Learning Through Play, Waldorf Home

How to Make a Waldorf-Inspired Nature Mobile

We love playing out at Grandpa’s house because there is so much to explore and discover outside! It is the one place I feel safe telling my kids to “roam free” because there’s plenty of land away from moving cars and people. Emma spent the first 4 years of her life living in a smaller house with no yard and lots of traffic. Because of this, she’s a bit timid to play outside on her own or to embrace the outdoors. Going to Grandpa’s gives us all a bit of fresh air and is the perfect place to encourage that good outdoor play.

Emma loves collections. Knowing this, I gave her a canvas bag and told her to collect as many leaves, twigs, flowers, or other items she could find. With permission, we rooted through the flower beds for some mums and a couple of hen and chicks succulents Dad had growing.


We started with some simple leaf rubbings, but Emma loves to paint! She selected some fall colors from our tempura paint collection to use. She ended up painting the leaves a color and then stamping them onto paper. She also used a mum dipped in paint to stamp.   My favorite idea she had was using a twig as a paint brush! She said it was a little hard and didn’t work the way she thought it would.


Here is her finished painting! I like that she used paint to sign her name at the top. 🙂


Not shown in the top picture is a long stick she found hanging in a tree at Grandpa’s. She wasn’t sure what to do with it, but we rummaged in my craft room and found some twine she wanted to use.


Being almost 5, I know it’s still a little early to learn to tie shoes. However, we did work on the first step as we tied the twine onto the twig. It wasn’t perfect, and I’m sure she will need help if asked to do it again, but she persisted and didn’t give up or get frustrated. This is a win in my book!


She decided to have eight strands hanging from her twig, which was plenty of opportunities to practice tying!


With some help, we poked small holes in the middle of the leaves. She then threaded the twine through the leaf. We continued until all of the leaves were used and all of the strings filled up. We capped each end with a vine, mum, succulent, or twig giving her another chance to tie some knots!


And here is our finished product! I just happened to have hooks already on the walls in our main living area. It’s nice to add some real fall items into our collection of “typical” fall decor in the house.


I also highly recommend displaying children’s handwork in a central location in the house where everyone (including guests!) can see it. When their work is displayed in a way we might hang a framed photo or a professional painting, it really builds up the child’s self esteem and shows that their work is valued just as much.


This is such a simple craft, and I love that it was thought up and executed by Emma! I’d love to see more nature projects! What have you and your children made? Leave them in the comments. 🙂

Wishing you well,


Family Outings

Newport Aquarium

This weekend we had an amazing family adventure to Newport Aquarium  for the first time! With Emma loving everything about ocean life, this trip was well overdue! Situated right on the Ohio River in Kentucky, Newport on the Levee is filled with restaurants, shopping, and entertainment events that perfectly round out any family visit.


As soon as you enter the aquarium you are greeted with replicas of sea creatures hanging from the rafters. Emma was especially fond of the “Wishing Whale.” I have to give a shout out to the ladies working the front entrance. They were especially nice and friendly as they had little conversations with our kids. One cast member even gave Emma a few pennies to toss to the whale (because mommy and daddy couldn’t find any). It was a wonderful way to begin our first visit.


After exiting the elevator (which was cleverly painted as if we were in a shark cage submerged in water), we were greeted with fish from rivers across the world. It was all we could do to keep Emma from running to each exhibit, she was so excited. I must say, once we saw this tunnel, Matt and I were just as excited!


Emma loved that the fish could swim right over her head! “We’re really underwater!” 🙂


Each display was labeled with info cards so you could read about the animals as you located them in the tank.


This tunnel lead us to the first of three touch pools. The Tide Pool is similar to the touch pool at The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium  where you can feel sea stars, horseshoe crabs and anemone. Rather than being herded through the line quickly, we were able to step to any side of the pool to see the animals. It was also a good height for kids to see. I did have to lift Emma a little so she could touch the bottom, but she could clearly see inside without any help at all. A cast member was stationed behind the pool to answer any questions and to give us more information about the animals we were exploring.


