The Best Ways to Explore Weather with Toddlers

The Best Ways to Explore Weather with Toddlers – Let’s make learning about weather – a breeze! 

This past week we explored the wild and wondrous world of WEATHER! 

Activity Sneak Peak:

  • Snow measurement activity
  • Maple taffy on snow 
  • Making an ice suncatcher 
  • Daily calendar activity 
  • Making a pinwheel 
  • Rainbow play
  • Reading about weather 
  • Painting a rainbow 

And what a week it has been

Mother Nature kicked off the week with a couple days of snow, then the mild temperatures rolled in, followed by a wicked wind storm and ending with more seasonal weather. Whew! 

The Best Ways to Explore Weather with Toddlers

As you may know from my previous posts, our family is following the Exploring Nature with Children nature study with our little ones. 

We’ve been documenting our adventures as we introduce our toddler and baby to the natural world. Be sure to check out my previous post-  Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun! 

Puddle jumping
Puddle jumping

So how did we discover The Best Ways to Explore Weather with Toddlers? Let me share all of the weather inspired play and activities we did this past week.

The Best Ways to Explore Weather with Toddlers

Experiment with Weather

Measuring precipitation!

Our week started with a blast of snow! We were originally expecting rain and I had plans to make a rain gauge to measure the precipitation, but temperatures dropped and we were hit with snow instead. 

Amelia is fascinated with measuring all kinds of items (and people) around the house, so I just knew she would enjoy measuring our newly fallen snow! 

We bundled up, grabbed the measuring tape and took to the snow! We measured the depth of the snow in different areas, noting that it was deeper in some areas compared to others. 

Maple Taffy- a tasty experiment 

Have you ever had maple taffy? It’s the best! I’ve had it while visiting maple syrup farms, but I’ve never thought to make it at home… until now! 

It’s quite easy to make and demonstrates how hot maple syrup quickly turns into a chewy taffy as it hits the cold snow. Cool, eh?! 

Maple taffy
Maple taffy

What you need:

  • Pure maple syrup
  • Snow
  • Sticks or popsicle sticks 

First we compacted fresh snow into a large bowl and brought it into the house. (You can make it directly in the snow outside too! It was getting dark out so we opted to make it indoors). 

Maple taffy
Maple taffy

Then, boil pure maple syrup until it reaches a temperature of 238 F. It’s best to use a candy thermometer. 

Once the maple syrup was bubbling and reached the correct temperature, I carefully poured it onto the snow and we saw that it instantly started to thicken and solidify. 

Pouring maple taffy
Pouring maple taffy

Quickly, use a stick and roll it through the freshly poured syrup to get the taffy onto the stick. Enjoy a sweet maple treat! 

Making maple taffy on snow
Making maple taffy on snow

Try a Weather Activity 

Ice Suncatchers! 

Cold temperatures had arrived and we took advantage of the icy days by making a natural material ice suncatcher! 

Ice suncatcher
Ice suncatcher

What you need:

  • A pie dish 
  • Water
  • Twine or string
  • Natural materials such as sticks, cones, berries, fruit etc.

First we went outside and collected some materials to include in our sun catchers. Amelia was drawn to the brilliant red dogwood, so we took a branch to use.

Making ice suncatchers
Making ice suncatchers

Once we had some natural materials, we placed them into the pie dish. We also included an orange and a few raspberries for a little pizazz.

We brought the pie dishes outside and Amelia filled them with water. I cut a piece of twine about 8” in length and placed the ends in the pie dish to allow the suncatcher to be hung by the twine once frozen. Then it was time to wait! 

Making ice suncatchers
Making ice suncatchers

It reached freezing temperatures overnight, so by morning, our suncatchers were frozen solid! We were able to see that the cold temperatures changed the water into ice. As it warmed up outside during the day, we saw the ice melt again and the birds enjoyed the berries as it thawed! 

Our Daily Calendar

As a part of our morning routine, we arrange the magnets on our daily calendar. The calendar displays the date, temperature, weather, daily activities, and emotions. 

Daily weather calendar
Daily weather calendar

We’ve been really liking this calendar for some time now. Amelia looks forward to changing the magnets daily and checking the weather to update the calendar.

Checking the weather
Checking the weather

Each morning we open the door to the deck and Amelia steps out to determine what the temperature is like and what’s happening weather-wise at the time.

Make a Pinwheel! 

