Nature Themed Stamped Muslin Favor Bags

 

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I know we have a lot of readers that are here for the 31 Days Bible series, so sorry if children’s party favors are not your penchant! ;-) I’m hoping to get another post in the series up sometime this week.

I LOVE play based learning, children’s parties, gift giving, and nature. So last year, for my daughter’s birthday, I thought it would be fun to give some fun and educational party favors to her sweet friends (yes, I’ve been meaning to write this post for a year now). Favors that (hopefully) wouldn’t get tossed in the trash after a couple of days, but that would inspire their curiosities and/or be used again and again. I decided to order muslin bags and personalize them with stamps for each of the kids. We’ve had a couple of these muslin bags for a while and my kids use them to collect nature finds or for nature treasure hunts.

Inside each favor bag we included:

  • A cookie-cutter bird feeder (wrapped in wax paper bags that I had on hand). Directions for the bird feeders are here.
  • A magnifying glass. We used these ones.
  • A bird warbler whistle, like these.
  • A granola bar, bubble gum, and fruit leather.

Other fun additions would be a card-stock or laminated nature treasure hunt card, a mini hand-made flower press (like the one seen here), or mini hand-made bird watching journal.

Here are the bags, alphabet stamps (similar), butterfly stamp, feather stamp, and ink we used, but you could use any nature themed stamp you already own.

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Not just for the Birds!

We have been schooling around our dining room table for about three years now. It has been an incredible gift and blessing. It’s also very challenging, as I find my children are always a great mirror, revealing my inadequacies, hard and broken places, but it has been a good opportunity of God’s refining as I am so acutely aware of my need for him on a moment to moment basis.

Let’s just say that if patience were a prerequisite to home schooling we wouldn’t be around the table!… God may lead us down paths and through doorways that He purposes, we don’t necessarily need to be equipped before hand. In fact, it seems he likes it that way

This year of schooling for us has been interesting as we are learning to navigate our days with and around a two-year old. Some days it feels like we school all day but the way we school is very much integrated into our life. We have our set rhythms and goals to accomplish but I don’t look at school and life as two separate things, they are intertwined, mixed together (more these days with Si!) so that the lines of learning and life are blurred and all is woven together in our attempt at a one piece life.

One thing that has become a favorite is to combine nature study and drawing.

Because we live on a  farm with bush and ponds in abundance we have the privilege to engage with nature intimately, daily. I have realized that this is a great gift and not one that we want to squander. But alas we live in the Great White North, AKA Canada where the winters can feel like they go on and on and on and… oh anyway you get the point! Even though we aren’t outside as much, we still like to learn about nature so we have taken to learning about birds in the winter, which may sound funny since we don’t see very many out and about during these short, cold days but hey it works for us and it’s so fun to start spotting many of them come spring! Side note: Its super cool when your kids are way smarter than you are!

This past summer I found the book, The Cuckoo’s Haiku, which I think I have mentioned here before as its soooo beautiful!

It set the gears moving for a little make shift unit study that we can throw in every few weeks to give our lives some beauty, imagination and creativity. I thought I would share with you how we are using this book in the hope that it might inspire you whether your schooling at home or not.

It’s a great hour around the table for any sort of quiet morning or afternoon. (AKA when baby Si is sleeping!)

The book is laid out by season which, wallah, gives you major direction right there! So since we are now in winter we just turn to the winter birds, pick one and go for it. Each bird has a haiku that goes along with it, revealing many qualities and habits of the bird. It has been really fun to see how the girls pick up on the haiku to learn about the bird and how it helps them to remember things about each bird. Gotta love poetry! :)

Each bird has a two page spread with beautiful water-color renderings of the bird and some of its habitat. It also has some smaller notes and information about the bird to further learning and understanding.

Once we read and dissect the Haiku and talk about what we have learned, they take out their nature notebooks and do their own drawing of the bird. Many times they want to copy what is in the book, which is fine by me as this helps them to produce a great finished product that they are happy with.

