Going on a Sound Hunt… Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

sound huntYesterday I took my kids on a sound hunt. I picked them up from school and we went straight to Fish Creek Park (a provincial park very close to our house) to play and explore. When I announced what we were doing Luke and Chloe were sooo excited. Luke even said so! He said “I don’t know what a sound hunt is but I am so excited to do it.” How wonderful! It made my heart swell how willing and open he was to the whole thing. A sound hunt, sounded exciting, it must be good.

Exploring nature through sound allows children to learn and recognize things they may not have noticed before. By engaging and focusing on sounds it allows children to connect what they hear with what they see. It also enables them to identify the many different sounds of nature. How the wind through the grass can sound slightly different than the wind through the trees. It begins to help them identify not only bird sounds, but that there are different kinds of birds. And once they hear and identify the different bird songs, their innate curiousity leads them to learning visually what the different kinds of birds look like.

As soon as we stepped out of the car Luke and Chloe were already telling me what they heard and named at least 3 things before we formally got started. They really were raring to go!

How to Set Up a Sound Hunt

What you will need:

  • notebook or paper
  • markers/ pencils
  • listening ears
  • a sense of adventure

sound huntI had brought along notebooks and markers to help record what we heard in the forest. I told them that we would be going for a walk through the park and listening for all the different sounds. We were to walk along quietly and when they heard something they were to stop, pause and then share what they heard. They set forth with their listening ears on and wonder in their eyes.

Shortly down the path, Luke stopped and said he heard wind, Chloe birds, an airplane. I said I heard our footsteps along the path. Cause although that was not a sound specific to nature it was one we were hearing in nature, and later could talk about the differences between the natural sounds and the sounds we made in nature and how they could be good or bad (a discussion about noise pollution).

sound huntThey did very well. We’d walk for a bit in silence, they announce some things they heard, chat for a bit about it, then we’d continue along in silence. The listening quickly lead to the visual connection and more discoveries and exploration. Our natural response when we hear something is to turn towards the sound and look. First we heard the squirrel and then turned to see him scampering by. We heard a bee buzz by, then spotted him digging around on the ground. We were able to watch him for a bit, which was quite fascinating and wondered what he was looking for. He was madly using his feet to search for something. After a bit, he flew off but not too far and we were able to watch him land and dig again. Also noticing that as he flew low to the ground searching for the ‘right spot’ to dig that he actually created enough air movement to move the pine needles on the ground without touching them. It was super cool!

We discovered and learned about woodpeckers and how they peck for insects in trees, examining the holes they left behind. We found chickadees after we heard their call and Luke even imitated their call. We even heard the noisy crow cawing over and over but actually didn’t see him.

chickadeeAt one point, we did stop along the path and I asked Luke and Chloe if they could tell the difference between the wind through the leaves and the wind through the grass, as there was a slight difference. At first they couldn’t but as I pointed out the subtle yet distinct differences they were able to identify them as well.

We heard many sounds. Gophers squeaking (they thought it was neat they squeaked), squirrels chirping, bees buzzing, wind, different kinds of birds (at least 3) and more. One of our favorite sounds was the creek gurgling by and Luke and Chloe were specifically on the hunt for this sound. They knew it was here from being to the park before and kept saying “Where is it?” not resting until they heard and found the creek.

When we did find it, after wading in and playing a bit, we sat by the creek and took out the notebooks. They each spent a few minutes writing or drawing the different sounds they heard in their books. Recording what they had heard and starring their favorites. Taking these extra few minutes to have the kids record what they have heard helps solidfy it and increases retention. It also gave us another opportunity to sit one more time and listen. Seeing if there were any new sounds that they had not yet heard on our sound hunt so far.

sound huntWe spent over an hour in the park playing, listening and learning. And when we returned to the house it was amazing how calm, grounded and happy they were. Chloe stayed outside and blew bubbles, while Luke came in and relaxed doing a guided children’s mediation. The whole experience was amazing! and we definitely reaped the benefits of our outing.

The other neat thing is is that after our adventure, I have heard Luke talking about and sharing it with others. Telling them how much he enjoyed it and what he learned.

Exploring with kids through nature is such a rich and exciting experience. By having them focus on identifying sounds not only heightens their sense of awareness but quickly leads them to connecting visually, engaging their other senses and deepening their exploration.