As the week progressed, the snow melted away and we experienced a big windstorm. We lost power for a night and ate dinner by candlelight. Not as romantic with a toddler and baby involved.  

Exploring a fallen tree after a windstorm

We lost a few trees in the windstorm and Amelia helped remove the downed trees from the forest so they weren’t lying across our walking trail. 

It was still quite windy, so we decided to make a pinwheel! Here are the instructions we followed to make our pinwheel.

We used a finishing nail and a paint stir stick instead of a push pin and pencil because the paper I used for the pinwheel was too thick for a push pin to reach through. 

Weather Play and Exploration 

Playing in the snow
Playing in the snow

As always, we did lots of outdoor exploration this week and experienced all of the different types of weather that came our way.

Our winterized beehive
Our winterized beehive

Brooks played in the snow for the first time, we found a few puddles to jump in, and we checked in on our bees who are now tucked in for the Winter months. 

We also played indoors with our Grimm’s Rainbow and made all kinds of structures with it. Our kids love this toy and use it for all kinds of open-ended play! 

Read a Weather Book 

There are many great children’s books that directly or indirectly talk about weather. This is one of our new favourites.

Hello, World! Weather
Hello, World! Weather

The book goes through the different seasons and weather conditions and shows how the same backyard can look different as the weather changes. 

Reading about weather
Reading about weather

As the book introduces a new weather condition, the story shows what type of clothing and accessories may be needed for playing outdoors. 

Make Weather Artwork 

Let’s Paint a Rainbow! 

Amelia liked talking about the different colours in the rainbow while we were playing with our Grimm’s Rainbow. We decided to explore this further and paint a rainbow! 

Painting rainbows
Painting rainbows

After getting our water colour paints out, we painted the most cheerful rainbows! We love painting here, and Amelia is starting to want to paint actual things and not just splash the colours around (although we still have fun doing that too). 

It was fun to use our toy rainbow as a model for our artwork and explore the colours of the rainbow! 

Painting rainbows
Painting rainbows

I hope you found inspiration with The Best Ways to Explore Weather with Toddlers. Learning about weather has been a fun and interesting topic to discover with our family. 

Mother Nature blessed us with a cool variety of weather to experience this week and we had a blast taking advantage of her generosity! 

Let’s hear from you! 

How have your children explored the concept of weather? 

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

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

I’m sure you’ll be lichen these a-moss-ing ideas! 

Okay, okay. No more puns from me. 

Winter is approaching and everything will soon be covered in a white blanket of snow. We took advantage of the recent blast of warmer weather to discover the unique world of MOSS and LICHEN!

Activity Sneak Peak:

  • Outdoor moss and lichen hunt 
  • Magnifying fun
  • Lichen sea turtle art 
  • Mossy emotion rock activity 
  • Making a mossarium 

Amelia has been fascinated with moss, even before we studied it this past week. The brilliant colours and spongy textures make moss super interesting to little hands.

Mosses are very primitive plants and are unique because instead of producing seeds and growing flowers like other plants, they release spores to reproduce. How cool! 

Exploring lichen on a rock
Exploring lichen on a rock

What do you get when you combine fungus with algae?

Lichen! The two organisms function as a single unit to create this weird and wonderful life form. Lichen is an excellent indicator of air quality in the environment. Neat! 

I’ve always been interested in lichen, but this was the first time we really explored it with our children. Amelia has found it to be interesting too and likes to point it out on the trees and rocks on our property now. 

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

In the nature study we are following, Exploring Nature with Children– moss and lichen are split into two separate weekly themes. The beauty of this nature-based curriculum is that you can switch it up to fit your family’s schedule and needs! We are following casually with our 3 year old and 11 month old. You’re never too young to explore nature!

We combined moss and lichen into one spectacular week of playful exploration and truly enjoyed our time discovering both. 

Exploring moss on a rock.
Exploring moss on a rock.

If you’re new to my blog- Welcome! Be sure to check out my previous post The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones. 

So how did we learn about moss and lichen with our toddler and baby and have fun doing so? Let me share what we did this week! 

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

Explore the Outdoors with a Moss and Lichen Hunt

The first thing we did was go outside and discover the moss and lichen on our property and surrounding area. Amelia is already a pro at finding moss, and after I showed her what lichen looked like, she was excited to run around and look for that too.

Orange moss on a tree.
Orange moss on a tree.

We discovered a great diversity of colour and texture and we located moss and lichen on the rocks, ground and trees- oftentimes right next to each other! 