While they are drawing I find a correlating story in the Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess. This is a sweet living book that gives notable information on each bird while telling an engaging story. We also like to look up some information and pictures online as well as listen to the birds call or song. As we talk about the bird they will write down in a corner of their drawing some things they want to remember or find interesting so they have a resource to come back to.

We usually do tea right before with a little muffin or cheese etc… I find I love this as it sets a tone for the table of gathering, peace, and focus.

If this all sounds very well and good, out of an Anne of Green Gables story line well… you might be right!

It’s one of my favorite times; seeing their drawing skills get better and being inspired by a beautiful book! I love that they have their nature notebooks as a record of our life, and progress and interesting information!

I have found that some of our favorite learning times together have been when we are inspired by things that we already own and just put them together to form interesting, engaging ways to learn. If you school at home or even if you don’t I am sure that you have many resources that are hanging out on your shelves to create moments of learning to fill a low-key, (it’s a blowing, freezing, cold stay inside) day!

If you have been inspired by nature or books I would love to hear about it!

Happy learning,

Kids and Nature, Psalm 19, How to Identify Evergreen Trees {with a printable} and More

 

Getting our kids and ourselves outside— in nature— is important. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Nature reveals to us that a Creator exists. When you look at the intricacy of nature is hard to believe it is all here by chance; the complex beauty and the way that all works together to create this perfect place to live… points to a Master Designer, which helps to shape a Biblical worldview. In the words of CS Lewis, when you look at the wonder of creation “it takes more faith to be an atheist” than to believe in a Creator.

God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening. Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere. (Psalm 19:1-4 The Message) See also Psalm 8:3-4, Jeremiah 8:7, Matthew 2:2, Acts 2:19-20, Revelation 8:12, Romans 1:19-20.

2. Nature reveals the nature of the Creator. Have you ever been to a museum to see a famous sculptor or painting? Have you ever taken in a masterpiece of art? When you listen to musical geniuses like Handel or Bach, or read great works by Tolkien, are you not amazed by their creativity and skill? The thing about taking in such a work is that you wonder more at the brilliance of the artist than the art itself. And so it is in creation. In nature so much is revealed about God’s nature— His power, sovereignty, goodness, vastness, care, majesty, creativity, wisdom, intentionality and more.

3. Nature— creation— is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, yet we are often so busy that we hardly make time to “open” the gift. It’s like receiving a million dollar gift and choosing never to open it. When God created the world He made provisions— not just for humankind’s needs— but also for their wants. He hid all sorts of gifts in the earth for us to uncover and discover. Sweet fruit to eat, wildflowers to make the earth beautiful, the songs of birds to fill the air.  In all that He made— He provided wonderful things to see, taste, smell, hear, touch, discover, and use. It all is a gift and He made it to be a blessing and balm to our souls.

4. Spending time in nature connects us to our Creator. All of this— the intricacy, artistry and goodness of God’s creation—  evokes a response of worship. There is so much to take in and to cause us to marvel at His brilliance. There is an excellent book that talks about connecting with God through nature (among other venues) called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.

5. Nature arouses the imagination (as numbers 1-4 above imply) and 6. is beneficial to the health.

Kids today are being entertained to death. Seriously. Their health— physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual is at stake as they are either rushed around from one organized activity to the next, or stuck in front of TVs and video games for hours on end. How dull. Where is real life— real living—  in that? I’m not saying that we don’t participate in some organized activities or that we don’t ever watch TV— we do!— but the statistics are mind-blowing (I’ve read reports that say kids spend 30-53 hours per week on electronic media). Kids today seem to be bored if they are not being entertained. Is imagination becoming a lost art?

I think about how Jesus (and many great story tellers) often used inspiration from nature to teach and tell stories and parables. They had great imaginations (and though Jesus was God he was fully human— with human limitations)! If we want to redeem our children’s minds and health and reverse the course of the current literacy crisis and obesity trends— perhaps we (parents) ought to encourage our kids to get outside, do something active, explore nature, to engage their minds and imaginations.

