Monday

Nature Walk: Painting With Flowers

Thanks for having me as a guest over on your blog Mae.  I'm Nicola and I blog over at MultiCraftingMummy where I share my ideas and experiences of the arts and crafts activities that I do with my three children aged 2, 4 and 6.

We've spent a good chunk of our school summer holidays outside so far.  The weather overall has been pretty good for an Irish Summer! We've enjoyed lots of trips to the beach and playground, the kids have cycled and scootered for miles and we've enjoyed lots of our arts and crafts activities outside in the garden.


We have woodland close by to where we live and this has been a perfect spot to visit on the really hot days to cool us all down. A walk in the woods also provides the perfect excuse to go on a “Scavenger Hunt”.  Turning your walk in the woods into a “Scavenger Hunt” is a great way to keep the kids enthusiastic and engaged on your trip out.  It’s also a great way to start to teach your kids about the nature around you.

A quick search on Pinterest for “Scavenger Hunts” will bring back lots of examples if you are unsure of where to start or you can just go ahead and create your own list. I drew up my own list this time and attached it to a clipboard to bring along on our walk to tick things off as we went around.  We also brought along a small bag with us to collect leaves and flowers in. We planned to use these for an arts and crafts activity once we got back home.

We had a lovely time spotting bugs and butterflies, looking for interesting rocks and collecting different shaped leaves.  We also collected a few wildflowers; being careful only to pick what we needed for our arts and crafts and never too much from any individual plant.

Once we got back home we collected a few more flowers and leaves from our own garden and then set to work painting with our haul outside in.  I laid out sheets of white paper and paper plates filled with red, yellow and blue paint. The kids then had a fun half hour creating many different pictures.  The best thing about this was listening to them talking to each other about what they were creating with their flower prints.  

Do you like this “Volcano?”

I really like this picture which my 4 year old painted.  He actually had a really delicate touch when using the flowers and he made some lovely effects with them.

What are you favorite nature inspired activities?

We've have also taken these activities outside this summer as well:

Follow along for more inspiration and ideas on getting outdoors as a family. 

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
The Weekly Kids Co-Op

Thursday

Play Outdoors: No Extra Equipment Required

My family and I just moved to a new city and state and we are having a lot of fun discovering new trails, playgrounds and activities. On our walk home from the park this evening I was struck by how lucky we are to live in a place where we have free (or very inexpensive) parks, zoos, botanical gardens, hiking trails, and the like for kids outdoor play. But as much as my kids enjoy those activities, I am often struck by how much they enjoy simple activities, like playing in the rain.
Encouraging creativity & independence in kids - play outdoors.

Despite all the toys they have, they are always collecting rocks, leaves and sticks. The floor of our car is proof of that. I sometimes feel like children nowadays are missing something by having so many things given to them and activities planned for them. They don't develop the creativity and knowledge that comes through playing outdoors.
Encouraging creativity & independence in kids - play outdoors.

I firmly believe there is value in allowing our kids to have time when they can use their creativity. My son has quiet time every day; a time when he plays in his room by himself, away from electronics and other people. Maybe that is one of the reasons I enjoy hiking so much. It is just us, nature and my camera of course. Erica from Cragmama has some wonderful thoughts on this topic.
Encouraging creativity & independence in kids - play outdoors.

So in an effort to simplify and encourage my kids to use their imaginations, I am doing a series of posts on activities that require No Extra Equipment. They might use simple household items but nothing extravagant. Just good, old-fashioned fun.

Here are some of my old posts that follow this formula. Check them out and come back for more No Extra Equipment fun over the coming months.



Disclaimer: I love buying new equipment and paying for fun activities; and I do as often as I can. I am no way saying they are bad. I am doing this as much as a challenge for myself as anything. In fact, I will be doing a post on my essential equipment for outdoor families and my very first giveaway in a couple weeks. Thanks for stopping by and hope you'll come back.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Tuesday

D is for Deciduous

ABC's We All Need Trees is a regular series that explores the amazing roles trees play in life on planet Earth. Check out my previous posts in this series and come back for more. Get outdoors and explore nature
D is for Deciduous - Exploring the trees that loose their leaves!