Like to do more with sound outside? Check out this idea on Making Outdoor Sounds

A Refreshing Twist on Watermelon – The Watermelon Smoothie

Watermelon SmoothieThe other day my youngest son said he had an idea to make a watermelon smoothie. We love watermelon especially in the summer! It is such a nice refreshing snack. For us, we usually just slice it and eat it, I had never really thought of doing anything else with it. Sure I had heard of people putting watermelon into salads or other recipes but I had never thought of putting it into a smoothie. It just seemed odd to me.

But really, why not? You can put basically anything into a smoothie and with the right combination, can be absolutely delicious! And we love smoothies at our house and enjoy trying different combinations. In fact, I have been experimenting this year with creating my own smoothie recipes. It’s fun figuring out what goes well together and what might not. When I create a really good one, I get very excited. Like when I created this yummy green smoothie in the spring with grapefruit, orange and dandelion greens- yum!

The other thing I didn’t realize is that watermelon is actually chalk full of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, potassium and magnesium to name a few. Plus it has many health benefits benefiting cardiovascular health, anti-flammatory and antioxidant support. Here I thought it was just water and that you didn’t get much else out of it. Even better!

So I set out on a hunt for watermelon smoothie recipes to see what was out there. There are many that are a combination of watermelon and strawberries (which seemed quite popular), some with almond milk, even some with coconut water (which I am going to have to try that one). But the one that I was drawn to the most was this combination with raspberries, fresh lime and mint. All favorite ingredients of mine. I love mint and am really into lime lately. I also liked that it was described as ‘the most refreshing smoothie, ever‘. It quickly made me think of hot summer days when you’re looking for something a little more than just a glass of water. I could see myself, sitting on the deck, smoothie in hand, relaxing and enjoying the hot summer sun…

When I whipped it up this afternoon I was not disappointed! It was fabulous. I could not believe how delicious it was and even though it was not super hot that day, I could see how enjoyable it would be on a hot summer day. Not to mention I love the rich red color and how sweet and fresh it tastes. I can’t wait to make it for the kids who were away for the weekend, especially my son, to not only thank him for the fabulous idea, but to see how much they enjoy it as well.

Watermelon Smoothiewatermelon smoothie

1 c. watermelon

1/2 c. frozen raspberries

fresh lime juice (squeeze 1/4 of a lime)

2 sprigs of fresh mint

Put all ingredients into blender. Mix until well combined and is smooth. Pour into glass and enjoy!

Serves 1

Flower Printing Activity – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

flower printing activityThis flower printing activity not only teaches children about nature through art but also introduces some basic science concepts in a fun and engaging way.

We are all drawn to flowers. Vibrant colors, beautiful scents and sometimes intricate patterns in the blossoms and leaves. Children especially want to reach out and touch flowers, check out what they are like, exploring texture and getting their noses in there to see what they smell like. How often have you seen a child bent over sniffing a flower? (You can picture it right now can’t you?)

Flower printing is a way to deepen this experience for the child and allow them to learn and explore even more with their senses while adding art, creativity and imagination.

flower printing activityWhen I introduced this activity to my kids, my daughter was very excited about it (she’s my artsy one), while my son wasn’t so sure about it. But it did not take long before he became engaged, creating with colors and experimenting with designs.

I made sure that I had a variety of colors, even going out and buying some cool neon paints in addition to the basic colors. I also made sure that I had a variety of textures and shapes of flowers for them to try. I had purchased an inexpensive bouquet of flowers but you could use blossoms from your garden or even some of the natural flowers in your backyard. (I had pulled some dandelions and toad flax from our driveway as additional options). I would discourage going out and picking wildflowers for this project as one of the important things when teaching children about nature is that it is also important to preserve it. Appreciate it, take a picture, but leave it for others to enjoy (explain to the children that if they pick wildflowers they may not grow back and then others cannot see them anymore).

We used big poster paper for our flower printing but you may also use a regular size piece of paper to create your project. The nice thing about art is the sky is the limit when creating!

When we were finished we ended up with two very different pictures, both beautiful, unique and something they can be proud of.

