A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash!

A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash! Do you remember doing pond studies in elementary school?

 I do! And it brings back such fond memories. 

A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash!
Puddle jumping

Activity Sneak Peak:

  • Pond exploration
  • DIY pond at home
  • What sinks and what floats? 
  • Lily pad and frog jump activity 
  • Let’s make (and eat) pond mud! 
  • Making natural sailboats 
  • Sailboat send-off activity 

I remember our class trekking out to the local marsh to explore the ponds and learn about the creatures that live there. 

Looking back, I have mad respect for the teachers and parent volunteers who hauled a group of children out to play in the mud!

A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash!
A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash!

This past week our family explored several ponds in the area and did a few pond activities at home with the kids. 

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! I’ve been sharing our family’s journey as we follow the Exploring Nature with Children nature study with our toddler and baby. 

Be sure to check out last week’s post- 10 Colourful Toddler Activities to Fall in Love with Today!

Pond exploration
Pond exploration

Here, I’ll be sharing the activities and experiences we had during our pond study week. 

Let’s dive in! 

A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash! 

Going out to the pond

Throughout the week we visited several local ponds (and one river) for some playful exploration.

Pond exploration
Pond exploration

We noticed some similarities and some differences between the ponds. There we found similar pond life at some and different creatures and plants at others.

Amelia took a liking to the tiny shells we found and we brought a few home with us to add to our DIY pond.

Finding shells at the pond
Finding shells at the pond

But mostly, we just played in the water and got muddy. I just wish I had a Splashy suit like Amelia!

Bringing the pond to us! 

After visiting a couple ponds, we decided to make one at home!

No, we didn’t get an excavator and dig up the earth, but we did create a pond habitat in a bin we had at home.

DIY pond
DIY pond

We talked about what made up the ponds we visited and went from there. Then we filled the bin with water and Amelia added dirt, stones, leaves, rocks, and sticks.

Amelia added the tiny shells we brought home from one of the ponds for a finishing touch!

Adding shells to the pond
Adding shells to the pond

After checking on our little pond each day, we noticed changes as the week progressed. There were more leaves as the days went on and even a few bugs.

Since the warm weather is pretty well behind us, we didn’t have to worry about creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Sinkers and floaters

While we were setting up our pond at home, we were able to discover which materials float and which ones sink.

What sinks and what floats?
What sinks and what floats?

As Amelia was adding items to our pond, we noted that:

  • All of the rocks sunk.
  • Some leaves floated and others sunk.
  • All of the sticks floated.
  • The shells first floated and then sunk once the water made its way inside the openings.

A little lily pad activity 

One of our favourite books here is Little Yoga. The book is a playful introduction to yoga poses for toddlers and each pose is modelled by an animal.

Little Yoga book
Little Yoga book

Inspired by this book, Amelia likes froggy jumping around the house. We found a frog at one of our pond visits, so naturally we were inspired to pretend to be frogs at home.

I cut lily pads out of green cardstock and wrote each letter of Amelia’s name on each lily pad.

Lily pad activity
Lily pad activity

We then arranged the lily pads down our hallway to spell her name and had a blast jumping from lily pad to lily pad.

Even Brooksie partook in the game, but was more of a crawly frog than a real jumper yet.

Lily pad activity
Lily pad activity

Making (and tasting) “Pond Mud” 

Pond mud is delicious!

Have you ever heard those words together in a sentence before?

But really… it is the best. And by pond mud, I mean chocolate avocado pudding!

It’s also super simple and a great treat to make with little helpers- especially if you have a few ripe avocados to use up!

Chocolate avocado pudding
Chocolate avocado pudding

Pond Mud (Chocolate Avocado Pudding)

Serving Size:4
Time:10 mins


  • 3 ripe avocadoes, pits removed
  • 3 tbs cacao powder
  • 1/2 cup milk (we used homemade coconut milk)
  • 4 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Mash up all of the ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
  2. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until chilled.
  3. Enjoy some pond mud!

Don’t forget to lick the spoon!

Pond mud can be refrigerated up to 4 days (but I guarantee it won’t last that long!)

Natural Material Sailboats

We went on a nature walk and collected a few colourful leaves and some bark that had come loose from a fallen tree.

From these items, we were able to make the cutest little sailboats!

Nature-made sailboats
Nature-made sailboats

Using the bark as the base of our boats, I had Amelia stick a wooden toothpick into the centre of each boat.

We then threaded a leaf onto each toothpick to create a sail for each boat.

Making our sailboats
Making our sailboats

Once complete, and after passing the buoyancy test in our kitchen sink, it was time to send them off!

A Sailboat Farewell

We have a river on our road that we like to visit from time to time.

There’s a bridge over the river from which you can look down and observe the water flowing.

The river is fairly slow-moving and seemed like the perfect place to set our sailboats free.

Sailboat send-off

We went down to the river with our little sailboats in tow and Amelia let a couple of them go along the riverbank.

Next, we went onto the bridge and dropped the last two boats from the bridge and watched as they peacefully floated down the current.

Finally we were able to see the boats go along the slower section of the river and then rush down the ripples of the quicker moving area.