You can see there are several sea stars in the tank. The anemone (in the bottom left corner) were very soft to the touch, almost as if you couldn’t feel them at all! Their tentacles would gently wrap around your fingers and it wasn’t until I went to pull away that I felt them sticking slightly.


There was also a beautiful display of a coral reef. Emma reminded us that coral is an animal and it’s important to help keep them healthy!


As we  explored, Matt and I had fun tinkering with our photography skills! The bright animals against the dark background was great to play around with. I do have to give him a shout out here, since he took several of these with our Canon while I was keeping my Insta feed updated.


When we rounded the corner from the Tide Pool, we came face-to-face with a huge tank filled with…


…SHARKS! If you’ve read my post on Shark Week you know that our family loves sharks! I was a proud momma indeed when Emma was able to correctly identify 3 of the 4 species at the Newport Aquarium! The shark above is a Sand Tiger Shark. This display was kind of tall for Emma to get up close, but was perfect for Lee to stand carefully on the edge. One of the Leopard Sharks swam right by as he looked!



We were at this display for quite some time just watching the sharks swim by. 🙂


It was pretty neat. We were so close we could almost touch them!


When we did manage to tear ourselves away from the sharks, we found the seahorses! We learned some new facts about seahorses (did you know they can move their eyes in two different directions at the same time?) and the kids were able to create their own!


Emma worked on the iPad to design a sea dragon! This cute interactive moment allowed her to display her creation for all visitors at Newport on the TV above.


Once finished, the program gave me the option to have her sea dragon emailed to me. When I received the email, there was an extra bonus fact about sea dragons and a free coloring sheet for when we got home!

Emma's Sea Dragon

The seahorses were beautiful! We saw big ones and dwarf ones that were no bigger than an inch! I also loved the music playing as we looked around. It was very calming and fitting for seahorses!


And yes, those are real animals in there! They look like the plastic leafy stuff you can get for a home aquarium, but in reality they are tiny sea dragons!


There is no dull moment as you walk through the exhibits. The layout is cleverly designed so everyone follows the same path. This way you know you are seeing all of the exhibits, but the path is wide enough that visitors can view the animals at their own pace. Being first-timers, we took our time at each tank and never felt rushed or pushed through to the next section. Newport is also filled with these beautiful murals that reach ceiling to floor! This one shows an extinct sea creature along with an info poster.


The next space we found ourselves in was Gator Alley and the Louisiana bayou! Fun jazz played as we walked through the swamps!


Matt and Lee got a kick out of this lizard because it kept nodding at them as they looked at him. Lee would imitate it and the two would go back and forth for a bit! It was quite funny!


What we weren’t expecting to see was Mighty Mike, a 15-foot, 800-pound alligator! Our pictures of Mike do not do him justice! It was very difficult to capture just how big he was! Many walking by didn’t think he was real since he was so still in the water. A cast member working in the area confirmed that he was a real alligator and talked to us for a bit about him and his history.


Lee’s face in this picture says it all! Mike is one big alligator!


Sadly, Mighty Mike has left Newport to rejoin Florida’s Crocodilian Conservation Center. There he will continue to grow and educate others on the importance of our wetlands in America.


Even though mike is gone, two of the rarest animals in the world still remain at Newport: Snowball and Snowflake! They are two White American Alligators. There are less than 100 known white alligators in the world. It was pretty special to see these creatures!


Follow Emma long to Stingray Hideaway where Matt’s year was made! 😉


Stingray Hideaway was beautiful and open. After being mostly underground the entire time, seeing natural light through the windows was very welcome.


This exhibit was also well designed. The path was angled so we could see underwater in some spaces, but then was high enough that Emma could reach into the tank at others.


There was also a small (crawling only) path where the rays were swimming above and around us! Emma loved this!


In the middle of the crawling path was a little “bubble” where you could poke your head out and see above the water. We really enjoyed the way this tank was designed!


Oh, and did I mention that this was the second touch pool?


One of Matt’s favorite animals is a stingray, so it totally made his day that he got to touch and hang out with a few!


We also saw jellyfish! There are roughly 10 pictures of the jellyfish tank on my camera roll, but I’ll only share two with you here. They were very beautiful!