•••

Here are some of our favorite nature resources, games, crafts and ideas:

Books:

Crafts, Play and Games:
Websites and Other Resources:
Apps (do a search under these names on your device):
  • Peak.ar  This app tells you names of surrounding mountains as you hold up your device.
  • iNaturalist  This app allows you to take photos, and ask other users questions to help you identify plants, etc.
  • iBird  This app allows you to search for and helps you identify birds.

Here is a {printable— just click here or on the image below for the PDF} handout that I made for my kids and our Classical Conversations group. Use this to teach your kids how to identify common evergreen trees… print a few and paste them into your nature journals! Then go on a hike and try to find these types of trees!

I hope you are encouraged to do some nature exploration (structured or unstructured) with your kids this weekend! I would love to hear what you are doing during these beautiful fall days to get your kids out in nature.

Liking up here today:

Home Art Studio Giveaway

This week,  Home Art Studio is {generously} giving away an art curriculum DVD to one of our readers.

We will be using the Kindergarten DVD with Adalie this coming school year, and Alli will be using the videos with her girls. I am so grateful for these videos because art is not my strongest subject! This is a great K-5 homeschool art program but it can also be used for “schooling” families who want to provide opportunities to nurture the little artists in their homes.

You can try out some free lessons here.

Last week Adalie and Annika did the first lesson on the Kindergarten DVD. They LOVE art projects and really enjoyed learning about primary and secondary colors through the Color Mixing Hands lesson.

From the DVD: “The Home Art Studio program is designed to increase students’ love and appreciation of the visual arts. Art education enhances a child’s ability to problem solve, think creatively, and truly see the world around them. The 18 projects students will complete are designed to illustrate the elements and principles of art in an age appropriate way.”

I hope you win… your little artists will love it!

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We are linking up here today:

Soul Food

I just wanted to share a few things that are feeding my soul at the moment:

First, the Tim Keller Podcast (thanks Krissy!) Tim Keller is one of my favorite preachers and I used to buy his sermons at the Redeemer Store… but his podcast makes his sermons available for free! This past week I listed to his sermons on Spiritual Warfare and The Healing of Anger. Both were great.

 

The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi.

I am not very far into this book but it is SO good that I had to share it with you. “Mangalwadi was born and raised in India where he studied philosophy in secular universities and Hindu ashrams. After studying in Swiss L’Abri for six months, he returned to India to serve the rural poor through several creative projects.”

In the first chapter of the book Mangalwadi looks at the Biblically shaped western worldview of past in contrast to the modern worldview that has abandoned Biblical views and values, showing us how this “liberation” of Biblical values has shaped modern society. By peering into the life of Kurt Cobain, a musician who sold more records than Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley— whose lyrics and music obviously resonate with a generation, we can see the logical outcomes of such a nihilistic worldview: lives marked by suffering and meaninglessness, broken families, a loss of truly great music and art, teen deaths by suicide and murder (which  was practically unheard of before the “liberation” of the 60s), and so on. Mangalwadi goes on to share his own journey to Christian faith and explores how a Biblical worldview— or lack thereof, shapes views on self, humanity, rationality, technology, heroism, revolution, languages, literature, education, science, morality, family, compassion, liberty, and more.

A must read! And if you are interested in hearing some of the lectures from L’Abri, you can do so here. (Again, thanks Krissy!)

And then there is this… I love this band. Their music moves my soul:

What books, music, and resources are feeding your soul? I’d love to hear. {My favorites always come to me as referrals by friends.}

Playful Learning Ecademy Summer Sale

Congratulations to Lori Adams of Via Food (a wellness blog I love) who won the Playful Learning Giveaway.  Since many of you were interested in the Playful Learning Online Courses,  I wanted to share this with you:

This is such a great value— I hope many of you can take advantage of the sale!

For the Love {of Reading} With Printable Bookmark

You may have heard the quote by Emilie Buchwald, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” I once read a book that discussed this very idea, called Read to Lead by Ron Smith. In the book Smith looks at the lives of seven people who were leaders within different spheres of society. The one thing they all had in common? They were avid readers, and all of them developed a love for reading when they were young children— each because their mother or primary care-taker had read aloud to them on a regular basis and had taught them to read.