Sailboat send-off

Amelia absolutely loved this activity. It’s definitely something we will be doing again!

Our first pond study was a wonderful experience and I look forward to revisiting the ponds again with the kids. I hope you found inspiration with A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash!

We were able to see how the ponds looked during Autumn and noted:

  • Geese gathering together for their Fall migration.
  • Leaves falling and collecting in the ponds.
  • Cattails and milkweed going to seed at the edge of the water.

I can’t wait for us to discover how the ponds look at different times of the year. 

Pond exploration
Pond exploration

Let’s hear from you!

How have you explored pond life with your children? 

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest for more nature inspired play and activities! 

10 Colourful Toddler Activities to Fall in Love with Today!

10 Colourful Toddler Activities to Fall in Love with Today

Quick! The Fall colours won’t last much longer!

Outdoor Leaf Colour Sorting Game
Outdoor Leaf Colour Sorting Game

Activity Sneak Peek:

  1. Colourful Leaf Cutting Bin
  2. Autumn Tree Craft
  3. Fall Colour Walk
  4. Wild Loose Parts Activity
  5. Easy Apple Cider Recipe
  6. Outdoor Leaf Colour Sorting Game
  7. Classic Fall Leaf Rubbings
  8. Fall Inspired Readings
  9. Royal Leaf Crown Activity
  10. Simple Autumn Wreath Craft

We are in the heart of October and our family has been exploring the wonders of the Fall season.

There are countless ways to discover the brilliance of the season, and I would like to share with you- 10 Colourful Toddler Activities to Fall in Love with Today!

10 Colourful Toddler Activities to Fall in Love with Today!

We’ve been loving all of the Fall themed activities lately. We kicked it all off with our Harvest Moon celebration. Be sure to check out How we Celebrated This Years Harvest Moon if you haven’t already.

We decided to combine Autumn Equinox week and Autumn Leaves week from the Exploring Nature with Children nature study to celebrate ALL THINGS AUTUMN in one spectacularly colourful extravaganza!

So, go grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte or hot apple cider (recipe below!) and get ready for some serious Fall activity inspiration.

1. Colourful Leaf Cutting Bin

For a quick and engaging activity, making a colourful leaf cutting bin is the way to go. All you need is

  • Colourful leaves
  • Safety scissors
  • A bin or bowl
Colourful leaf cutting bin
Cutting leaves

Amelia has really been into using scissors to cut all sorts of materials into small pieces, and crispy, crunchy leaves made the PERFECT object to practise her scissor skills on.

After collecting an array of leaves outside, Amelia used her scissors to cut the leaves over the bin to make a fun, Fall confetti, while working on her fine motor skills.

Once finished, we had a bin full of leaf pieces which made for great sensory play. We also used the leaf cuttings to create an autumn tree craft (see number 2!).

2. Autumn Tree Craft

With our colourful leaf confetti in hand from our leaf cutting bin activity, we were able to do an Autumn tree craft.

I have seen similar crafts using bits of tissue paper, but we decided to use what we had created instead. Leaves really are nature’s tissue paper afterall!

Autumn tree craft
Gluing leaves on tree craft

For the craft, I drew the bare tree onto a piece of cardstock. Amelia then squeezed glue onto the empty tree branches and stuck our leaf confetti onto the tree.

Voila! A simple masterpiece to hang on the wall. No need to purchase Fall decorations when you can create them with nature.

Autumn tree craft

3. Fall Colour Walk

My personal favourite Fall activity growing up was going on Fall hikes. The sight of the colourful trees, the smell of the crisp, Fall air, the sound of the wind blowing the crunchy leaves. It’s just the best!

Fall colour walk
Fall colour walk

We have been taking lots of Fall colour walks to explore the changing scenery around us. The beauty is that you don’t have to go deep into the mountains to take it all in.

Exploring the Fall colours can be done ANYWHERE!

Amelia likes to bring a bag on our walks to stash the colourful leaves and other treasures we find along the way. Brooks has been loving this too as his new favourite thing to eat are the leaves that get tracked into the house…

4. Wild Loose Parts Activity

With all of the little bits of nature collected from our Fall colour walks, we had an impressive pile of materials to play with and create something from.

Wild loose parts activity
Wild loose parts activity

The bits of bark, nuts, pine needles and stones provided inspiration to make a craft with the wild loose parts. We have been noting the squirrels in our yard caching their nuts for Winter. So, we went with that!

I drew the outline of the squirrel on a piece of cardstock. Amelia then used the wild loose parts to fill in the body of the squirrel in a sort of mosaic pattern and glued them in place.

The long pine needles made for a nice fluffy tail for this cute little squirrel craft.

5. Easy Homemade Apple Cider

Making apple cider is deliciously simple and fills your home with the smell of apple-cinnamony goodness! If you haven’t made it before, then you need to give it a try!

