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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Tabletop Devotions

This is a fun and easy way to do devotions as a family. It is a combination of this post on Fruit of the Spirit Trees and something I heard from Deb Weakly (a Mom Heart Leader)—  while attending Sally Clarkson’s Mom Heart Leadership Intensive a couple of summers ago. Deb shared with us her idea to put devotions or verses in a jar on the table. When you are sitting down as a family for a meal you can pull one out and discuss it. This is a great way to get dads involved and if you do the prep — the dads can easily step in to facilitate. I know my husband appreciates when I prepare such things— he wants to do devotions with our kids but works hard and doesn’t have the time that I do to plan them.

So, to get it all ready— I stuck some branches in a vase— to be our “tree”. Then I made little paper fruits and tied strings onto them so that they could be hung on the tree.  I printed and cut out a list of verses related to the fruits of the Spirit and put them in a jar. The tree and jar of verses were placed on our table.

Each night at dinner the kids would pull a verse out of the jar. We would discuss what it means and how that fruit plays out in our lives. My kids are little, so after describing one of the traits— like kindness, we would ask them questions like, “so when you grab a toy out of your sister’s hand, is that being kind? What would be a kind way to ask for the toy? How about when you help your sister get her shoes on, is that being kind?” We gave them both negative and positive examples. You can change the scenarios to fit the ages of your kids. We always talk about how we can’t make these good choices without God’s help because we all have sin in our hearts, that He forgives us when we do make mistakes, and that he wants to help us do better next time… so that we are teaching them the gospel instead of moralistic legalism.

In the days following, when I saw the kids exhibit any of the fruits of the Spirit, I let them hang a fruit on the tree. They loved it and it was a great way to train them in what is good. (I’ve found that training works best when you don’t wait until the middle of a meltdown to discuss whether something is right or wrong! It needs to be a part of our normal conversation throughout each day!)

Since we’ve finished our fruit of the Spirit devotions, we are now using Clay Clarkson’s devotional for families— Our 24 Family Ways. I photo-copied the “ways” (these are like household rules or norms— such as: we love, encourage, forgive, and serve one another) with their related verses and stuck them in the jar and we will be discussing these at dinnertime for a while.

What are some ways that you do family devotions? I would love to hear!

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!

 

 

 

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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!

 

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:

bookmark-image-for-web

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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