Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why Children NEED Nature




"There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees which speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving."-Maria Montessori


I've been thinking a lot over the past few days about how much children need time spent in nature- and how many aren't getting enough. I've observed D (2.5 years) and realized how much happier he is outside- running, climbing, walking in the woods, gardening in our EarthBoxes, and working on his compost bucket. Nature is his happy place.



Our 6 month old is already shaping up to be the same way- today I couldn't get him to settle down for a nap despite lots of rocking and nursing. He was so fussy. I finally got him to relax and fall asleep like this:



He immediately calmed down and relaxed. I don't think this is limited to boys. Girls love and need nature as well. There has been quite a bit of interest in the decline of play in preschools but I think equally important is the decline of children being exposed to nature- and not just playgrounds with rubberized flooring. REAL nature. Walking on trails, tending plants, observing animals.



I can't recommend Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder  enough! I have observed in my own children the absolute need to be in nature. I have seen the difference it makes in their ability to self-regulate and to handle sensory issues. I think this need is more than just a physical need for exercise and gross motor movement- there is definitely an emotional and spiritual element.

Louv correlates Nature-Deficit Disorder with the rise of childhood obesity, depression, attention deficit disorder and suicide. Over the past few months I think he may be on to something. As I've worked to create more nature experiences for D I have felt my own emotional well-being improve. It has been good for my soul.

At 2.5 D can correctly identify oak, pine, palm, and magnolia trees. He can point to an acorn and tell you that squirrels and deer will eat it. He observes our bird feeder. He will point out where wild hogs have been rooting. He's learning these things not by sitting with books or worksheets but through authentic experiences and conversations in nature. It is an organic and holistic building of schema that is child-led. He is learning with his whole body and all of his senses. I feel like I have become a better educator through observing him.



My hope is that D and K will not be the last children in the woods. I fully intend to commit to spreading this message as much as possible- that children NEED nature and it is our job (and pleasure!) as parents to create these experiences for them.

Edit: Here are some of the other books on the topic I've added to my reading list. I hope to review them in the future!







Saturday, February 11, 2017

Apartment Composting with Toddlers



I've posted about a lot of gross stuff (cloth pads, menstrual cups, family cloth etc) but this one might take the cake- and it wasn't even my idea!

My 2 year old requested that we make compost after seeing an episode of Curious George where George makes compost. I couldn't say no to such a great learning opportunity (even if I do find worms to be yucky!).

What We Used:
  • 2 food grade 5 gallon buckets (tip: we get ours from the Publix bakery for free!)
  • screw driver (or a power drill)
  • screw 
  • brown paper bags
  • Browns and Greens for compost- coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells, vegetable scraps, banana peels etc
  • Red Wriggler Worms
I chose a 2 bucket compost system since we live in a condo and don't have a lot of space. I also wanted one we could make without spending any money.  We already had the buckets handy.

Start out by drilling 11 holes into the lid. You can use a power drill but we just used an old screw and a screwdriver. We made an inner circle with 5 holes and an outer circle with 6 holes on the lid. Next, turn the bucket on its side and make 15 more holes along the edge. Flip the bucket over and make seven holes in the bottom. Place the "holey" bucket inside the one without holes. This one will catch the drippings (these are also great for your garden!).

Cut the brown bags into strips and line the bottom of the holey bucket with them. This was a great way to introduce scissors to our toddler!


Add some water and you are ready to add your compostable material. It's that easy!



D loves dumping the coffee grounds each morning and crunching egg shells.


We keep a small container on the counter to collect scraps.


It's been a great way for him to learn about gardening and reducing waste through composting. What I really love is the entire project was child-led!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Adding Scripture Ornaments to Your Christmas Tree



This is a project I've been meaning to get around to and finally did it! I realized that most of our Christmas ornaments are secular and wanted a way to include the true meaning of Christmas on our tree. I love how this project turned out! The best part is I used things I had on hand. I plan on making a lot more when I have time :)

Materials:
I chose the verses I wanted and carefully lettered them onto the cardstock. I love the way the tree one turned out!





I chose to laminate mine so they will survive the two year old. I am obsessed with my Swingline Laminator. I am laminating ALL THE THINGS! Ha! I then hole punched them, tied on some twine, and Voila! The Word of the Lord hanging on our tree! I love it!
 

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas...

Christmas is a mere 6 days away and I'm so excited! I can't wait for D to wake up and see the presents! This is the first year he will really "get" it and it's going to be so neat to see.