Serving Size:
8 hours


  • 1 orange
  • 10 medium sized apples (we used apples picked from a friend’s tree)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • maple syrup to taste (if desired)


  1. Peel the orange and cut orange and apples into quarters.
  2. Put orange pieces, apple pieces, cinnamon sticks and cloves into a pot on low heat for 8 hours (we put the pot on our woodstove for the day).
  3. Remove from heat and mash the softened fruit with a spoon or masher.
  4. Strain the cider and add maple syrup to taste if desired. Enjoy!
Easy Homemade Apple Cider
Easy Homemade Apple Cider

Leftover apple cider can be stored in the fridge for 7 days and reheated before serving.

Amelia was able to help with preparing the fruit, stirring the pot before it got too hot, and best of all, enjoying a warm, healthy mug of apple cider.

6. Outdoor Leaf Colour Sorting Game

Our trees are dropping a variety of coloured leaves right now which created a great opportunity to make a game out of sorting the leaves by colour.

Outdoor leaf colour sorting game
Colouring leaves

I drew the outline of a leaf on 5 different paper bags and Amelia coloured each leaf a different Fall colour. We used green, red, orange, yellow and brown.

Then we went outside, set the paper bags down and Amelia ran around collecting leaves and dropped them into the corresponding coloured bags.

Outdoor leaf colour sorting game
Outdoor leaf colour sorting game

She had a blast sorting the coloured leaves and had even more fun running around trying to catch leaves as they were falling from the trees.

7. Classic Fall Leaf Rubbings

When I think of classic Fall activities, this is one that sticks out to me the most. Leaf rubbings are so fun to do and make beautiful artwork (even if you lack artistic skill).

Classic Fall leaf rubbing
Classic Fall leaf rubbing

All you need:

  • Leaves of different shapes and sizes
  • A piece of paper
  • Tape to hold the paper in place
  • Crayons

Amelia arranged leaves that we collected on a nature walk onto our table, and I taped a piece of paper in place on top of the leaves. Amelia then used different coloured crayons to scribble all over the paper to reveal the leaf patterns.

Classic Fall leaf rubbing
Classic Fall leaf rubbing

Tip: Using broken crayons lengthways helps to show all of the little details from the leaves underneath.

We ended up with such a pretty picture and gifted it to Nana and Papa.  

8. Fall Inspired Readings

Mommy’s Near-

The journey of a little squirrel who is discovering the world around him as Fall approaches. The Mommy squirrel encourages the little squirrel to explore and try new things but also ensure that she will always be there if he needs her.

But, if ever you need me, I will always be near.

Mommy’s Near

Through the Forest in Fall-

A cute story showing what different woodland animals do in the Fall to prepare for Winter. Learn what the squirrels, birds and foxes do during the Fall season. The book has a peak through tree to view all of the animals in the book from the front cover.

9. Royal Leaf Crown Activity

Amelia turned three this weekend and to honour our Autumn Princess, we made a leaf crown for her to wear!

Royal leaf crown activity
Gluing leaves onto crown

To make the crown, I cut 2 strips of cardstock that together measured the circumference of her head.  Amelia glued all kinds of beautiful leaves onto it and I taped the ends together once the glue dried.

We went outside and Amelia played Queen of the leaf pile as we raked together a giant mountain of leaves to run through.

Queen of the leaf pile
Queen of the leaf pile

Brooks absolutely loves leaves so he also had such a fun time trekking through the pile of crunchy leaves with his sister.  

10. Simple Autumn Wreath Craft

Do you like the idea of making an Autumn wreath but don’t know how to weave sticks? I’ve got you!

Simple Autumn leaf craft
Simple Autumn leaf craft

 We made a simple Autumn wreath with just a handful of materials.

Simple Autumn leaf craft
  • A variety of leaves
  • 1 piece of cardstock
  • A large and small sized bowl
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue

I traced a large bowl to make a circle on cardstock and then traced a smaller circle inside the large circle. I cut out the wreath template from the cardstock and Amelia glued leaves all over the cardstock until we couldn’t see any more paper.

Once the glue dried, Amelia helped hang our Autumn wreath for everyone to admire.

Simple Autumn leaf craft
Hanging our wreath

The Fall season is such a fun and creative time to explore the natural world with your children. I hope you found inspiration with 10 Colourful Toddler Activities to Fall in Love with Today!

playing in the leaves
Playing in the leaves

I’d love to hear from you!

What is your family’s favourite colourful Fall Activity?

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest for more nature inspired play and activities!

How we Celebrated This Year’s Harvest Moon

How we Celebrated This Year’s Harvest Moon- Even though we didn’t actually get to see it… I’ll get to that!

The Harvest Moon took place last week and we spent the week learning about the importance of this event and everything it signals.

illustration of moon showing during sunset
Photo by David Besh on Pexels.com

Harvest Moon Activity Sneak Peek:

  • Pumpkin Patch Harvest
  • Started a “Thankful Pumpkin”
  • Read books related to the moon, thankfulness, and the night sky (See below)
  • Made “Moon Phase Crispies”
  • Created Harvest Moon art with aluminum foil
  • Enjoyed end of the season activities (shared below)

As you have learned previously in my posts, we are following the Exploring Nature with Children nature study. This past week was Harvest Moon Week, which we explored with our toddler and baby. If you are new here, be sure to check out last week’s post 8 Absolutely Awesome Ways to Discover Bugs with Toddlers.

So, what exactly is the Harvest Moon?

