Autumn Leaf Jewelry

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We love bringing home items from nature to make into all kinds of crafts, but the problem is that many of these are fleeting in nature (leaves that dry out, flowers that wilt). This activity captures the beauty of autumn, but it won’t fade, thanks to the use of fake leaves. You’ll find these readily at craft stores this time of year.

Originally we planned to make leaf necklaces as a gift for grandma, but I didn’t have a lacing string that was long enough. It was simpler to turn thread onto pipe cleaners instead, resulting in pretty autumn bracelets.

Travis alternated stringing on pony beads and a few of the leaves for an autumnal touch

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(Note: Grown-ups can make holes in the leaves either with a hole punch if they are thin or – on our case – with an Xacto knife to cut a slit if they are thick).

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Once each pipe cleaner was filled, I looped the ends together. A great gift for anyone with a fall birthday!

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Acorn Owls

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It’s autumn, and for us that means the best time of year for nature walks. Some of the supplies we bring home are perfect to play with together, crafting into games or animals. But this one was more of a grown-up project that I put together for Travis, involving very fine fingerwork. He loved playing with the resulting toy! Bigger kids can, of course, help make the “owls” as well.

The longer and taller an acorn you can find for this project the better, and you’ll also want acorns without the caps. My acorns actually weren’t ideal, but I worked with what I had after a pretty stroll.

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Cut out tiny owl features from various colors of felt. We had pink wings and yellow beaks. If I had been patient enough, I would have cut small felt eyes, but instead used a sharpie for this final step.

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Glue on the details, and let dry completely. You can also cut out a felt tree or branch for the owls to hang out on. Travis delighted in these little creatures.

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Perhaps next time we’ll turn our acorns into different animals – what would you suggest? Please share in the comments!

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Leaf Drawings

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A recent nature walk yielded up the first of fall’s changing leaves, and we knew we had to make art with them when we got home!

My original title for this post was going to be “leaf butterflies”, since when I saw all the pretty leaves, I immediately thought of little butterfly and bug wings. Travis had plans of his own, hence the more generic title of “leaf drawings.” Read on!

For the original butterfly idea, I drew a few bug bodies in crayon, and Travis helped select which leaves would be their wings.

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Liberal application with a glue stick was all we needed to attach “wings” and googly eyes to each critter.

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But Travis wanted to make his own picture with the remaining leaves, and began gluing and coloring.

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“It’s you and me in a leaf pile!” he explained proudly, showing me his first one. A second “leaf pile” work of art soon followed.

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What other drawings would you make featuring leaves from a nature walk? Please share in the comments!

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Nature Crate

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It seemed funny to receive this crate late into Travis’s Koala subscription, especially since we received glowing nature just about a year ago. But we’re always game to explore nature around here, and fall is the perfect time to do it.  So bring on the projects! As always, you can DIY these crafts with materials from your local craft store, with only a little variation.

First, we put together the Scavenger Hunt Box. Color in the provided stickers with the included pack of colored pencils, and decorate the provided cardboard box.

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The mechanics for the inside of the box are simple; slot three foam dividers together, and insert into the box.

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There are various scavenger hunt cards that then can be placed in the box (more on that later!), so choose which you’ll start with, place in the box, and top with the dividers. A simple Velcro sticky dot closes the box, then loop the provided cord through two holes for a handle.

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Travis was so proud of his box, which he toted all around the apartment.

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Indeed, your child may decide that it’s just as fun to fill it with treasures that aren’t from nature, and that’s ok!

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The second project (although actually the one we put together first) was Discovery Tools – a frog measuring tape and a magnifying glass. As with many Koala projects, this involved a nice opportunity to exercise fine motor skills. We folded up the provided green “frog box.”

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Then we pushed a foam ring onto the clothespin and inserted the clothespin into a hole in the box.

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Next, we attached two pieces of sticky pink felt at the bottom of the measuring tape. Now thread the measuring tape through a slit in the box, then through the clothespin. Seal the clothespin with a second foam ring.

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Now twist the clothespin so the measuring tape winds up.

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Travis absolutely adored his frog, and spent the entire afternoon winding up the tape, pulling the “tongue” out as long as it would go, and winding again.

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We took a quick moment to add the finishing touch, two frog googly eyes, before he was back to winding and unwinding.