My favorite part of the whole day was a little corridor with glass on all sides (including under our feet) that gave us the perfect view of these guys:


THE SHARKS! We stood and talked with a cast member for quite some time learning about the sharks and other creatures in the largest tank at the aquarium. It is hard not to be in awe of them as they swim over and under you.



One thing was apparent as we continued to interact with the cast members: all of them truly cared about the animals. Not only do all of the animals have names, but all of the cast members know the names along with funny or interesting anecdotes about each.


Along with the sharks and stingrays, there is a 200 pound sea turtle named Denver and a huge grouper named Brutus that live in this tank. There is also a Nurse Shark named Ziggy that likes to hide out under your feet. Ziggy is named such because she grew too big for her original tank (not at Newport). As a result her tail is crooked!


This is my favorite picture of the day!


Oh, and no big deal, this is just me TOUCHING a SHARK in the third touch pool!


The last thing we did was cross the Shark Bridge! This suspended bridge hovers over the shark exhibit.


It took some convincing to get Emma to go across, but she conquered her fear and went across twice! I was so proud of her!


It was a perfect day. We were able to nurture Emma’s love for sea animals while giving her some hands-on experience with them and other biologists. I highly highly recommend a visit to the Newport Aquarium. If you’re looking for more information, you can check out the blog here.

Please know that I am not being paid to recommend this. Our family truly enjoyed our visit. I’m glad we got to experience the wonder together!


Wishing you well,



Learning Through Play

Momma Tip: Get Messy and MIU!

As a teacher, I’ve had many experiences where lessons did not go as planned; students did not find the activities interesting and so chaos broke out in the classroom. It is at these moments when you pack everything up, put it all away, and MIU: Make. It. Up.

This happened over the weekend with my kids. I was all set on getting some projects done around the house when arguments broke out, tears were shed, and toys were everywhere. So we cleaned it all up and went outside.

Sidewalk chalk is always a good go-to for us, but we had a bunch of tiny pieces that were too small to hold. We gathered them all up in a bowl and used small dowel rods to crush them up. We added some water to help. Many of our pieces were black, so that became the dominate color.


Once everything was crushed up, it was pretty thick but not chunky. It was a good texture for finger paint!


Emma did not want to get messy at first. She’s always been neat and tidy, never liking much mess. As a former Pre-K teacher and creative type, “mess,” to me, is usually a side effect of discovery, creativity, and ingenuity. I always encourage my children to get messy  as long as we clean up when we’re finished.


It didn’t take long for both of them to really dive in!


I mean, who doesn’t want their entire hand painted???


I was surprised to see the black handprints dried a light gray on our driveway. Emma bear-crawled up and down the driveway with her hands covered in chalk!


They were having so much fun, all I did was sit back and take pictures!


…because who doesn’t love these faces?!


Once we had exhausted our homemade chalk paint, I did find some old chalk paint markers. We decided to try them out. The colors were beautiful!


The consistency was much thinner than our homemade version, but extremely vibrant. Both kids loved the drip patterns.


I loved that the driveway started to look like a Jackson Pollock painting!


The sense of joy that radiated from this little one as the colors dripped onto the driveway was amazing to witness!


They both had so much fun! I could go through and tell you all of the wonderful educational aspects they were gaining out of it, but honestly, I was a momma that was simply happy that they were happy! We were outside enjoying the sunshine and some time together making art and getting messy. Our neighbor even came over to join in on the fun!


I’m sure we looked crazy with the kids completely a mess, both sets of shoes, clothing, and faces covered in liquid chalk, and our driveway covered…


…but I loved every second of it! Matt came home from work right in the middle of our little project. After being married to me for 7 years he’s learned to just roll with the punches when it comes to stuff like this. 🙂


I’ll be sad when the rain washes all of it away. I’ve definitely taken plenty of pictures, and we can always mix up another batch in the future.


