Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fun at the Fire Station

For the second year in a row my little guy chose to be a fireman for Halloween. This was a good thing since in our homeschool we have been talking about community helpers. On halloween, I decided we would take him up to the fire station to meet some real firemen and bring them some treats to thank them for all that they do for our community. I can't tell you how excited my little guy was when they offered him a tour of the fire station and fire trucks!

The firemen explained to him about the different trucks and what they do and showed him the fire pole and let him roll out the fire hose from the truck, which was his favorite! He was allowed to climb up in the firetruck and the fireman turned on the flashing lights for him. This was such a fun learning experience for him and he had a blast!

My husband and I even got into character with him by dressing up as the "fire" and the dalmation fire dog. Another fun and educational halloween in the books!

                  "Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself." -John Dewey

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pretend Pirate Play!

Arrgggh, Mateys!  Today is September 19th, which happens to be National Talk Like a Pirate Day. My little guy is pretty fascinated with pirates and in honor of this day I wanted to share some fun pirate activities and crafts.

Pretend play is always a great idea and I love to be a little creative with it. Last year my little guy was a pirate for halloween and I put together this little treasure chest filled with jewels, gold coins, a little skeleton head that I bought at Michaels (where I also got the treasure chest) and spray painted gold, a spy glass and a treasure map. You know, all the stuff pirates need. He dressed up in his pirate costume and off we went to "Pirate Island" (a lake area by our house). My son had the most wonderful time spying on land lubbers, looking for treasure, fighting "scallywags", and playing in his "pirate ship."

Probably one his favorite pirate things is the spy glass. They are pretty inexpensive to purchase or you can easily make one like we have done on many occasions. All you need is a paper towel roll, some twine and spray paint if you desire to paint it.

We spray painted ours gold and tied some twine around it. I can't tell you how much fun he has with this simple "spy glass." We even made them for his last birthday party, which was Peter Pan themed, to give to the guests. They played on the "pirate ship" and had a blast watching out for "scurvy beasts."

And of course you have to know how to talk like a pirate to be one. I love this website full of fun pirate words. And check out these other fun crafts and activities for your little buccaneer, too!

Pirate Crafts from Busy Bee Kids Crafts
Cardboard Pirate Ship from Red Ted Art
30 Pirate Activities from Nurture Store
Treasure Hunt from Enchanted Learning

Happy Pirate Play!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Turtle Walk at Archie Carr Refuge

Halfway between Melbourne and Vero Beach on the east coast of Florida, is the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. This 20.5 mile stretch of beach is designated to provide protection to the 15,000 to 20,0000 sea turtles that make their nests here every year. Located on this strip of land is the Barrier Island Center, a 34 acre sanctuary and educational center with interactive exhibits and presentation hall. I was thrilled to learn that in partnership with The Sea Turtle Conservancy, they offered sea turtle walks during the summer when the loggerheads, green, and leatherback sea turtles make their way to shore to find their perferct spot on the beach for nesting. So, I booked my daughter and I a spot (my little guy was too young) and we took off for the weekend to learn about these awesome creatures.

The Barrier Island Sanctuary, where the turtle walk is held, is an educational facility on the refuge that has intereactive exhibits, a presentation hall, classrooms and a library that invites you to learn and explore. My son loved the exhibits and could distinguish between the different species of sea turtles before we left!

As the sun set, my daughter and I geared up for the turtle walk. We sat in the presentation room and learned about the different crawls of each species of sea turtle. On our walk we spotted a green sea turtle laying her eggs. We couldn't get close, though, because this species of sea turtle is endangered. We walked the beach a while and saw a loggerhead come out of the water, but she decided not to lay her eggs and went back into the ocean. We learned that this was called a "false crawl" and sometimes the turtles do this because the beach is too lit up or they are not satisfied with the sand or by some other disturbance. In the first photo below, you can see the tracks coming out of the water on the left and turning before nesting to go back out in the water.

False Crawl Tracks

We actually saw two different species of turtles and three different kinds of sea turtle tracks. 

           Loggerhead tracks                  Green Sea Turtle tracks             Leatherback tracks

 These are the three species that nest on the refuge with the Loggerheads being the most common. We  learned that the Loggerhead alternates their limbs to crawl and there is no center tail drag in their tracks, while the Green Sea Turtle also alternates their limbs to crawl but does have a center tail drag as shown in the middle photo above. The Leatherback is a massive turtle with a track extending 6-7 feet and move their limbs simultaneously with a faint center tail drag.

