Pantry Art: Fun Kid Craft

Rose and Will have their Daddy’s creative genes. I am so grateful, but really have to push my practical self to encourage their creativity. Honestly, sometimes it feels like making a huge craft mess is just too much trouble. But when we pull out the supplies and I watch their creativity unfold, the mess is every bit worth it!

My little sister, who is just five months older than Rose, came over for “school” this morning. I wanted to do a craft with them but my mind drew a complete blank. Right before turning to Pinterest, fun childhood memories of this pantry art came to mind. I vividly remember sitting around the table with my twin brothers and making pantry art for many happy hours.

We’re out of glue (unless we have some buried in one of the unpacked office boxes) but Pinterest came to the rescue with this recipe for homemade glue. The jury is still out on how well it holds, but the children all had fun helping make it. Plus it’s edible, which for some reason made me quite happy.

Dried noodles, beans, popcorn, and grains make fun shapes to glue on. The girls drew shapes and then I lathered on the glue. (Just think how detailed you could get if you had an actual bottle of glue!)

While the big kids made art, Meg dumped beans from one container to another. She had almost as much fun as they did.

What are your favorite kid crafts? 

Linked up at Mama Moments and Titus Tuesdays

Leaves, More Leaves, and a Microwave

There are few things quite as exciting as exploring the world with your children. But I have to admit I was a bit nervous about teaching my children science. It isn’t exactly my strongest subject and I don’t want my limitations to hinder them.

When I told one of the dear older moms at church how excited, yet nervous, I was (since, ahem, I had to review the difference between a maple and oak leaf!) she told me to stop worrying and overanalyzing. “Just go outside and explore nature together, she said. “Look things up and learn with them.”

It has been so much fun.

Last week, using this great coloring page as our leaf guide, we went on a leaf-hunting walk. Rose had so much fun picking up leaves to see if they matched the leaves on her page.

When we got home, Will and Rose sorted our pile of leaves and picked their favorites.

Then, they used the leaves as guides to color the pages. At least Rose did. I am pretty proud of Will for almost staying in the lines though!

While they colored, I worked on making our very first wall decor for the schoolroom: framed leaves.

Did you know that you can microwave leaves to dry them?

Just place a leaf between two pieces of paper towel. Set a plate or bowl on top to keep it flat. Then microwave for 30 seconds. If it’s not dry, move the leaf over to a dry spot of paper towel and microwave a few more seconds.

For a glossy finish that will help preserve the color, you can wax the leaves.

To wax leaves, turn the iron to its lowest setting. Place leaves between two pieces of waxed paper (make sure the wax side is toward the leaves!) Iron for 30-60 seconds, or until the wax has melted onto the leaf. While the paper is still warm, carefully pull it back from the leaves.

(Wipe iron with a damp cloth to make sure there’s no wax on it before ironing your husband’s favorite dress shirt!)

I have grand ideas for our school room, but so far, it’s just an empty room with a bookshelf, two houseplants, and a chest of toys. So, it was high time to at least get something on the wall.

I found this picture frame at a garage sale and repainted the banged up wood white. Then all I had to do was arrange the leaves we’d found.

To add a bit of depth (and because the leaves were simply to gorgeous not to display) I taped extra leaves to the edge of the frame. Professional  huh? But at least our school room has something on the wall.

…And now this Mama can not only distinguish between an Oak and Maple leaf, but between a Japanese Maple and Norwegian Maple. Considerable progress, right?

Educational Chants, Songs, and Ditties

It’s an irrefutable fact: Children learn quickly. It’s so much easier for a child to learn a new language or memorize facts than for an adult.

That is one of the reasons why classical education focuses so much on memorization at the early stages of education.

Thanks to moving, painting, settling in, a trip to England, and more unpacking, we are getting  a late start on school this year. (Thankfully, formal school isn’t absolutely necessary at five!)

I really want to capitalize on my children’s ability to memorize quickly by teaching them basic facts from history, science and geography that they can later unpack and really understand.

photo credit

We are already working on Bible memory and poetry though, and didn’t want to spend hours drilling in facts for every single subject. Music and chants helps so much, but I’m not musical.