So the next time you are in your classroom or at home with the kids and the chaos train starts rolling into the station, remember to MIU! I promise you the experiences will be much more meaningful and engaging when the children are interested in what they are doing. And who knows, you may end up with priceless art on your driveway in the process. 🙂


Wishing you well,


Learning Through Play, Parenting

Budding Photographer

With my blog and Instagram account, the kids are used to me taking 5000 photos of them doing random things or of random objects. Because of this, Emma likes to use this pretend phone…


…to “take pictures” like mommy. Instead of pretending, I handed her my iPhone X (!) one night so she could actually take photos. Yes, I did trust my 4-year-old with my iPhone as long as she held it with both hands and used walking feet. 😉


I did not give her any directions or give her ideas on what to take pictures of. The only limit I set was she had to stay in our backyard and be done when it was dinner time.


I didn’t get a chance to look back through her photos until later that evening when both kids were in bed. I loved seeing the world through her eyes! I also had the chance to see what she valued as important or interesting as she kept taking photos of the same items as they changed or moved.


Her favorite portrait to take is her brother’s. Once she was given an ACTUAL camera, she was kind to give the toy one to Lee so he could join in if he wanted. He was more concerned that mommy left him in the grass with no shoes on (the horror!) than trying to follow his sister around.


She also loves this garden. Earlier this summer she helped us transform it from something out of Jurassic Park to the beautiful little corner it is now. She takes great pride in it and will weed it whenever she sees something growing that’s not supposed to be there.


Many beautiful summer nights have been spent sitting around this fire pit making s’mores and looking up at the stars. I thought her perspective of the fire pit was a perfect example of what life looks like when you’re only 3 1/2 feet tall!


Then she found the filters…


…and the ZOOM


But I think what I loved the most was seeing how many pictures there were of us, her family. Many were candid shots (that blurred or caught us super off-guard) but they were wonderful because it showed what everyday life looks like for our family.


I highly recommend letting your child have free reign of a camera sometime. Yes, you will end up with about 50 random photos on your phone, but getting that glimpse of what life is like through their eyes is totally worth it. I plan on having Emma select some of these to get printed and put into frames to be displayed. I’m hoping it will show her that we value her perspective and her work and that photography truly is an art. After all, who doesn’t want a photo of the sunset in their backyard like this?


Wishing you well,


*All photos posted were taken by my 4-year-old

Learning Through Play, Lesson Planning

It’s Shark Week!

Always being on the move and knowing the importance of play, we don’t really watch TV. With that said, there are only 2 weeks we truly look forward to watching together as a family: NHL opening week, and SHARK WEEK!

Sharks are so fascinating no matter your age. Emma loves learning about the oceans and ocean life in general thanks to shows like Octonauts, the mermaid trend happening now, and her momma always focusing a whole month at school on ocean life. 😉 So, in honor of the 30th Anniversary of Discovery’s Shark Week, I’ve compiled some of my past and present ideas and teaching moments dedicated to Sharks!

In the classroom, we would spend the first week or so doing multiple projects that would transform the room. Before opening the classroom for the unit, I would use blue streamers to make “ocean waves” across the ceiling using the drop tiles. It was dual purpose as it set the tone for the upcoming unit and looked great too! As we learned about different species of ocean animals, students would use materials at the art center to create their own version like this sea turtle. We would then hang up the animals in our floating ocean. Other animals I’ve used included jellyfish, clown fish, angelfish, and seahorses.

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Some other projects included these 3D ocean waves made from construction paper and glue. This activity is great for working on scissor skills since the students can cut their own strips of paper. I love it because it gets them thinking outside-the-rectangle of traditional 2D art and challenges them to take their artwork to the next level.

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I love using sensory materials in new ways. To make these jellyfish, students first used paint to make the watery background. We then used some bubble wrap I had recycled from a package to create the large part of the jellyfish and pipe cleaners for the tentacles.

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Did I say how much I love using sensory materials?! The coral was a tricky task for my 4-year-olds to cut out. By gluing on rice we added some texture as we worked on our fine motor skills. If you haven’t already, check out my post on how easy it is to turn plain rice into Rainbow Rice!