We had a super fun time learning all about these amazing creatures! Below is a list of sea turtle crafts and activities we also enjoyed doing, some links to help you learn more about sea turtles and some fun facts!
-There are seven species of sea turtles:
Kemp's ridley
Olive ridley
For more info on these species go here.

-Six of these seven species are classified as threatened or endangered. Mostly because of the way humans live or their actions. To see how you can help be a friend to sea turtles go here.

-For fun facts about green sea turtles click here

Paper Plate Sea Turtle from Sun Scholars
Rock Turtle from Preschool Daze
Sea Turtle Hatchling Craft from Raising Arizona Kids
Egg Carton Turtle from National Wildlife Federation Kids
Recycled Bottle Cap Turtles from Inna's Creations

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gardening Fun with Kids: The Harvest

Back in March, my little guy and I planted seeds for our garden. He was very excited for the plants to grow and even more so in the fact that he would be able to EAT these plants (he loves to eat:). He asked if they were ready to be eaten almost everyday from the day we planted them, and of course they were not, so it opened up the opportunity for me to help him learn about the way plants grow. We read books about seeds and vegetable plants and daily watered our little seedlings and took care of them together. He was thrilled when they started sprouting!

We planted zucchini, yellow squash, watermelon, spinach, lettuce and eggplant seeds, and when they started sprouting we transplanted them into the little raised garden bed my husband made out of some landscaping timbers we had. My little guy jumped right in to help with the garden bed and the transplanting of the seeds. After I showed him how to dig the right sized hole for the transplant, he did a great job of it by himself and was so proud to work along beside us in the garden! 

We discovered our first zucchini flower on Earth Day, which was super cool and my little guy was so excited about it. I told him how the zucchini would grow out of the flower and how all of his patience would pay off when he was able to pick it. Eventually, the bloom finally sprouted into the zucchini and the day came when he was able to pick it! Oh, happy day!

Not only was he excited to pick it, I had to go in and cook it up right away! He had been patiently waiting for that first vegetable and he was not going to wait a minute more to get it in his belly. 

Overall, we harvested about 12 very large zucchini from the garden. We had the squash sprout, but they became rotten before they were large enough to eat, and nothing else produced well except for a bit of lettuce. I'm still super thrilled at our first real attempt at gardening and we will be planting another one in the fall (too hot in Florida for a summer garden.) We learned alot and my little guy got his fill of zucchini (ironically, he won't eat them if I get them at the grocery store or farmer's market) and we had a fun experience together. There's no better way to show kids where their food comes from and to teach them how it grows than to grow it together!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Exploring in the Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National National Forest is an amazing place to explore. With more than 383,000 acres consisting of wilderness and water resources, including rivers, lakes and springs, there are more than enough activities to enjoy. On our trip to the forest this past weekend, we had fun hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and swimming. Our first stop was an off the beaten path hike to Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail. We drove down a long clay road to get to our destination, going deeper into the forest with every mile. When we reached our hiking destinination, we chose our trail (the shortest, since my little guy gets bored after a half mile each way) and off we went, battling banana spiders and mosquitos every step of the way. The sinkhole was basically a huge hole in the ground that was grown in with trees and plants, and we took the 119 steps down into it. It was pretty interesting, especially since when they first built the steps to the trail, there were 188 steps. Apparently, sinkholes get smaller and smaller and most likely fill in over time!

After our hike, we drove to Alexander Springs, where we kayaked down the river. The river was so crystal clear running down from the spring that we could perfectly see the fish and turtles swimming around us. As we went down the river, we saw alligators sunning on the river bank and more turtles happily perched on the branches coming up out of the water. 

After our river run, we dropped our kayaks off and headed over to the spring. The constant 72 degree temperature of the water was a treat for us after the hiking and kayaking. My daughter and I grabbed our snorkels and made our way to the heart of the spring, which flows at an impressive 80 million gallons a day! It was a beautiful site to behold, with the water flowing through many different sized rock formations.

