Beluga Whale Fun

I happened upon a pretty incredible video that you have to see to believe today — a beluga whale playing fetch!

Now if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will.  🙂

I had to share it, and figured I might as well see if I could find some fun stuff about beluga whales for kids to go along with it.  So….

Here are a few facts about beluga whales for the kids…

  • Beluga whales are also called white whales.
  • They are one of the smallest species of whales.  Even so, they can still reach 2,000 to 3,000 pounds and 13-20 feet long.
  • Beluga whales are mammals, like us.
  • Like us, they are very social and like to be around others.  They live in small communities called pods.
  • Belugas eat fish, crustaceans and worms.
  • They live mostly in the Arctic.
  • Belugas like to talk and are nicknamed “sea canaries” because they are so vocal. They talk to each other with clicks, clangs and whistles, and can also imitate other sounds they hear.
  • Belugas love to play!  There are lots of reports of them swimming alongside boats and of playing with objects they find in the water, both in the wild and in captivity.
  • They are endangered.  They need our help keeping the oceans safe to keep them safe.

And here are some fun crafts about beluga whales

OFLC MOPS has this fun marshmallow beluga craft and some links.

 

All Kids has a darling sock whale craft.

Leenawee Great Start has a fun and simple Baby Beluga painting project.

The Iowa Farmer’s Wife has a darling paper bag beluga.

The Joy of Sharing has a sweet paper plate beluga craft.

Learn Create Love has a great beluga printable with some more info.

And lastly, thechristinejuang has a free tutorial to make these adorable stuffed belugas.

Have fun!

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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Monday! 

Long time, no see, I know!  How about we make a little magic this week? 

Note:  I started this post early Monday morning but I have a sick little girl today so I am just now finishing it.  Lucky for me, it’s still Monday so I’m still good.  😉

Here are ten little ways to make a little magic with your kiddos this week…

1. Leave some painted rocks in nature for folks to stumble upon. 

painted rock fiona

2.  Give the kids some paint pens or labels and pens, and let them alter some of your spice bottles with magical or crazy names.  Basil can become fairy grass or peppercorns can become eye of newt.  Let the kids’ imaginations run wild!  We did this a few years ago and it was so fun to open the cupboards and find our renamed containers!  

3.  Make a wreath for the door together. It can be made of anything — grapevine wreaths decorated with ornaments and ribbon, pine boughs wired in a circle with a big bow, or simple colored paper hand prints.  Do it together and hang it proudly.

4.  Head outside for a nature scavenger hunt.  If you like, make it an alphabet hunt and try to find items that start with each letter of the alphabet (like wooly bear caterpillar for W). 

5156395983_4f897a8ef4

5.  Give little ones laundry basket rides in the kitchen or down the hallway.  Put a pillow in the bottom, plop a child in and then push, pull and spin it around to your little one’s delight.  You can thread a jump rope or scarf through some holes or the handle to make it easier to pull.  Kids can give each other rides too (and the pulling is great exercise to expend some of that extra energy!).

6. Learn a song together and film yourselves singing it (as flamboyantly as possible!). Send the clip to loved ones and spread some smiles.

7.  Make Painted Soap Clouds

soap

8.  Go gather some pine cones (or whatever is similar in your part of the world) and bring them home to craft with them.  Cover them with glue, glitter, sequins and multicolored paint to display them all over the house and as ornaments.  Nothing is more fun to your average small child than getting to make gluey, glittery, multi-colored messes!

9. Leave silly notes in hiding places all over the house. It may take months for somebody to stumble on all of them, but it’s a wonderful way to break up an ordinary day to suddenly stumble on a note that says “Mama loves you” or “Kisses!  You must come give your grandma 18 kisses immediately upon finding this!”.

10. Dress up in super fabulous clothes and go grocery shopping.  Crowns optional!

And with that, chickadees, I’m off to hopefully not disappear for quite as long this time.  Have a magical week!

 

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Making Mushroom Spore Prints!

Have you and your kiddos ever made spore prints?  It’s easy to do and so fun — not to mention a bit educational!

Spore prints! A Magical Childhood

Miss Fiona and I made some spore prints this month from wild mushrooms that big sister Rhiannon (Anna to you old time readers) found while hiking in the woods with our dog, Moose.  The oyster mushrooms made white spore prints that looked beautiful on black construction paper, while the mysterious others (tentatively identified by hubby but I forgot what he thought they were) gave us some brown and grayish ones. 