One way you can encourage your kids to love books and reading— and also improve their literacy skills, is to create a little reading or listening nook for them. Over the past couple of years we have collected a few audiobooks. After taking the Playful Learning Spaces eCourse (more on this this and a Playful Learning giveaway to come), I was inspired to organize our audiobooks into a little listening and reading nook. Our nook has gotten lots of use— the girls take turns in there throughout the day. It has been a great entertainment source for them while I am busy getting things done around the house or taking care of their baby brother. And when they want some down-time they will slip into their corner, hidden behind a chair, and listen to their favorite stories.

Here is my middle one listening to Beauty and the Beast… and also:

How to Create a Simple Reading Nook for Your Kids

You will need:

1 – A couple of baskets for storing your books and audiobooks (chalkboard/slate label from Michael’s).

2- A cozy nook.

3- A couple of comfy floor pillows. I love these.

4- A CD player and some earphones (for when the babe is sleeping or things need to be quiet).

A few tips:

Instead of dishing out a bunch of money to buy all new books, I went to Audible Kids and found the audio versions of some favorites we already own. I burned our purchases to blank CDs (each book got its own CD) and used these sleeves to make them into little kits. Another place we have found audiobooks is our local library. It’s fun to keep things fresh (and free!) by rotating books regularly. Although my three are pretty little, older kids would enjoy a reading nook too— as many beloved chapter books come in audio versions.

Check out these reading nooks for more ideas.

For a free printable 2×6 bookmark, click on the image below:

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Happy reading!

 

Give Away #5: $40 Gift Certificate to Kiwi Crate

Have you heard of Kiwi Crate? It was recommended to me by a good friend who is mama to two and a third grade teacher. It is a subscription service for parents (or grandparents!) of children ages 3-7. When you sign up your kids get a themed box of activities delivered to your door once a month. The themes vary from art to science projects, imaginative play and more. Everything you need to complete the projects comes in the box, so hunting around the house or trips to the craft store are not necessary. You can see some sample crates by clicking on their button:

Kiwi Crate Craft Kits
 

My kids got their first crate earlier this month. Opening a Kiwi Crate is like opening a present— they are packaged so beautifully and you don’t know what kind of surprise is waiting for you inside. Our first crate was “busy with bugs”. We had a lot of fun reading about bugs, making a cute little firefly (that actually glows and flies!), and painting on leaf and flower canvases with the bug shaped sponges.

At first I was hesitant to subscribe because of the price tag ($20 a month). I finally decided we could surely give up a night of eating out to make this work (plus we don’t pay for preschool since we school at home so I figured this would be a perfect addition to our pre-k and kindergarten curriculums). And… I’m so glad I signed up. These are perfect to bust the boredom of a rainy day—  or they are equally perfect for a busy day when you want to do something fun with your kids but do not have the ability to plan or prepare. Just open and go! The $40 gift card will get you a 2 month subscription (or 2 Crates). Kiwi Crate only ships throughout the US, so non-US residents can’t win this one. (There are still many remaining remaining give aways that are open to everyone.)

Here are my girls working on their crate. First, the firefly:

Then the bug paintings:


We are linking up here today:

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Day 4 Give Away: Botanical Journal from Rifle Paper Co.

I have a weakness for books, coffee, and journals. If I come across a beautiful journal my self-control begins to wane and I find it hard to resist the urge to make that little lovely my own. Some of you may be familiar with my sentiment …. and it is for you  that I happily announce this give away. One lucky reader will win a Botanical Journal from Rifle Paper Co. Aren’t they lovely? I don’t know how you will pick…

they come in blue,

or yellow

or pink.

Pondering what you might do with this journal if you win? You may enjoy reading this beautiful post on Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline. 


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Blog Launch Day 1 Give Away

I am excited to announce our first give away: two homegrown monogram mugs from Anthropologie (you pick the letters, of course).
I just love these mugs. These make a fun hostess gift, a birthday or Christmas gift for a friend, or tuck a little gift card inside as a thank you to your children’s teachers. Aren’t they lovely? You can win two of them! Keep one and give one away, keep or give them both.
I hope you win!

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