Saturday, August 29, 2009

Nature Explorers Club - Queen Anne's Lace

Welcome to The Nature Explorers Club. I am a mom who loves nature and loves to share it with others. Using my experience as an Outdoor Education Instructor and the basic guidelines of the book "Nature For the Very Young", I will be venturing out to explore the great outdoors every week with my kids. Every week I will share what we did, and every week you are welcome to join us. I will post the topic of the week, the none week later I will share what we did and give you a chance to share as well. So get your boots ready, because we're going exploring!

This week we are looking for:
Queen Anne's Lace
Photo courtesy of
Queen Anne's Lace, also known as Wild Carrot, is a very common flower that can be found in most open fields or abandoned lots. To many, it is considered a weed. A weed is simply a plant that is not desired. It is up to you wether or not you want to deem this beautiful flower a weed. It derives its name Queen Anne's Lace because of how the flower head (called an umbel) looks like lace. If you have it, bring apiece of lace with you to compare, especially since many children have no idea what lace is.

Queen Anne's Lace is a biennial plant, meaning that it takes two years for it to grow to maturity. The first year there is a mound of leaves, the second year it grows flowers and stems. The large umbel is actually a gathering of several smaller flowers. Some young flowers can be found bearing a deep purple color, which will fade as the flower matures.
Photo courtesy of

Attempt to pull one from the ground, keeping the root intact. It should look just like a carrot, but with a different color. If possible, have a carrot with you to compare. Let your child explore the plant using all of their senses. Bring some water to wash the root off and take a taste. Does it taste like a carrot? Smell like one? Feel like one?

Point out the basic parts of the plant, root, stem, leaf and flower. You may notice that some of the flowers look different, like they have closed up on themselves. This is often called a "bird's nest". This happens when the flower starts to develop seeds. It closes in on itself to catch the seeds. Shake one, do any seeds come out? When the plant is all dried up, the birds nest drops off and acts like a tumbleweed, blowing in the wind distributing seeds.
Photo courtesy of CT Botanical Society

Explore the habitat (the place where things live) to see what else you find around the plant. If you are in an open field, don't be afraid to let you children go and romp, skip and jump. There is plenty of time to learn plant parts and scientific names.

Following are some possible activities that can be done that pertain to Queen Anne's Lace. Pick which ones best suit you and your kids, or feel free to add some of your own.

*Look closely at the plant, how many different colors can you see. Use those colors to create a picture using crayons, paint, or anything else.

*Make a crown out of flowers and pretend to be Kings and Queens

*Draw or print a large Q on a piece of paper and use the flower head as a paint brush to cover it with paint.

*Just as the "birdsnest" is used to catch the seeds, use one to play catch (great for hand-eye coordination)

*Discuss how to some this may be a weed (unwanted), but that it is very useful to others. (bees for pollen, insects for shelter, etc.)

*Using a carrot, with a full top, and a fully dug up Queen Anne's Lace, list what is different and what is the same between the two plants.

Check back next week and share how you and your children explored the great outdoors.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Nature Explorers Club- White Pine -Take Two!

After being given some suggestions from a friend, (Thanks Michelle!) I decided to make some little changes to the way I am going to present The Nature Explorers Club. To make it easier for others to follow along with me, I will write a post with all the information about the weeks topic along with possible activities.

Then ONE WEEK later, I will post what we as a family did along with pictures. I will add a link at the bottom of the post so that others can post what they did for the week as well. On that SAME DAY, I will post the information for the following week.

I will plan on having both posts up by Friday so that there is time for you to prepare for the next week. I hope this makes it easier for others to participate. I am very open to other suggestion for improvement if the need arises.

I have re-posted what we did last week with McLinky at the bottom to start the process.

Welcome to Week 1 of the Nature Explorers Club!

If you are wondering what the Nature Explorers Club is, please read this post.

I had planned on using squirrels as the first topic. But as I was preparing the different activities and trying them with my daughter, it became very apparent that this topic would be much better suited for later in the Fall. Since I was not entirely ready with the next topic and I didn't want to wait any longer, I am going to use the topic I did with my kids last week. I talked about it in my Tot School post, but it wasn't everything we did, so this week we explored....

