Autumn Friends

Grace has hit the collecting stage. No matter where we go, she picks up little found objects to carry home as treasures. So it wasn’t surprising yesterday after spending two hours at the park that the stroller was completely full of bits and pieces that just HAD to come home with us:

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And as I was looking at this collection overrunning my counter, I decided to get crafty! For at least a year now, I’ve had my eyes on Waldorf-inspired toys on Pinterest. I’ve read a good bit of the philosophy and decided that Waldorf isn’t the right fit for our family. However, some of their perspective on toys is right up my alley! Simple and natural with a big emphasis on open-ended play. Open-ended toys can be played with in many ways and hope to inspire imagination. One of my favorite Waldorf-inspired toys is peg people. And so finally, Grace has her very own set:.

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It’s surprising how expressive 2 little dot eyes can be!

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This are ridiculously easy. I picked up some doll pins and doll pin stands at my local craft store. The paint I already had. The eyes are black permanent marker. And the acorn caps are collected! I forgot my coupons so I had to pay full price, but even still, the dolls cost about $0.40 each. If you remember your coupons they’re even cheaper.

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Grace painted one herself while I made the rainbow set:

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And I couldn’t leave the perfect acorns alone. They became little friends to join the party 🙂 (paint pen and permanent marker)

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I may have gotten carried away a little bit. But since everything was already in my house, why not? I turned a tray from a Melissa and Doug set into a doll house by slipping scrapbook paper in each side. It isn’t attached, just tucked in, so that the paper can be changed on a whim. The flowers are the garden of course!

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I have at least one or two more ideas for the collected bits, like an acorn cap matching game. There’s 23 doll pins left and I have already designed 4 more based on the characters from Grace’s favorite book series. I’m really loving these nearly-instant gratification craft projects! It’s a nice change from the weeks-long, hours of work, sewing projects I’ve been doing lately.

What are you crafting this fall? I’d love to see!

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Let’s Go Camping Learning Basket

A few weeks ago, our Learning Basket for Play School was all about camping. Camping is our family’s new thing this year – we’ve really come to enjoy slipping away for a night or two to be outside and away from the regular routine. It’s a nice chance to refocus on us without the distractions that come with our current lives. A full schedule of meetings, play dates, chores, and technology draws us apart and wears us out. I love our quick forays into simplified, just-us time.

So it only made sense to do a camping themed learning basket!

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Fiction:

  • Lady Bug Girl and Bingo (by far the favorite!), David Soman and Jacky Davis
  • Flat Stanley Goes Camping, Jeff Brown and Macky Pamintuan
  • Fancy Nancy Stellar Stargazer!, Jane O’Connor
  • Because your Mommy Loves You, Andrew Clements

Non-Fiction (I forgot to mark the specific titles; they were very general though)

  • Knots
  • Campfire activities for girls
  • General camping book

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My husband carved this awesome wood forest toy set for Grace last Christmas. It was a little early for imagination play then, but now several months later she thought they were just the coolest things. They were made using patterns from Natural Wooden Toys. I’m crazy about them and want him to make dozens more this winter as we move from outside activities to inside activities when the weather turns.

We had lots of fun playing with the flashlight. Nothing specific – just playing 🙂

This next activity I’ll show you, but let me be really honest – it’s way about toddler abilities. I thought it would be neat to make a card with strings on it so I could teach the kids knotting. 2 year olds and 3 year olds can’t tie knots. Their little fingers just don’t work that way. However! I love these cards! I’m storing them in our play school box to bring out again in a couple years:

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We even did a quick painting project. My philosophy on art/craft projects with toddlers is it’s all about the process, not the finished project. Due to that, we do a lot of projects on recycled brown paper grocery sacks that, after hanging around for a few days, find themselves moving on to the recycling bin. I want to move into more of the Charlotte Mason style handicrafts eventually, but at this point, art work is more sensory play so I just let Grace explore. Here’s our campfire. First we colored the logs, then hand printed the fire:

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I’m so glad it’s fall! This is by far my favorite season. I hope you’re finding a chance to enjoy the outdoors, too 🙂

Getting Started Playing School

Now that Grace is two, I’ve been wanting to add just a little bit of structure to our days. It’s a looooong day with a bored 2 year old if I don’t have *some* kind of a plan. That plan, however, is really loose. I most identify with a Charlotte Mason educational philosophy, which looks a lot like unschooling in the younger ages. Lots of playing outside. Lots of reading worthwhile books.

