play in mind, Incrediblefoam is one of our favorites!

#4. Magnetic Slime Ooze

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Mix up a batch of slime that reacts to a magnet!

#5. Cosmic Spinner Tops

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Tops! We have literally played with these for hours on end. 

#6. Touchable Bubbles

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Bubbles that you can actually touch without popping!

#7. Wooden Animal Slingshot 

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Slingshots and giant marshmallows. It’s a blast!

#8. Wildlife BB Pocket Puzzle

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Patience is required, but still so much fun!

#9. Skwooshi

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One of the most addicting things we have ever play with. Literally. 🙂

#10. Original Metal Slinky

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If you have stairs…this is a must!

#11. Gyroscope 

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A classic toy that has been a family favorite for years!

#12. Old Fashioned Diving Sub

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Just add a little baking powder, and watch the diving sub in action!

#13. Tornado Tube

 

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If you’ve never seen the Tornado Tube® in action you may not realize how dramatic it can be!!

#14. Flip Birds

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A highly addictive game of dexterity and skill. A flick of the finger will send each Flippin’ Bird towards the cup!

#15. Jetfire Glider Twin Pack

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The original Guillow’s Balsa Wood Planes from more than half a century ago. Two Gliders are included that soar up to 25 feet. 12″ wingspan!

#16. Magic Rocks

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Would you like to grow some rocks? Fill a clear glass container, such as a wide-mouthed jar, with the special solution, and add the colored pellets to it!

#17. Spiky Light-up Ball

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Turn off all the lights, and start a fun tossing game. So many memories were made by playing with these!

#18. Guatemalan Kick Bag 

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Hand crocheted in Guatemala, these are made to last!

#19. Astronaut Ice Cream and Fruit

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Enjoy your ice cream just as Astronauts do–the freeze-dried way! There is also cinnamon apples, grapes, peaches, strawberries, and bananas!

#20. Rattleback

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A science curiosity whose ancient and mysterious properties capture the attention of all ages. Rattleback will spin in one direction but when spun in the wrong direction, it will quickly stop, rattle up and down, and then begin to spin in the opposite direction. It also magnifies and is sure to entertain for hours! 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power Of Outdoor Free Play

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Unfortunately, the amount of time that children spend engaged in unstructured, child-directed outdoor play has diminished significantly in the past generation. Schools have opted out of recess and play time in favor of a more structured academic period. As many years of research has shown, that it causing more harm than good. Here are some of the amazing benefits that come with outdoor free play!

 

Cognitive Health

 

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Playing outdoors gives children the opportunity to make decisions and problem solve, it provides an environment for creative thinking, and makes children use a higher level of sequence, planning, and organizing.

 

Physical Health

 

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Outdoor play provides more opportunity for movement which in turn greatly decreases the likelihood of developing of developing obesity and disease. It also magnifies the use of fine and gross motor skills!

Mental health

 

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Overall, children who are active outdoors have much better moods, have a decrease in hyperactivity, and are less likely to have symptoms related to anxiety and depression.

Emotional Health

 

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The development in empathy, an increase in self-esteem, and the development of emotional intelligence is all part of getting outdoors to play! 🙂

Social Skills

 

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Research has also shown that playing outdoors provides increased social interactions, higher levels of sharing, cooperating, and helping!

Play Skills

 

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Play skills help develop creativity, and provide endless opportunities for imagination and engagement! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Old Trees, New Life- Camping Activity

When a tree falls, its life is over. But the tree can still give life to others. The dead tree becomes its own ecosystem, where plants, insects, and microorganisms thrive-from the mosses, ferns, and fungi that make the rotting tree their home to a whole host of bugs and bacteria that eat the tree and break it down into soil for new plants! Next time you see a dead log, take a close look and record your observations in your Field Journal. You just might be amazed by what you see.

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What You Do

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#1. Find a rotting log: Look for a tree that has fallen and that has wood breaking apart in pieces. It may be slightly damp.

 

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#2. Describe what the log looks like. What is growing on it? Can you see any mushrooms, ferns, mosses, or lichens? Are there baby trees or any other plants sprouting out of the wood?

 

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#3. Do you see any insects? What are they doing? Look for tiny piles of sawdust at the base of the log. This is evidence that insects have drilled into the wood, starting the decomposition process. The holes left behind create highways for fungi and bacteria to come in and break down the wood even further.

 

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#4.  Tap the log with your fingers. Is it hollow? Wet? Bone-dry? What does it smell like?

 

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#5. Put on your gloves and gently and carefully lift the log a few inches to see if you can take a peek underneath. What do you see? Are there insects underneath? What are they doing? What do they look like? When you’re done, put the log back.

 

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#6.  Use your magnifying glass to peek at the log itself. Do you see insects breaking it down? What do they look like under the magnifying glass? What about the plants growing on the tree? What do the mushrooms look like up close?

