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.

 

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:

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!

 

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:

a Rafflecopter giveaway