Spore prints from other mushrooms can be green, pink and more!

Mushroom hunters use spore prints to identify mushrooms, but they’re also just really fun to make.

I put instructions on how to make them in this month’s Wild Kids Magazine, a free nature magazine that I’ve been putting out this year.  You can read it and find out more about spore prints there.  Make sure to talk to kids about mushroom safety, and wash hands afterwards.

Have a magical week!

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New Meta-Analysis of Hundreds of Studies: Nature Boosts Children’s Learning in Eight Ways

nature boosts children learning

A large metastudy of hundreds of scientific studies has found what most parents and teachers already know — nature has a powerfully positive impact on children’s learning and on their emotional health.

“Report after report – from independent observers as well as participants themselves – indicate shifts in perseverance, problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and resilience,” the authors wrote.  “The evidence here is particularly strong, including experimental evidence; evidence across a wide range of samples and instructional approaches; outcomes such as standardized test scores and graduation rates; and evidence for specific explanatory mechanisms and active ingredients.”

The meta-analysis (a study that combined the results of many other studies) was published last month in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.  After combining all of the findings, the researchers found that nature helps children learn in eight different ways.

The eight key ways that nature helps children learn were:

Nature Rejuvenates Kids and Helps Them Focus

Studies showed that whether it was students going on field trips, Swedish preschoolers, children in Chicago public housing, or 5 to 18-year-olds with ADHD, nature had a rejuvenating effect on attention.  These findings were confirmed not just by parent and teacher ratings, but by neurocognitive tests.

Nature Relieves Stress

The studies showed that even seeing nature out the classroom window had a positive effect on kids, lowering their heart rates and leading to kids who reported lower stress levels.  Better yet were the kids who were able to learn in a forest setting once a week.  Those kids had lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels even beyond what could be attributed to the physical activity of being outdoors.

Contact With Nature Boosts Self-Discipline

Studies from Spain to inner city Chicago showed that kids who spent time in nature had better impulse control, including kids with ADHD and learning disabilities.  Contact with animals such as horses was found to also have a positive effect.

Student Motivation, Enjoyment, and Engagement Are Better in Natural Settings

Many of the studies found that students and teachers reported strikingly high levels of student engagement and motivation, not just in nature activities that kids had chosen to take part in but also in mandatory school activities in nature.  The researchers noted that learning in and around nature was associated with intrinsic motivation and not just extrinsic motivation (meaning kids were motivated to do things themselves and not doing them because they were forced to), which is important in keeping kids engaged and interested in learning.

“The positivity of learning in nature seem to ripple outward, as seen in learners’ engagement in subsequent, indoor lessons, ratings of course curriculum, materials, and resources and interest in school in general, as well as lower levels of chronic absenteeism,” the authors wrote.

The researchers also found that “learning in nature may improve motivation most in those students who are least motivated in traditional classrooms.”

Time Outdoors Is Tied to Higher Levels of Physical Activity and Fitness

Children’s time outdoors was linked to cardiorespiratory fitness, the type of fitness most clearly associated with better academic performances.  Studies also showed that kids who had access to nature stayed more active, even into adulthood.

Natural Settings Provide Calmer, Quieter, Safer Contexts for Learning

The researchers found that both formal and informal learning improved in nature.  When they were learning in a natural setting, kids were less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors like pushing each other or talking out of turn.  “Further, in greener learning environments, students who previously experienced difficulties in traditional classrooms are better able to remove themselves from conflicts and demonstrate better self-control,” the authors noted.

Natural Settings Foster Friendlier, More Cooperative Relations

Many of the studies showed that natural settings helped kids make friends and feel more trusting.  The researchers theorized that the kids were able to engage more with each other, and that they had a better spirit of cooperation not just with each other but with their teachers.  In addition, they reported that “learning in greener settings has been consistently tied to the bridging of both socio-cultural differences and interpersonal barriers (e.g., personality conflicts) that can interfere with group functioning in the classroom.”

Natural Settings Encourages “Loose Parts” Play, Independence and Healthier Forms of Play

The benefits of “loose parts” play (play involving small objects that kids can use to play and create in open-ended ways) are extended into nature, where kids have access to sticks, rocks, water, dirt and other natural materials.  Studies have shown that teachers and principals found that kids who engaged in loose parts play in nature had more physically active, social and creative play, which were likely to lead to improvements in social, emotional and academic development.

