Acorn Nature Collage

Exploring nature doesn’t have to be in a far off place, a neighborhood park , school yard or your own backyard will work just great. Explore , talk about what you see, hear and smell. Touch things even they aren’t going into your bag for the collage, explore and take note of how the garden, forrest or park you are in has changed since the spring or summer.  I love when I can do an activity with both kids seemlessly and this one was super easy .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 1-2 paper grocery bags, scissors,crayons,  glue and a yard , park or forrest to explore.
  2. Start by handing each child a bag and heading outside. Can I just say that my little paint covered point and shoot camera works great for inside crafts when movements around too big or fast, but getting a good shot of either child was next to impossible.  Especially a wobbly 15 month old.
  3. Explore- let your child lead the way. Hopefully the other child( or 5) agree and go the same way, or at least in the same general vicinity.
  4. Put everything they find and want to glue to the collage in the bag . Don’t say no to little things yet, let them discover later of it won’t glue.
  5. Huge sticks are totaly ok to refuse, but let them figure it out by asking how it will fit in the bag. Offer scissors to cut a small piece off.
  6. Head back inside and prepare for part two. I did this while they played in the playroom around me, but don’t feel like you have to do this all in one go. Do this after bed time and continue with part two in the morning if that works best for your family. You will want to empty out the contents and place them on a table – or even a shallow box. Using the bag cut it open and draw an acorn.  Tape it to the table to stay steady.
  7. Now invite the children to chose from their treasures and glue them to the acorn.
  8. Hmm the pine branch is too big  to glue down… what could we do?
  9. Cut it!
  10. I helped my daughter add the glue and she happily banged the leaves she gathered down. I was so surprised to see she remembered exactly which leaves she found and used them in her collage.
  11. Gluing is my son’s favorite part of most art because he pretends it’s a bomb ( yes this stage is still driving me batty but I am trying to roll with it)- his sound effects surprised his unamused little sister…
  12. Let everything dry overnight.
  13. Cut out.  Display if possible – kids love seeing their own creations displayed with pride.

More Acorn Crafts!

If a nature walk isn’t possible for you try another one of our acorn crafts .

Click the images for the original posts

 

Paper Plate Planet

Creating your very own planet can be a quick art project or a much more involved one with reading and writing too. This simple  project combines so many lessons including shapes, space, as well as writing and spelling. Oh and for those of you afraid of mess , especially glitter mess – stick on glitter foam was made for you. It’s all the bling with none of the mess.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate, various shapes of peel and stick glitter foam ( I pre cut a whole bunch for easy projects), markers, a piece of plain old paper, pencil, and tape.
  2. Make some shapes out of the foam.
  3. Start by creating your planet with the foam and markers. My thought when I brainstormed this activity was that  my son would make a mosaic like planet with all the pieces. Instead as he was making it he was deciding what each piece of foam would be . Rivers, lakes, a pit of lava, and an dark and scary forest were all added among other things.
  4. While they create the look of the planet write out a short questionnaire for them to fill in about their planet. I asked 3 simple questions , keeping it short to entice him to write the answers himself. The questions included naming the planet, how many moons it has and how long it takes to get to the planet from Earth.
  5. It worked  he was excited to try ,he asked me to write the words after. Do not correct your child if they are at the beginning stages of writing especially if they are at all reluctant. Correcting them can be seen as a further proof that writing is too hard and their attempts may become fewer and further between, which is not what we want! If they ask for you to help jump in slowly .
  6. Tape the information on the inside . When he showed it off to his dad at dinner, he read the inside and said ” I didn’t write Cybertron, it was too long and I didn’t have enough room, but I did the numbers!” Oops, next time I will make the writing area even bigger, to make it more welcoming for big emergent writer handwriting.

Books About Space

If You Decide To Go To The Moon by Faith McNulty was not what I expected, but what is that they say about judging a book by it’s cover? Yeah. I enjoyed the book but it was really long, even I was sorta wondering ” How much more?” half way through. However when I finished the book I was glad I read it all and the huge amount of information inside. The book is truly packed with information about space travel and the environment on the moon, for 3-4 year olds I would read it in parts, perhaps throughout the same day but I don’t think many would sit with full attention for this whole book. Older kids should have no problem especially if they are interested in space. Older children will also appreciate the message that we need to keep Earth healthy so our planet remains vibrant and full of life and not cold, dusty and still like the moon.