Flower Printing Activity

flower printing activityWhat you will need:

white paper or poster board

tempera paint – variety of colors

blossoms (variety of shapes and sizes), leaves and stems of flowers

paint brush

pallet for paints (we used a large piece of cardboard, but small paper plates also work – you want the paint on something that is large enough that you can dip the flower in flat)

  1. Cut blossom off flower
  2. Dip in paint color of choice *you do not need a lot of paint on the blossom just enough to cover it
  3. ‘Stamp’ the blossom onto your paper, press down gently and lift – you will be able to stamp with the blossom to make more than one print before you need to dip it in the paint again *tell the kids to press gently, if they press too hard their flower will break
  4. If you’d like to choose a different color paint, take a new blossom and dip it in the paint, repeating above process.
  5. Once you have ‘printed’ all your blossoms, you can then add stems and leaves if you like. You may do this two ways, one is to simply paint them in with a brush. The second is to put paint on the stem or leaf and then press it onto the paper in the spot you want it like you did with the blossom. Do this as many times as desired.

flower printing activityThe other thing I love about this flower printing activity is the many learning benefits and basic science concepts that children are introduced to by doing it. It enhances eye and hand coordination, fine motor skills, introduces them to scientific concepts such as observing, communicating, experimenting, patterning, and investigating. Not to mention the sensory engagement! Plus it is fun! I did this activity again with one of my preschool classes and it was amazing to see the variety in their creations and how engaged they became. Not one flower print was the same and they were all beautiful.

Exploring the Colors of Nature – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

colors of nature activityKids love colors. They naturally love exploring, hunting, seeking and discovering. By using this colors of nature activity you can help them discover all the colors and beauty in nature and that you can find them in the most unexpected and unique places.

Have you ever looked outside and wondered at all the colors of nature? The beauty of a field of wildflowers, purple, red, yellow; the wonder of the sunset, pink, orange and gold. Nature is full of color. From lush greens to deep purples and vibrant blues, they are all there, every color waiting to be found. This is one of the wonders and beauty of nature, that you can find every color possible there, every color if you look (because sometimes they are not that obvious).

In nature there is color in everything. No matter where you look there are different hues of blues, greys, greens and reds. You can find pinks tucked into rocks and oranges along the sea beds. You just have to look.

colors of nature activityFor many when we look outside we notice what we see the most of – the green trees, the blue sky, the yellow sun. But what if we were to look a little closer? What if we looked closer and noticed that the sun had spots of orange in it or a purple hue around the outer edge. Those colors are there but may not be obvious to us unless we are asked to look. And when we do, we often make the most unique discovery! Surprised to find it there.

Children love exploring and searching. They are like sponges waiting for water to soak up. They too see the obvious when they first step outside, but this colors of nature activity will not only teach them to look beyond the obvious, it will show them that all colors are everywhere in the natural world if they look a little closer and a little deeper.

Colors of Nature Activity

The thing I love most about this activity is the simplicity of it. How easy it is to put together and do with kids. All you need is a flip chart size piece of paper and some crayons.

  • Draw a color chart on a large piece of paper (flip chart size works well). Divide the paper into 9 equal squares. In each corner of the square choose a color and color that corner, say pink. That square now represents pink items. Do the same with the rest of the squares choosing different colors. I like to choose some colors that I know will be easy, like green and brown, and start with those in the activity. This creates success for the kids. Then when you get to colors that are not as abundant they are already engaged and willing to look.
  • colors in natureGather the kids around the color chart (which I lay on the ground) and briefly talk about the different colors in nature and how you can find them everywhere. Ask the kids questions about where they see colors in nature as examples.
  • Do one color at a time. Start with a super easy color (this will depend on your location, green might be abundant in the forest but may not be at the beach). Ask them to go find natural items that are that color and bring them back. Remind them to only pick up things that they find on the ground and not pick live things or take leaves off trees.
  • Have everyone place the items they found on the color square. Then take a moment to have everyone look and see the different things that were found. Point out the unique ones and discuss other things that are that color in nature that they may not have found in their area or weren’t able to pick.
  • Repeat with the next color. Mix it up with colors that might be harder to find, with those that are easier. This creates a feeling of success for the kids and keeps them interested in the activity.
  • Continue until your color chart is full! Then take a look at your wonderful natural color pallet.

When I did this with my kids it was amazing what we found. In a soccer field, we found oranges and pinks, purples and blues. And it kept the kids engaged for 30 minutes and probably could have continued on for longer.colors of nature activity

Not only did this activity allow them to explore and learn about their environment but it demonstrated that if you look close enough you can find many colors even in a soccer field. Plus it allowed them a little freedom in expanding their space, boundaries, and their exploration. It was empowering for them.

Then on our walk back we were all looking for (and finding) more colors, mostly the ones that we found less items for, and got quite excited about it.