Some of the most interesting studies included:

  • One study of over 3,000 students found that kids who took part in a classroom garden learned more than those on the wait list.  The more garden time they had, the more they learned.
  • Several studies showed that having nature around schools led to better standardized test scores, even in schools with high poverty levels.
  • Many studies showed that time in “wilderness” led to kids developing better leadership skills, resilience, self-confidence, cooperation, perseverance, critical thinking and more.
  • Greener everyday environments seemed to buffer kids from stress and give them better coping skills.

The authors noted that even small doses of nature helped kids, like being able to see nature out their classroom windows.  Obviously, the more time they spent in nature, the better, though.  They wrote:

“Even small exposures to nature are beneficial. If you’re indoors, having a view of your yard as opposed to facing the wall, that makes a difference. At the same time, more is better. That’s one of the things that gives us more confidence that we’re seeing a real cause-and-effect relationship,” Kuo says. “The bigger the dose of nature we give a person, the bigger the effect we see in them.”

Looking for some inspiration to get your kids outside?  I’ve been publishing a free nature-based monthly magazine for kids and their grown ups this year — Wild Kids Magazine.  You and your kiddos can read it online or print it out. It’s a nonprofit project (just as this blog always has been), just to try to do my little bit to spread good stuff in the world.

wild kids collage

Want to help convince your school to incorporate more nature in its learning?  These organizations may be able to help.

Natural Start Alliance works to connect parents, teachers, day care providers and others who teach kids “with the tools they need to create great educational experiences that help young children explore the natural world, understand their environment, and build lifelong skills that will help keep them active and engaged in their communities.”

The Children & Nature Network encourages and supports the people and organizations working to reconnect every child in every community with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers, individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being. C&NN also provides resources for sharing information, strategic initiatives and success stories.

I’ve also created a list of my favorite nature-based books for families (and those I can’t wait to read) on Goodreads, from The Wild Weather Book to How to Grow a School Garden.  Please add your favorites!

“Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education.” 

–David Polis

Here’s to more nature goodness for all of us.

 

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Oodles of Nutcracker Kids’ Crafts!

nutcracker-kids-crafts

Miss Fiona and her daddy have a tradition this time of year of watching The Nutcracker and reading picture books about nutcrackers.  Daryl also has a collection of nutcrackers that the kids love to play with.

Last week, Fiona asked me if she could spend her money on a nutcracker for daddy.  The nutcracker in question was overpriced and badly made, so I offered to help her make him a nutcracker instead.  She loved the idea and I was on the hunt for some fun and easy nutcracker crafts.

Here are the best that I found, in case your kiddos would like to make some nutcrackers of their own.

Sophie World has this easy printable nutcracker that kids color and then glue to a toilet paper tube.  Add embellishments like buttons, feathers, pompoms and even a toothpick sword if you like.  It’s a bit tricky to find the PDF — click on “stats” to find it.

Nutcracker-toilet tube roll

Learn Create Love has a printable nutcracker that kids can color and then cut out and assemble.

nutcracker printable

Playground Park Bench has a rather elaborate Nutcracker and mouse battle tic tac toe game made of clothespins that you can make with the kids.  I’m not sure we need to buy all the parts and do it that fancy, but I’m thinking we could use some clothespins and craft supplies around the house to make our own kid versions.

Nutcracker-Game-Playing-Tic-Tac-Toe-with-Toy-Soldiers

Schooling a Monkey shows how to make cute little craft stick nutcracker characters.

Nutcracker-Craft-popsicle-stick

Crafty Morning uses popsicle sticks, paper and clothespins to make some very cute kid-made nutcrackers.

nutcracker-christmas-craft-for-kids

Glued to My Crafts has a sweet paper plate nutcracker for kids to craft.

nutcracker-paper-plate

Fireflies and Mudpies shows how to make a toy soldier ornament with craft sticks and paint.

nutcracker-Toy-Soldier-Ornament

And I am in love with these darling nutcracker portraits shared on smArt Class.

nutcracker-drawings

She also shared this video to show kids how to draw their own nutcrackers.

