Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Raincloud in a jar activity

After a couple of weeks of nothing but sunshine, and hope of a wonderful Summer, the rain has returned and washed away our fun and well and truly damped our spirits. But don't despair!... (well you can for a couple of days, I sure did), we will endeavour to turn this miserable weather into a opportunity! (can you tell I'm trying to convince myself here?). So here's our cheap, fun raincloud in a jar activity.
To do the raincloud in a jar activity you will need:
  • Cheap shaving foam.
  • Blue/grey food colouring or paint.
  • A tall jar or glass.
First cover the table as it's going to get messy.
Then fill the jar 3/4 with water and top up with shaving foam, the foam is your cloud.
Next, make your rainwater by colouring a little water with food colouring or paint.
Place the jar onto a piece of paper and put the rainwater to the side with a teaspoon or pipette.  

Depending on the age of the child you are doing this with, you could explain that the foam is a cloud, and the rainwater is a puddle and now we are going to be the sun and evaporate the puddle and 'fill' up the clouds by spooning some of the rainwater onto the cloud.

Slowly spoon a little water at a time onto the cloud and watch what happens...

It starts to rain!

It's so mesmerising, Seth and I spent ages watching the colour swirl in the water.

When you are finished and remove the jar from the paper you are left with a raindrop picture(depending on how messy you were!).
Variation - after finishing the raincloud in a jar activity, Seth asked to do it again so instead of just blue, we used a few colours, so that as the colours swirled in the water they changed and Seth got to learn about colour mixing. 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Spring Garden - in pictures

Blossom and blue sky
Glossy baby figs in the poly tunnel

Blueberry blossoms
Wild strawberry blossom
Favourite Daffodil
Wildflowers, I think.
And lots of weeds

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Spring in the seasonal book basket

 This past Winter we introduced a seasonal book basket to the nature table (otherwise known as the windowsill), around the time of the Spring equinox we replaced the much read and loved Winter books with Spring books, some old and some new.


Mama, is it Summer yet? by Nikki McClure

I've included this book first as it's my personal favourite, Nikki McClure writes and illustrates the book inspired after her son asked in Spring if it was Summer yet, throughout the story she shows him the wonders of Spring as he waits in anticipation for Summer. The story is set in nature and provides a good talking point comparing the stages of Spring in the book to what stage we are at now, we've discussed the budding blossoms, sowing seeds and nesting birds. The artist uses a cut paper technique (described by the author/artist in the back of the book) that is like nothing I have seen before, I have even considered buying another copy so that I can cut some of the pictures out and hang them up.

The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle von Olfers
Written and illustrated by Sibylle von Olfers and first published in 1906, The Story of the Root Children tells the story of Mother Nature and The Root Children who live under ground all Winter and now must prepare for Spring. They sew flower dresses, wake the bugs and wash and paint the ladybirds and beetles before leaving to venture into the Spring sunshine, the story then follows them through Summer and Autumn before they return once again underground for Winter.   

Spring - Nature activities for children by Irmgard Kutch and Brigette Walden
One of a four seasons series, nature activities for children takes you through the month with seasonal activities from sprouting seeds and making natural dyes to keeping bees and building willow structures, it is suitable for all ages and I can tell that we are going to get a lot of use from it over the years. The book also includes seasonal poems, songs and short stories and has a brilliant introduction that discusses the importance and benefits of children having the opportunity to connect with nature. This is the first of these books that we have bought and I will definitely be getting the next one, the instructions make the activities easy and simple to do and it inspires and motivates you to make the most out of  and really immerse yourself in nature.

How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan and illustrated by Loretta Krupinski
How a seed grows is part of the American 'Let's Read and Find Out Science' series of books and this one is part story, part activity, it starts by telling of the different kinds of seeds and how some grow quickly and some grow slowly to make all different kinds of plants, then continues on to an activity where the child plants seeds in 12 egg shells and unearths one each day for two weeks to examine the growth each day and at the end they are planted, we haven't done the activity yet but Seth enjoys looking at the illustrations of the different stages and comparing them to the seeds in the garden. The only thing I don't like in the book is that, as I said being American, it has some American language in it and I wish that they could produce a British version to prevent confusion, other than that it is a good age appropriate educational book and is enough to convince me to try a couple more in the series. 

Spring by Gerda Muller

This is our third book of the four seasons series so it's safe to say we are big fans here, it is a picture book of beautiful Spring scenes that inspires discussion and story telling... much story telling. I never expected that when I got our first one of these books last Summer that it would be such a hit, but we can spend ages looking through it at all the little details in each picture, telling different stories about what could be happening on each page and imagining what the characters are saying, thinking and feeling. It is most definitely a favourite and will be hanging around for some years to come.

