Nature Journaling with Preschoolers

 

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Recently I started nature journaling with my two oldest kids, Timmy (4) and Vera (3). This has been so much fun for all of us- not only do we get to spend time exploring the great outdoors, but it allows my kids to SLOW DOWN and observe the beauty of God’s creation. As they observe the intricacy of the natural world, they will hopefully grow in appreciation and awe of its beauty.

HOW WE NATURE JOURNAL

The actual journaling process is usually done in nature. We don’t bring our nature journals with us outside, mostly because I have three under 5 and if my one year old has anything to say in the matter, a peaceful sketch in nature isn’t happening. I find it much more enjoyable to walk and explore with my children as they collect treasures in buckets they carry.

We love to go on ‘nature hunts’, as we call them! We’re fortunate to live on a rather large piece of land full of wooded areas, gardens and wildflowers and there is a bay beach within walking distance. A local park or walking trail would be great, as well. As they gather, we talk about how things smell, feel, look and even sound. Even a tiny bug on a leaf is so fascinating for naturally curious kids!

With full buckets we head back indoors to more closely examine what we found. On our most recent nature hunt, my kids collected all shapes and sizes of rocks, sticks, leaves, flowers, bark, berries and wild flowers. .

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Timmy’s bucket.

 

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Beautiful flowers, specifically collected by a three year old.

 

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Vera is obsessed with flowers lately. I get a bouquet of flowers picked from our garden daily.

Their finds are removed from their buckets one at a time and examined. Again we talk about what it is, how it looks, how it feels, how it smells. Magnifying glasses are always fun to use, too!

Anyone with little ones knows just how many questions they ask and they had plenty of questions for me while examining their finds. So, out come nature books, field guides and Google. During our last journaling experience, my three year old learned the different parts of a flower, we researched names of some local wildflowers and my son learned the different parts of a leaf and what purpose the veins of a leaf serve. I love all the learning that naturally takes place!

Then the sketching happens. It’s during the sketching that even the smallest details do not go unnoticed

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Vera’s sketches of wildflowers.

 

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Timmy’s sketch of berries.

 

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Vera’s sketch of a vinca from the garden.

Nature journals don’t necessarily have to be kept in an actual journal. A notebook would work just fine. I prefer to let my children sketch on pieces of white paper and then store them in a three ring binder. Each has their own nature journal to add to after each nature hunt.

Allow your kids to be creative! Leaf rubbings, nature stamp-art, sketches, observations, pressed flowers and photographs are all great things to include in nature journals. The most important rule is that there are no rules!

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Pressed flowers, included in my daughter’s nature journal.

 

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Timmy’s leaf rubbing.

Make time for nature journaling with small children frequently and see for yourself the wonderful learning that ensues. Enjoy the time outdoors and memories made through nature journaling! I would love to hear about your own experiences with nature journaling with young children.

 

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10 Turkey-Free Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids

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Tired of making turkey crafts with the kids? Yes, me too. You can only make so many turkeys, am I right? And besides, there is so much more to Thanksgiving than just turkeys. Try some of these 10 (non-turkey related) Thanksgiving inspired crafts with your little ones today. Keep reading!

We’re Going On A Leaf Hunt!

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I started our day by reading the wonderful children’s book, “We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt” by Steve Metzger. The book follows the story line of “Going on a Bear Hunt” in which the children in the book find different types of trees with different kinds of leaves as they hike through the forest. The kids loved this easy to read book!

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I thought it would be fun to go on our own leaf hunt at a beautiful local park. My little ones love going for walks and they love collecting leaves. Keep reading!

Our At Home Preschool: Valentine’s Day Theme

This post is entirely too late but I thought I would share our Valentine’s Day theme week. Late pregnancy exhaustion has a way of making you want to not get too much done and unfortunately my blog updates have suffered.

Our Valentine’s Day theme week was all about getting our hands dirty- both with arts and crafts and in the kitchen! I love the holidays and Valentine’s Day is no exception. The holidays always inspire me to bake and create. I hope to pass a love of these activities along to my children, as well.

We created some beautiful sun catchers with coffee filters, watered-down food coloring and eye droppers. Timmy enjoyed squirting the different colors on to the paper and watching the dye bleed together. He loves to remind me often that yellow and red make orange.

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Sponge painting was was a big hit with both of the kiddos! I cut heart shaped sponges for the kids and let them stamp away on white sheets of felt.

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I thought we could use the painted hearts to make Valentine’s Day cards for Timmy and Vera’s cousins. For the cards, we made pink marbled paper from food coloring and and shaving cream. It was such a fun and simple craft to do with both kids. You simply add a few drops of food coloring to a shallow dish of shaving cream and have the kids give the shaving cream a quick stir (so the food coloring isn’t completely blended). I had Timmy dip the card stock in the shaving cream and then I scraped the excess off the paper with the flat side of a knife blade. The paper needs to be dried under the weight of a few books. I think it looks so interesting.

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I attached the sponge painted hearts to cards made from the marbled paper. Cute and simple Valentine’s Day cards for the kids’ cousins!

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We made some yummy cupcakes together- pink frosting and red sprinkles are always a hit in the kitchen.

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I love to have the kids practice with lacing cards. I made some heart cards with foam sheets and twine. Even my littlest got in on the action.

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We had a fun week together. When I asked Timmy what he loves, he replied, “you, Mommy”. ❤ He made my week.

