Here’s a super simple way to bring a little bit of nature indoors and teach kids a bit about ecosystems. Make a terrarium out of a jar from the recycling bin (we used a salsa jar) and a bit of moss and tiny plants from a shady area of your yard or nearby natural area.
Fiona’s terrarium lived happily on our piano for nearly a year before it had withered enough to consign it to the compost pile and recycling bin. Don’t forget to mist it occasionally if it seems to be drying out a bit, and it can last much longer.
Have you and your kiddos ever made spore prints? It’s easy to do and so fun — not to mention a bit educational!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
8. Leaf a message. Use pretty leaves to write sweet or silly messages outside and see who will wander onto them!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Now just put your apple heads somewhere to dry. Choose a location where you can watch them and keep up with how they change.
Do you know how to make a daisy chain or flower crown? It’s incredibly easy and so fun!
There are several classic ways to make a flower crown: the slit stem, braided, and woven. Here are the simple instructions to do all three.
Method #1 — Split stem
Trim flower stems to about 4 inches. Use a fingernail to make a small slit in the bottom half of each stem.
Thread one stem through the slit in the next, creating a chain. Continue, adding flowers to reach desired length. To form a circle or crown, make a second slit in the stem of the first flower, and slip the last flower through it.
If you like visuals, here’s a quick video that shows the split stem method of making a daisy chain.
Method #2 — Braided
This method makes a more tightly knit flower crown or daisy chain, and is a bit more durable. Simply braid three stems together for about an inch, and then add in more flowers to the braid.
This is another easy way to make a flower crown. Simply wrap one stem around the flower of the next, pull both stems to the side, and add another. Wrap that stem around the first two, pull all three stems to the side, and continue. As stems end, they will be woven into the line well enough to stay put. To finish, wrap the last flower around the first flower and the end of the chain, forming a circle.
And here’s a short video that shows the woven method of making a flower crown.
Our Annalee (Rhiannon Lee, known these days as Rhia) also made a simple rose crown years ago and shared the instructions here on Magical Childhood.