How we celebrated this year's Harvest Moon

The Harvest moon is the full moon that occurs nearest to the Autumn Equinox. This year it fell on Thursday October 1st, but the moon remained “full” for 3 days.

Okay, but what exactly is the Harvest Moon?

The harvest moon is very bright and rises early in the evening allowing for a moonlit sky shortly after sunset. The brilliant sky in the evening traditionally allowed farmers to harvest their Fall crops later into the evening by moonlight- hence the name “Harvest” Moon.

That’s a quick summary- you can learn more by reading The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Beyond the definition, The Harvest Moon signals the end of the growing season, the showing of gratitude, and preparation for Winter.

Harvest Moon Art-
Harvest Moon Art- see below

I’ll be sharing how our family celebrated the changing of seasons initiated by the Harvest Moon with activities, artwork and more, and I would love to hear what your family does this time of year (comment at the end of the post).

How we Celebrated This Year’s Harvest Moon

Pumpkin Patch Harvest!

With the majority of this season’s harvesting and preserving behind us, we pulled the last of our squash and pumpkins from the garden this week.

We like growing sugar pumpkins because they are dual purpose- decorative and delicious!

Amelia has helped all season with tending to the plants in our garden… in between snacking on tomatoes and beans… what can I say? She has learned from the best (tomato snacker that is).  

Snacking on beans from the garden.
Snacking on beans from the garden.

Enjoying the Fall harvest can be done even without a garden of your own. With pumpkin patches, apple orchards and sunflower fields all around, harvest time can be experienced everywhere!

Started a “Thankful Pumpkin”

In the spirit of the season, we wanted to incorporate gratitude into this week’s theme. Our Thanksgiving is approaching, and we have been expressing our gratitude towards this year’s garden harvest.

After choosing a favourite pumpkin, we decided to make it our “thankful pumpkin”.

Amelia with our pumpkin harvest and "Thankful Pumpkin"
Amelia with our pumpkin harvest and “Thankful Pumpkin”

How to make a “Thankful Pumpkin”

  1. Get a pumpkin!
  2. Each day write on the pumpkin one thing (anything!) you and your family are thankful for.
  3. Continue each day until you have a glorious, gratitude-filled masterpiece.

We decided to start our pumpkin on October 1st. It is so cute and will make the PERFECT centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner.

Snuggled up with a few books

Each week I gather a few books related to the theme for us to read and explore. We haven’t made it out to our local library since its reopening but have a nice little collection at home that is well loved.

A few books we enjoyed this week:

Goodnight Moon

This classic children’s book is a lovely bedtime story featuring a bunny saying “goodnight” to everything around, including the moon.

Throughout the book you can see the full moon through the window, but also a picture on the wall of the cow jumping over a crescent moon allows for a simple discussion on the different shapes (and phases) of the moon.

ABC Mindful Me

A rhyming book showing different ways of practicing mindfulness with each principle beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Kindness, compassion and gratitude are some of the book’s themes.

T- What is it you are most thankful for? Be sure to tell your family and friends. Being grateful never ends.

ABC Mindful Me

Touch the Brightest Star

This playful book explores the journey from sunset to sunrise showing different elements of the night sky and some creatures who come out at night.

Interactive text prompts your child to point to the brightest star on the page, trace the big and little dipper with your finger and more.

Amelia loves the page where you rub the owl’s heads and hoot with them!

We Made “Moon Phase Crispies”

We were over the moon for these treats.

This was such a fun and easy recipe to do with Amelia. She was able to do most of the pouring and mixing of the ingredients herself!

Moon Phase Crispies
Moon Phase Crispies

Moon Phase Crispies

Serving Size:
12 moons
10 min


  • 2 cups rice crisps
  • 1/2 cup nut butter (we used peanut butter this time but have used almond butter with success!)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup


  1. Combine nut butter and maple syrup in a sauce pan and heat on medium heat until melted together.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in rice crisps.
  3. Pour mixture onto cookie sheet, compress, and chill in fridge in 30 minutes.
  4. Once firm, remove from fridge and use a circular cookie cutter or cup to cut out circles.
  5. Use a knife to cut some of the circles into different moon phase shapes.
  6. Enjoy!
Helping to shape the Moon Phase Crispies
Helping to shape the Moon Phase Crispies

Created a Moon Art Masterpiece!

This week we painted the night’s sky!

Amelia really enjoyed painting with something other than a paintbrush and discovering the different patterns that would result.

Using a cotton swab, she made dots on a black sheet of paper to resemble stars in the sky.

On a white piece of paper, we used a balled-up piece of aluminum foil to dip into paint and dab on the paper, creating a moon-like texture.

Once the paint was dry, I helped Amelia trace a Harvest Moon from the white paper using a bowl and she glued it onto the black paper.

Voila! It’s so pretty, I plan to leave it up on the wall for while!

Harvest Moon Artwork
Harvest Moon Artwork

End of Season Activities

The Harvest Moon is associated with the changing of seasons and for our family, means preparation for Winter. Why not get the kids involved!

No matter what your Winter preparation looks like, I’m sure you can find a way to involve your children and explore nature in the process.