Our At Home Preschool: Weeks 8 And 9

With my third baby’s imminent arrival, blog posts have been few and far between. We have been continuing to do preschool at home and lately I’ve been trying to catch up on all my posts. Here’s what we were learning a couple of weeks ago…

Imaginative Play:

Stickers are expensive and somehow always end up stuck to the kitchen floor or the dining room table. Reusable stickers are a nice solution and Melissa and Doug makes   great reusable sticker books- I bought the animal one for the kids the other day. The pages are large and brightly colored and even my 19 month old can easily peel, apply and reapply the animal stickers. Timmy made up his own cute stories to go along with each page. He played with his new sticker book for easily an hour the day I got it for him.

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Timmy really has a great imagination. I love observing his pretend play. For example, he loves building structures and then uses his steam roller to knock them all over. Little boys 🙂

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The forklift helped pick up the large pieces of wood after the demolition. He also made a barn for all of his zoo animals. He set up train tracks to bring food to the animals.

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Pre-Reading:

We continued working on Timmy’s cvc word families. He’s knows all of the -AT, -ET, -IT and the -OT word families. I also introduced the -AN, -IN, -OG, -ALL, -UP and -OP word families. We had lots fun reading the Dr. Suess book Hop on Pop together.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a big change in his ability to decode simple cvc words. When I first started introducing word families to him, I could tell he was simply memorizing the words. But lately he’s begun to sound out the words now that he understands how to blend the consonant and vowel sounds together. It really is so amazing to watch young children learn, isn’t it?

We also used his letter blend board in new ways. I say a word, for example “flower”, and ask him which letter blend the word begins with. Once he correctly identifies the blend, he marks it with a counting bear. Once his board is full he gets an M&M. My son will do anything for an M&M!

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Now that my three year old is more or less done with naps, I’ve begun to let him “rest” in his bed with our iPad. He plays with the Starfall Learn to Read app ($2.99) for about 30 minutes each day. I credit his development in sounding out words with using this app. It might be something useful for your pre/early reader as well!

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Timmy has sight word puzzle pieces he’s been using lately. He’s put the pieces together a few times and already recognizes most of the sight words.

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He’s picking up sight words from reading books with me, too. “Where’s the word ____, mommy?” he asks. He really is a quick learner when it comes to reading. I’ve ordered a sight word bingo game online to start working on more sight words with him over the next few months.

We completed a few cut and paste rhyming words worksheets together. He picked up on the concept quickly.

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Pre-Writing

Timmy shows little interest in writing letters but he was more than happy to make them out  of playdough. Forming snakes into letters was so much fun for him!

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I was even able to convince him to trace over some of the colorful foam letters with a marker.

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Early Math:

We played our ‘counting on’ game some more this past week. Timmy and I take turns drawing playing cards and count on from whatever number we draw- sometimes to 10 and sometimes to 20.

Timmy played with the Learning Journey’s Match It! Mathematics puzzles last week. The puzzle cards include 10 self-correcting cards of counting, 10 cards of addition and 10 cards of subtraction.

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These puzzle cards are not only useful to reinforce the concepts of number recognition and counting (Timmy’s quite comfortable with these concepts) but will help with basic addition and subtraction. Along with counting bears and unifix cubes, these cards should be a great way to begin introducing addition and subtraction to Timmy. I hope to start working on these concepts at some point this year. 

Arts and Crafts:

TImmy and Vera collaborated on a few coloring and painting projects over the last few weeks. I just love watching them play together.

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Our At-Home Preschool: Fun with Maps

“Mommy!” he shrieked as he returned home from an outing to the zoo with his father.

“I have a zoo map!”

Timmy couldn’t wait to show me where he had been in the zoo with his daddy. He traced along the paths with his finger and showed me in great detail where all the animals lived.

This wasn’t the beginning of his interest in maps. I’d seen him drawn to maps before. During a recent trip to Vancouver, Timmy spent some time in the hotel room tracing over the roads and bridges on a map of the city. I explained to him what the map key was and where the parks and water were. He made sure to bring it along with him in the car to tell us where we should go.

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I wanted to encourage his new interest in maps with a few activities. There are plenty of great map books written for toddlers and preschoolers. Here are some reviewed at Gift of Curiosity. I was able to find some map themed books at our local library to read with the kiddos.

I bought a US map to hang over the kids’ table. The kids love it! At three, Timmy can’t really grasp what the map of the US represents, but he enjoyed putting dots on the map where friends and family lived and places he’s lived and visited. Vera’s even gotten in on the action of learning the states. My husband’s made numerous work-related trips to Hawaii lately. Now everyday when he leaves for work, Vera says, “daddy’s going to Hawaii on a boat”. So cute.

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To make it more to his scale and easier for him to grasp and to encourage the love of making his own maps, I printed a satellite photo of our neighborhood using Google Maps.

I sat down next to Timmy and colored in our house. “This is where our house is. And this is the road we live on. And this is the road we walk down to get to the park. And this is where we take your bike to ride”, I said. He got the idea quickly and began asking questions… Where were our neighbors houses? As I pointed he added colored dots and I ran colored lines along the roads.

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We made a giant roadmap, too. Timmy really had a great deal of fun with this project. I taped an huge piece of white paper to the table and told him we were making a roadmap.  I cut thick strips of black foam and he glued them to the paper. He used a house shaped sponge to add houses with red paint. Adding bushes, ponds and ducks were all his idea. I love how his little mind works. There just had to be ducks in the pond!

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Following his interest in maps was easy to do and has been a delight to watch. Just by providing him with a few maps and some drawing materials he’s learned about basic geography, begun to extend his world view, thought about distances and measurement, and practiced some mark making. I wonder where his interests will take us next!