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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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,

Heather

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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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!

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

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…because who doesn’t love these faces?!

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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!

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

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

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

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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!

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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…

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…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. 🙂

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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.

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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. 🙂

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Wishing you well,

Heather

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…

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…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. 😉

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Then she found the filters…

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…and the ZOOM

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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.

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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?

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Wishing you well,

Heather

*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?

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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!

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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. 🙂

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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,

Heather

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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. 🙂

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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?

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

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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.

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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!

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Wishing you well,

Heather