Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine’s Day

Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine's Day

OBSERVE

Look for hearts in nature: You might be surprised where you may see naturally occurring heart shapes – a patch of lichen, a rock, a hollow in a tree.  Keep a lookout for them whenever you are out.  You never know where nature hearts will reveal themselves.

PLAN

Creating a Bird-Feeding Haven | Green Acorns

Show your nature love by creating a wild-life friendly habitat.  These are great projects for your own yard or a local school/community garden:

MAKE

Leave some nature love notes: Linda shares a simple Valentine activity that encourages children to get out and notice nature.  They will be connecting with the nature around them as they create lovely heart land art.

Bring it inside: Make some nature hearts to hang around the house.

Pine cone fairies:  Spread the love with these adorable fairies.  There are nice examples and tutorials here and here.

Cupid’s arrows: These arrows could also be made with leaves instead of feathers and bits of bark for the tips.  Get creative with whatever natural materials are on hand.

Do

DIY heart bird feeder

February is National Bird-Feeding month.  Show your fondness for your feathered friends by making some hanging bird treats and learning more about common backyard birds.  This is a wonderful resource.

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins February 17th.  Consider participating in this citizen science activity and help researchers “learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them and the environment we share”.

I hope some of these nature Valentine’s ideas spark your interest and that you’ll enjoy trying some of them out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Fondly,
Monique

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – December 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

December can be an extra busy month and making the time to appreciate nature’s gifts, large or small, can be just what we need to create some space and enjoy some mindful moments connecting with our children.  I hope these nature prompts will help…

Noticing Evergreens

Conifer trees aren’t the only plant that is an evergreen.  There are many shrubs and smaller plants that keep their green leaves throughout the winter.  Wintergreen is a common one here in Maine.  How many different evergreens can you spot this month?

Finding Frost

While snow crystals form in the clouds, frost crystals form on solid surfaces near the ground when it cools past the dew point.  Like snow, frost is made up of tiny ice crystals and comes in a variety of structures.

When the conditions are right, bundle up and go in search of frost.  How many different examples of frost can you find throughout the month?

Seasonal Senses

A change in season is signified by so much more than rising or dropping temperatures or the sights of the transforming nature.  Each season can have its own smells, sounds, tastes, textures and more.   I love how quiet it is during a snow and how the fallen leaves feel extra crunchy underfoot.  My family and I also enjoy noticing the patterns and textures in frost and ice.  How about you?  What special sensations mean winter to you?

As we approach the next solstice, mindfully engage your senses while you are out in nature.  Pay close attention to what you notice.  Give some thought to what you experience.  Perhaps make a list of descriptive words or write a few notes on a calendar to record your observations.

Did you know?

Brain research confirms that combining the use of one’s various senses leads to more connections made within the brain.   The result is a more thorough, meaningful experience that can be recalled more easily and with more detail.

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

Practice Stillness

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

– Mother Teresa
What is stillness?  It is basically the act of doing nothing.  It’s quieting your mind and sitting in silence.  It’s making space to connect to your essential self, to God, to nature.  It’s cultivating an inner calm and serenity.  It’s simply being.

 

In our modern, over-scheduled, media-driven world, stillness and silence are more crucial than ever for our  well-being.  Even young children need this.  For most of us, life is noisy and we are constantly processing information.  This causes fatigue, stress and tension.

 

This month, I’m requesting that you and your child follow nature’s example.  Let go of what is not serving you, send your roots deeper so that you may find connection and strength, and be still.  Try it for at least five minutes a day.  Sit in silence.  To get the most benefits, take it outside.  Dress appropriately and sit in silence with nature.

Download and print your nature prompts here.

I am also including another weather tracker this month.  I heard from so many of you that you enjoyed the simple log (found in November’s prompts) and would like to continue the routine.  You can get a December copy here and a blank version for use any time here.

Wishing you and your family a joyous, wonder-filled holiday season!

Fondly,
Monique

Nature by the Numbers – Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015a wonder-filled week!