Exploring moss and lichen.
Exploring moss and lichen.

While out on our hunt for moss and lichen, we brought a spoon with us to collect small samples of the treasures we found. Amelia really enjoyed using the spoon and also her hands to collect bits of moss and lichen to bring home for further examination. 

Collection of moss from our nature walk.
Collection of moss from our nature walk.

Try out a Magnifying Glass 

I recently picked up a magnifying glass for our nature studies and thought that looking at moss and lichen would be the perfect introduction to using this tool! 

Examining moss under a magnifying glass.
Examining moss under a magnifying glass.

After collecting a variety of moss and lichen, we compared each and examined them under the magnifying glass. Amelia really liked discovering how the organisms looked under the magnifying glass compared to how they looked without it. 

I highly recommend getting a magnifying glass for your child to use. I wish I had thought of picking one up for our bug week- 8 Absolutely Awesome Ways to Discover Bugs with Toddlers. 

Examining moss.
Examining moss.

I’m sure we will be using it quite often as we continue to explore nature! 

Create a Lichen Masterpiece! 

Once we finished examining the treasures we found on our nature walk, we had a beautiful pile of crispy lichen in shades of blue and green. 

Like glitter… only natural! (And it didn’t remain on our floors, couches and cats for days following)

Lichen sea turtle art.
Lichen sea turtle art.

We decided to create lichen sea turtles! 

What you need:

  • Lichen
  • A piece of cardstock
  • A marker
  • White glue 

I drew the outline of the sea turtles onto the piece of cardstock with the marker. Amelia helped squeeze the glue onto the turtles and we spread it around to cover the surface of the turtles. 

Then I had Amelia sprinkle the lichen over the turtles until the glue was completely covered with lichen. We gently tapped the cardstock over a bowl to release any loose lichen. 

Drawing fish
Drawing fish

A lichen sea turtle masterpiece! Amelia added a finishing touch by drawing a school of fish around the turtles. 

Make Mossy Emotion Rocks 

Using the moss we collected on our moss and lichen hunt, we expressed ourselves by making these mossy emotion rocks! 

Mossy emotion rock activity
Mossy emotion rock activity

We’ve been working on naming different emotions in our home, so I thought this would be a fun, nature inspired twist to classic emotion rocks. 

What you need:

  • A variety of rocks
  • A permanent marker (or paint)
  • Moss 
  • White glue 

First we brainstormed different emotions to use for our rock faces- happy, sad, silly, angry, surprised etc…

Making emotion rocks
Making emotion rocks

Next I drew the faces onto the rocks with the marker. Your child can make the faces too, but Amelia requested I make the faces and she style their mossy hair. 

Once our rocks had faces, Amelia squeezed some glue on top of their heads and gave each rock a nice hairdo using the moss from our collection. 

Gluing moss "hair" onto the rocks
Gluing moss “hair” onto the rocks

And there you have it! A hands-on way to learn about emotions and feelings with mossy sensory fun! 

Showing emotions with our mossy emotion rocks.
Showing emotions with our mossy emotion rocks.

Assemble a Mossarium

For a final activity this week we made mini mossariums! 

A mossarium is a clear enclosure used specifically to grow moss. You can decorate them as you wish to make a unique indoor plant project. 

Mossariums
Mossariums

What you need:

  • Small glass jar with lid 
  • Stones 
  • Activated charcoal 
  • Soil 
  • Moss 

After going outside to collect the items needed, we added a layer of small stones for drainage in the bottom of the jar. Next, we added a thin layer of activated charcoal on top of the stones. The activated charcoal helps reduce bacterial growth and keeps your mossarium healthy. 

Making mossariums
Making mossariums

Then we added a thin layer of soil and put our moss on top of the soil. You can add other plants as well, but will require a little more soil for the plants to establish a root base. 

Amelia enjoyed decorating the mossarium with pebbles, tiny cedar cones and spruce needles. Keep your mossarium out of direct sunlight so it doesn’t dry out, and water lightly once a week. 

Looking at our mossariums.
Looking at our mossariums.

That sums up the past week exploring nature with my little ones. I hope you found inspiration with Moss and Lichen: How To Make Learning Fun! 

It brings me so much joy to share my knowledge of the natural world with my children- and also learn a few things myself! 

Finding lichen on a tree.
Finding lichen on a tree.

I’d love to hear from you! 

How have your children explored moss and lichen in nature? 

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

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones- Are you ready for some fun-guys?!