This activity can be done anywhere. And even if you don’t have a color chart you can pick colors for kids to go and find, though the visual matching is nice when you can do it and enhances their sensory learning even more.colors of nature activity

*The color chart works great with kids of all ages and works especially well with younger children. With older kids you can use paint chips and give each child one to take with them on their exploration to go and match it to something. This again expands their boundaries but also allows them to take the color to the item to actually match it and they don’t need to pick it and bring it back. 

Gluten Free Bran Muffins with Raisins & Hemps Seeds

gluten free bran muffinsI have always been a fan of muffins. They are a great grab and go snack that will fill your tummy and give you some good nutrition. They are also a fantastic make ahead and freeze for later option as well – something you can quickly grab out of the freezer to add to lunches, road trips or just a quick snack.

I have been dabbling more and more with gluten free recipes as I have noticed that my body does not seem to tolerate it like it used to. Often feeling tired after bread, muffins or anything wheat based, I have been slowly expanding and experimenting with my recipes. I was a little worried about changing my muffins though, as I had found many gluten free muffins to taste grainy or gritty and certainly not to my liking. But I knew that they couldn’t all be that way and that if it was the difference between energy boost and energy drain then I had to give it a whirl. So I started experimenting…

I am a big fan of bran muffins and have been since I was little. I know most people don’t care for bran muffins, more like a love it or hate it relationship, but for whatever reason I really enjoyed them. And it wasn’t just because of the benefits of bran! They were yummy. So it was only natural that one of the first muffin recipes I converted would be a bran one.

I found the original gluten free bran muffins recipe online and loved the addition of hemp seeds for the added nutrition. I also liked that I could create my own gluten free flour as all brands are not created equal, and this way I could choose what went into my mix. A quick modification for the sugar and the dairy I had the perfect recipe, which my boyfriend at the time, loved and he was not a gluten free guy. In fact to this day they are still his favorite muffin that I make.

The kids love them to, though they tend to like banana more, but they will eat them without complaint and I love the hemp seeds and flax added in there.

Gluten Free Bran Muffins with Raisins & Hemp Seeds

1/2 c. ground flax seedgluten free bran muffins

1/2 c. rice bran

1 c. almond milk (unsweetened coconut milk or other non dairy milk of choice)

1/3 c. olive oil

1 large egg

2/3 c. coconut sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (*easy to make your own gluten free flour mix)

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1 tsp. baking sodagluten free bran muffins

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. hemp seeds

1/2 c. raisins (I like lots of raisins so I add another 1/4 c. but you don’t have to)

In a medium bowl mix together flax seed, rice bran and almond milk. Let sit for 10 minutes while you get everything else ready.

Next, in a large bowl combine gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and hemp seeds.

In a different medium bowl, beat together the oil, egg, coconut sugar and vanilla. Add the ingredients from the first medium bowl (almond milk/ flax seed mixture) to the egg mixture and stir well.

Stir the almond milk mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Fold in the raisins.

Spoon batter by the teaspoon into greased muffin tin or line with cupcake liners. Bake at 375 F for 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 5 minutes then remove muffins from muffin tin to allow cool completely.

Store in an airtight container or freeze for easy quick grab and go healthy snacks.

* I found this combination for your own gluten free flour mix online. I make a batch and store in an airtight container so it’s on hand when I need it.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

4 c. superfine brown rice flour

1 1/3 c. potato starch (not flour, they are different)

2/3 c. tapioca starchgluten free bran muffins

A Little Indulgence – Dairy Free Sugar Free Chocolate Icing

dairy free sugar free chocolate icingI have a secret to share with you. It’s one of those don’t tell my kids or I’ll never live it down kind of secrets. I have a bit of an addiction. You know that chocolate icing that I made to ice the cupcakes? Yeah there was some leftover…there’s not anymore…

When I found this recipe for dairy free sugar free chocolate icing I was in heaven. It’s super simple to make and totally delicious! One would never know that it was anything near the sugar free area, let alone no dairy. It is creamy, smooth and definitely chocolatey! It is so good I sometimes eat it with a spoon. Hence, why there are no longer any leftovers in my fridge. Once in a while, when I have that craving for sweet I just dip in and take a spoonful or two…ok sometimes three. I often think to myself I will just freeze the rest and then when I need icing I can just pull it out and use it without having to make a whole new batch (the recipe is quite big – even when I half it I have generous leftovers). But unless I pop it into the freezer right away, yeah, I eat it, in big heaping spoonfuls and hope that my kids don’t find out (because I don’t want them to do it to! I know hypocritical).dairy free sugar free chocolate icing