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015

This past weekend, my three children and I attended a family nature journaling/writing  workshop led by Andrea of the lovely blog, Remains of the Day.  We got reacquainted with blind contour drawing, which we haven’t done in a while.  Here’s a sampling of ours from that day:

blind contour drawing collage

We also learned some new drawing exercises and about creating a sensory map.  We were prompted to be mindful of our surroundings and awaken our senses as we moved to a different location.  As we walked, we created a map on which we recorded the relative location of what we saw, heard, smelled, etc.  It was a challenge and we all had to remind ourselves that it wasn’t about drawing just what we were seeing but to be aware of what our other senses were noticing.  My youngest daughter and I made a map together and recorded observations like the call of a nearby bird, the direction of a cool breeze, and the sound of leaves crunching as we walked on them.

If you are new to this activity, I would suggest trying it from a stationary location like your sit spot, especially for young children.  Like on a sound map, place an “X” on your sensory map to mark your location.

sensory map

We have also been participating in Dawn’s “Fall Outside” and one of the recent daily activities was a color hunt.  In the northeast the landscape has become quite brown and it seems like there is not much color to be found.  But it’s amazing what color variety can be found when you are tuned in to it.  Maybe you’ll notice a vibrant yellow fungus or a bright red berry or the blue of the sky reflecting off a leaf.

To help remind us that there is an abundance of color in nature we added some color swatches to a page in our nature journals and when we are outside, we’ll keep a look-out for those colors.  The object we found and where we saw it will be recorded next to the coordinating color swatch.  This is also a great activity to do with various shades of one color.  Challenge yourself to notice and record the many versions of a color.

color hunt

I hope you and your child will enjoy the prompts offered this month as much as my children and I are enjoying them.

If you’d like a copy to paste in your child’s journal, click the image below to download a printable version.

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015Have a wonder-filled week!

Fondly,
Monique

With all the wonder of a child

the wonder of a childOn any given day a smile is brought to my face when I witness my children’s excitement over what they discovered out in nature that day.  I love how observant they are.  I love that they recognize natural rhythms.  I love that they want to experience more and learn more and share their stories with their dad and me.  I love that I can share my own appreciation for nature with them.

But the moment captured in the photo above reminded me that I have so much more to be grateful for.  This is my daughter happily running down the trail toward our destination just moments before…

the wonder of a childThis was one of those smile moments – when she arrived and paused to take it all in.  We have visited this pond many times before yet she still marveled at the sight of it.

I am grateful that she has this sense of awe and wonder.  What I am most grateful for, however, is that I get to experience nature through their eyes, not just my own.  They each have their own perspectives and ideas and each notice things that maybe the others hadn’t.  They each have their own connections and emotions.  They are each discovering their unique relationship with nature and where their place in it is.  And I get to not only watch them have their experiences but become transported into them as they share with me.

I am so appreciative to behold the wonders of nature through my children’s eyes.  It is a gift that I cherish!

Have a wonder-filled week!
Fondly,
Monique

Macro Merryment

Macro Merryment

My children and I just love heading outdoors with camera in hand on the lookout for interesting, often overlooked, details of the nature we pass by everyday.  By exploring things more closely, whether it’s with a magnifying glass, the macro feature on a camera, or a microscope, intricacies not seen with the naked eyes are revealed and brought to life.  So much can be learned about the subject matter and interest in further exploration sparked.  It can be like discovering a whole new world!

Here are some macro shots from our week…

lichen detailrain drop on blade of grasslate summer pollinatorvine spiralchestnut casing

What did you discover about your world this week?

Fondly, Monique

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Can you feel in the air?  Here in Maine the days are still wonderfully warm but cozy slippers and light-weight fleecies are a must for early morning and evening.  The sunny colors of the last blooms have just about gone by and are being replaced by seed pods and changing leaves.

tansyornamental grasslilly seed podfall maple leaf

Whether it’s the cooler mornings of fall or warmer breezes of spring that you notice, the equinox is approaching and the change of season has begun.

This months ‘Nature By the Numbers’ journaling prompts are all about encouraging your child to notice the changes that are occurring and sparking excitement for what’s to come.  Just click the link below to download a copy that your child can  paste in to her nature journal.

nature journaling prompts Sept 2014

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Have a wonder-filled week and happy nature journaling!

– Monique

 

What Makes a Bird a Bird? Learning to Identify Songs and Calls

What Makes a Bird a Bird? Songs and Calls | Activities for introducing children to identifying birds by their callimage source

 

Have you been waking up to a chorus of song birds each morning?  It can be such a pleasant welcome to a new day, can’t it?   With the exception of the summer that we had a flock of very loud blue jays right outside of our bedroom window, I find listening to the birds’ morning songs a delightful way to start to my day.