After our swim, we decided to hike the trail which runs along the spring named after the Timucuan Indians that made there home here a thousand years ago. The Timucuan Trail is a one mile hike along a boardwalk, with stops that overlook the spring. It is a beautiful trail lined with tall sabal palms, magnificent Atlantic white cedar trees, which the Timucuans would hollow out and make canoes from, and the scrub palmetto, from which the Florida scrub jays make their home and from which the Timucuans used for food and medicine. My little guy was in awe of the cedar tree and could not believe that people made canoes from them! He asked one hundred questions, many that I couldn't answer, so we will be reading books and searching the internet for more information about it and the Timucuans. It was an enjoyable and educational hike for both my kiddos and myself! 

I'm so glad that we ventured out for the day to the Ocala National Forest. We had a wonderful learning experience and learning about nature in nature is the best (and most fun) way to learn! It was a great day in nature and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy it with my family. We will definitely be making another trip back to explore more of the forest in the near future!


-It is the southernmost forest in the continental United States and the second largest in Florida

-Contains more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs in it's 383,000 acres

-Protects the world's largest contiguous sand pine forest and is known as "The Big Scrub" because of it's dense Florida scrub vegetation

-Established in 1908, it is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River

-Is home to the highest concentration of Florida Black Bears and to the highest population of the endangered Florida scrub jay


Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Fun!

Summer is by far my favorite season and brings such nostalgia for me and a longing to make wonderful memories for my kids to have as they grow up. The long days of running around the neighborhood with bare feet, climbing trees, building treehouses, swimming until our fingers and toes resembled prunes and chasing down the ice cream truck for a cherry screwball, the cone shaped sherbert with the gumball on the bottom (kids of the 80's know what I'm talking about:) are some of my fondest childhood memories. My family's summer traditions have been built around our interests and most of them include being in nature. Summers outside are the best! Here are our favorite summer activities and some we will be doing for the first time this summer!

Camping is a great way to get outside into nature. Since our primitive camping experience, we have gone camping again at Disney's Fort Wilderness. My kids love it there! From horseback riding to campfire sing alongs and movies under the stars, it is camping at it's finest!
 If you don't want to plan a big camping trip, set up a tent in the backyard and camp. Use a firepit to roast marshmallows and tell stories or sing songs. This is such a great family bonding experience!

Check out a local horse farm to see if they have trail or pony rides. We did a trail ride at Fort Wilderness and my little guy did a pony ride and it was fun to be out in nature with the horses. 

Kayaking is one of our favorite family activities. It brings you so close to all kinds of  plants and animals in a serene environment. We love to hop off our kayaks in the ocean or spring and snorkel around to check out the underwater environment.

Summer is a great time for looking to the sky and the trees around you to check out the bird world. We love to take hikes at our local state parks or the Florida birding trail to see what bird species we can find. If you have trees in your neighborhood, you can just take a walk down the street to find some feathered friends. Sitting on our back porch this morning we saw a woodpecker, a bluejay, a cardinal and a mockingbird in all of five minutes! I always tell my little guy the names of the birds so he can learn them, too, and if we find an unfamiliar bird, we get out our bird handbook and look it up!

If you live near an ocean or will be visiting one this summer, check out the Sea Turtle Conservancy and their programs for sea turtle walks. June through August is when sea turtles make their way to the beach to nest and while on one of these turtle walks there is a great chance for you to watch this amazing occurance.  We are signed up for one in Melbourne for this month and are so excited about it! 

 Fishing with kids is so much fun. It's a great way to interact together and spend time as a family.

Geocaching is a fast growing hobby for many outdoor enthusiasts. It's basically an outdoor treasure hunt where you use GPS as a guide to find a hidden container at specific coordinates. To play, you just register online and pick a location. This is definitely on our summer bucket list!

We are so excited about these activities, but my kids will definitely be outside with their bare feet making fun memories on their own as well!

 Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fishing Fun with Kids

Living in Florida, we spend a lot of time on the lake. Our city alone consists of 16 lakes which are all connected by canals. These lakes make up the southern part of the Chain of Lakes in Central Florida, including Lake Eloise, which used to be the home of Cypress Gardens and is now home to Legoland Florida. My husband is an avid fisherman and has fished these lakes since he was a child. I am so grateful that he has passed his love of fishing on to our children. As a family, we enjoy being out on the lake and fishing together. My little guy has been fishing since he was a year and a half and at three years old, has learned to cast and reel in his own fish!