Another Day in the Milky Way by David Milgrim made me giggle. The story is about a little boy who is stranded on a weird planet where things are very strange and he doesn’t know how to get home. It’s never scary because it’s simply too weird to ever get scary. People with too many arms, donkeys and chickens dressed as horses and finally the realization that it’s all a dream.  The humor was rather dry although kids will probably take it as goofy . My favorite part was the little alien dog that transforms into a regular one in the end of the book when the little boy wakes up.

A Is for Astronaut: Exploring Space from A to Z by Traci N. Todd is a typical themed alphabet book that is atypically funky. The vintage illustrations and historical photos from NASA makes this book stand out from other similar books. Each letter represents a number of space related items and the historical photos are so powerful in this because it bridges the gap from being a story to being information that children are eager to dive into further. There is something so powerful about a photograph to make that connection that this really happened, these guys really walked on the moon in ” the olden days” as my son calls any time before his birth in 2006.

Mining For Magnets!

minig for magnets science sensory tub

My mom returned from an Alaskan cruise with this super cool mining hat for my son and I knew I wanted to use it as a prop for an activity. He is all about pretend play and dress up The same way I use super heroes to get him excited to write I used this new hat for this fun sensory activity. Even though we used magnets you could do this with pinchers , a small scoop or just wee little hands!  Older kids ready for magnets though will love how the wand helps them mine for the ” diamonds”.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some dried beans , lentils or rice, a container, a magnetic wand with steel ringed chips or marbles .
  2. Pour the dried beans/ rice in the container. A lot of parents email me saying that they are shocked that their 4-7 year olds still like sensory bins. I am not surprised in the least.  Especially when you have them help make them and there is a little task involved ( though never required).
  3. Add the magnetic chips – we were pretending they were diamonds.
  4. Start mining. Count, sort do whatever you want with the treasures you mine.
  5. The only thing you must do is have fun!

Book

Mole Music by David McPhail is a beautiful book about the power of music, trying hard and not giving up on your dreams.  The story is about a mole who sees a violin on TV one day and decides to get his own and play. He is terrible at first but sticks with it. His music becomes beautiful, and over the years he thinks only he can hear and enjoy it. In reality his music is nourishing a grand tree above the ground that serves roles in great things including as a mediator in a battle where both sides end up coming to a peaceful agreement instead of warfare. Now yes I think that one little mole’s music ending a war is a rather large statement but if you break it down, music and the arts are vital and do transform people’s lives the way they transformed Mole’s.  My favorite part is in one illustration Mole is playing and in another tunnel you can see his old TV discarded and tipped over, I like that message.

Frog Life Cycle Craft

Frog-Life-Cycle-Lesson-and-Craft

My son loves learning about animals and with such weird weather this year ( was yours weird too?) we are still seeing lots  tadpoles in water  around here. We had fun with this easy and very kinetic lesson about the life cycle of frogs.  You will see a lot of cutting, coloring and writing around here right now as we work on my son’s fine motor skills. He’s started asking to write everything and to make writing easier we are taking every chance we get to work those skills out even if he’s not writing. Scissor skills are a great and usually enticing way to do that with kids.

  1. Gather your materials you will need a sheet of sturdy card stock , a print out of the frog life cycle ( we got ours here ) , some crayons or pencil crayons, kid scissors, a marker, double stick tape,white paper, clear tape and 5 flip tops from wipes cases.
  2. Start by talking about the life cycle of a frog with your child, you may even want to read the first book listed below as part of this activity.
  3. Next have them color the stages. If your child isn’t into coloring by all means skip this step- the goal is to have fun learning not rigidly follow all steps.
  4. Time to cut. At our house this is a favorite activity. Coloring is zipped through haphazardly but cutting is savored! My son did the cutting with me sometimes helping him position the scissors by making a guide line with a colored pencil. It’s a great way to support while letting independent preschoolers still ” Do it themselves!”
  5. While he cut I made the labels for the flip tops. I could have made them with the ( newly bought) printer but I wrote them out to show you that if your child is able ( and it doesn’t make the whole project too long for them) to have them write it out too .
  6. Then I popped the flip tops in order on the card stock and added wee arrows. My tops didn’t need glue because they still had adhesive on them from their packaging. Yours might need a dab or some double stick tape ( they should really sponsor my blog I go through a ton of this stuff, I <3 it!).
  7. Next up add double stick tape to each stage cut out and find the matching phase of the life cycle. We worked on reading and pretended to me Superhero scientists researching the “Evil Frog of Fear!” Hey whatever works and keeps them having fun!
  8. I had my Superhero Scientists write Frog in the middle , you can add life cycle or really anything you want. Frog was all we had space for as he is still in the beginning stages of writing.  You could also draw a picture as an alternative to writing.