This simple recipe requires only 4 ingredients and your food processor or blender. I use cacao powder for that extra superfood boost – as cacao is high in magnesium, B vitamins, protein and fiber – but you may also cocao, though not as beneficial nutritionally. And I use this icing recipe for all kinds of things, not just cakes and cupcakes. We put it on ice cream, fruit and last summer we discovered that it is a great substitute for some of those good old camping recipes, like s’mores, or the new one we discovered at Scout camp – a combination of banana, nutella (we use the chocolate icing instead), butter and toasted on a bun – yum!

So regardless what you are going to use it for, whether it be a little indulgence eating it with a spoon, cake or a camping treat, enjoy this quick easy dairy free sugar free chocolate icing guilt free.

Dairy Free Sugar Free Chocolate Icing

dairy free sugar free chocolate icing1 cup cacao powder

3/4 cup Earth Balance vegan spread

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pure maple syrup (high in minerals such as maganese, zinc, potassium and no artificial ingredients compared to imitation syrups containing high fructose corn syrup, added and artificial ingredients, contain no minerals)

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.

Use immediately or may be stored in fridge for up to one week or frozen (unless you eat it all first).dairy free sugar free chocolate icing

Building a Nature City – Outdoor Activities for Kids

outdoor sensory activitiesOne of the many benefits of outdoor nature activities is that they engage all five senses in children’s learning. Outdoor sensory activities like touching sticks, smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, seeing the grasshoppers, even tasting the dandelions!

Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most when they engage their senses. And an outdoor environment is one of the best places to do this! There is a plethora of sights, sounds and tactile experiences in nature, and a lot of times we are experiencing this without even thinking about it. Children just naturally gather sticks, rocks and flowers. They can’t help but be drawn to pick them up. How many times have you told your child to put that stick down or drop those rocks?

In this activity we are actually going to encourage children to pick up natural items and then take their exploration a bit further by creating a city with them.

Building a Nature City – An Outdoor Sensory Activityoutdoor sensory activities

You will need:

buckets

playdough (homemade or from the store)

flat bottom boxes

natural items (to be collected)

The first thing I did to get ready for this activity was make natural herbal playdough the day before. I found this recipe on The Imagination Tree and loved not only the idea of adding the herbs, which provide such a wonderful smell, but the use of real lemon juice in place of cream of tartar. Though I did this myself without the kids, you could easily make this into another activity with the kids (another great outdoor sensory activity) prior to building your nature city. Of course you can use regular playdough as well if you do not wish to make your own.outdoor sensory activities

Briefly explain what you are going to do – gather items, use the playdough, build city with items in your box. Then begin…

  1. outdoor sensory activitiesGive the child a bucket to hold their nature items in, then go out together and gather items. Encourage them to gather a variety of things and only pick up items that are already on the ground. We want to instill in them that pulling live leaves off or breaking branches can hurt the tree, or picking the flowers (with the exception of dandelions) can prevent them from growing again.
  2. Once they have gathered their items return to a spot outdoors where they can have a ‘work space.’ This should be a flat space, like the deck or concrete patio. You could even set up a large piece of cardboard or wood to create an area for them to work.
  3. Give the child a flat box bottom to build their city in. I searched around our house and found that gift boxes work well. You want one where the sides are not too high and the bottom is fairly sturdy. Ideally if you have one of those cardboard trays from your local garden center these work best.
  4. Let them take the amount of playdough they want to create the base of their city in their box. They use the playdough to stick their nature items in to build their city. (I left the bag of playdough there for the kids to take as they needed).
  5. Taking the natural items they collected have them build and create whatever city they have imagined and see the results.

outdoor sensory activitiesWhen I did this with my children they were super excited and engaged in ‘building’ for quite some time. Both were very focused on their cities and they modified and added to them as they went. Luke started out with something very simple but then saw Chloe make a tee pee and decided he needed one of his own. They were at it for a good 20 minutes or more and this was in addition to the time we had already spent collecting our natural items.

Both of their cities turned out very well and were quite creative and unique! They really enjoyed it, especially Luke who actually thanked me the next day for doing that with them because “I really enjoyed it,” he said. I thought that was pretty cool.