I would never have imagined how exciting a week dedicated to discovering the world of fungi could be for my toddler, baby, and myself!

Going on a Fungi hunt
Going on a Fungi hunt

Activity Sneak Peak

  • Creating a mushroom log
  • Making spore print art
  • Cooking with mushrooms- Breakfast Omelet
  • DIY fungi puzzle
  • Mushroom hunt!

This past week in the Exploring Nature with Children nature study was Fungi Week, and as you may know, our family has been following this curriculum as a guide to creating our own adventures in learning about nature.

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones

If you are new here- Welcome! Be sure to check out my previous post One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection for pumpkin inspired play and activities.

So, how did we explore mushrooms with a three-year-old and ten-month-old? And more importantly, what did we determine as The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones?

Wild Fungi
Wild Fungi

Let me tell you what we did for Fungi Week!

Mushrooms on a Log

This is such a simple activity and I have to say, makes for a cute mushroom-inspired display for your home! Right now, it’s the centerpiece on our dining room table.

Mushrooms on a log activity
Mushrooms on a log activity

What you need:

  • A log or piece of driftwood
  • Wine corks (thanks, Nana!)
  • Mini cupcake papers
  • Paint and paint brushes
  • Hot glue gun

We started by gluing the wine corks onto the log. (I did the gluing as we used a hot glue gun). Then glue the cupcake papers onto the tops of the wine corks.

Mushrooms on a log activity
Mushrooms on a log activity

Next, get your painting shirts on and decorate the mushroom tops! Amelia has been liking experimenting with water colour paints, so that’s what we used.

Making Spore Prints

Foragers use spore prints to document mushrooms they have found and help with identification. Making mushroom spore prints is easy and demonstrates how mushrooms release their spores naturally. We used mushrooms from our fridge, but you can also use wild picked mushrooms too.

Making mushroom spore prints
Making mushroom spore prints

What you need:

  • A piece of white paper or cardstock
  • Mushrooms
  • A sharp knife
  • Water
  • Eye dropper or syringe
  • Cardboard box

The first thing I did was cut the stem and bottom bit off of the mushrooms with a knife to expose the gills. Next, Amelia laid the mushrooms down on the white paper and using a syringe, dropped a few drops of water onto the tops of each mushroom.

Once the mushrooms were moistened, Amelia covered the paper and mushrooms with a cardboard box. We left the box on overnight. The next morning, we removed the box and mushrooms to expose the prints left by the thousands of spores that were released by each mushroom! Neat eh?

Mushroom spore print art
Mushroom spore print art

Amelia wanted to decorate the spore prints, so we decided to make a piece of artwork by incorporating them into a picture of flowers!

Cooking with Mushrooms

As you know, some species of mushrooms are edible while others are not. Although we spent a week learning about fungi, I have to say that I’m not a mushroom identifying expert! For this reason, we decided to cook with mushrooms we had in our fridge.

We decided to make a mushroom breakfast omelet!

Amelia helped pick out the ingredients- eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and cheese. She helped by cracking the eggs, breaking the mushrooms into small pieces, and stirring the mixture before it was cooked.

Our omelet made for a quick and tasty lunch!

Tasting the mushroom omelet!
Tasting the mushroom omelet!

DIY Fungi Puzzle

Puzzles are a favourite activity here. We have several word puzzles, but not one that relates to fungi… so we made one!

That’s right! You can make a word puzzle with a few objects that you likely already have around your home.

DIY Fungi Puzzle
DIY Fungi Puzzle

What you need:

  • A piece of cardboard
  • A marker
  • Alphabet letters

Just trace the letters onto the cardboard with your marker to create an instant word puzzle. We’ve been working on recognizing and naming the letters of the alphabet, so this FUNGI puzzle was a hit!

You can either set out the letters needed for the puzzle, or allow your child to search through all of the alphabet letters to find the ones that fit.

DIY Fungi Puzzle
DIY Fungi Puzzle

Okay, but what did we find to be The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones? After enjoying the activities, crafts and tasty sampling of mushrooms, here is what we found to be

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones:

Go on a Fungi Hunt!

That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but I can’t tell you how much fun we had trudging through the woods in search of fungi. Amelia had a blast looking high in the trees and low on the forest floor for mushrooms.

Discovering fungi!
Discovering fungi!

We started our expedition as a casual stroll in search of fungi, but it quickly became an exciting scavenger hunt, and I have to say, Amelia is quite the mushroom hunter! There were many times where she found fungi that I had missed.