I loved seeing my son show this off to his dad and my parents after we made it. He would enthusiastically flip open the flaps to reveal the stages. Lately he has been extra full of energy , needing to move more and this activity was a good calm break that then also provided him with some movement and a chance to touch and use the craft after making it. Also the tasks of putting the pieces in the right flap really spoke to his desire to solve problems ( or crimes committed by super villains ).

Books About Frogs

From Tadpole to Frog by Wendy Pfeffer is another gem from the “Let’s- Read-And-Find-Out” series. It goes into great detail without offering too much for young readers. When I was reading it to my 2 year old, I skipped some pages, it’s a little long for him still but 3-5 year olds are perfect age for this non fiction book. The illustrations are interesting and kept my wiggly man into the book when the text went above his head.  Edited for 2011 - now at 4.5 years old this book is smack on target for my son. The book has just the right amount of information about frogs for preschoolers to process and to also turn to parents or teachers to ask why and go in search of even more information. I think  a sign of a great non fiction book is that it sparks further curiosity about the subject in the readers.

Once Upon a Lily Pad by Joan Sweeney is a cute book about two frogs that lived on the lily pads in Claude Monet’s gardens. I love the theme of life cycles in this story with the frogs hibernating and having more than one set of tadpoles… and eventually the painter not reappearing. It’s actually a great gentle book to start a open discussion about death without having to go into the thick of things right away. I  love how it sparks interest in the painter and his beautiful work as well as can be used as a launchpad for an outdoor painting activity ( en plein air) . So many ways to use this book.

Leap Back Home to Me by Lauren Thompson gave me goosebumps and made me want to give the author a high five. The little frog leaps away from mama frog going further and further away but leaps back home to his mama each time with then end being spot on with the text changing from ” then leap home to me” to ” when you leap back home , here I’ll be”. My heart was aching seeing the little frog grow so fast!  I love this book. It’s got very simple repetitive text ( great for emergent readers!), the illustrations by Matthew Cordell are goofy and sweet. They match the text perfectly so they give great clues to readers who may be struggling with a word. As a read aloud this book is awesome , not only because the repetitive text has a great rhythm but as the little frog gets more independent and goes further from home the things he is leaping over are pretty goofy and will get more than a few laughs from any audience you are reading it to!

Pretend Play – Science Lab

This is cool science !  There were no real instructions for this pretend play  just a buffet of fun things safe to mix in experiments.  My son got into this right away taking on the serious personality of a chemist as he dove into his imagination. This is so easy to do because all you really need is water and a few kitchen tools, everything else is just icing on the cake.

  1. Gather your materials. For our science lab we used a handful of glass jars -if you are really keen you can put graduated measurements up the sides, but remember kids imaginations don’ need every detail done for them.  You may want a few absorbent place mats, turkey baster, eye droppers, small measuring cups,  mini whisks, some shampoo or dish soap , some baking soda , water and food color.  Also eye protection and an apron or lab coat is a must!
  2. I added a few drops of food coloring in jars of water and set everything out – something I learned years ago is if everything is at arms reach fewer things spill . If I was doing this with multiple kids I’d ditch the chairs and have them stand at a low table.
  3. Start concocting! 
  4. The baking soda mixed with the shampoo made a nice ( not overly) fun fizzy foam, clearly the shampoo was acidic. This made me remember doing a science experiment in grade 4 with all sorts of things and mixing them with baking soda to see which was the most acidic. If you want you could incorporate that too.
  5. Keep going!  He had a blast.
  6. I got a tub ready to soak everything in after playing.
  7. We had so much fun I had to dump out his beaker and get him some new yellow water.
  8. Popped them all in the water – we let them soak and came back later to scrub. See this activity includes practical life and water sensory play too.