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I love this perspective project below. This is a picture of my finished painting (I love doing the projects alongside the students). There are two ways you could set this up: pre-mix the paint colors and have students order by shade, or have the students mix the colors themselves. To get it set up use 3 paint colors: white, blue, and black and about 10 mixing cups labeled 1-10. In the first cup place just white paint, and in the 10th cup just black paint. Cup 5 would be just blue paint. Then challenge the students to use a combination of blue/white and blue/black paint to create a gradient that flows smoothly from cup 1 to 10. This does take some trial and error, but definitely meaningful! To create the “ocean floor looking up” perspective, start with a white circle anywhere on the paper. Then paint in circles starting from cup 2 and slowly move out to cup 9 as you work toward the edge of the paper. Use the black in cup 10 for the shark silhouettes.

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Hands-down my favorite project of the week was our life-sized drawing and painting of a great white shark that hung in our ocean from the ceiling. We made our great white 15 feet long. It was a challenge to keep it hanging all week (it was pretty heavy) and sadly I do not have a picture! My SECOND favorite project is below.

Sometimes I give my students a pattern to cut from (like the coral) and sometimes I do not. In this case, I did not give any patterns but had students draw and cut out their own shapes. We started with the large triangle and then added a semicircle for the mouth. Four circles helped create eyes, and triangles for the teeth. How cute did these turn out?! I love how they all look unique!

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More recently, I posted on Instagram about this invitation to play I set up for Emma. We found this tube of sea animals from Safari Ltd and we had to pick it up! While she was napping I had fun setting up this little world for her to explore. She loves the kinetic sand and I love it because there’s no mess! I also threw in a couple of seashells I had on hand because why not?


The blue tray is from a set of 4 we purchased from Lakeshore. We use them all the time for lots of projects. They’re fantastic!


You can’t quite see it, but I also found this amazing t-shirt at Target! Being the amazing budding marine biologist that she is, she immediately knew what it was and double-checked that the animals pictured were in the correct zone. 🙂


Sadly I do not have pictures of the “meat and potatoes” of our Shark unit which culminated in mini projects focusing on a different species of shark for each child. They were very similar to our engineering projects where students researched and documented facts about their shark, created and labeled a digram with their body parts, and charted where in the oceans their shark lives. When the week was complete, the class could name around 15 different shark species and some of their characteristics.

With Emma’s deep interest, we are looking into a long weekend at Newport Aquarium so she can explore the sharks and other animals up close and personal. Now that I’m able to focus my teaching on my children, I’m hoping to be able to immerse them in real life situations when their interests pique. Until then, our family will continue to enjoy sitting together on the couch learning from a distance as we watch Shark Week.

Wishing you well,


Learning Through Play, Parenting

Easy Rainbow Rice

Easy Rainbow Rice

I’ve been seeing some awesome posts recently on Instagram about Rainbow Rice and how to make it. It had been a couple of years since I had made colored rice with my Pre-K class, so I figured it was time to try it out again! I had always used the Vinegar Method where rice is put into a baggie and mixed with vinegar and food coloring in the desired color. It works really well and is great if you have a little one that may try to eat it. The draw back I found was colors were not vibrant and the room would reek of vinegar for a few days. When some fellow learning-through-play moms were talking about using PAINT instead, Emma and I had to try it out!

It was also a perfect time to work with Emma on the order of the rainbow. We have two sets of these bowls from IKEA.  One set we use to eat with and the other is used for playtime! They’re cheap, dishwasher safe (!), and great for sorting. Emma poured some uncooked rice into each bowl and then squirted on some paint. We used tempera paint, but I’m under the assumption that just about anything would work fine.


We also have the matching spoons from IKEA.  Emma had fun mixing up each bowl and watching as the rice was covered in the paint! The tricky part was keeping the rice to stay inside the bowl! I did help out when she was done to make sure the rice was fully coated in paint.


Emma then dumped each bowl onto a drying tray and used the spoon to spread the rice out. She was careful not to mix the colors while they were wet!


It was a sunny summer’s day so we set the trays outside to dry in the sun. It was probably dry within an hour (super hot that day!), but it was also nap time so the trays stayed out for about 2.5 hours. When I went to check on the rice again, not only was it completely dry, it had not lost any vibrancy! It was slightly stuck together in places, so I gently ran it through my hands to break it up a bit.