With the third project, Nature Notes, it was time to put it all together! I confess I was initially disappointed this third activity wasn’t a “craft”, but rather a booklet of nature walk ideas … but I stand corrected, because wow was there lots to discover and do! First, the kit comes with bumpy plastic inserts that slip beneath the pages of the nature notebook to make “nature rubbings.”

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Travis loved watching the images appear!

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But the real fun is in taking it all outdoors. The notebook is so chock-full of activities there were almost too many for me to describe in this post.

For starters, now we could use those three scavenger hunt cards in the box. First we tackled the card simply looking for items: flowers, sticks, clovers etc.

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Next up was a color hunt – definitely the prettiest!

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The final card, a shape hunt, proved quite tricky, especially the rectangle and square.

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Perhaps this square of moss counted, but we couldn’t fit it in our box.

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As we walked, we also used the Nature Notes booklet for lots more activities, including: discovering with all five senses; peering at items with our magnifying glass;

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and his favorite, a bug hunt.

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He loved this worm.

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And look how huge this daddy long legs was!

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Don’t forget to measure with the Froggie, too! Soon we were measuring flowers, leaves, sticks, and more.

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Whoa, this branch was longer than our tape!

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The Nature Notes includes a few helpful prompts, such as finding out how wide across is a leaf…

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… or the width of two flower petals.

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As a final component of our kit, we put together the suggested set of DIY Binoculars, almost identical to a project we put together back in the spring, but we lost the old pair! I hot glued together two toilet paper tubes, then hot glued yarn on the edges. Cut a third toilet paper tube down the middle, and stretch over the top of the other two tubes. Glue into place.

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Travis decorated this set with bees and birds!

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So in sum, lots of fun, lots of learning, lots of getting out there in the dirt, and all kinds of exploration to be had. Thanks Koala!

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Berry Coconut Smoothie Bowl

Berry Smoothie BowlThis breakfast bowl will give a powerful boost to your kiddo’s day. I love that it’s packed with superfoods, and kids just love that it tastes good.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces coconut yogurt
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • Strawberries, for serving
  1. In a blender, combine the yogurt, frozen strawberries, cashews, flaxseed, and coconut water; process until smooth.
  2. Divide the mixture evenly between two bowls, and sprinkle evenly with the shredded coconut and cacao nibs. Add extra berries for serving, if desired!

Hide-and-Seek Map

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Travis has been into maps lately (a bit of a throwback to our Dora-the-Explorer-watching days), so I was thrilled to see our October project from High Five magazine lined up perfectly with his interest. Put together this neat treasure map, and your kids will love both creating it and hunting with it!

First, tear apart a brown sandwich bag along the glue seam in the back. If you’re worried your child will rip the paper, adults can do this step. Cut off the bottom of the bag, and now it should open up and lie flat.

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Now for arguably the best part: crumple it up to make it look old! Travis couldn’t believe this was the direction I gave him, and loved it.

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Smooth your map back out, and fill it in any way you please! Be sure to make an X for buried treasure, and a route to get there. Travis’s art was still very, well, abstract, so I put together a second map that could become a true hide-and-seek hunt.

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To make the maps look even older, we then brushed over them with a paintbrush dipped in water. Another “whoa Mom I can really do this?” moment. Let dry completely.

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On the reverse of the map, we drew the treasure that would await the finder.

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I taught him how to roll up the map and he loved that it was just like an old pirate’s one!

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Totally optional, but you can turn this into a real hunt. While Travis was at school, I actually buried a few little “jewels” at a nearby park, marking the spot with an X.

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We headed off with our map in hand, and he was thrilled to find real treasure waiting for him.

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Early Explorers Jobs

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Our latest from Early Explorers was all about jobs around the world. Compared to other packages, this theme had less of an international feel, since nearly all the jobs can be done in the United States. But it was nonetheless a fun set of activities and learning!

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As always, our package included stickers for Travis’s map and suitcase, the activity booklet, and a “flashlight adventure.”

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Jobs Craft:

For his first occupational hat, Travis was an artist for the day and put on an art show! I set him up with a variety of materials, including watercolors, dot markers, and puffy paints.

He loves squirting puffy paint into big globs, and this time added the innovation of a paint roller to make neat pictures.

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Could we roll over dot markers? Only if they are still very wet and runny on the page – a neat experiment!

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After my little artist was done, we hung his pictures in the living room with an index card caption for each – his very own art show!