Discovering fungi on a fallen tree
Discovering fungi on a fallen tree

Our Fungi hunt opened our eyes to how diverse and prevalent mushrooms are on our own property. Now that we’ve finished Fungi Week, Amelia is still pointing out fungi on our nature walks and it makes me so happy (and proud) to see her showing such an interest in the natural world.

Discovering fungi!
Discovering fungi!

Remember that going on a nature walk doesn’t mean you have to haul your children to the deep woods. Go for a stroll through your neighbourhood park and I’m sure you’ll be able to find mushrooms.

Mushrooms are everywhere and make for a neat scavenger hunt- hidden under logs, up trees, and even in plain sight on the ground… that’s what makes them fun-guys!

I hope you found inspiration with The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones 

Let’s hear from you!

Have you explored fungi with your children?

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

One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection

One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection- Are you ready for a week’s worth of pumpkin-filled inspiration? 

Great! I’m about to share all of the pumpkin themed play and learning we did this past week. 

Activity Sneak Peak:

  • Downhill pumpkin roll
  • Pumpkin bubble bath
  • Building pumpkin towers 
  • Baking paleo pumpkin bars 
  • Making a pumpkin bird feeder
  • Pumpkin carving- guts, seeds and sorting shapes
  • A simple seed counting craft. 

Our family recently explored the fun and festive world of pumpkins and now we would like to share our seven days of discovery with you.

One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection.
One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection

As you may have seen in my previous posts, we are following the Exploring Nature with Children nature study with our toddler and baby.

If you are new here- Welcome! Be sure to check out my previous post A Toddler-Friendly Pond Study: How to Make a Splash! 

Pumpkins offer a diverse opportunity for learning for children and are the epitome of the Fall season!

Our Jack-o-lantern
Our Jack-o-lantern

Playing and learning with pumpkins made for great STEAM activities that were inclusive for both our 3 year old and 9 month old. 

So go grab yourself a PSL (pumpkin spice latte) and get ready to be inspired with One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection! 

Monday

Downhill Pumpkin Roll

We kicked off our pumpkin week with a bit of an impromptu lesson in… gravity! 

That’s right! After discovering how pumpkins can roll across the ground, we took it up a notch and decided to do an official downhill pumpkin roll! 

Downhill pumpkin roll
Getting ready for a race!

Amelia wanted to see how fast the pumpkins could roll down the hill in our yard, so we hauled the pumpkins to the top of the hill and sent them rolling down. 

Watching the pumpkins roll and bounce down the hill was exciting and prompted Amelia to want to race them. We brought the pumpkins back up the hill and one by one we sent them on a downhill race against our speedy toddler.

Downhill pumpkin roll
Downhill pumpkin roll

Amelia had a blast and no pumpkins were harmed in our downhill adventure. 

Tuesday

Pumpkin Bubble Bath

After a day of being rolled down a muddy hill, our pumpkins were in serious need of a cleaning. 

We brought a large bin out on the deck and filled it with warm water and one of our favourite natural bubble bath solutions

Pumpkin bubble bath
Pumpkin bubble bath

Once the water was nice and bubbly, we added our dirty pumpkins to the bin and scrubbed away! I gave Amelia a scrub brush and a cloth, but she preferred to use her hands. 

Brooks was on drying duty and as each pumpkin was cleaned, we placed it on a blanket and he helped polish our pumpkins until they were nice and dry. 

Pumpkin bubble bath
Pumpkin bubble bath

Talk about teamwork! 

Water play is a huge hit here, so this activity was a lot of fun for us. 

Wednesday

Building Pumpkin Towers 

Our newly cleaned pumpkins came indoors today for some vertical exploration. 

Both our kids enjoy building with different types of blocks, toys and magnetic tiles, so why not try pumpkins too?! 

Building pumpkin towers
Building pumpkin towers

Amelia built a few towers by stacking pumpkins (stems removed). We learned that because they were slightly different shapes and sizes, not all of the pumpkins would stack on the one below and we would need to rearrange them to find the ones that fit together best. 

Knocking over pumpkin towers
Knocking over pumpkin towers

Brooks liked practicing climbing on the wobbly pumpkins, but also enjoyed knocking down the pumpkin towers! 

Thursday

Baking Paleo Pumpkin Bars

For a festive, Fall treat-  we made Paleo Pumpkin Bars! 