Here are a few seasonal clean-up/preparation activities we did this past week with our little ones:

orange pumpkins on hay field
Photo by Ekaterina Belinskaya on Pexels.com

Garden Clean-up!

Amelia helped pull out the last of the frost-stricken plants from the garden and helped turn them into the compost pile.

She also got to see our farmer neighbour graciously offer and bring over a tractor load of manure to dump into our garden.


With a few windstorms recently, we had a lot of brush to burn. We had a nice fire and once the brush was burned down, were able to enjoy some toasted marshmallows.

Toasting Marshmallows
Toasting Marshmallows

I’ve been making our own marshmallows for a while now and the Wellness Mama recipe is my favourite!

Apple picking and Apple-saucing

We picked apples from trees on a friend’s property and after a long night of peeling, coring, cutting and cooking, have a boat load of applesauce to (hopefully) get us through until next Fall!

Amelia and Brooks had a blast picking and sampling apples and because we have already had a few hard frosts, the apples were nice and sweet.

Our applesauce haul
Our applesauce haul

Some years I add a little maple syrup to the apples and cinnamon to cut the tartness, but this year it was not needed.

Harvest Moon Night!

The night of the Harvest Moon (and the following few nights) was very stormy here, and therefore we were unable to actually see the moon in all it’s glory (bummer!)

Regardless, it has been a wonderful week of playful learning and new experiences for our children.

Racing home before the storm hits
Racing home before the storm hits

I; myself discovered that although the main theme for the week was the Harvest Moon, we were able to explore more than just the moon itself, but also the importance of the season we are experiencing.

Signaled by the Harvest Moon, we were able to

  • Thank the Earth for helping us grow food for our family
  • Show gratitude for everyone and everything important in our lives.
  • Learn about the night sky and all its wonders.
  • Experiment and get creative with artwork.
  • Allow our children to experience how we prepare for Winter.  

I hope you found inspiration reading How we Celebrated This Year’s Harvest Moon. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian friends!

Let’s hear from you!

How do you celebrate the changing of seasons with your family?

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest!

8 Absolutely Awesome way to Discover Bugs with Toddlers

8 Absolutely Awesome ways to Discover Bugs with Toddlers

8 absolutely awesome ways to discover bugs with toddlers- Do you want to explore the world of bugs with your child, but need some inspiration? Or maybe the thought of creepy, crawley, leggy creatures make you squirm? 

Perfect! I’ve compiled a list of 8 absolutely awesome ways to discover bugs with toddlers- and you won’t even have to touch a bug! 

bugs on a log activity

Activity Sneak Peek

  • Identify and draw a picture of each bug your child can name
  • Go on a nature walk and “capture” bugs 
  • Read a book about bugs together. (See our book list below)
  • Make “Ants on a log” as a simple snack
  • Decorate rocks to looks like bugs
  • Caterpillar craft with your child’s name 
  • Homemade gummy worm recipe
  • Play the sticky spider web game 

8 absolutely awesome ways to discover bugs with toddlers.

We recently explored the wonderful world of bugs with our children and want to share the activities we did during our “bug week”.

If you have already subscribed to my blog you’ll know that we are following the Exploring Nature with Children nature study with our toddler. In the curriculum, this week is called “Minibeast Week”.

Sounds adorable, right? Minibeast is the English way of saying “bug” (the curriculum is based in the UK). We’ve decided to use the term bug rather than minibeast as it’s the more common term here in Canada. 

Discovering a caterpillar on our nature walk.
Discovering a caterpillar on our nature walk.

The world of bugs is intricate and unique, and one I was excited to share with our children. I find insects fascinating and many of them are quite beautiful. I am however, not the biggest fan of spiders. 

Yes, yes, I know. Spiders are gentle and help keep other bugs out of your home, but I can’t help but feel creeped out by the way they move. This is something I’m working on.

I don’t want to cause Amelia to develop a fear because she sees me screeching at the sight of a spider. So, I’m doing my best to show interest rather than fear when we discover an eight-legged friend at home. 

Honeybee collecting pollen from a Butternut Squash flower
Honeybee collecting pollen from a Butternut Squash flower

One of the most exciting parts of exploring bugs with our children is that most of the time we didn’t have to go out and search for them. Many of the bugs we observed were found as we were going about our normal day.

  • We saw 2 caterpillars while on a walk and helped them cross the road. 
  • Observed a honeybee in one of the squash flowers while harvesting the squash. 
  • Discovered a stick bug camouflaging to the bark of a tree as we hung laundry on the clothesline.
  • Watched a spider build a web while we played on the deck. 

Okay, let’s get to it! Now I’ll recap what we did for our “Bug Week” by sharing 8 absolutely awesome ways to discover bugs with toddlers.

Moving a caterpillar to a safer spot
Moving a caterpillar to a safer spot

1. Identify/Draw the Bugs you Know

Amelia could name a number of bugs before we began our “bug week”. The first activity we did was make a list of the bugs she already knew about. 

These bugs were ones that we have seen outdoors, in books that we have read, and a few we have seen in the house too. As we brainstormed, we drew a picture of each bug on the chalkboard. 