Spring - A collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for young children  
Spring published by Wynstones Press is a collection of poems, short stories and songs with accompanying music collected from Steiner Waldorf schools around the world, it is packed full with something for every aspect of the season so there is always something appropriate and fitting to read and enjoy. After purchasing the Winter version I wasn't sure whether to get anymore as it had a lot of Christian content so much of it we weren't able to relate to or needed a bit of explaining but I'm glad that we gave it another go because this book has much more in it for us to use and enjoy.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Did you see it?

 I think Spring may have arrived here today, we woke to a dusting of snow that had cleared by mid morning and we were then treated to an afternoon of sun and dare I say a little bit of heat, at one point it was a T-shirt and bare arms affair which felt completely naked compared to the 6 layers I wore to the carboot on Sunday. So to make the most of it and get some much needed vitamin D ,we sprung into action and got in the garden planning, shuffling and dreaming and with that we added a little bit of Spring life to the nature table with an old milk bottle of daffodils and a jar of peach stones collected from my mums tree, soaking ready to be planted in a few days. Has Spring reached you yet? Has it really reached anyone? Or am I getting ahead of myself, only to be yet again woken by snow that appears overnight as if by magic and disappears just as quickly as if it were just a pre first morning coffee illusion?


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Drawing on the positive and looking forward

We’ve had a rough time recently, on Valentine’s Day we found out I was pregnant, but it wasn’t meant to be and two weeks later I miscarried. Physically and emotionally we are all OK now and we are starting to look forward and part of that looking forward has been drawing on the positives and finding the silver lining, for me that has been realising how supported I am. Matthew has been amazingly supportive and this has helped me heal emotionally and really strengthened our relationship, without his help I don’t think I would have coped so well, and my mum has also been so helpful with Seth, taking him out and entertaining him when I didn’t want to leave the house.

Some weird things have happened as well, the day after my first hospital visit but before anything had been diagnosed or confirmed, Seth came over to me with an imaginary package and put it on my tummy and told me to open it, I asked him what was in it and he said “powder (he means flour) and a tiny, tiny baby with wings flying away”, now, we hadn’t told him anything and he doesn't even know I was pregnant so this really took me back, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, I don’t really know what I think about souls and spirits and that kind of stuff but he’s got me thinking, that’s for sure! Another weird thing, or probably less weird but of a more primal, instinct type thing is that I really felt the need to stay at home, not just because I was sad, but because I felt protected and safe and now I am so desperate to get into nature, get my hands in soil, walk through woods and smell the dirt so that’s the plan, tomorrow on the Spring equinox I’m getting out of here before coming home for a Spring meal to talk of the season ahead. Gently turning the page and looking forward.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Winter light box activity

 The days are becoming longer and the light is returning, Winter is fading and making way for Spring, so we make the most of the last of it, being mindful not to wish it away in favour of the warmer seasons to come.
 The evenings are still dark and this provides us with lots of time to spend indoors and the perfect opportunity to use the light box, we decided on a Winter theme and collected bare twigs, evergreen leaves, seed heads and ice and snow from the freezer (doesn't everyone keep a jar of snow in the freezer?). We didn't put anything on it that specifically did something, so Seth had to use his imagination, he dusted with the seed heads, made stew with the leaves and ice, scrambled and scratched the snow with the holly and by the time he had finished he had eaten all of the snow and ice! Seth really enjoyed this and it's made me think of how we can use the light box more often, I can definitely see a Spring, Summer and Autumn version and maybe some Solstice ones as well. 


Sunday, 10 February 2013

This week we've mostly been...

This week we've mostly been...
  • Inspired by this post at Organic Family Love to make some homemade mascara out of burnt almonds, it was quite fun to burn something in the kitchen purposely for once.
  • Making family footprints, it tickled.
  • Trying to convince Seth that ginger, lemon and honey tea is nice after we all came down with a cold.
  • Spying snowdrops everywhere, welcome spring!
  • Baking, baking, baking. We've made flapjacks, jam tarts and a huge Bakewell tart.  
  • Huddling, cuddling and resting under blankets whilst we all get better.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

This week we've mostly been...