I’m using a lovely curriculum called Hubbard’s Cupboard as a “jumping off” point. It’s lovely as is if you’re looking for something print-and-go and a great inspiration curriculum if you’re looking to add more yourself. I’m using Joyful Hearts, their 2 year old program.

My changes: They plan 2 lesson days a week; I’m leaving Grace’s theme basket available to her whenever she wants to play or read from it. They have a Bible theme but no particular lesson; we’re incorporating reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible and other places. I’m having to adapt some of the books based on what I can find at my library, plus adding in non-fiction books. I grabbed a couple theme-based videos at the library, too – we’re not big TV watchers, but some days I need her to focus alone while I get something done (like make lunch!). I’m also adding a hymn for each theme since Grace LOVES music!

The first theme is Beaches and the Ocean, for 2 weeks. Grace and her 2 friends that I watch are really loving it! Today I’ll show you our sensory activities. I’ll post our complete resource list next week when we wrap up the theme. There’s a couple books I’m still hoping to get from the library, plus a couple that I got I doubt we’ll actually use. I want an accurate list for my records.

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Our seashore theme basket: books, a movie, a tin full of real shells, and the Melissa and Doug ocean-themed instrument set

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Tropical drink mix flavored play dough plus shells to press

 

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Beach sensory tub: cornmeal, gold glitter, sea shells, shovels, and a set of pouring toys

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They loved it! Playing on our beach towel outside

I’m really enjoying playing school. It’s just enough structure without being academic. I didn’t do the math activities this week but will probably add them in as we go. I’m using the planning sheet more as inspiration and less as a rule book – mixing, matching, and adapting as I go. The next theme is camping and I’m super excited – that’s our new hobby of the summer, so Grace will really connect!

Rainy Days and Sensory Play

Are you sure this is July? This has been the weirdest year for weather I can remember. Days of steady rain more normal for April or October have us stuck in the house. Since we don’t have cable and I hesitate to turn on a movie (again) I’m delving into my treasure trove of sensory play activities to keep us entertained. Here’s a collection from the past few weeks:

Water beads plus measuring scoops and a ladle (buried in the beads)

Water beads plus measuring scoops and a ladle (buried in the beads)

A "Small World Play" with toilet paper tube trees, a water bead lake, green rice, a bear and some people

A “Small World Play” with toilet paper tube trees, a water bead lake, green rice, a bear and some people

 

White board and markers - CLOSELY SUPERVISED!!!

White board and markers – she wrote me a story

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Washing dishes at the water table in between rain storms

Then we got brave and made some new-to-us play mediums I’ve seen floating around Pinterest for a while.

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First we made cloud dough. It’s a silky soft dough that you can shape and mold like wet sand, except it feels better. It’s similar in some ways to that “Moon Sand” that was popular when I was a kid. I used 6c all purpose flour and a little under 1c baby oil. I just dumped them in the bin and let Grace mix to her heart’s content. As she played I added a little salt for texture and some glitter for sparkle. A few kitchen tools gave her things to scoop, shape, dump and fill.

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She absolutely loved it 🙂 I’ve heard this will keep indefinitely, since there’s nothing in it that could spoil.

Then today I made a colored salt writing tray. This idea keeps popping up on one of my favorite blogs, The Imagination Tree. We made sort-of-purple salt with anther generous shake of glitter. Here’s one post on the idea. I left out the essential oil since I don’t have any except Tea Tree – wonderfully useful, not wonderful for smelling.

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Grace isn’t writing yet, but we did practice some shapes in between free playing:

Rainbow

Rainbow

Circle

Circle (ish)

This is another that should keep indefinitely. But even if it doesn’t, these are super cheap to mix up another batch. I think the salt tray has about $0.25 worth of material. That half hour of complete focus was worth every penny and more!

Do you have a favorite sensory activity when the weather keeps you inside? I’m always looking for more!