Creating this list of familiar bugs allowed us to discuss what this week’s theme will be and get excited about exploring the bugs that share our space. 

Decorating the chalkboard with familiar bugs
Decorating the chalkboard with familiar bugs

2. Nature Walk and Bug “Collection”

Throughout the week we went on various nature walks on our property and down the road to discover the different bugs that live nearby. 

Each time we found a new bug we would try to “capture” it for our collection. And by capture…  I mean with a camera. Amelia loves to take pictures, so she had a lot of fun with this activity. 

Once we got home we were able to look through our collection of pictures, try to identify bugs we were unfamiliar with, and show off the collection to others. 

I recommend capturing your bugs with a camera instead of actually collecting the bugs with your young children. Many of the bugs we discovered were quite fragile and we want to ensure that no living creature is harmed while exploring nature. 

3. Be a Bookworm!

“Some bugs sting, some bugs bite, some bugs stink, and some bugs fight!” Amelia’s favourite bug book is Some Bugs and she can basically recite the whole thing.

The book shows off the diverse world of bugs with fun rhyming text and cute illustrations. At the back of the book there’s a gallery of bugs with their names. Amelia likes to use it as a little reference guide as we flip back and forth through the book to identify the bugs shown.

Here’s a list of a few other favourite bug related books in our home:

4. Make a Tasty Bug Snack 

The initial plan was to make the classic “ants on a log” snack using celery, peanut butter and raisins. We ended up not having celery at the time, so we improvised!

Our version ended up as red ants on a log.

Red ants on a log: banana, almond butter and goji berries
Red ants on a log: banana, almond butter and goji berries

We used a banana sliced lengthwise as our log and spread a little almond butter on each banana log. Amelia chose to use goji berries as our ants instead of raisins. And there you have it. Red ants on a log. 

5. Create a Rock Bug Display

For this activity, we collected a variety of rocks while on a nature walk. Amelia chose rocks of different shapes and textures.

She then decorated the rocks with markers and I helped cut out wings and antennae from cardstock. 

Decorating the rock bugs with coloured markers
Decorating the rock bugs with coloured markers

Amelia helped glue the wings and antennae onto the rocks and they turned into the cutest little bugs! We wanted to display them in some way, so we found a piece of driftwood outdoors to use as a nice perch for our bugs. 

We kept the driftwood with bugs on display throughout the week, but ended up gluing the rock bugs onto the wood so they wouldn’t keep hopping off. 

Rock bugs on driftwood.
Rock bugs on driftwood.

6. Caterpillar Name Craft

For our bug related craft this week we made a name caterpillar! This was an easy and fun craft to do with Amelia and allowed for continuous learning opportunities during the week.

I helped trace and cut circles out of coloured paper and Amelia glued them together to make the body of the caterpillar. We used letter blocks to help Amelia name the letters in her name and I wrote the letters onto the body of the caterpillar. 

Identifying the letters on her name caterpillar
Identifying the letters on her name caterpillar

We displayed the caterpillar on the wall and Amelia referred back to it throughout the week. She would tell me:

  • What colours she could see on the caterpillar. 
  • Count how many legs it had. 
  • What letters were on the body of the caterpillar.
  • That the letters spell out Amelia!

7. Make Gummy Worms!

I’ve wanted to make elderberry gummies for a while now and with a fresh batch of elderberry syrup in the fridge and incentive to explore bugs this week, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. 

Jiggling the elderberry gummy worms
Jiggling the elderberry gummy worms

These were quite simple to make (even without an actual mold) and with their wriggly jigglyness, were also great for sensory play. 

Elderberry Gummy Worms

Serving Size:
10 minutes
Elderberry gummy worms
Elderberry gummy worms


  • 1/4 cup gelatin powder
  • 1 cup elderberry syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • approx. 25 plastic straws to use as a mold.
  • tall glass or jar


  1. Place the straws into the glass so they fit tightly.
  2. Heat the syrup and water in a saucepan and remove from heat once it reaches a boil.
  3. Add the gelatin powder to the syrup mixture and stir well.
  4. Pour mixture into straws and place glass in fridge for at least 2 hours (or until set).
  5. Squeeze one end of each straw to push the gummy worm out.

Tip: Run each straw under warm water for a couple seconds to make the gummy worm slip right out!

8. Sticky Spider Web Activity 

Throwing "bugs" into the spider web
Throwing “bugs” into the spider web

For this activity you will need:

  • Painter’s tape
  • Crumpled newspaper, cotton balls and anything else you would like to throw into the spider web!

I planned to do this when Brooks was napping because it’s interactive, but not too loud of an activity to do while he sleeps. Plus, I had visions of him popping cotton balls into his mouth like Buddy from the movie Elf…

We strung painter’s tape up in a doorway to look like a spider web, with the sticky side facing us.

Rescuing the "bugs" caught in the spider web
Rescuing the “bugs” caught in the spider web

Next, we collected items to use as “bugs” and tossed them at the web to learn how some spider’s use their webs to catch their food.

Cotton balls stuck the best, and Amelia enjoyed rescuing the cotton ball bugs from the spider web after they got stuck.

