Green Acorns

Connecting children to nature through playful experiences.


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Nature Improves a Wolfish Mood

Nature Improves a Wolfish Mood

Now, I have nothing against wolves.  They are magnificent creatures.  And I certainly do not want to perpetuate a negative stereotype about them.  It’s just that my children and I adore the book Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear in which a little girl’s sister wakes up in quite a funk and she tries everything she can think of to cheer her up.

I won’t say who but a certain member of my household woke up in a wolfish mood the other day.  Blame it on the time change or any number of reasons.  It doesn’t really matter.  There was a frown on his face and a growl in his voice and everyone else remained a safe distance away.

It happens to all of us.  We wake up, get out of bed, and already everything seems off.  It’s hard to get going.  We just want to go back to bed and be left alone.  Or sometimes our day is going smoothly and all of a sudden we just hit a wall.  Little tasks can seem challenging.  Grumpiness creeps in.  We have all experienced it at one time and for various reasons.  And no doubt you have witnessed it in your children.  They are not immune to it.  Afternoon tantrums.  Lack of focus.  Challenging behaviors.  It’s no fun for anyone.

There is a simple cure: Nature.  Really.  It can be as simple as that.  Research even supports it.

So, if you or your child are in a wolfish mood, put on your shoes and head outside.  You’ll feel better just like Virginia, I promise.

Have a happy, nature-filled day!


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Nature By the Numbers: Simple Monthly Goals & Prompts

Nature by the Numbers: Simple Monthly Goals and Prompts

Do your children keep a nature journal?  Is it a regular routine or a once-in-a-while activity?  My children have been keeping a nature journal for years but I have found that we have not been recording much in them this winter.  To help us get back into the routine of it we have been doing some indoor activities like touch drawing and using our nature table artifacts to practice observational drawing.

I also decided to print off monthly goals and prompts to help motivate us.  Here are some for the coming month:

  • 15 minutes (or more) of recording in a nature journal at least once per week.
  • 10 minutes of nature observation every day, whether it’s from your living room window or your favorite outdoor spot or looking at your nature collection.
  • List 5 of your favorite things about nature.
  • Share your nature journal with 2 different people this month.  Discuss what you’ve recorded with them.  Perhaps it’ll lead to more interesting questions and investigations…
  • 1 time per week, visit your nature sit spot.  Take special note of any changes.

These will be pasted into our journals but they could also be hung up in a visible spot as a reminder.  As the weather warms and spring arrives, our goals and prompts will probably get more specific.  If you’d like to follow along you can download the goals for the coming month by clicking here.  If you do use them, I’d love for you to share your experiences…

P.S.  If your children do not currently record in a nature journal but you’d like to get them started, you’ll find lots of tips and inspiration on my Nature Journaling With Children Pinterest board.


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Nature-Inspired Valentine’s Crafts

Nature-Inspired Valentine's Crafts

My children love to collect bits of nature and there’s never any shortage of twigs, stones, and pressed flowers and leaves around our house.  I’m always on the look-out for ways to put them to creative use.  This Valentine’s day, we’ll be showing our nature-love with these fun crafts garnered from around the web:

From our nature-loving family to yours, happy Valentine’s Day!


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TOUCH DRAWING: Help Your Child Deepen Their Understanding of Nature

Touch Drawing: an exercise to help your child deepen their understanding of nature

Today I’d like to share with you an engaging activity to help children improve their observation skills and deepen their understanding of nature.  It is inspired by one of my favorite books for teaching children about the world’s great artists and their work: An Eye for Art.  For painter Joan Miro, manipulating and using color came naturally but he struggled with form.  One of his teachers encouraged him to practice drawing common objects based only on his sense of touch.  He could not look at the objects but rather was asked to spend time feeling them and examining their shape, texture, size, etc. and then drawing them based on only on those physical sensations.  Sort of like a reverse of blind contour drawing (an effective exercise for learning to draw what you see).

nature artifacts for touch drawing exercise

Here’s how it works:  Choose a found object from nature that is safe for children to touch.  Place that object in a bag that your child cannot see through.  Ask your child to reach in and feel the object without peeking.  Prompt him to think about it’s texture, size, and shape.  Is it smooth or rough?  Ridged?  Scaly?  Do all sides have the same texture?  Is it thin, long, pointy?  Is it soft or hard?