Sensory play and exploration is an important part of a child’s development as children learn through their environments. Sensory play stimulates the brain and helps them develop and refine the use of their senses, which is super important for all types of learning! This outdoor sensory activity allows kids to engage all of their senses by touching the natural items (are they rough, smooth, sticky), smelling them as they are working, seeing the different colors and breathing in that good old fresh air while they are creating! They’ll likely discover bugs while they’re out there or notice/ hear a bird fly by. They may even taste the playdough, (which was all natural with herbs) like my daughter did. We always were a family who likes the full experience.

Regardless of what your child’s experience with this activity they will definitely get something out of it. Whether it be the texture of the sticks, enjoying the sounds, they will be engaged, creative and using their imagination while reaping the benefits of a full sensory learning experience!

outdoor sensory activitiesAnd don’t forget to take pictures of their creations once they are done, as they will truly be works of art.

Next week we discover all the colors of nature through this easy do anywhere activity.

Seeking and Sorting – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

outdoor nature activities for kidsChildren naturally love to be outside. Running, jumping, playing, climbing are all elements of outdoor play. We should not underestimate the value of outdoor nature activities for kids  and playing outside as it has many benefits.

Children who spend more time outside learn to appreciate and care for nature. Their natural curiosity encourages them to explore and learn in ways that we may not even realize. They develop physical and gross motor skills, burn calories, get their Vitamin D and contribute to their aesthetic learning as well. Think of all the colors, sights and sounds out there engaging the senses – from bird song to the feeling of bark under their hands or mud squished through their fingers. These activities are all contributing to the development and growth of your child.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThough free unstructured play in the outdoors definitely has it’s place and benefit, you can enhance your child’s learning experience by doing simple and exploratory outdoor nature activities with them. Deepening their appreciation of nature, teaching them basic skills/ concepts as well as growing their curiosity. Outdoor nature activities for kids can introduce them to something they may not have thought of before or learn about something that they may just take for granted. For instance, the feeling of the bark of a tree – some are rough, some are smooth, while others have a powdery substance on them. Then this can lead them to asking why? why are the barks different? Or looking at and finding all the different colors there are in nature – there is not just green and brown, exploring a little through different activities can show them the many colors of nature and where to look for them.

outdoor nature activities for kidsOver the next 6 weeks, we will explore different outdoor nature activities for children, featuring one activity each week; their benefits and how easy they are to do. You do not need a lot of equipment, just curiosity and a sense of fun and exploration. Depending on the age of the children, will depend on how deep you take their exploration. I find the best is to start simple and then take cues from the child as to where to go with it next and how long to spend on it. Something that might keep one child engaged for 20 minutes, might only engage another for 2. That’s ok, length of time is not important – it is the experience and what they get out of it. Besides the child who is engaged for less time might find another activity of more interest to them and spend longer with that one.

Seeking and Sorting

Children naturally love to collect stuff. They often run outside and collect dandelions, rocks, leaves, etc. This activity uses this concept to start to grow their appreciation as well as some basic math and counting concepts. You can easily do this with a group of children as young as 2 years old or one on one.

  1. outdoor nature activities for kidsGather the children into a circle and show them what it is you want them to collect. Depending on the age of the kids I may ask them to find a specific number or simply to collect as many as they can. For instance, I hold up a dandelion and ask them what it is. If they do not know then I tell them.
  2. Once they have identified what it is I ask them to go and collect 3 of these and bring them back and put them into a pile in the middle. Once they have done that, I will move on to the next item, say a stick. I emphasize that they are only to take sticks from the ground, as we want the ones that are attached to keep growing. I will ask them to collect 4 and bring them back and place it in the pile. Depending on the age group will depend on how many items we go seeking. With preschoolers I usually choose 2-3 items.
  3. Once we have a great big pile, we may pretend it’s a campfire and sing a campfire song. Or I tell them one interesting fact about the items they’ve collected, like pine cones hold the seeds for the new trees.
  4. Then I will get them to sort them into 3 piles, all the dandelions in one, all the sticks in one and all the pine cones in another. Kids not only love to collect, they also love to sort! Sorting activities for children teaches them how to organize, how to determine alike and different as well as beginning math skills.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThe great thing about this activity is it provides the foundation for other activities that you can now use the items you’ve collected to do. Activities like Woodland People, Building a Nature City and Nature Collages all utilize the items you’ve collected and bring in a little creativity and imagination.

Try out this Seeking and Sorting Activity this week and share in the comments below how it went and what favorite things you found!

Next week we’ll build upon this activity by Building a Nature City, that uses what we’ve collected.