With the fall season upon us, I thought is was appropriate to look at the broad class of trees referred to as DECIDUOUS.

Why? Because they are the highlight of every Autumn.

The word deciduous literally means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off"(source). With trees, this usually coincides with the cooler weather in the fall. Although in the tropics it coincides with the dry season and is a means of conserving water.

Generally deciduous trees have broad leaves. Although Cypress trees are one example of conifers (trees that typically keep their leaves year round) that loose their leaves every fall. Notice their leaves are skinny and needle-like.
D is for Deciduous - Exploring the trees that loose their leaves!
The best part of deciduous trees for me are their leaves in the fall. The weather is cooler and the forests are full of beautiful colors. Check out my post on Exploring Trees in the Fall for more on why leaves change colors. Then come back in a couple weeks for a round up of my favorite fall leaves art projects.
D is for Deciduous - Exploring the trees that loose their leaves!
Our favorite fall activity is hiking. Cooler weather & beautiful colors 
Don't forget about all the amazing wildlife that live in deciduous forests and depend on these trees. The most amazing wildlife I have ever seen in person was a moose as a teenager. Generally, we see more common things like birds, dear, beavers, etc.
D is for Deciduous - Exploring the trees that loose their leaves!
Can you spot the beaver?
Here is a collection of activities for exploring deciduous trees:
If you have small children, they may enjoy this video on deciduous trees from Sesame Street.

Here are more activities from fellow bloggers that explore different aspects of deciduous trees:
What is your favorite aspect of Autumn? 

Follow along for more inspiration and ideas on getting outdoors as a family. 


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Wednesday

Making Adventure Happen - No matter your location.

My "natural" habitat is the forested mountains. I would be out hiking every day if I could.

But I don't live in the mountains. I live in Oklahoma. Thankfully there are a fair number of trees in Oklahoma City but there aren't any mountains. I miss the mountains. I ache for the mountains. But not having mountains doesn't keep me from adventuring with my family.

I have moved A LOT in my life, as a kid and adult. I counted and I have moved 20 times and lived in 8 different states. As a result I have gotten good at adjusting and making the best out of less-than-my-ideal locations to live.

I moved from Utah to Florida my senior year of high school. From an outdoor adventurers' paradise to a muggy, swampland. And I didn't even really enjoy the beach at that time.

The first thing I did learn to love in Florida were the trees (no surprise there). And while I was studying forest management in college I was introduced to many other aspects of the outdoors in Florida.

Did you know Florida has some of the largest natural springs in the world? Not to mention the Everglades and hundreds of miles of rivers and creeks. I learned to love Florida outdoors. About the only thing to do in the summer is to spend time in the water, but you have the entire rest of the year to enjoy hiking, camping, biking, whatever. I have so many amazing memories of my time adventuring in Florida.

What would have happened if I hadn't ventured out of my comfort zone while in Florida? I would have missed out on a lot of amazing opportunities. I had friends that complained about the lack of outdoor activities after moving to Florida, and I always loved introducing them to new activities. But sometimes they didn't take advantage. They had an idea of what they wanted in outdoor activities and couldn't see any other options.

I love being outdoors. I want my kids to appreciate the outdoors and learn to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. So, I make the best of wherever I am and make adventures happen.