Birds communicate for many of reasons: locating each other, warning of danger, and marking the boundaries of their territory are just a few.  The variety of their vocalizations is quite astounding.  It can seem overwhelming to learn to identify a bird by it’s call but it doesn’t have to be.  Continue reading to find out how to introduce children of any age to identifying bird calls…

Marsh Wren, Hill Road Marsh, Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California

Children have such a keen ear and are able to distinguish differences in pitch and tone at such a young age.  They also seem to have an innate sense of rhythm.  Of course, like with anything else, the more exposure they have and the more variety there is, the stronger their abilities become.  You will find this to be true with learning bird calls.  So, let’s get started!

Who Said That?

Play an auditory matching game with Audubon plush birds.  Start with introducing two of the plush birds whose songs are quite different from each other, like a Robin and a Great Horned Owl (a melodic versus a rhythmic).  Play the recorded song while the child is looking at the corresponding bird.  Talk about the sounds and patterns you hear.  After your child has become familiar with the calls and the bird that made each, hide them behind your back or in a bag.  Play one recording at a time and ask your child to identify the bird.  Feel free to add additional birds.  Just introduce one at a time and stay within your child’s comfort level so that it doesn’t get too overwhelming.  Now let your child hide the birds from your view and ask you to identify the bird.

Make a Sound Map

Print off this simple sound map before you begin.  Head outside and find a sit spot in your yard.  Sit quietly for 2-5 minutes and observe the different bird songs/calls that you hear.  You can listen with your eyes closed to help you focus better on just the sounds.  When you are done listening, record the approximate location that each bird call was coming from in relation to where you are sitting.  If you know the name of the bird you can write that.  You can also just draw a symbol such as an open bird beak or a musical note.  Remember, the purpose of this activity is to train your ear.  It is not a drawing exercise.

IMG_0018

Clap, Run, Wave: Using Your Body

There are several developmental approaches for teaching music to children that uses body movements to represent rhythm and pitch (have you ever heard of Eurhythmics or the Kodaly method?).  This is a great way to reinforce the concepts kinesthetically and you don’t need any special training to incorporate it into your practice of identifying bird songs.  Listen to some bird sounds and decide with your child how best to represent them.  For example, you might represent a morning dove’s song by waving your arms like a conductor’s.  The movements would be smooth, rise and fall in correlation to the change in pitch, and be small or large to indicate duration.  A Northern Cardinal’s call could be represented by claps that match it’s pattern.  Maybe your child could wiggle about or run in place at a speed that matches a Robin’s song.  Get the idea?  Create your own interpretation and have fun!

Disclaimer:  My children thought this activity was quite silly and getting them to give it a try did not go over so well.  They did enjoy watching me make my interpretive movements, however.   They were open to clapping and tapping out the rhythms of various calls at least.

Drawing Sound

Spectrograms are visual representations of sound indicating duration, pitch, and intensity.  Spectrograms are one tool used to help scientists study animal communication.   Show your child some examples (there are some here and here) before beginning.  Then listen to some bird sounds either in your yard or on a site like All About Birds  or Audubon Birds.   Try to choose some simple calls to begin with, such as a Great Horned Owl or a Chickadee.  Talk about the sounds you hear: short versus long notes, increase or decrease in pitch, rhythms, intensity, etc.  Now put pencil to paper and draw out the representations.  For example, short notes could be indicated by dots, longer notes by dashes, trills by wiggly lines.  Here are some examples from my children:

spectrograms

Cornell’s  Lab of Ornithology has a great interactive game called Bird Song Hero that you should really try.  Exploratorium also has a similar interactive game that is more appropriate for younger children.  These are both worth checking out.  They are great tools for training your ear.

Stop, Look and Listen

Take advantage of birds’ active time of day (dawn and dusk are great) to observe birds and the sounds they make.  Sit quietly, listen for bird songs and calls, and look in the direction that you hear them coming from to try to catch a glimpse of the birds making the sounds.  This is one of the best ways to match birds to their sounds.  It does take patience and time but is well worth it.

If you are not having luck getting a good look at the birds, referring to a book like Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song can be very helpful.  Locate the birds found in your area and especially birds seen in your yard and play their calls.  Listen for familiar songs and make note of the bird that makes it.

The more you practice, the better you’ll become at identifying bird songs and calls.  Most of all… have fun!