These were quick and easy to make, and were a hit with everyone! Amelia was able to help with the preparation of the ingredients and pouring of the batter. 

Paleo pumpkin squares
Paleo pumpkin squares

The pumpkin purée we used was from our own pumpkins- featuring our gratitude pumpkin from my post How we Celebrated This Year’s Harvest Moon

Our gratitude pumpkin
Our gratitude pumpkin

Paleo Pumpkin Bars

Serving Size:
9
Time:
30 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup chilled almond butter
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with oil. (We used avocado, but coconut would work too).
  3. Combine all ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Using an immersion blender will get it real smooth.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.
  7. Enjoy!
Paleo pumpkin squares
Paleo pumpkin squares

Friday

Making a Pumpkin Bird Feeder

We love watching the birds outside and we also have a bird feeder that we can view from our living room window.

I’m a huge bird nerd so naturally I’m super proud that my three year old can name different species of birds already. 

With more birds hanging around our feeder recently, we decided to make another feeder using… you guessed it… a pumpkin! 

Making a pumpkin bird feeder
Making a pumpkin bird feeder

What you need:

  • A small pumpkin.
  • Twine
  • Bird seed 

How to make a pumpkin bird feeder:

  • Cut the top off of the pumpkin and remove the guts/seeds. 
  • Using a screwdriver or scissors, poke 4 holes around the top portion of the pumpkin. 
  • String twine through the holes and tie in a knot to allow the pumpkin to be hung from a branch. 
  • Fill the pumpkin with bird seed and hang from a tree branch. 
Making a pumpkin bird feeder
Making a pumpkin bird feeder

Our pumpkin bird feeder attracted a variety of birds including chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and blue jays! 

Our pumpkin bird feeder attracted a variety of birds including chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and blue jays! 

Chickadee on our pumpkin bird feeder
Chickadee on our pumpkin bird feeder

Saturday

Pumpkin Carving- guts, seeds and sorting shapes!

Our sugar pumpkins were reserved for roasting and canning, so we made a quick trip to a local pumpkin patch to pick up a larger pumpkin for carving. 

The plan was to make a classic Jack-o-lantern face. This was Amelia’s first year really helping with the carving process, so we didn’t know how she would react to the ooey, gooey pumpkin guts. 

We let her explore the inside of the pumpkin with her hands, and with no hesitation, she got right in there to help remove the guts. 

Amelia helped separate the seeds from the guts, rinse and let them dry to save and plant for next year’s garden. 

placing the triangle eye back in it’s place

After we carved the face into the pumpkin, Amelia had fun replacing the pieces of the face back where they were carved from and named the shapes of the pieces as she went. 

Once complete, we ended up with a very handsome Jack-o-lantern! 

Sunday

A Simple Seed Counting Craft 

We finished off the week with a seed counting activity. Using some of the seeds from our Jack-o-lantern, we created a simple number craft. 

Materials for seed counting craft
Materials for seed counting craft
  • First I helped to cut out a few pumpkins and pumpkin stems from coloured construction paper. 
  • Next, I had Amelia help glue the pumpkins together on a piece of black card stock. 
  • I wrote the numbers 5, 10, 15 and 20 on the pumpkins with a black marker. (You can write whichever numbers you like). 
  • We then counted the seeds and glued them onto each pumpkin. 
  • Once dry, we were able to count the seeds and work on identifying the number written on each pumpkin. 
Pumpkin seed counting craft
Pumpkin seed counting craft

So, there you have it! Are you feeling a bit pumpkin’d out now? 

With the exception of our Jack-o-lantern pumpkin, all of the pumpkins we used this past week were from our own garden. 

I highly recommend growing your own sugar pumpkins at home. They are quite easy to grow (even if you have a black thumb), don’t require too much space, create opportunities for learning about gardening with your children, and result in cute pumpkins to use for explorative play, seasonal decorations, and eating! 

Our pumpkin harvest
Our pumpkin harvest

I hope you found inspiration with One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection. 

Let’s hear from you!

What pumpkin-inspired activities do your children like best? 

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

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
Difficulty:Easy

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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:
10
Time:
8 hours
Difficulty:
easy

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

  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
Time:
10 min
Difficulty:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 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


Directions

  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.

Bonfire

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:
5
Time:
10 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy
Elderberry gummy worms
Elderberry gummy worms

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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:
2
Time:
5 minutes
Difficulty:
Easy!

Ingredients

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

Directions

  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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