This week we've mostly been...
  • Digging up over 2kg of oca that was planted way back in spring, just look at the colours!
  • Wondering what lives in that hole.
  • Considering what to do about our friendly cockerel who has taken a sudden severe dislike to Seth in the past week.
  • Slurping blueberry and banana smoothies.
  • Surprised at winning a personalised planter crate from yeo valley, Seth says he is going to plant roses in it to give to me (my heart melts!).
  •  Eating wholemeal scones made by Matthew, with clotted cream and a taste of last summer.
  • In the garden, planting a huge sack of reduced daffodil bulbs, pruning apple trees, taking blackcurrant cuttings, planting bare root strawberry plants and raspberry canes and digging, too much digging, ouch. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Project Trays

Bird project tray

We are just starting our home education journey and I have been reading a lot around Steiner and Montessori methods, both of their methods advocate project based learning and it's something we have been trying out. I decided on a bird project as it's something Seth has a lot of interest in at the moment and with spring approaching it seemed appropriate. As we began we quickly gathered a small collection of crafts, treasures and books that we needed to find somewhere to keep and that's how I thought of setting up a project tray, it's portable, it's inviting and it promotes conversation and learning.

My project tray ideas -

  • It should provide a sensory experience, whether that is see, smell, touch, taste or hear, in this basket we have picture books to see, feathers and seeds to touch and a bird whistle to hear.
  • It could hold crafts that have been made as part of the project, here Seth has made a nest out of string and glue filled with a mix of plain and red cabbage dyed eggs.
  • It could contain some books on the topic, fact and fiction.
  • It provides a place to display treasures that have been collected during the project, so far we have some feathers and a bird whistle.
  • It should have a notebook or scrapbook in as a place to write and record the project.

Some more ideas for things to keep in the tray, depending on age and project, are a camera, magnifying glass, bits of nature, souvenirs, photos and artwork.

What things would you put in a basket? Or do you already do something like this and do you find it useful?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

This week we've mostly been...


This week we've mostly been...
  • Appreciative of a little sign of spring, even if it's only on the windowsill.
  • Playing in the snow with food colouring in an activity adapted from a smile a day.
  • Taking part in the RSPB's big garden bird watch.
  • Making nests out of string and glue.
  • Dyeing eggs with red cabbage.
  • Eating soup, lots and lots of soup.
  • Knitting, slowly and wonky, but knitting.
  • Waking each morning to a different scene, snow, no snow, more snow and now just wet.
  • Smiling at my son who's level of excitement for the snow runs almost parallel to his level of concern over the "trumpy carrots" (Jerusalem artichokes) frozen in the ground. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Homemade winter feed for wild birds

Wild birds bring so much joy to our lives. In spring we watch them hurriedly build nests and hear them welcome the new season with beautiful song, in summer we are gently woken by their dozy morning calls, in the autumn they keep us company while we dig the garden and in the winter they brighten bare landscape as they try and make it through the cold months ahead.

The cold weather and covered ground of late have been hard on the birds, so in an effort to help wildlife and save money, last week I decided to have a go at making some fat cakes for the birds.

To make fat cakes mix any hard fat (we use lard) with any mixture of bird seeds, peanuts, dried fruit, cheese and oatmeal. A ratio of 1:4 fat to feed mix by weight works well.

 Put in a large bowl and squish with your hands (a willing volunteer/child labour is useful for this).

 Then roll into balls or put into containers and turn them out when ready to use, we store ours in the freezer to keep them fresh for longer.

We have been putting our fat cakes on bird tables and the ground for ground feeding birds and they really can't get enough of them. Bon appetit little birds!

Monday, 21 January 2013

First sewing.

Seth and Julie sewing
Leading up to Christmas Julie and I were doing lots of sewing projects with Seth eagerly watching on, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so. He often asked if he could try, which on my electric machine probably wouldn't have been a good idea for a three year old, though luckily Julie has an old hand powered Singer which last week he was finally able to have a go on. He enjoyed it in a way that wasn't loud and exuberant but in a way that was calm and focused, he concentrated hard with respect for the sharp needle in front of him and was very proud of the sewn lines that he produced. 
In the days since I have been inspired by his enthusiasm and am hatching plans for a textile based project to follow on from his current bird themed project, hmm where to start!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

This week we've mostly been...

This week we've mostly been... 
  • Playing in the snow.
  • Sowing the first of the years seeds.
  • Making fat balls for the birds as the start of our bird themed project.
  • Playing in the snow.
  • Getting grumpy at the car that froze solid and now needs repairs because of said snow.
  • Eating "chicken noodle soup to heal all ills" from Wholefoods for children by Jude Blereau so often that nobody in a ten mile radius is going to get ill.
  • Playing in the snow.
  • Helping Seth with his first sewing on Julies old Singer sewing machine.
  • Thanking my mum for giving me some of her knitting needle stash, now I've no excuse not to get knitting.