Enter YouTube.

A few minutes (okay, more like a few hours) on YouTube later, I’m armed with a fun list of chants, ditties and songs to help her learn the kings and queens of England, the State and their capitols, the countries of the world, presidents and so much more.

I got so excited that I thought I better share a few of my favorites with you! (Non-American readers, sorry, my American-ness is certainly showing!)

History:

44 U.S. Presidents 

The Kings and  Queens of England  #1 (Too graphic for small children, though I really like the major historical facts that are added.)

The Kings and Queens of England # 2 (Some of the names are shortened — Hank, Chuck, Jimmy)

Geography: 

50 States that rhyme (I stop it before the credits)

50 States and Capitals

Nations of the World 

Science: 

Periodical Table

Animal Classification 

Other: 

Days of the Week (not a big fan of the video itself, but we sing the tune often! It’s really helped Will, 3, learn the days of the week.)

Of course, this list just barely scratches the surface of all that’s out there! But at least it’s a start, right? And the kids just love listening to the songs!

Do you use songs or chants to help your children learn important facts? What are some of your favorites? 

Failed Garden: was it worth it?

There's no such thing as a wasted garden experience. Even if the garden isn't fruitful, it's still worthwhile!

Gardening means hard work, sweat, and dirty hands. It means weeks of waiting for that first sun-ripened bite of produce, with the hope of many baskets full to follow.

But what if the garden doesn’t produce as well as you hoped? What if the produce you reap barely covers the cost of setting up the garden? Is it still worth it?

That’s the question I asked myself as I looked around our garden.

Powdery mildew attacked the zucchini and squash plants. Just as they were reaching the zenith of their producing power, they died. Yesterday we had our last stuffed zucchini from this year’s garden.

I had hoped to have a freezer full of shredded zucchini, but that won’t happen. Many of the other vegetables won’t even be producing before we have to go out-of-state for a month. (And we all know how well a neglected garden does in an Alabaman summer!)

Am I disappointed? Yes. Was it worth it anyway? Definitely!

Frustrated with how your garden turned out? Feel like it was a failure? Don't be discouraged! Here are five reasons even a "failed" garden is totally worthwhile.
If you’re looking for an upbeat, hands-on, gardening guide (with realistic pictures of bug-eaten leaves!) check out One Magic Square (affiliate link). It’s my all time favorite gardening book. 

Gardening restores wonder

Planting a seed and watching it sprout, grow, and blossom makes me stand in awe of God’s creation. I believe the world was spoken into existence. Wonder of creation should keep me dizzy with awe. I forget. Easily. Gardening reminds me. That makes a failed garden worth it. 

Gardening is an incredible science curriculum

Seeds are cheaper (and more fun!) than a child’s science textbook and open the door to countless questions about life cycles, biology, and nature. I don’t want my children to think of science as just a dry and boring subject. I want our study of science to open their eyes to the grandeur of the created world. Even a “failed” garden helps me do that.

Gardening helps you get enough Vitamin D

One of my goals for the year was to spend considerably more time outside than in the past. A garden forces you to get outside, breath in the fresh air, and bask in the vitamin D!

Gardening is good exercise

Finding time to exercise as a busy mom is hard. Gardening not only gets you outside, but it is good exercise too!

Gardening encourages gratitude

Finally, the garden was worthwhile because it encourages gratitude. Not only gratitude for the amazing variety of vegetables or a big glass of ice water after an hour’s hard work, but that even if my garden fails, we still have food to eat.

My children will not go vegetable-less because my zucchini died. For that I am very grateful.

Even a failed garden is worth it

Of course every gardener dreams of having a beautiful, bountiful harvest. But even when all the plants dry up or succumb to disease, a garden is still worthwhile because it helps us teach our children, increases our wonder and gratitude, and forces us to exercise outside.

So don’t be discouraged if your garden didn’t live up to your dreams. Even a “failed” garden is totally worthwhile! (And you never know, next year’s garden might be a smashing success!)

photo by Alicia Jo McMahan