8 absolutely awesome ways to discover bugs with toddlers

That concludes the activities we did this week. I hope you enjoyed learning 8 absolutely awesome ways to discover bugs with toddlers!

If you found inspiration here, then be sure to check out last week’s blog Why Fall is the BEST Time for Exploring Seeds with Children!

What is your favourite way of discovering bugs with your children?

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest!

Why Fall is the BEST time for exploring seeds with Children

Why Fall is the BEST time for exploring seeds with Children- The air is crisp and the leaves are dropping off the trees like crazy. Its safe to say that Fall is in full swing, yay!

selective focus photography of person holding brown acorns
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

Fall is a wonderful season for partaking in many different family outings and activities. From pumpkin patches to apple orchards, and brilliantly colouful hikes- there are countless opportunities for learning about nature with your children during this time of year.

But seeds?

Why Fall is the BEST time for exploring seeds with children

In our house, seeds make a huge appearance in early Spring as we start our garden veggies indoors. And by huge I mean temporarily-relocating-our-dining-room-set-to-the-living-room huge, to give the indoor greenhouse access to prime window space.

So although our daughter Amelia is just under 3 years old, she’s fairly familiar with seeds and their importance in our lives.

Planting seeds, sowing seedlings into the garden and nurturing them as they grow into plants has been a fun experience for our family. And although Spring is a great time for your children to learn about seeds, Fall offers an entirely different (but equally important) aspect of seed exploration.

Seedlings in the indoor greenhouse
Checking in on the growing seedlings

In Fall, many plants make and disperse their seeds so that new plants can grow the following year.

Seeds are the theme of the first week in the Exploring Nature with Children nature study, which we are following along with our children. My youngest is 9 months old, but you are never too young (or old for that matter) to learn about the natural world and all it encompasses.

Exploring seeds this past week with my little ones has been fun and educational. We learned so much about the seeds in our own backyard and would like to share our experience.

Picking wildflowers who's blooming
 days are through
Picking wildflowers who’s blooming
days are through

Why Fall is the BEST time for exploring seeds with Children

Cooler Weather

The season of heat and humidity has ended and we are welcoming a much appreciated break from the mosquitoes. Fall is the perfect time to go out on a nature walk to discover the different types of seeds that are present in your neighbourhood.

Picking crab apples for seed collection
Adding crab apples to our seed collection on our nature walk

From acorns to maple keys, it isn’t difficult to find a variety of seeds right now. We went on a few nature walks and collected as many different seeds as we could find. Amelia loved running through the forest with her collection bag, adding to it as we went along.

By the time we made it back home, we had an impressive collection of nuts, berries, apples, cones, milkweed, and all kinds of seeds from wildflowers.

Stunning Views

Here’s an obvious one, but something that literally cannot be overlooked! The colours that have painted the landscape in the way of deciduous leaves are incredible, and something that should be experienced by all.

While out on our nature walks collecting seeds, the Fall colours were all around and served as a great way to incorporate colour identification with our toddler.  

Discovering the Fall colours
Discovering the Fall colours

They’re Everywhere!

Seeds are all around us. It doesn’t matter if you live in a rural setting or in a large City, seeds are everywhere during the Fall season. Squirrels carrying nuts outside your window, dandelion fluff floating on the Autumn breeze.

Discovering seeds with your little ones is easy to do and can be done anywhere!

blossom blur close up dandelion
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another interesting point is that seeds found in your backyard are likely different than the types found in your neighbour’s yard. We primarily have deciduous trees on our property, but while walking down our road we found many different conifer cones.

All Shapes and Sizes

After collecting an array of seeds from our neighbourhood, we laid them out on a table and examined what we found. There were many different shapes, sizes and textures!

Amelia helped sort the seeds into similar groupings and then we used cardstock and glue to display the treasures we found. We then got a little fancy and made a “seed bird”. I drew the outline of the bird and Amelia helped to fill it in with the different seeds.

Displaying our seed collection and making artwork!
Displaying our seed collection and making artwork!

It’s Harvest Time!

With Fall comes the season of harvest! We’ll be exploring the Harvest Moon in an upcoming post but have started to enjoy Fall harvest foods already.

We used a freshly picked apple to make a fan favourite around here- apple donuts! It’s just a sliced, cored apple with some sort of topping. We went for classic cinnamon this time, but sometimes we level-up with peanut butter frosting and hemp heart “sprinkles”.  

After coring the apple, we worked on fine motor skills by removing the apple seeds from the core using tweezers and counting how many seeds there were.  (7 by the way).

Making apple donuts and removing the seeds with tweezers
Making apple donuts and removing the seeds with tweezers

The Season of Snuggling

If you ask me, Fall is the coziest of the seasons and a great time to snuggle up with a good book. Each week as I plan for the upcoming week’s theme, I set aside books from our own collection that correspond with the theme. A few books we read this week are

Dispersal is Happening

Seeds are dispersed in 4 different ways: By the plant itself, by animals, by water and by the wind. Many of these dispersal methods are occurring in the Fall. We noted different methods of seed dispersal happening in our yard.