The White Pine Tree
**If you do not have a white pine tree near you, you can use any other pine tree, and change the activities to fit your tree type. (For instance, if yours has two needles to a bundle, then do a collage with the number 2)**

The white pine tree is an evergreen. This means that it keeps its needles all year round, making it look green all the time. (Note for Adult: a needle is actually a leaf, it is just modified in its shape and appearance from what we would call the typical leaf. For the purposes of teaching young children, I just call them needles, but if you want to be botanically correct, you can call them needle-like leaves)
Picture Source:

Take a moment to feel the needles of a White Pine. You will notice they are soft. This is one thing that makes a White Pine special. Look closer at the needles and you will see that that are grouped together in bundles. The White Pine tree has five needles in each bundle. This is the only tree like this in the whole world. That makes this a very special tree.

Ask the children what else they notice about the tree, allowing them to touch, smell, and if you dare, even taste. (the needles are edible)

Here are a few things they may notice:
The trunk can be very sticky with sap
There is a very strong smell, especially if you break open a bunch of needles
There are pine cones. (Break one open, are there any seeds inside?)
The tree can be very big
There may be broken branches (White Pine trees are known to break very easily)


Collect different pieces of the white pine tree and you can make a number five collage to remember that there are five needles on the White pine

You can also let them make an open ended art project with pine pieces

Using crayons and paper, you can make bark rubbings

Other possibilities include:
*Making a bird feeder by covering a pine cone with peanut butter and bird seed
*Painting using a White Pine tassel as a paint brush
*Dramatic play by closing eyes with arms outstretched and swaying with the breeze just like the Pine Tree
*Lay under the pine (watch out for sap!) and take a moment to be quiet and listen, or take this moment just to quietly chat together about your day. Laying under a tree can be quite peaceful and quieting.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tot School - Aug 16-23

Tot School
Esther is 33 Months Old

We had another great week of Tot School.

For Fine Motor Control we used tweezers to sort big and little pom poms

As well as some scissor practice. (Thanks to Tater Tot School for the suggestion for worksheets to use)

For Gross M0tor Skills I taught Esther how to do some tumbling. I used a napping pad as a cushion. (purchased at Target for $6)

For Math Readiness we focused on the number 8, so we played crazy eights

and made spiders, which have eight legs. (This was also our Structured Art Project for the week)

For our Unstructured Art Project, we simply "painted" with glue on some construction paper....

then left it out in the sun to fade out...

Wherever the glue was, it stays the original color while the rest bleaches out. Unfortunately it started to rain so ours only got 4 hours of sun. The longer you leave it out, the more faded it will be.

We also did a little Science time to find out why we should use soap when washing our hands.
You take a bowl of water, sprinkle pepper on top, covering the surface. You then drop a small bit of hand soap in the middle and watch what happens.

I explained that the soap pushes the dirt away, making it clean. **If you plan on doing this, you should have several bowls ready, because once you drop the soap in the water, you cannot re-create the experiment without fully washing out the bowl. I had 9 of these bowls on hand and Esther used every single one and wanted to do more!

Finally, as part of preparing for The Nature Explorers Club, we went on a hike with our neighbor to find some squirrels...

which we didn't find, but did find a really cool burrow in the base of a tree. I think it was a groundhog, Esther is convinced it was a raccoon.

That was our week. To see what other did click below, otherwise have a great week!
Tot School

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Nature Explorers Club

Pictures Courtesy of

After writing my last post, and doing some thinking, I have decided that I would call our nature time "The Nature Explorers Club". Whenever I go out into nature with my kids, I tell them that we are going exploring. This is my desire for our weekly nature outings. I may gently lead us to learn specific things, but at the same time if my daughter sees something new and wants to explore it, then we do. Since we will now be sharing our adventure with friends far and near, you all can be a part of our club.

Each week I will post a short, toddler minded blurb about a specific nature topic. I will then include activities that relate. It is my desire to use nature as a means to teach other skills like math readiness, reading readiness as well as gross motor and fine motor skills.

While I will be following the framework from the book "Nature For the Very Young" by Marcia Bowden, I will also be adding in from my own experience as an Outdoor Education Instructor. You are welcome to follow in our footsteps (and learn from our mistakes) by using what I share here with your own children. I have a passion for teaching children about the wonders of nature and I just can't help myself from sharing it with others.