 

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#7. Draw and describe what you’ve seen in your field journal. Try to identify plants, animals, and insects by looking at your field guide or Nature Anatomy book! 

 

There is so much to learn! Head outdoors and explore! 🙂

 

 

Keeping a Field Journal

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

– Albert Einstein

 

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You’ve got your tent pitched and your fire pit set up-you’re finally at home in the wilderness. But one of the best parts of being in nature is exploring it,  and discovering the plants and animals that call your campsite home, sweet home. Keeping a field journal is a fun way to record what you see or hear while in the great outdoors. In it you can make drawings, describe in detail the plants and animals you come across, and collect leaves and flowers to press and tape right into your book. When you get home, you can gather more information at the library, local wildlife center, botanic garden, or online.

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What you need:

  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Watercolor set with brushes (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Envelopes for holding any leaf, flower, feather, or other natural treasures that you may find along the trail.

You may find a pair of binoculars to come in handy. They will help you scope out wildlife from a safe distance!

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What You Do:

Get Organized

Before you begin, think about how you want to organize your journal. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Organize by environment. If you camp in areas that have different climates and types of plant and animal life-say the woods one weekend, the desert another- you might want to make sections in your journal for every kind of place you go!
  • Organize by topic. Have an animal section, a plant section, bug section, and rock section. Add new entries to each part according to what you see.
  • Organize by camping trip. Keep a running journal of your trips. Gather your information, make sketches, and record your thoughts by journey.
  • Keep two journals. Make one a free-forum for notes, sketches, and collages of leaves, bark, and feathers. Then keep a second, more polished book where you can categorize the random info from the other book.

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Gather the Essentials

Before each entry, write down the date, time, name of your location, and other information that will provide the what, where, and when.

  • Date. Time of year can play a big part in what you see in the wild. In the autumn, many animals migrate and others are busy gathering food for the winter. Leaves begin to turn colors and fall. This season is great for watching foragers-animals that gather their food and hide it for safe-keeping-such as squirrels and chipmunks. In the spring, many animals search for mates, graze for food, and have babies. Trees begin to bud and flowers bloom. Spring is a great time to look and listen for songbirds. Winter is sort of quiet for some animals, but you’ll see lots of activity in the summertime.
  • Time of day.  Most critters are more active at dawn and dusk (though some, like owls and snakes, are more lively at night). So if you want to spot these animals or insects, plan to get up early or stay up late. Some plants are more active at different times of day as well, like the morning glory,a flowering vine that usually blooms in the morning and closes during the day.
  • Notes on the environment.  Are you exploring a pine forest? Wading in a brook? Sitting on a rock at the oceans edge? Describe where you are and what it looks, sounds, and smells like.
  • What’s the weather?  Is it sunny, snowy, or somewhere in between?

 

Gather Information:

A field journal can document more than just animals-it can include bugs and plant life, too. Here’s a general list of questions to ask yourself.

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Animals

  • Describe the animal. What did it look like? What was its behavior? Did it make a sound? Where did you see it? Was it alone?
  • Did it leave behind any tracks? How many toes were on each foot? Are there claws? What is the shape and size of the toe pads and the heel? What kind of pattern do the tracks make as a group? Sketch the track(s) in your journal, then try to identify them.
  • Identify the animal. Is it a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian? When you get home, you may want to research the animal further. Leave space to write your findings. Some questions to consider: Does the male look any different from the female? What kind of home does it live in? What are its feeding habits? How does its body develop or change over its lifetime?

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Insects

  • Carefully collect an insect (for observation only) and describe it. What color is it? Does it have wings? How many legs does it have? How many antennae? Any weird behavior?
  • Identify the insect. Leave room in your journal for answers to these questions (you may need to do some research). Where does the bug live? Does the male look different from the female? Is the insect part of a colony? What is its life cycle?

 

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Plants

  • Choose a plant. Draw it, and if there are any leaves, flowers, branches, or bark  on the ground nearby, paste them in. We love pressing the plants into our journals to make them last longer.
  • Describe the plant. What kind of leaves does it have? How tall is the plant or tree? What is its overall shape? Are there any flowers? If so, what do they look and feel like? What color and texture are the bark or stems? Where does the plant live? Is the soil wet, or dry, dirt or sand? Can you tell how the seeds move around?
  • Identify the plant. Using information you gathered, do some research at home to figure out what kind of plant it is. If you like, leave room in your journal to answer the following questions: What is the life cycle? Does the plant serve as food or shelter for any animal? Does the plant lose its leaves in the fall?

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Keeping a field journal is a little like writing in a diary, except instead of writing about yourself, you write about what you observe all around you. It’s great fun, and provides a wonderful keepsake to remember your trips by! If you aren’t able to get outdoors much this summer, be sure to check out Nature Anatomy! It’s one of our favorite completed nature journals!