Once your child has enough information to visualize the object it’s time to put pencil to paper and try to capture the object’s image in a drawing.  Allow your child to feel the object again as he draws.  Remind him of the details that he noticed through his sense of touch and to incorporate them into the drawing.  The level of details that your child notices will support the accuracy of the drawing.  Once the drawing is complete your child may like to take the object out and compare it to the drawing.  At this point, my children wanted to add a second drawing of the object by looking at it.  They enjoyed comparing them.

(Note: This activity is recommended for ages 7 and up but don’t hesitate to try it at a younger age.  You know your child and what they are capable of.  Toddlers and preschool-age children may enjoy “feely bags” – just feeling and identifying the object from nature.  This simple activity will strengthen your child’s tactile perception, which is a great precursor to touch drawing.)

rock touch drawingMy children enjoyed this unique way of observing nature and we plan to practice it regularly in our nature journals (a great addition to any nature journal!).  It was very effective for getting us all to really notice details that we may have overlooked otherwise.  My oldest daughter was amazed to see that through her sense of touch she thought the pine cone had smaller scales and more of them.  I’m curious to see how my children’s tactile perception, skills of observation, and touch drawings evolve over time.

comparing touch v. sightThis would also be a wonderful activity for those inside days when it’s too cold or too wet to be outside…


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Hibernate, Cluster, Burrow, Freeze: How Animals Survive Winter’s Chill

How_Animals_Survive_Winter's_Chill

During the few days of reprieve from bitterly cold temperatures, my children noticed a slight increase in animal behaviors.  Squirrels were skittering about, flocks of small birds were perched in the trees, and several different animal tracks crisscrossed through the snow in our yard.

backyard critters

Now that the below freezing temperatures are back the animals seemed to have disappeared again.  This has raised some questions from my kids: Where have these animals been hiding?  How have they been staying warm?  What have they been eating?

Like we do when we are beginning research on any topic of interest, we first headed to our library.  We found these wonderful books, most of which touch on a wide range of animals and their unique survival skills.

books: animals in winter1234.

We also visited a few websites and watched some videos…

My children were most amazed to learn that some animals, like North American wood frogs and painted turtles, go into a state of deep freeze with their cells protected by a sort of natural anti-freeze substance.  How cool is that?!  And being New England residents they could definitely relate to adding on extra layers and shivering to get warm.

So, after a visit to a local arctic museum the experiments and crafts began.

winter animal fun

  • We tried a blubber experiment and added our own touch by comparing feathers, leaves, and fur (using craft fur or wool sweater scraps).
  • The kids always have fun with sensory bins and they loved hiding the animals for each other in our winter camouflage bin.  You might find inspiration for your own here and here.
  • You might like to try some of these Arctic animal activities from Gifts of Curiosity.
  • Exploring Nature.org has a downloadable activity to try: Where Do Animals Go in Winter?

Have fun exploring and learning about the amazing ways animals survive winter’s chill!


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The World of Snowy Owls: 5 Craft Activities for Kids

The World of Snowy Owls: 5 crafts + learning resources

There has been a lot of talk about snowy owls around here, across northern New England as well as at our house.  It is not unusual to hear of a snowy owl spotting or two down this way during the winter.  This year, however, there have been an increased number of them traveling south in search of food.  Many people have had the opportunity to enjoy a rare glimpse of these amazing creatures.  There was even one found, and soon rescued, in an abandoned building in Portland, Maine.  You can read more about this influx of snowy owls here.

My children absolutely LOVE owls and all this talk has caused much excitement.  If  you and your child would like to learn more about snowy owls, here are some good resources:

After your child has learned a bit about these beautiful creatures, they may have fun creating one of their own:

  1. Pine Cone Snowy Owls
  2. Painted Snowy Owls
  3. Make an Owl Costume
  4. Upcycled Paper and Fabric Owls
  5. Newspaper Collage Snowy Owl

Enjoy!

P.S. If there have been snowy owl spottings in your area, we’d love to hear about it.

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