The great thing about fishing is that it is inexpensive, easy to learn, and can be done anywhere there is a body of water.  Fishing is a great way to connect with and learn about nature. My kiddos have learned to be respectful to the animals we come across, including the fish we catch, through time spent on the water. It builds an appreciation for nature by linking them to the natural world and fosters a caring and responsible attitude towards nature. The environment is calm and relaxed and away from distractions, which can help open up communication with your kids. Fishing also stimulates learning from the opportunities available for problem solving and decision making.

Here are some things I've learned for getting and keeping my kids interested in fishing:

Have Your Equipment Ready To Go
Get your equipment in working order before you leave. Have your rod and reel and your bobber strung up and ready to fish with. This will avoid frustration at the lake and will ensure your kids are able to fish right away.

Gather Your Own Live Bait
If possible, let your kids help you dig for worms in the yard for bait or give them a net to let them catch their own minnows. My little guy loves nothing more than to go in the backyard with his shovel and dig up worms for his fishing trip or jump in the lake and catch minnows with his net. In my experience, live bait is the best bait for catching fish.

Fish On The Shore
We have a boat to fish from, which we do often, but my little guy prefers to fish on the shore. He loves to catch the little bluegill which swarm near the shore in early summer. It gives him the opportunity to run and play and move around while he's fishing. Which brings us to the next tip...

Don't Worry About The Size 
My little guy has caught tilapia, bass, large saltwater fish like redfish and snook, but his favorite thing to catch is bluegill. Don't worry about catching large fish. Just have fun catching whatever is biting, even if it's just bluegill or some other small fish. They are usually more plentiful and easier to catch which makes it fun for kids.

Help Them Learn
It's easy to step in and solve problems for kids, but let them try to work it out first. If the line gets tangled or the hook snags, let them try to figure out how to deal with it. If the fish stop biting, let them decide what should be done to get them biting again. Work with them to figure out a solution. Let them develop skills which will improve their self esteem.

Be Responsible
Educate your children on the importance of a clean environment, which includes not littering. Show children how to properly release a fish and make good use of the fish you keep. Follow all rules and regulations and teach kids to do the same.

Fishing is a great way to spend quality time with your kiddos. Keep an open mind and take cues from them. Small children don't have a lot of patience so limit time to ward off boredom. Make sure to plan another trip. Talk about what they had fun doing and what wasn't so fun so you can plan your next trip accordingly.

Happy Fishing!

Update: Fishing is addictive. Here's my son fishing this past week.
He's gotten pretty good at it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Primitive Camping on Shell Key Preserve

The definition of the word "camping" means different things to different people. On our last camping trip to Disney's Fort Wilderness, we saw big campers with 50 inch televisions hooked up outside of them and kids gaming away on their Xboxes. My husband is a die hard outdoorsman and would never allow that on our camping trips. I think the only reason he even tolerates our annual Disney camping trip is that our kiddos love it so much and he loves to make them happy! To him, having electric hookups and air mattresses (which is my preferred way to camp:) is not roughing it enough. So this past weekend, he took us camping his favorite way-the primitive way.

We packed up the car and hooked up the boat because where we were headed that is the only way to get there. Our destination was Shell Key Preserve, an undeveloped barrier island in Tierra Verde, Florida, which is about an hour and a half drive for us. Thankfully, my kiddos behaved in the car and before we knew it we were there. We unloaded the camping stuff from the car and loaded it into the boat (an extra step to do when your campground is only accessible by boat) and headed to the island, which was a 10 minute boat ride. We've been to the island before to play for the day and my husband and daughter have camped there before, so he knew where to go and there were no surprises.

When we arrived, my little guy immediately got to work filling his buckets with water while we set up camp. Now, if you're not sure what "primitive" camping is, it's camping with no electric, water, bathroom, etc. I mean, we were on an island with nothing except what we brought (which started to worry me a little when we started unpacking!) and no way to "plug in" to anything! We had charged our phones before we left and had them in case of emergency, but we planned on no electronics at all, just time to be together to connect as a family with no disruptions or distractions. You can't imagine how successful this was! My kids enjoyed time together exploring the island, discovering marine life, fishing, and just plain having fun and since they are over ten years apart in age, this is no easy task to accomplish!