  • We watched a squirrel bury a nut
  • Pulled a few burrs off our pant legs and identified the plant responsible
  • Blew the fluff off a couple dandelions and cat tails
  • Noticed the tomato plant growing in the compost pile…
adorable animal autumn claws
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

Hearty Meals and Tasty Treats

Fall is probably one of the best food seasons (hello, pumpkin spice). With squash and apples in an abundance, there are lots of opportunities to explore seeds in the foods we enjoy in Fall.

We love to cook and bake, and Amelia loves to help with our creations. We harvested our squash this week and made a bomb curry butternut squash soup. Amelia helped to scoop the “guts” out of the squash and prepare the seeds to save for planting next year.

As a treat, we made chocolate chia seed pudding. This recipe is so easy that my almost 3 year old was able to make it with little assistance. (The hardest part is waiting for it to be ready to eat!)

Measuring ingredients for Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
Measuring ingredients for Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serving Size:
5 minutes


  • 4 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (we used homemade coconut milk)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbs cacao powder


  1. Combine all ingredients into a jar and shake!
  2. Let sit for 2 minutes, then mix or shake again until chia seeds are clump-free
  3. Cover the jar and place in the fridge overnight (or at least a few hours)
  4. Top with your favourite toppings if desired and enjoy!
brown liquid in cup
Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

So, there you have it. You now know why Fall is the BEST time for exploring seeds with children! Its been fun learning about seeds with my little ones this week and I’m happy to be able to share our experiences with you. Be sure to check out my first blog post if you haven’t already How to Make Exploring Nature with Little Ones Fun!

Amelia’s quite interested in the world of seeds, so she seemed to really enjoy the activities we did over the week.

We’ll find out in a couple weeks if her interest remains after she helps us plant 300 garlic cloves for next year’s harvest!

braided garlic harvest
This year’s garlic harvest!

What is your family’s favourite way of discovering seeds in the Fall season?

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest!

How to Make Exploring Nature with Little Ones Fun!

Welcome to the first blog post on play and pinecones– I’m Christine!

My goal here is to inspire parents with ideas for nature based play and activities by sharing our family’s journey of raising two little ones in a natural lifestyle. 

Amelia exploring nature
Amelia exploring the Trilliums

If you are looking to: 

  • Explore nature with your young children but are unsure where to start. 
  • Find inspiration for fun and simple activities. 
  • Teach your little ones about the natural world through play. 
  • Get some fresh air and connect with nature.
  • Foster your child’s (and your own!) sense of wonder.

Then it sounds like we are on a similar path and you are in the right place! 

Forget the flashcards! My weekly blog posts will focus on simple ways to incorporate nature into your child’s life.

Here are a few ways we make exploring nature with our little ones fun!

Follow a Nature Study Curriculum

There are several great nature based curriculums available to work through with your children. We have recently started the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum with our toddler, Amelia. She’s just under three years old, so we are taking a fairly casual approach, but are really enjoying it!

Be sure to subscribe to play and pinecones to follow along as I document our weekly adventures.

Organize a Scavenger Hunt

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Make a list or draw pictures of different creatures/items found in nature. Then go out and find them! This is a neat thing to do while experiencing the changing of seasons into Autumn by incorporating different coloured leaves in your hunt. 

Create Artwork

Use items collected on a nature walk to create a masterpiece! Amelia is very interested in letters right now, so we also make artwork that spells out her name.

Do an Activity Together

Set up an activity that demonstrates a natural concept. Fill a bucket of water to see whether sticks and leaves sink or float, or play doorway spiderweb and see what you can catch! I often set up a quick activity like this for when baby Brooks is napping, as it provides a (somewhat) quiet project for Amelia and I to do.

painter’s tape spiderweb game

Go for a Walk

Go out and explore the land around you. We live on a small acreage of mixed forest and field and are out daily making new discoveries on our own property. We talk about different landmarks as we go and Amelia has become familiar with the different types of plants and animals found in our own backyard.

It doesn’t have to be formal. Many of our “hikes” are just a trek down to the compost bin. Whether you live in a rural area or in a large city- nature is everywhere, so get out and explore!

Read a Book

As I mentioned above, we are following the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum which is broken down into weekly themes. Each week I set aside books from our own collection that coincide with the weekly theme. Some of our favourite nature inspired books are Compost Stew, Some Bugs and Winter Dance

Make Something Delicious

I love to cook and bake and Amelia loves helping! She usually helps pour ingredients, mix batter and is the best spoon licker I’ve ever met. We try to make creations that go with our weekly theme.

Seed week- chocolate chia seed pudding, Bug week- ants on a log. You get the drift. Follow play and pinecones on Instagram for tasty inspiration.

Just be Outdoors

Do all the crafts and activities, but also try to leave time for some good unstructured play outside. Much of our exploring happens when we don’t plan anything at all. Being out in the fresh air is revitalizing for us and our kiddos- so let’s get outside!

A Little About Me

I’m a mother of two, new blogger and lifelong lover of the natural world. My passion began when I was a child, and grew as I became interested in birding and devoted much of my career to animal rescue and wildlife rehabilitation. My dream is to raise our children with the same appreciation for the environment and to share our journey with other like-minded families. 

That’s a little about me, now comment below how you explore nature with your family. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to get notifications of new posts and follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest.

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