I have never done anything like this before, so please let me know if I could do things differently, making it easier for all of you on "the other side".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Would You Join Me

This past few weeks I have been testing out a book that I bought at a library book sale. The book is called "Nature For the Very Young", by Marcia Bowden. I LOVE this book.

I was once an Outdoor Education Instructor who spent my days playing in the field, forest or pond teaching children all about the wonders of nature. Once I had my children, I left that job to be a full time mom. I have always known that nature exploration would always be big between me and my kids. I have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, but it is nice to have a basic framework to follow when it comes to my children's education. This is why I think this book is the best out there. Marcia lays out a basic framework of topics for throughout the season. She gives you background information, some suggested activities (indoors and out), but always stresses that open investigation always leads to the best learning atmosphere.

So, my plan....Every week I will be doing a planned nature activity with my daughter. Most of the time I will be using the suggestions from "Nature For the Very Young", plus I will add a few things from my own experience. I may sometimes add in my own topic, especially if one from the book doesn't fit with our habitat here. I will post about the topic, giving facts, songs, activities, and or crafts that can go along with it. But, in general, I will plan on trying to find a way to have my daughter come in direct contact with the topic of the week.

If you, dear reader, are interested and want to follow the activities as well, then you are more than welcome to join us. I'm not planning on using mr linky nor are you required to tell me if you are using the ideas.(but it would be nice :) ) My whole purpose in sharing is to try and make it easier for moms to share nature with their kids.

If you are going to join us, I would try to get your own copy of the book. There are many things in the book itself that I just will not be able to share with you, like sketches to be used for an activity. I would try your library first.

Here are the planned topics for the next five weeks:
Queen Anne's Lace
Oak Trees

So get your boots and magnifying glasses ready, beacsue we're going exploring!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

He Bear, She Bear

I am blessed by the fact that my parents kept several books from my childhood. Many of them currently sit on my bookshelves and Esther loves reading them. This week, she is infatuated with "He bear, She Bear" by Stan and Jan Berenstein.

I love the Berenstein Bears, but this book is perfect for right now. Esther sometimes mixes up her he's and she's. In a typical Berenstein Bears easy to read sing song rhyme formation, brother and sister bear help to explain what it means to be a "he" and a "she". It goes on to show all the different jobs a He Bear and a She bear could do.

Overall, its a book I don't mind reading ten times a day (which I do), and it definitely has helped Esther with her he's, she's, we's and I's.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tot School - Aug 8-15

Tot School
Esther is 33 Months Old

We finally had a week of tot school that was a little more planned and that I was able to take pictures of.

For Fine Motor Control we practiced folding using pages from a Kumon "Let's Fold" book.

We learned about White Pine trees and what makes them special. The needles are soft to the touch,

and sometimes can be sticky.

There are five needles to a bundle.

And they grow to be very big.

We used different parts of the White Pine tree to make a collage of the number five which was our project for Math Readiness.
Edit: I just realized I did not add that I got the idea for the five from the book "Nature for the Very Young". I took her idea and tweaked it a bit for us, but it was not my own inspiration.

After this directed art project, I let her use the left over materials to make a collage of her choosing.
You may not see it, but there is a rock covered in glue in there. This is definitely a project for outside.

The White Pines we were looking at were on the edge of a parking lot. Esther Loved walking on the curb, which made me happy, providing a Gross Motor Skill for the week.
Reading Readiness
We mainly just do a lot of reading, but recently I started something new. After we have read a book several (hundred) times, I encourage Esther to then read the book to one of her dolls.

This way she is practicing re-telling the story and playing at the same time.

Life Skills

We worked on our sewing and I also let her cut a banana with a butter knife for the first time (no picture to show since both hands had to be ready just in case)

After reading some of Charlotte Mason's writings, I decided to add a little art appreciation to our house. I purchased some used books that had colored pictures of paintings. I then cut out a picture, framed it and placed it on our dining room table.

It will stay here for the entire month of August. Periodically I may point it out to Esther, or she may ask about it. There are days when there is no interaction with it, but it is always on display.