The sea life on the island was a diverse variety. We saw hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, live sand dollars, sea slugs and many different shorebirds. There were dolphins everywhere, swimming very close to the shore. The highlight of our trip had to be when  two of them swam along behind our boat jumping, flipping and showing off for us! They were swimming so close to us that we could have leaned over the boat and touched them. I felt like we were getting our own private dolphin show. They truly are very playful and friendly animals!

While snorkeling in the blue water, we found amberjack, snook, a tiny shark and a manatee. We took a hike around the island, admiring the view and marveled at the way the sun set over the mangrove trees casting an orange glow on the sea oats that swayed back and forth in the wind. We stopped to watch the crabs scurry through the black mangrove roots, which stick straight up out of the marshland like daggers. At night, we looked at the stars which were bright and plentiful in the sky because of the lack of light on the island. And we made s'mores because no camping trip is complete without them!

This was one of our best camping trips yet! No one was distracted by computers, phones, ipads or t.v. We absolutely and completely were focused on each other and our beautiful environment the entire trip and we are all better off because of it. Who knew it was possible in this day and age to be completely electronic free for days at a time? I would completely recommend it and can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

12 Easy and Sugar Free Homemade Popsicle Recipes

Nothing beats eating a cold, delicious popsicle on a steaming hot summer day. My kiddos love nothing more in summer time than to splash in the pool eating more popsicles than I can count, leaving them to drip and drip and stain their faces. We love making our own popsicles especially since most store bought popsicles are packed full of sugar or artificial stuff. Making your own popsicles is so easy and so much more healthier than the store bought ones. Plus, it's fun to do with your kids. I feel no guilt about letting my kiddos eat as many of these popsicles as they want during the hot summer months because I know exactly what is in them, that they are sugar free and that they are adding nutritional value to their growing bodies!

Both of my kids love this super simple popsicle made from fruit and juice. My teenager and my little guy regularly make this one together. First, you need popsicle molds, which you can find here. Fill the molds with blueberries, rasperries and kiwi slices. Then fill the molds with a light juice (we use white grape juice). Freeze overnight and then enjoy!

Very easy and so yummy! Below is a list with links of our most favorite sugar free popsicle recipes.

Peach Popsicles from Chocolate and Carrots
Orange Creamsicles from Oven Love
Blueberry Vanilla Yogurt Popsicles from The Slow Roasted Italian
All Natural Strawberry Ice Cream Bars from Happiness is Homemade
Sugar Free Banana Popsicles from Vegalicious
Fruit Layered Ice Pops from Raw Edibles
Watermelon Whole Fruit Popsicles from Nourishing Meals
Honeydew Cucumber Mint Popsicles from Nourishing Meals
Mango Yogurt Popsicle from My Darling Lemon Thyme
Creamy Coconut, Mango and Banana Popsicle from The Makeshift Nest
Pea Wee Kiwi Popsicles from Weelicious

Happy Summer!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Imaginative Play: Peter Pan in Neverland


Peter Pan has always been one of my favorite characters. There's just something so endearing about a little boy who refuses to grow up. As an adult I've come to love him even more, since my son insists on watching the DVD over and over and over again. My little guy is turning four in a couple of weeks and he told me the other day he does not want to be four, he likes being three. Peter Pan immediately came into my thoughts as he said that and a Peter Pan birthday party theme came into the making. I knew he would enjoy pretending to be Peter Pan and the photos would be awesome on the invitations. My teenager even got into the fun by playing Tinkerbell and helping to make her own Tink dress. So off we went to Neverland.

My little Peter Pan was ecstatic. In the Neverland forest, he explored the surroundings, played with woodland creatures (he found a rabbit and a squirrel) and fought imaginary pirates and Captain Hook (who dad willingly pretended to be). He also had a lot of fun playing with Tinkerbell (his sister). The fact that she participated in his imaginary fun truly melted my heart.

 Playing in Pixie Hollow

Childhood is a magical time, and for me, it is important to make as many memorable moments as I can with my kids in this season of their lives. Is it always easy and convenient? No, but it is worth making the time and sharing these experiences with them. As I am realizing with my now fourteen year old, these years are fleeting and before I know it, unlike Peter Pan, they will grow up.

