Nature Themed Stamped Muslin Favor Bags




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.


Giving Your Children the Gift of Reading {And a Giveaway}

My children are typical kids—they do not love to pick up their things or do chores, and it is an area in which I am constantly working to train them. But a curious thing happened recently. They became completely captivated in a way I have never seen, while I read aloud a little story from Eloise Wilkin Stories , called We Help Mommy. It is a sweet story about a brother and sister who cheerfully help their mother with chores around the house. When we were finished reading my kids asked—begged actually—to do some of those same chores in our home. Because of this book, my oldest has developed a newfound enthusiasm for doing laundry! It got me thinking about the gift and power of good books… and this post. :-)

Loving God With Our Minds… Jesus calls us in the gospels to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. One way to encourage our kids to love God with their minds is through reading. Reading engages the mind. As my kids get older I will encourage them to read diverse authors and books because it offers opportunities to exercise critical thinking as we examine a book’s message from a Biblical worldview. Paul modeled this practice more than once— as he quoted the poets of his day and interpreted them to his audience in light of Gospel truth. (This type of critical thinking also equips us to do what 2 Co 10:5 talks about.)

Literature and books cause us to think, they expand our imaginations, they captivate, instruct, mentor, and inspire. They enlarge our understanding of and capacity to reflect Him in whose image we were made. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for reading. And when we give this gift to them when they are young, we lay a foundation for reading to become a lifelong habit.

Read the rest and enter the giveaway at Mom Heart.

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,

DIY Advent Calendar {With Printables}

Follow me over to Mom Heart today— where I’m sharing my instructions and printables for a DIY Advent calendar. There are daily activities and scripture readings (with optional discussion questions) to enjoy with your kids.


Thanks Giving


Thanksgiving comes early around here.

We celebrate it in October in Canada. It always sneaks up on me. We are usually still in the midst of harvest with combines roaring and the crop coming off, row after row. Grain by the cart-fulls, barreling into the yard to be stored. Back and forth from field to yard, the blessing is not lost on me. Which is why I think it’s so hard when Thanksgiving feels tucked into the fringes of this season.

This year’s fullness of fall activities and harvest proved to be a good distraction—  and once again Thanksgiving was upon us. Although I have been writing thanks for some time now, keeping a record of His gifts, I like to prepare for a season such as this in a tangible, fun way with the kids.

The few days leading up to Thanksgiving were full, preparing for guests and making food for the guys in the field. It occurred to me that we could spin this another way, we could begin our intentional record keeping of gifts starting on Canadian Thanksgiving and ending in a celebration of American Thanksgiving. After all I am technically American!

The trees were still full of fall leaves. We brought in branches, we made our own paper branches, and we cut out leaves from sticky notes and found apple shaped sticky notes.
This would become our tree of Thanksgiving where we could visibly see His gifts given in this short space of time. All of us, collaborating a chorus of praise.

As American Thanksgiving is fast approaching, would you consider how your family might collaborate to intentionally mark your gratitude?

Time speeds along during this season of the year—  maybe one little act could draw your family into His presence as you seek to see His gifts?

So when you come around the Thanksgiving table at the end of the month you will have seen His glory in a new way, experienced His goodness in a new way, given your kids the gift of counting His gifts. You may just decide it’s too great to stop counting!

Happy Thanksgiving from up North.


P.S. Ann Voskamp has an awesome free printable that could be the thing your looking for?? We will be doing this next year for sure, so lovely.

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:


Crafts, Play and Games:
Websites and Other Resources:
Apps (do a search under these names on your device):
  •  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:

Playful Learning

My very favorite place to find inspiration for beautiful activities to do with my kids is Playful Learning. Mariah (the founder) writes very thoughtful content that has been so helpful to me. Her book, blog, e-courses, and mini-courses, offer parents ideas and resources for creating learning spaces and experiences in their homes. Whether you send your kids to school— or homeschool like we do, you will find inspiration for nurturing in your children a love for leaning as well as great tips for organizing materials— from chore charts to books, school papers to art supplies, and more.

Here are a few of our favorite Playful Learning inspired projects:

Twig Books:

Phases of the Moon Journals (from the Playful Learning book):

Adalie’s DIY ABC Photography Book (inspired by this post):

Andy Goldsworthy Inspired Artwork (see this post):

And the design and materials included in our writing center and atelier

(thanks to the Playful Learning Spaces E-course):

Mariah has been so generous to offer one of our readers her book, Playful Learning, as well as a spot in the Playful Learning Spaces e-Course! I know you will find them both to be very inspiring and helpful. From the Playful Learning Spaces course description:

“Throughout the six classes we will explore and share ideas for creating areas that invite children to engage in reading, writing, science, art, and more. We will also discuss organization, storage, and selecting materials for different ages and stages of child development. Each class consists of  a video that contains basic educational principles, simple guidelines, and helpful photos.”

We’ll keep this giveaway open until the end of the week since it is such a big one.

I hope you win!




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up here today:

Nature Sensory Game

You will need:

  • Tin can with plastic lid (coffee/formula/hot chocolate tins will work well)
  • A tall sock that you don’t mind cutting
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Scissors

Use scissors to cut the sock right above the heel (so that you are cutting off the heel). Use the can opener to cut off the bottom of the can (mine wasn’t sharp at all after cutting; if yours is, you may want to tape around the edge so little hands won’t get hurt). Stretch the cut end of the sock over the bottom of the tin can. Use duct tape to tape the sock in place and to cover your tin can. Put the plastic lid on the bottom (so what was the top is now on bottom).

To play the game (great for preschoolers and kindergarteners): You may want one sensory can for each child, or they can take turns using one. Have the kids collect a few items each to put in their cans. (Go on a nature walk, take a walk as a family around your block, or have the kids hunt for items in your backyard.) Then have them take turns reaching their arms through the sock, into the other’s can to feel (without removing) one of the items. Encourage them to describe the item— ask questions if they need help: is it hard or soft, smooth or prickly, large or small?  After the child briefly describes the item, they are to guess what the object might be. Then they can pull it out and see if they were right! If needed— you can remove the bottom plastic lid to clean out can before starting again. My girls really enjoy this game and love hunting for unique finds to add to their cans. One of our recent favorites was a milkweed pod.

Some  other fun items to collect:  flowers, leaves, tree bark, rocks, a plastic toy found on the ground, clothespins, cattails, acorns, pinecones, nuts, or seeds.

If you decide to take a nature walk, you may also enjoy printing off this nature scavenger hunt activity to take along.

Have fun as you cultivate in your children a love and appreciation for God’s creation!


Grandma’s Waffles

This recipe was passed down to me from my grandmother, and it is the best waffle recipe out there. It is our favorite weekend breakfast to enjoy as a family. We often eat ours topped with bananas, walnuts or pecans, and just a touch of syrup, but you can enjoy them however your heart {or mouth} desires. So gather your little helpers this weekend (if you have little helpers) and make these together…

Sour Cream Waffles
3 eggs, separated
¾ cup milk
½ cup butter, melted
¾ cup sour cream (or to make it healthier can substitute plain yogurt)
1 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Separate eggs. Beat yolks with milk, butter, vanilla and sour cream. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Mix well. In a different mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, then gently fold into batter to finish batter.


Linking up here:

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:


Happy reading!