Building a Sense of Community with Little Free Libraries

little free librariesPopping up in neighborhoods all over Calgary are cute little wooden houses filled with books. From one room school houses to gingerbread type themes, these Little Free Libraries are a free book exchange aimed to promote literacy, a love of reading and a sense of community.

When I first noticed these little houses popping up I thought they were pretty neat and the concept of sharing books interesting. I had seen a similar concept before in coffee shops where there was an area where you could take a book or leave a book for free, but these houses intrigued me. What were they all about? Was this some one of a kind random unique idea?

First I was drawn to the designs, some old school houses, bird houses or colorful boxes with unique designs. All of them different, all of them housing books of all kinds, shapes and sizes. I found them in my local neighborhood, near the swimming pool, the grocery store, some at the end of the neighbors front lawn. I have always loved books and though I love to read, I also love to share what I read with others. These houses are a great way to do that.

When I looked more closely I realized that these houses were part of a much larger organization. Started in 2009 by Todd Bol of Wisconsin, there are now 36,000 Little Free Libraries around the world. I thought this was absolutely amazing and such a wonderful idea!

I love how I can literally walk out my front door and around the corner to pick up a book. I love how I can take a book, or share a book, and I love that one of the goals of these little libraries is to promote a sense of community. We tend to spend way too much time in our houses and not always getting to know our neighbours, these libraries provide an opportunity to get out there and meet some of them and share common interests.

I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in reading as well, drawn by the unique houses, they are curious to peek in and check them out. My kids often ask if they can take a look inside when they see one, and though there may not always be a book in there for them, it gets them curious, it gets them thinking and exploring. It is also a great way to encourage them to share books they enjoy, in hopes that someone else will find it and enjoy it as much as they have.

So the next time you see a little house at the end of the road or near the local grocery store go and check it out. You never know what treasures you might find or the people you may meet.

Want to learn more about Little Free Libraries? or start one of your own? Check out the Little Free Library’s website with Frequently Asked Questions and explore the world of possibilities.

Easy Strawberry Banana Dairy Free Ice Cream Recipe

One of the things I definitely miss going dairy free is ice cream. A regular staple at my house when growing up; we often had it after supper, asking my parents hopefully if we could have some. Unless we were out, they usually said yes. Knowing that this was one thing I could not give up completely I set out to find some dairy free ice cream recipes.

dairy free ice cream recipeWhen I first started searching for dairy free ice cream recipes I thought that I would always have to make it in an ice cream maker using some kind of dairy free milk and natural sweetener. But what I have discovered is it can be even simpler than that. In fact it is so easy to make a great creamy, dairy free sugar free ice cream that as soon as you’re done reading this post, you’ll probably hop up and make some. Five minutes, maybe less, honestly you’ll be done.

Not to say that using an ice cream maker and an alternative dairy free milk is not a good option. In fact, I have some super yummy ice cream recipes made with coconut milk, like the peanut butter ice cream, that is so creamy and delicious it is worth the few extra minutes to make it. But sometimes you just want a quick treat. Not too much work and not too much thought being put into it. This is why I like this recipe for a dairy free strawberry banana ice cream. Super simple, super tasty and the only thought you have to put into it is do I have frozen bananas?

Dairy Free Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

This easy dairy free ice cream recipe gives you a nice soft serve ice cream in less than five minutes

dairy free ice cream recipe1 frozen banana (*peel banana before putting into freezer)

1 c. frozen strawberries

Put frozen banana and frozen strawberries into Vitamix blender. (If you do not have a Vitamix, a high powered blender of some kind is recommended due to the fruit being frozen and to prevent burning out your blender. If you have a standard blender, just proceed slower or blend fruit in smaller amounts to prevent burnout). Turn Vitamix on starting at low speed and slowly turn up to high. You may need to use tamper to push frozen fruit down to thoroughly mix. Once you have a soft serve consistency ice cream is ready to serve. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!

This dairy free ice cream recipe can also be made with different kinds of fruit, substituting the strawberries for raspberries or mango, etc. We have found though that the banana is a key part of the recipe in order to get that nice ice cream consistency and should always be present.

This is also a great recipe to make with kids as it is super easy for them to help with by putting the fruit into the blender or turning it on under the direction of an adult. It’s perfect for a hot summer day when you want a yummy cool treat and super quick to make. With just a little pre planning by having frozen fruit ready in the freezer you can literally whip it out in no time!