Once it was all broken up, I was able to snap a couple of “Insta-worthy” pictures before I let the littles ones go!


Emma had a blast! I pulled out our Guidecraft Stacking Rainbow Pyramid for her to have something to transfer the rice into. “Look how beautiful it is all mixed up!” says the 4-year-old. 🙂




The smaller stacking blocks made for good scoops. The various sizes also had Emma working on measurement skills. Which block could hold the most rice? How many scoops did it take to fill the big block?


Even Lee got in on the fun! He couldn’t resist the bright colors and he loves doing whatever sissy is doing!


Being 16 months, he did try to eat it a couple of times. This is where the Vinegar Method would still be helpful for little ones. He found his own little block to transfer the rice into and chatted away with Emma.


It’s moments like this when they’re both working together that make my heart full! We spent the majority of the afternoon filling, dumping, spreading, and stacking the rice. It was a wonderful sensory play idea. We had all of the materials in our kitchen and my craft room which meant it was FREE! The paint method will definitely be my go-to recipe for Rainbow Rice from now on. You just can’t beat how easy it was and how beautiful the result is!


Wishing you well,


Family Outings, Parenting

Our First MLS Game

We took some time last week for a weeknight family outing! With Matt’s new job we actually have some time in the evenings to spend as a family of 4 and we’ve been taking advantage of every minute! Although Matt and I were both music majors, since we’ve been married we have followed Columbus sports (and sports in general) pretty closely. Soccer is a game that is easily played in the backyard and one both Emma and Lee love! Always trying to give our children real life experiences, we found a great deal on Columbus Crew tickets and decided to take the kids to their first game. To say Lee had fun is an understatement! We thoroughly enjoyed watching him and interacting with him all night!

(I do have to put a quick disclaimer in that Emma was running a fever for the entire game. She didn’t complain a bit even though we could tell she was miserable. Poor girly!)

Of course we picked up some new gear for the occasion from Homage. Matt and I have a shirt for just about every sports team in our state. We call them “Just In Case” shirts for that moment when we randomly pick up tickets and need something to wear!


We had amazing seats for $20! We ended up right above the tunnel where the players entered/exited but far enough way from the infamous Nordecke that the kids weren’t covering their ears the entire time. Here you can see Lee standing in front of our seats with a perfect view of the pitch and the players entering the field.


It was also Star Wars night, hence the Wookie and Darth Vader leading the team out! Emma did get a kick out of hearing John Williams music played over the speakers in the stadium. It was one of the few times she perked up.


You can tell from the video here that Lee wasn’t hindered by the chanting at all! In fact he LOVED it! He is so responsive to music and a strong beat; I’m interested to see if he has inherited any musical abilities from Matt or myself.

Not only did Lee have fun chanting and clapping along with the Hudson Street Hooligans, he loved the food! The following is a picture montage of my sweet 15-month old eating a giant pretzel.


Pure. Joy.


After all of the cheering, all of the clapping, all of the eating, and following the ball across the field, the little guy had to have a souvenir! He is now in love with his soccer ball and always tries to get us to play with him! “Ball” was one of his first words, so I think it’s pretty safe to assume he’s going to be a sports kid! Even though he’s not walking yet, he’ll push the soccer ball toward one of us and shout until we roll it back to him. We then rinse and repeat until someone gets too tired to play (usually the adult).


Needless to say, our family had an amazing time at the Columbus Crew game! It was a great family friendly event that both of our kids enjoyed. Although Emma was not feeling well, she got first-hand experience at what a professional soccer game looks like and witnessed some of the rules in action.

Professional sports and Columbus go hand-in-hand. Our family experience here is one many families enjoy throughout the season at a Crew SC game. The city of Columbus is fiercely loyal to its teams, and I would be extremely saddened if our MLS team was moved to another city. If you’re from the Columbus area, or just an avid MLS fan, take a look at the website and see how you can help #SaveTheCrew.


Wishing you well,