Imaginative play is important for child development. Here are some great articles about how creative and imaginative play is beneficial for children:

So whether it's in Neverland or in your child's room having high tea with the Queen,
Happy Pretending!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Blueberry Picking (and yummy muffin recipe)

My kiddos have become addicted to picking their own food. Going to the farms and picking fruit and veggies is super fun and rewarding and a great family activity. Besides helping out local farmers, it teaches kids where their food comes from and how it's grown. A few weeks ago we picked strawberries and we have been patiently waiting for our local organic blueberry farm to open for u-pick season. Crown Jewel Farms opened this past weekend and we went on opening day. My little guy was so excited! We walked (and ran) up and down the aisles of blueberry plants and  picked pounds and pounds of them. Every time I looked at my little guy, he was shoving blueberries in his mouth. He ate more than he put in his bucket, which is what usually happens when we go picking!

When we got home, we wanted to make something yummy with all of our fresh berries. My little guy loves to help in the kitchen so I decided to make some blueberry oatmeal muffins with him since the recipe is easy and kid friendly. It's also super healthy and we made a sugar free version. For the ingredients we used:
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. honey
3 cups old fashioned oats
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup vanilla soy milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. baking powder 
1/2 cup bluberries
You could add in a Tbsp. or two of sugar or stevia if you want them a little sweeter, but we made them with no sugar and they were delicious! You could also substitute the vanilla soy milk for any kind of milk that you have. Next:
Preheat oven to 375 dgrees
Mix all ingredients except the blueberries
Prepare muffin pans by spraying the pan or muffin cups with non-stick spray
Stir in the blueberries
Fill 15 muffin cups almost to the top
Bake about 20 minutes
Let cool almost completely until firm to the touch

Cooking with kids is a fun and enjoyable learning experience for them. My little guy helped measure the ingredients (including pouring half of the container of baking powder in the mixture, which I had to dig out:) and stirred everything together. He also mashed the bananas for me. This recipe is awesome for letting the kids help, because it's pretty much fool proof. Even after my little guy poured in too much baking powder, they came out great!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Let's Build!

I do so much exploring, creating and crafting during the week with my little guy, which is so rewarding for me, that I get pretty excited when the first Saturday of the month comes around and my husband gets a chance to spend some time doing a project and connecting with him. The Home Depot kids workshop is a great program that sets up a building project on this day for kids to participate in. It's wonderful for my husband because they have the project planned out and ready to go so there is no advanced planning to be done on his part. This makes it super easy for him and our little guy to spend some quality bonding time together while building a fantastic project!

My little guy has built a football game, a car, and this past Saturday he surprised me with a wonderful flower pot for (an early) Mother's Day present! It gives him such a sense of accomplishment to put these projects together with the help of dad. It also helps with his fine motor skills by placing the nails and learning to use the hammer and with learning how to follow directions by putting the pieces of the project together. Then he paints the projects which adds to the fun! They also give you an apron, a certificate of acheivement, and a pin that displays the building project that you created!

I would recommend everyone to try out a Home Depot kids workshop! I am sharing this post because we have just recently found out about these workshops a few months ago and it has been such an enjoyable experience for my husband and little guy to do together. Mom's of course could do it as well, but I love how my husband gets involved with him and they build together!

Happy Building!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Learning About Lizards

My little guy has been fascinated with lizards since he first started toddling around. He loves to search for them in our backyard and observe them, so I thought it would be fun for us to spend a week focusing on them by doing some learning activities and crafts. My husband has been catching lizards for him to look at since he was itty bitty and my little guy has learned to put his hand out in front of the lizard so it can crawl on him, if the lizard desires to do so. This is a gentle way to see the lizard up close, but not hurt it in any way. We jokingly call him the lizard whisperer, because more times than not, the lizard will crawl up his arm not scared at all! We upcycled a grape juice container by cutting out a square on the side of it and taping a piece of tulle over the square to make a temporary lizard habitat. My little guy filled it with leaves, sticks and grass for the lizard to hide in and it was a great spot for him to observe the lizard for a couple of hours. When it was time to let the lizard go, we just took the lid off and it crawled right out!