 

 

Deviant Art’s CyberDrone has a printable nutcracker cube kids can have fun assembling, too.

nutcracker_cube

Lastly, Mom Junction has an assortment of Nutcracker themed coloring pages to print out for the kids to color.

nutcracker-coloring-pages

And with that, I’m off to do a billion nutcracker crafts with a happy little girl.

 

 

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10 Ways to Make Today Magical

Happy Monday! 

It’s been too long since I’ve popped in and I’m once again resolving to find a way to do so more regularly. 

So let’s start by getting back to some ways to make the day more magical.  🙂

Here are 10 ways to make a little magic this week…

1. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.  I have a free fall nature scavenger hunt printable page here that you can use, or you can make up your own.

October nature find

2.  Make a leaf crown!  All you need are some pretty leaves (nothing else!) and about five minutes to make a gorgeous leaf crown.  Here’s a short video showing how to do it.

3.  Teach your child how to make a favorite recipe.  Even little kids can learn to make simple things like sandwiches, and big kids love to learn how to cook fancier dishes. 

fiona pizza sauce

4.  Go see a free presentation.  Local libraries, museums, schools and other community centers tend to sponsor all kinds of free talks on everything from butterflies to meteor showers to prohibition.  See if you can find some upcoming talks that your kids would be interested in and go learn something new together.

alex still

5.  Make up some homemade instant hot cocoa mix.  I shared our basic recipe in the Instagram post below. You can adapt the formula to make it vegan, sugar free or otherwise meet your dietary needs and preferences (chime in if you have a favorite paleo version!).  Adjust the proportions until you find the proper ratio for your tastes and then you have your own personal hot cocoa mix that the kids can mix up when they want to warm up with something sweet.

6.  Help your child start a collection.  Kids love to collect things — any things!  Some of our kids’ favorite collections over the years have been rocks, artist trading cards, bugs and bottle caps (Jack’s favorite collection).  You can even collect non-physical things, like types of clouds you’ve spotted (check out The Cloud Collector’s Handbook for a great book for doing that!).

bottle caps

7.  Have some fun with photo apps.  We created this fun picture of Alex with the free Photo Labs app.  Or just open up Snapchat and take some fun selfies together.  Print out and frame your favorite, if you like.

alex comic

8.  Leaf a message.  Use pretty leaves to write sweet or silly messages outside and see who will wander onto them!

View this post on Instagram

#justbecause #leafamessage

A post shared by Sharizat (@sharizat_eats) on

9.  Make some marbleized fall leaves.  Even if you don’t have fall leaves where you live (or not right now), you can make some gorgeous ones with your kiddos.  Apartment Therapy tells you how to use shaving cream, acrylic paint and watercolor paper to make these pretty leaves.

marbelized leaves

10. Have an early morning picnic and watch the sunrise together.  Get up a little early and grab something simple like muffins and a thermos of hot tea and go sit and watch the sunrise together.  You can watch from the back yard, your balcony, the roof of your apartment, a local park, or even pulled over in the car in a pretty area on your way to work and school.  Take some time to just talk and soak in the beauty. 

photo of toddler standing near lake

Photo by Káťa Prouzová on Pexels.com

And with that, my pretties, I’m off to find some food for a hungry little girl and try to wrestle my house in order.

Have a magical week!

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Shrunken Apple Heads!

Here’s a fun little science and nature craft just in time for Halloween.  The kids and I made shrunken apple heads this month and it’s been great fun watching them change over time.

shrunken apple heads

All you need are some apples (we used imperfect ones off a generous neighbor’s tree), salt and lemon juice.

First peel your apples.  You can leave a little on the top and bottom like a little hat and scarf.

Then give your child some carving tools (a chopstick, grapefruit spoon or pen knife all work well, depending on your child’s age and skill level with tools).  You can trace your design first with a pen or pencil, if you like.

Carve out a face, making sure to make each feature large since they will shrink up and collapse somewhat.

shrunken apple head

Then mix up some salt and lemon juice and apply it all over, especially in the parts you’ve carved out.  This will prevent mold and also protect them from getting too brown.  If you like, you can talk to the kids about how salt has been used for thousands of years to preserve foods and other things, and how acids like lemon juice slow oxidation (browning caused by a chemical reaction when substances react with oxygen).

preserving shrunken apple head

Now just put your apple heads somewhere to dry.  Choose a location where you can watch them and keep up with how they change.

Have fun!

 

 

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