Posted in Nature, Play Time

Packing an EDventure Backpack

nature backpack

My family and I were hiking on our property the other day, and while I carry a pretty big backpack I quickly came to realize it wasn’t holding everything my little explorers needed. Now I am pretty seasoned when it comes to packing for my wild ones and I for a day outside. You see, for a few years, my kids were enrolled in a nature school program, where I was also one of the facilitators. We learned and played outside for one or two days a week, YEAR ROUND, in Colorado.

Since we now walk out the door for our short walks in the woods, we aren’t bringing all of our exploration gear. But short walks start to turn into long walks, or we see something extra special and I realize it’s important to bring our stuff every. time. Back to my pack mule days!

So I want to share my list with you of all the gear I bring along for one of our EDventures.

The Essentials:

  • a good heavy duty backpack. With lots of pockets. And water bottle holders. And carabineers. I had a normal Eddie Bauer one but quickly outgrew that and got a much larger one as a Christmas present. Mine even has a rain flap that covers my entire pack. You wouldn’t believe how many times that has saved our stuff as we’ve hiked in down-pouring rain. The blue backpack in the pic below is the one I use.

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  • a small backpack for your kids. My kids enjoy bringing their own backpack and packing their own snacks and items, plus it also helps my pack load.
  • Proper seasonal clothing. I’ll post more specifics at another time but I find I always need extra socks, pants, shirts, and a zip up fleece hoodie or jacket (good for all seasons). This includes hats, sunglasses, etc.
  • a first aid kit.  What to keep in your first aid could make for it’s own post, but make sure you have the essentials (which usually come in a pre-bought kit). I also add my own items, like essential oils, colloidal silver, homemade hand sanitizer, etc.
  • Kleenex and or wipes. I also keep a moist washcloth in a plastic bag for wiping hands and in the event we come across poision ivy
  • sunscreen and bug spray
  • Water and snacks of course. We don’t get far or even home, for that matter, if we don’t have a gagillion snacks.
  • Plastic bag: for dirty or wet clothes, or trash
  • treasure box or bag: kids love to bring home all the things they find. I like the brown bags with handles. My kids like decorating these and I can clip the handles to their backpacks with a carabineer.

Exploration Accessories: These are things I like to bring but are not necessarily essential to a hiking adventure, but they do have lots of value and make for a really fun outing

  • compass
  • magnifying glass
  • binoculars
  • bug jars or holders
  • a net for catching bugs
  • bucket and shovel
  • kid play tongs or large tweezers for them to pick up stuff that shouldn’t be touched
  • rope or string
  • measuring tape (we like the flexible roll-up kind): we use this a lot for measuring tracks, but we have found that it’s good for making spider webs in the trees, a bridge for small insects to cross, etc. This is what I love about sitting back and letting kids come up with countless, imaginative ways to use something.
  • nature journal and art supplies: it wouldn’t be an adventure at all if my daughter didn’t have some sort of art media. Plus it’s really important for kids to document all that they’ve seen and discovered. We have a small pouch that we keep colored pencils, watercolors, scissors, tape, glue, etc. in.

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  • sticky roll (like those to get pet hair off)- we use these primarily for tick protection
  • field guides
  • camera: When we attended nature school, we used a class polaroid camera. The kids loved it so I’m hoping to add that to our nature pack but for now we just use my phone and I let my kids take some pictures
  • small foldable blanket
  • books: no matter what you’re reading, it’s just nice to sit under a tree and read together
  • flashlight
  • whistle or walkie-talkies
  • sometimes we like bringing a hand-held recorder to record bird sounds and it helps kids get quiet for a short moment

I will also carry more items for specific projects and activities but this list is a great start of items to bring along on your next outdoor outing.

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Enjoy the EDventure!

 

Posted in Play Time

Take a deep breath, and let your child mix the play dough colors

First of all, I want to share WHY every child should have a good stash of play dough.

1. Playing with play dough builds fine motor skills for your child. Kneading, cutting, rolling, mixing, molding, etc. builds all those small muscles in your child’s hand.