We made a fun and simple lizard out of a large popsicle stick. He painted the stick his favorite color (orange) and decorated it with black polka dots. He stuck google eyes on him and added the feet and tail (which were made from pipe cleaners) with tape. You could also glue them on, but tape was quicker and less messy for us. He played with this thing all day long! He pretended it was a real lizard and stuck it in our bushes outside and in the lizard habitat we made from the juice container. It may as well have been his new pet!

We talked about how "L" is for lizard and I found this cute lizard printable from Get Er Done, Momma, which was perfect for our letter lesson. My little guy colored it and we assembled the lizard. He was pretty proud of it!

We read some good books about lizards including these:
(Affiliate Links)

And we learned some fun facts about lizards, too! 

Did You Know:

Like snakes, lizards smell with their tongues and shed their skin.

Lizards can escape if caught by their tail, by detaching it from a weak vertebra link and will grow another one later. The new tail will be smaller and will contain no bones.

Some lizards, like the chameleon, can change colors. This camouflage can help protect them from predators and is a way to communicate with other lizards.

Lizards eat mostly insects and can live for more than 30 years!

We had so much fun learning about lizards!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bug Cupcakes: Cooking with Kids

My little guy loves bugs. We are constantly out in the backyard looking for them and trying to catch them. If we have to be somewhere at a certain time or have errands to run and he happens upon a lizard, frog, caterpillar, dragonfly (you see where I'm going with this) we must halt to observe or try to catch whatever it is to avoid a total melt down. So, this past week, we have been studying bugs. We've been doing bug crafts, activities, and some hands on learning (all of which will be in my next post:). To go along with the these things, I thought it would be fun to make some cupcakes (which is a real treat for him because very rarely do I let him eat sugar) and let him decorate them with his favorite kinds of bugs. For the ingredients and decorations I used my favorite cake mix, M&M's, gummy worms, candy orange slices and pretzels. My little guy helped with the measuring and mixing.

He has learned so much math from me allowing him to use the measuring cup. He knows most of the measurements on the measuring cup and can fill the cup to the correct amount needed! This was the first time he used the mixer and although he didn't like the noise, he had fun watching the ingredients mix together to form the batter. We filled the muffin cups and waited for them to bake. In the meantime, my little guy was asking every 30 seconds if they were finished yet, so we went outside to hunt for bugs to take his mind off of them. Finally they were done and cooled and it was time to decorate.

I decorated a few with him first to show him how to put the candy on to make different bugs. We made spiders, butterflies, caterpillars, and dragonflies! He did such a great job decorating and said they were very yummy. Cooking with kids is fun and also educational! Here are some tips for cooking with kids:

Be Flexible
Help them sharpen their math skills by stopping to count, read the recipe to them so they can learn new words which helps with their vocabulary and let them help with the steps in the recipe to improve their listening skills. My little guy counted the candies as he put them on and followed my directions while measuring the ingredients.

Give Kids Age Appropriate Tasks
Stirring, measuring, tearing lettuce, rinsing vegetables, adding ingredients and pounding dough are great things for small children to do in the kitchen. 

Encourage Them to Try New Things
Many kids are picky in their food choices and when kids are cooking with you, it presents an opportunity for them to try new things. Although these cupcakes aren't healthy, most of the food we eat is, and my little guy is open minded enough to try a variety of foods when we cook together. 

Talk About Food Choices
It's important for kids to know what is healthy and what is not. I made sure my little guy knew that this was a special treat for us and is only ok to eat cupcakes and candy on special occasions. He knows that fruits and vegetables are the healthiest choices for his growing body.

Share the Accomplishment Together
Working together on a meal boosts confidence in kids and helps them feel a sense of accomplishment. Let your child know what a great help they were in preparing the meal with you!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Visiting the Farm

My little guy adores animals and what better way to get up close and personal with them than visiting the farm! We have such a wonderful farm nearby that my kiddos love to visit. On our trip to Green Meadows Farm, my little guy fed pigs, sheep, and goats. He had the opportunity to milk a cow, ride a pony and hold chickens and ducks. He traveled around the farm on a train ride and a hayride and was in awe of all the old tractors they had displayed around the farm. He enjoyed looking and learning about the ostriches, donkeys and turkeys and was intrigued with the water buffalo and zorse (a zebra and horse mix) that were on the farm. It was a fun day of learning about how a farm works and the different animals that were on the farm.