Esther is TOTALLY into glue right now. So I gave her a bottle of glue, paper and four different shakers with colored salt and let her go.
She had so much fun, that she sat there for 20 minutes!! This kid never sits still for that long. I am definitely stocking up on glue.

That was our week for Tot School. To see what others are doing, click the button below.
Tot School

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thoughts of a Child

This past week, we were blessed to have a band camp practicing across the street from us. This year they weren't that bad. I don't mind hearing the same two lines of music over and over again as long as it is a nice tune. I decided to take the kids over one morning to watch as they practiced. I laid out a blanket and we all sat down to watch and listen. It didn't take long before Esther was off the blanket and exploring all around us. I asked her to return to the blanket so that we could listen to the band, so she sat down. Two minutes later, she was up again. I explained to her that if she didn't want to listen to the band, then we could just go home. She could easily play in the grass in our own front yard and I would have to worry about keeping Elijah quiet. (he likes to scream and I didn't think it would fit into their music well)

She quickly and emphatically said that she wanted to listen to the music, so I told that she should sit down. Now I'm frustrated and she's frustrated and I'm thinking we should just pack the whole thing up, when she gets up looks at me and says...

"I'm listening in my ears Mommy. (she points to her ears) In here, I'm listening to the music."

She then went and played in the grass. We remained there for a little while, and I did some serious thinking. So often I am trying to fit my child to a certain mold. In this case, to sit quietly and watch the band without distraction. In my mind, this is the best way to enjoy the music. But for my sweet little one, it is quite different. While her ears were listening to the music, her eyes and hands were busy elsewhere. She was enjoying the benefit of two things, music and nature, in her own way.

I am quickly learning that there is a difference to "molding" our children and trying to fit them into a specific mold.

Ahhh, the joys of parenthood. Thank God our children are as forgiving as they are.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Re-Organization and Makeovers

While on my two week vacation from home, it became very apparent that there were several parts to my life that needed to be re-organized, re-vamped or overhauled. Everything seemed to come down to time and what I did with it. My husband and I sat down and I shared with him my thoughts and ideas and he agreed with the changes.

The largest change, is that we have designated two nights during the week for computer or TV, Tuesday and Friday. The other three days we are going to read, work on projects and overall, spend more time together. We have also added some family walking time together every evening (weather permitting) after dinner. So far we have had one successful week and I am really going to enjoy the new schedule.

Speaking of schedule....I have scheduled my days during the week. The only time constraint I have put in the schedule is nap time, which is a priority, otherwise it is just a list of things in order. For instance our morning routine looks like this:
Eat Breakfast
Brush Teeth
Get dressed
Make beds, Open Curtains
Mom cleanup breakfast, kids play quietly
Read Bible
Tot School

I have always had a bit of order in my routine, but having it on paper and posted in eye sight makes a big difference in making sure nothing is missed or forgotten. I can't tell you how many times I have left the house without brushing my teeth. (ahh! did I just share that!!)

I've also decided that my husband and I need a place that we can go on a date, while not leaving our home. Basically a special spot on our property that we can sit and talk and it is nice, calming and maybe a little romantic. I've decided to use our very neglected back porch and give it a makeover.

Since money is tight, I have given myself a budget of ten dollars. Basically I am going to try to use what we already have around the house. We'll see if I can do it.

With all of this going on, it has been hard to find a place for blogging in my life, but it is important to me, so I will work it in. I would be really interested to know how all you other moms out there find the time to stay updated, or if you have a tips or tricks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I'm Back!!!!!!

Yay, we're finally home! Our wonderful one week vacation to Connecticut turned into an even better TWO week vacation. At the last minute I decided to stay an extra week with the kids so that I could spend more time with my family. We just returned home on Sunday and now we're trying to get back in to the swing of things. I have lots of pictures of tot school and other adventures from the past two weeks, but sadly they are all in CT. We had to leave in a rush due to my husband running into a toll booth in Ohio and my mother having to drive us partly to him. (he's fine, the brakes just failed in the car. Everything is repaired and in good working order)

Hopefully I can get my hands on them before the week is up since I tried out some new ideas and really want to share them with you all. But for now, I just wanted to say Hello again to all of you out there and to let you know that I am back now and will have lots to share.