2. Need some quiet time in your house? Play dough at our house is actually a fairly quiet activity thus being a great alternative to screen time.

3. It’s creative, open-ended play! It lends itself to hours of play time! Sure it can be a mess but lay a big plastic or vinyl tablecloth on the table, give them a cookie sheet to use, and have everyone get a dust pan and sweep up the crumbs at the end. The good things kids get from playing with play dough far outweigh the mess.

So back to our topic…

If you were to look at our play dough bins, you would find lots of cute little yellow containers with all different color caps, some that are sparkly. As you went to open it, you would be disappointed to find that the color lid does not match the play dough inside. You see, I’ve got a little girl who can’t get enough of playing with this stuff. She spends hours playing and creating. She loves rolling it, cutting it out, molding it, and most of all, mixing it, the colors that is. So in the cup with the purple lid, you would most likely find a ball of purple mixed with yellow, swirled with pink, and small touches of blue in it.

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There probably was a time when this would have bothered me, but I want to share a couple reasons why it should be ok. First, it takes their creativity to the next level. Some parents only let their child play with one color at a time to save the play dough from the inevitable mixing of colors. It’s kind of hard to put together a whole spread of delicious, baked play dough treats when you can only use orange. Or the dinosaur just doesn’t look the same with a green body, tail, spikes, etc. When a child can use a few colors at a time, their creation really comes to life for them.

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Secondly, children can learn so much about color mixing when they are allowed to mix two or more colors. Taking a ball of blue play dough and a ball of yellow play dough and mixing the two, offers such a fun, hands-on way of learning about colors. In allowing children to mix play dough colors, questions are begging to asked and explored? What will happen if we mix the red and blue together? What about red and white? What color will we get? After mixing these, children will learn (and remember it better since this was very hands-on) that red and white make pink. But wait, more questions! Can we make a lighter shade of pink?  How would we do that? Would we add more red or more white? Not only is your child learning colors, but now they are learning about shades of color, attributes, etc.  I am a huge fan of guiding your child’s learning by asking them questions that they must explore on their own instead of telling them that red and white make pink. For children, if they can explore, it will be much more concrete and thus they will retain it better.

It’s totally mesmerizing! Go ahead, try it. I think this is why my kids get quiet and focused when playing and mixing. The swirls and twirls of the colors intertwining is truly mesmerizing.

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Let it go, let it go… (as  Elsa would say). In the grand scheme of life, with all that we parents have to worry about, allowing your child to mix their play dough shouldn’t be one of them. If you find that you have a hard time allowing them to mix colors, this might be a great small act of letting small things like this go. It wasn’t long ago, that I overheard my daughter tell her grandma, “Your house is the house of yes’s.” This definitely made me think, ponder, evaluate, and be mindful of all the things I say no to, but could very easily be a YES. Maybe this could be your YES.

Here’s a way to help you be okay with this- make your own play dough! The store-bought play dough is fun but it can get expensive if you are always needing to restock, like me. I find if I make my own and let Little A have a small bit of it to mix then I always have some on hand when she wants just one color or for future mixing. Homemade play dough gives you a lot per batch and it lasts a long time. Here’s a recipe to make your own:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Fun options to add:
    • food coloring. I like to at least do red, yellow, and blue, and then another batch without food coloring to make white
    • glitter!
    • a few drops essential oils.
      • My favorites are lavender for calming and relaxing, peppermint for focus and around Christmas time, orange for uplifting and energizing, lemon for focus and clarity, grapefruit for uplifting and relieving tension. Or I will mix a couple. The possibilities are endless.

Instructions:

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a small saucepan. Add the liquid ingredients. Cook on low to medium heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes the mixture will start to thicken. Keep stirring until the mixture continues to thicken and gather around your spoon. Continue cooking until the dough is no longer wet and is now a big ball of dough. Remove from pan and let cool on a plate or wax paper. If using oils, add a few drops and knead dough and play!