Here are some tips and fun farm activities to enhance your farm experience:

Check the Weather
All farms are outside. Many farms will close due to inclement weather. If it has recently rained, make sure you wear tennis shoes or boots (or crocs, which is my little guys shoe of choice) as many paths and animal cages are full of dirt and animal food, and it will probably be muddy.

Come Prepared
Don't forget to bring your sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. Also, you will want to bring your camera to capture all the memories of your farm adventure. Pack a lunch or make sure the farm you are going to has food for purchase. The farm we went to only had microwave hamburgers and corndogs, so I am glad I thought ahead and brought a healthy lunch and snacks for my kiddos.

Read Books About the Farm
Reading books is a wonderful way for children to get excited about going to the farm and learning a bit about the farm animals even before the farm experience begins. These are some of our favorite books about the farm:
Charlotte's Web
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When we returned from the farm, I did these activities with my little guy over the course of a week to enforce the things we saw and learned about the farm and the animals there:

Preschool Farm Learning Pack from Creative Preschool Resources
Farm Coloring Sheets from Free Homeschool Deals
Cow Door Hanger from Busy Bee Kids Crafts
Life Cycle of a Chicken from I Heart Crafty Things

My little guy learned so much through his hands on exposure to the animals at the farm and these fun crafts and activities!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Exploring on a Nature Hike

Today was Earth Day and it was such a great day. I knew it was going to be great because when we checked the garden this morning we found the first zucchini flower of the season! My little guy was pretty excited about it.  He's been waiting so patiently for the vegetables to grow and I told him we should have some zucchini very soon! When we came in, I had an Earth Day activity book for him to color and we read some books about the Earth together.

I planned a little nature walk for us to do so that we could explore and learn more about the Earth and our environment. We have a wonderful nature reserve close by with a nature discovery center and many trails to walk. My little guy (and my teenager) love to look and learn in the discovery center, which is what we did first. They have displays of the different types of habitats in our area, which includes marshes, wetlands and scrub areas. There are plenty of hands on learning activities as well!

                                              (yes, my little guy is literally a tree hugger already:)

When we were finished in the discovery center, we chose our trail and headed off. We walked under huge canopies of oak trees and through open areas of palm trees. We walked along the trail beside the lake to the dock and observed the different birds and other wildlife. We walked through a swamp and stopped to watch as a small alligator scurried across the path. We stopped and talked about how old we thought the trees were and saw a small green snake staring out at us from a hole in one of the them. We listened and heard woodpeckers pecking away in the trees, while my little guy counted how many woodpecker holes he saw in them. We also saw chameleons, skinks, frogs, caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, and a beautiful bald eagle among other birds. It was a day full of discovery and learning in the best way possible. There is no better way to learn about nature than by actually being out in it and experiencing it! As one of my favorite sayings goes "Think outside. No box required!"

Here are some things that help us make the most of our hiking experiences:

Be Prepared
Make sure you have everything you need to make the hike enjoyable. Comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, bug spray, snacks and water are a must. If you have a small child, a stroller or backpack carrier are also helpful.

Let the Kids Choose the Pace
This might seem like a hard thing to do, but I find that if my little guy finds something he wants to stop and look at, it keeps his interest level high and wards off boredom for him. We will stop and look at the bug or squirrel or whatever it is he finds to be interesting, and talk about it for a few minutes and move on. 

Have a Few Fun Activities in Mind for the Hike
Sometimes kids will get bored or tired after a long walk. Have some fun activities on hand in case this happens. Have a list of your local birds and flowers handy (alot of times you can get this from the welcome center where you are hiking at) and mark off the ones you find. Make a scavenger hunt list or print out one like this to do on your hike. Bring a camera and take pictures to make a nature journal of your favorite things from your hike. 

Get Excited
Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the wondrous nature around us. While we help our children to learn and discover things, they can also help us to open our eyes and see things anew. Take cues from them and get excited with them about all of the nature around you. My little guy stopped to observe a caterpillar for ten minutes! He was fascinated with it's furry hair and the way it slowly went along, it's body moving up and down as it went. There are so many things in nature to get excited about!

Happy Hiking!