If you are in a similar situation or just feel like you are stuck in an outdoor rut, here are my tips for making adventures happen no matter your location or situation.
  • Get in the right frame of mind. Don't expect your new location to be like your old. Recognize that every area is unique and offers different opportunities to make adventures, big and small.
  • Change your point of view (literally & figuratively). Buy a macro lens for your camera and focus on the small things. I bought a nice point-and-shot camera and am having a fun time playing with it. 
  • Enjoy the water. The last three of the four areas we have lived have had some pretty awesome water bodies close by and we have enjoyed taking advantage. In Oklahoma we have some large lakes and I plan on introducing my son to canoeing. Don't forget all the other types of water activities - kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, packrafting, or snorkeling. 
  • Check out local historic/cultural sites and memorials.
  • Learn something new. I studied forest management in college and I love learning about the ecology of the new areas I move to. What is your passion? Apply it to your new area.
  • Change things up. This move I was able to get a used bike and a kid’s trailer. So we will be able to bike around town and such.
  • Buy used or rent gear so you can try new activities. I got my bike for free and bought the trailer for $25. It doesn't get much better than that. I also bought my camera used and am enjoying learning a new skill.
  • Plan trips. We are visiting family in Phoenix this Christmas. Instead of flying we are driving and planning to stop at the Petrified Forest National Park. It will be cold but the crowds should be small. I am super excited!
  • Join like-minded people. Find running, biking, hiking, etc. groups to get involved with. We did a lot of hiking with our friends. It wasn't a formal hiking group but it was much more fun than hiking by ourselves. 
  • Above all, be active and get outdoors. Even if the trails aren't what you are used to, there are still generally trails and outdoor areas to enjoy. Get outdoors and explore!
    Check out these ideas for urban outdoor adventures from Rain or Shine Mamma.

    How do you adjust to a new area after a move or make the best of your less-than-ideal location to live?

    Follow along for more inspiration and ideas on getting outdoors as a family. 



    Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

    Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
    Mum Of One
    Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop

    Monday

    Homemade Snacks: Fruit Juice Snacks

    My kids loved these homemade snacks. I could barely get any pictures because they were eating them so quickly. Oh, and I don't have to feel guilty about the kids eating as many as they want; they are made with only 3 simple ingredients: fruit juice, honey and gelatin.
    Homemade Fruit Snacks - only 3 ingredients
    My one concern was that they would fall apart easily, but they didn't. They were extra chewy, jiggly, and perfect for using your favorite mini cookie cutters. They also store easily in the fridge and are a cool snack for these hot summer days.

    Homemade Fruit Snacks

    adapted from Pounds4Pennies and Hip2Save

    Ingredients

    2/3 cup orange juice
    2/3 cup fruit puree* (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peach, etc.)
    3 packets of gelatin
    2-6 tbsp honey (to your taste)

    Directions

    • Whisk all ingredients together in a small sauce pan.
    • Place over medium heat and whisk continuously until mixture barely starts to bubble around the edges. Don't allow the mixture to come to a full boil.
    • Pour mixture into a 8x8 pan and place in refrigerator until completely chilled. 
    • Remove from refrigerator and run knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the gelled mixture. Turn the pan over and empty onto a cutting board. I had to use a spatula to coax the snacks onto the cutting board. 
    • Use a knife or mini cookies cutters to cut the snacks into bite size pieces. We used our camping themed mini cookie cutters
    • Store fruit snacks in an air tight container in the fridge. They will last up to a week but ours only lasted 1 day. 
    *To make puree, blend fruit in a blender or in a food processor.  Some recipes called for the seeds to be strained out of the puree, others did not. I preferred the seeds removed. To remove the seeds, push puree through a fine mesh strainer using the back of a spoon. This takes a little time and patients but I feel it is worth the effort.
    Homemade Fruit Snacks - only 3 ingredients
    Have you tried making homemade fruit snacks? What are your favorite fruits to use? 

    Tuesday

    Water Activities For When You Don't Have A Hose.

    Have I ever mentioned we live in an apartment?  Most of the time I am ok with it, but now that we are in the heat of the summer it is frustrating to not have a hose. We have a pool at our complex but sometimes I don't feel like swimming; I just want my kids to be able to be creative and play outdoors. As a result I have been on a hunt for fun, outdoor water activities for kids that we can do on our front porch area and that don't require a hose.

    So whether you are like us (and don't have a hose) or if you just want to conserve water, here are our favorite water activities so far. We have found it easiest to fill up the buckets, guns, and jugs in the kitchen sink and carry them out the our porch.

    11 Water Activities: For when you don't have a hose.
    Bonus: Get caught in the rain, as long as there isn't any lightning. It is the cheapest and easiest way to play in the water.
    11 Water Activities: For when you don't have a hose.


    What are your favorite water activities?  

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