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Jobs Science:

For a scientific career, play chef of course… for what is baking if not chemistry? Heat works its magic in the case of fruit leather and apple chips… Travis even wore a toque from a recent Koala Crate on baking.

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Encourage your little chef to join you in any baking recipe, or to help make dinner one night over the course of the Jobs unit.

Jobs Keepsake:

The keepsake in our package was a mix-and-match book, and this one had him in gales of laughter! We’ve played with mix-and-match books before, but he got the biggest kick out of shuffling around the career outfits on “Max and Mia”. “Look, Mom, it’s a chef-a-judge-a-firefighter!”

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Jobs Visit:

The booklet suggested touring a local fire station, an activity we did almost exactly a year ago.

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But this boy never tires of fire stations, and hopefully you’ll find that your firefighters are as happy to oblige a small tour as ours, especially if you explain you’re doing a home school unit on community jobs.

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Thanks for letting us see the station!

Jobs Further Activities:

This month’s package came with an add-on option: a school/teacher kit, which was perfect for role-paying teacher in the month Travis began preschool.

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Here he is giving me a lesson on bees:

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Next, head to the library and encourage your child to ask a librarian about their job and what they do. I was so proud of Travis marching up to ask for books on a particular topic, and seeing how the librarians were able to help.

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As you can see, bees were the hit of the day, today!

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Over the couple weeks that we played with this package, we talked about all the different jobs a person can be, pointing out occupations wherever we went, or as we drove in the car. Point out adults in different careers in your child’s life: music teachers, pet sitters, sports coaches etc.

One important one to talk about? Babysitters! Although this list is more for parents than kids, Little Passport’s blog features a fantastic set of questions to ask any potential babysitter. Show your kids the list, and see if they have any to add!

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Finally, the booklet suggested visiting the workplace of a family member to see a job in action. Unfortunately the schedule didn’t work out for us to do so, but I will update this post with pics once we make it happen.

Apple Prints

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It’s officially fall, and that means it’s time for apple picking! Apple prints are an activity that never grows old, whether you’ve plucked your apples fresh from the tree or pick them up at the farmers’ market on a crisp autumn morning.

That’s exactly where Travis and I headed today. We set aside most of our bounty to eat, but saved an apple or two for artwork, thanks to the prompt in our latest Ranger Rick Jr.

Cut one apple in half, to make large prints. Cut a second apple into wedges. Dab the cut sides of the apples dry with a paper towel.

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Squirt paints onto a paper plate (or a piece of foil works, in a pinch). Dip the apples in paint, and press down on construction paper or watercolor paper.

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We didn’t make a flower like the magazine suggested, but it was fun to have two different shapes to work with. Travis said his picture was footprints – perhaps a dinosaur?

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We decided mommy’s print looked like some sort of buzzing insect.

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What will you make with your apple art? Happy fall!

Custom Kicks

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Kids take great pride in things they’ve made, and that goes for clothing as well as crafts. Give them a little extra kick in their step by customizing sneakers for school this fall!

You’ll need to start with blank canvas sneakers; the ones from Kikiz Kids are made of non-animal materials, and inexpensive enough that you won’t mind unleashing your mini Picasso on them.

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If you want to make the project into a bit of a lesson, try stenciling in lines with a pencil first, and encouraging your child to trace along the lines. We used glitter pens, but you can also use paint pens for the project.

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Travis had his own plans, and soon his shoes were a riot of colors.

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We also liked practicing our tracing around the eyelet holes!

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Now those are some kool kicks:

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Glass Symphony

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We started off our day with a rainbow of sound! This neat homemade “xylophone” is a great way for kids to visualize the vibrations created in a basic glass symphony.

Fill glasses of the same shape and height with different levels of water. You don’t have to be exact about this, but I found it easiest to add water in 1/2 cup increments.

Add food coloring to the glasses so you have a pretty rainbow of colors. (Note: I use the all-natural coloring from Watkins, but I always find that the green looks very blue in water; instead, use the blue and yellow to mix a truer green).

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Now it was time to hand Travis a spoon, and see what he discovered. I asked him what was different about each glass. First he pointed out the obvious: different colors. But as he dinged each one with a spoon, he was delighted to find the sounds changed.

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“Sort of a low note,” he described.

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“Even higher!” he exclaimed.

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“Really high!”

Your mini Mozart can even try making up a song.

Here is my attempt at Hot Cross Buns, although I would have had to take some time to get scientific if I wanted the notes to be exactly right.

This project is a delight for all!