Christmas is my favorite holiday but it's tough since we lost my mom. This is only our second Christmas without her. There's so much I wish I could say to her. I remember thinking how few presents she got and how she must feel sad. As a mom I get it now- it's so much better watching your children open gifts than getting your own.

In all of my visions of being a mom during Christmas it never occurred to me how different my tree would look. Toddlers are ROUGH on Christmas trees, ya'll. I admitted defeat this year. I put up a fake 4 ft tree on a table with only plastic and homemade ornaments. My porcelain and glass ornaments are safely tucked away in their boxes. It makes me a little sad but I would take Christmas with my babies over a perfect 6.5ft tree any day.

I've had a lot of fun making ornaments with my babies! My new laminator has been getting a workout! I'll write some posts about the ornament ideas later but suffice to say I went overboard.

That's all for now. I hope everyone is enjoying advent and getting excited for Christmas!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why We Choose to Do Kindness Elves and 30 Ideas for Holiday Kindness


Christmas is my favorite holiday. One of the most exciting parts of being a mom is watching my children experience and learn to love Christmas! It is truly a joy! I have loved following the traditions with my boys that my mom did with us- decorating the tree, baking cookies, singing Christmas songs, reading The Night Before Christmas, and eating pumpkin pie for breakfast Christmas morning.

One of the newer "traditions" is the Elf on the Shelf." Before I even had kids there were things about it that sort of bothered me. First off, he's really creepy looking! I remember we had a similar elf that was my great grandmother's and my sister was terrified of it! I also don't like how he is supposed to spy on kids and report back. And I don't have time to make messes that I then have to clean up. I also don't think it lines up with our beliefs about Christmas- that Jesus was a gift given to all who would accept him; not because we earned it with our perfect behavior but because God loved us (imperfections and all). Add in the commercialization and ridiculous cost and I knew we would opt out.

That's why I love the idea of Kindness Elves. I discovered the idea on Pinterest. The Kindness Elves are the brainchild of Anna at The Imagination Tree. The idea is simple: cute little elves that leave ideas of kind things to do leading up to Christmas. I love that the Kindness Elves' focus is doing things for others rather than on "earning" presents with good behavior. They reinforce the values I'm trying to teach my little ones better.

Our Kindness Elves are two little vintage Elf ornaments that belonged to my mother. Yours could be any cute elves or you can purchase ones from https://thekindnesselves.com/ I know that Target usually has cute little elf ornaments that are inexpensive.  I also found this cute set on Amazon.

I write the Elf notes on cute decorative post it notes. This year I happened to have little star shaped ones. 

Here is my list of ideas. Some do require a little bit of spending but many are free or nearly free. Again, the focus should be on spreading kindness and joy- not on consumption and buying. I hope you all enjoy!

  1. Bake cookies for the neighbors
  2. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots
  3. Visit the Salvation Army Bell Ringers and drop a coin in the bucket. If it's cold you could also bring the ringer a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
  4. Make Blessing bags for the homeless
  5. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter
  6. Donate food to a local food drive
  7. Bring coloring books and crayons to the Children's Hospital
  8. Go Christmas Caroling at a Nursing Home
  9. Call grandparents or great grandparents. Better yet- visit if they are close!
  10. Make homemade ornaments for friends
  11. Make a card for a recovering veteran and take it to the VA Hospital. Donations accepted at our local VA include magazines no more than 2 months old, phone cards, and gas cards. Note that you can no longer mail a card to an unknown soldier as they won't be accepted post-September 11th
  12. Go through your toys and donate some to the Salvation Army or other charity
  13. "Adopt" an Angel from an Angel Tree or other similar program
  14. Sort through your books and bring ones you no longer read to the doctor office waiting room
  15. Feed the birds- you could make a bird feeder if you don't already have one
  16. Make gift tags for the presents you will be giving this year
  17. Make Thank you notes for Christmas gifts you will receive- December 26 the elves can instruct the children to fill them out
  18. Make a freezer meal for a new mom or soon to be expecting friend
  19. Donate outgrown clothes to the Salvation Army
  20. Leave coupons on products at the grocery store
  21. pick up trash around the neighborhood or a park
  22. Bring a gift basket to the local police or fire department
  23. Make a card for the mailman
  24. go to the park and invite other kids to play
  25. Leave a note and some stickers for the next reader in a library book you loved
  26. Say hello to every person you see that day and give them a smile
  27. Bring school supplies to your teacher
  28. Make cards for your friends telling them what you love about them
  29. Send a care package to a friend serving in the military overseas
  30. Do a chore for your sibling
What are some of your ideas for the Kindness Elves? I would love to hear them in the comments!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Gift Guide For Two Year Olds


With Halloween officially over I can focus on preparing for Christmas- my favorite holiday! D is two now and I am so excited to see how Christmas morning is for him this year. I think this is the first year he will really get it.  I wrote last year about toys for the first year on this post.

So without further ado, here is my list of top picks for two year olds.


1. Play Kitchen and food- Daniel LOVES his play kitchen. I have a combination of Ikea and Melissa and Doug play food. He likes the Melissa and Doug Set better. He also likes his metal pots and pans better than the plastic ones (I think because he can bang them and make lots of noise lol).





2. Little People- We LOVE Little People in our house! It's one of the few plastic toys that I truly love. D has my farm from when I was a kid but I think the newer version is just as fun. We also love our Nativity Set. His Aunt got him the Disney World set last year and it still gets lots of play. He also loves his Car Ramp. This year we are getting him the Mickey and Minnie House combo for Christmas. I secretly wish he was into princesses so we could get the Disney Princess Castle but, alas, he's not. I might have to get it for my nieces!  I really don't think you can go wrong with Little People.









3. Play Tool Box- D loves to pretend to fix things so I am getting him this Hape Tool Box set. I like this one because you can actually build things with it. I'm hoping to ask one of the grand parents to get him this expansion pack with more parts. I love the quality of Hape toys and that they are mostly wood. This will be a toy that will grow with him.





4. Art Supplies- Art supplies are an awesome gift because they are CONSUMABLE! This helps cut down on toy clutter! I discovered the Ultra Washable Crayola Crayons this year and am in love! I can personally attest that they wipe off walls, furniture, cabinets, and wooden door molding with ease. I think they break a little easier but it's a small price to pay for crayon free walls! We have been using the triangular crayons to help with his grip but he's almost ready to move to the jumbo round crayons I think. I'm getting him a pack as a stocking stuffer. I also picked up a few new coloring books to go with them.



The other art supply set I picked out for him is a Crayola Color Wonder Markers Stow and Go Studio. Because he has an affinity for coloring on things other than paper I thought this would be good for when he wants to color and I'm nursing the baby or when we are out at doctor appointments etc since the markers only work on the special paper. I picked this one since all of the materials fit in the case which also acts as a clipboard for when we are out and about. I am also going to get him an extra paper pad.





5. Hot Wheels Cars and Garage- D plays with Hot Wheels Cars more than any other toy right now. I got him a small Melissa and Doug garage for his birthday and he loves playing with the Plan Toys garage at his friend's house. I think a few cars and a garage is a great gift for a boy or girl- his friends of both genders seem to love them.





6. Blocks - I think all kids need a set of Unit Blocks. Ours is by Melissa and Doug. I love unit blocks because they are an open ended toy and also last for years! I didn't mind investing more money for a nice set of blocks because I will keep them forever. In fact, when D goes to his grandparents' house he plays with a set that his Dad and uncles played with when they were kids.



7. Lego Duplos - Duplos are another toy that get a lot of play time in our home. D loves his Lego Table I built for him (check out the instructions here!). If you don't have any I recommend getting a basic box set. You can then add on for other gift giving occasions. I also have used the small, cheaper sets as potty training incentives.



8. Magna-Tiles- We actually don't have our own set of Magna-Tiles yet. This is on my list for Christmas this year. D loves building toys and has played with them at the museum so I would like a set for our house. There are a lot of different brands but Magna-Tiles are consistently the most highly recommended. Picasso tiles seem to be the preferred more economical alternative.



9. Shleich Dinosaurs- I have added to our Scheich Dinosaur collection little by little because they are a little spendy. I have been able to get some good deals on Amazon so I snatch them up and save them for holidays when I see the price drop. I prefer Schelich not only because of the great detail but because they are solid (so they stand up to rough play) and they aren't made out of cheaper plastic that off-gasses fumes like some of the China cheepies.  D loves dinosaurs and I have found the toys have led to him wanting to read his dinosaur books often. We use the toys to match with the pictures in his book which is fun. I got a good deal on Amazon for this Volcano Set which I think is a great place to start if you can get a deal since the volcano unzips into a play mat.





10. Gross Motor Toys- D is a constant ball of motion so anything that encourages gross motor play is a sure thing around here! A slide, balance toys, mini trampoline, climbers, or a swing set are all great for busy two year olds!













Let me know what you think of my list in the comments! I would love to hear what your top gift picks for two year olds are.

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