Tree Texture

I love working natural science into everyday outings. To wit, a walk in the park today was the perfect chance to review all the different parts of a tree, with a little art thrown in, too!

The tree in question was our family tree, for Travis’s tree journal, and we stopped by to see how it was looking in midsummer.

Then Travis went on a search to identify all the tree’s parts. For each one, he held a piece of paper to the tree and rubbed with the side of a crayon. How neat to see the different prints that emerged for each, including bark:


And leaves:

You can have your child point out features they can’t reach, too, including branches, flowers, or fruit if any.

Don’t forget to give that tree a hug before you go!


Box Bowling

If heavy bowling balls at the alley or giant pins at home are too big for your toddler, try out this cute suggestion from High Five magazine. Upcycled tissue boxes are just the right size for tot-sized bowling fun.

To start, I saved up old tissue boxes until we had three. You’ll need at least three, but continue saving boxes until you have five, seven, or even more for extra fun!

I initially thought we might stick with a red-white-and-blue patriotic palate for our box bowling, first wrapping the boxes in blue paper and intending to add red dot stickers. Veronika had other plans, though! I loved the multi-colored crazy dot stickers that she ended up plastering all over the boxes.

We then set the boxes up in a pyramid, and I handed her a large ball. Take aim and bowl!

Veronika squealed with delight every time she knocked the boxes over.

And of course immediately wanted to stack them up again.

In sum, this is the perfect toddler-sized bowling game, no heavy balls required.

Animal Piles

We were doing a stuffed animal reorg today, which was the perfect chance not only to toss everything into a giant pile and remember every one hiding in there, but also a chance to throw in some learning! This was a riff on a previous animal sort activity Veronika and I did, but today she was a full year older and wiser about it.

First, I sorted the animals into piles, roughly categorized as: Giant, Big, Medium, and Small. Veronika’s challenge was to find an animal from the pile I asked for.

“Where’s a big animal? I asked, and she waded right through the piles to bring me one that qualified.

“Can you find me one that’s teeny tiny and small?” I challenged next. “Ladybug is small!” she chirped up, and proudly presented it.

Then we tested out the concept of length. I lined up all of our snakes (since it turns out we have way more snakes than I remembered!), and asked her to show me the longest.

And then the shortest!

You can also have fun sorting the animals by home or habitat. It turns out we have very few animals that live in the water, but many denizens of farms and forests.

What other ways can your toddler learn with stuffed animals? Please share in the comments!

Write a Mystery

Here’s a fun way to keep your kids’ writing skills fresh over the summer, even during the months away from school. To set up, I went through a magazine and clipped intriguing images in three categories: people (characters), places (setting), and objects.

I arranged the piles for Travis, and his task was to select one image from each category. He chose a baby as his character, a forest for the setting, and a motorcycle as the random object to come into play. Now his task was to write a mystery story involving all three.

I was thrilled when he immediately went racing for paper and said, “I know what I’m going to write!”

Admittedly his story was short, as he’s still building his story-writing stamina. Older kids can run with this idea and write a whole mystery chapter book! Simply have them add images and prompts from the magazine pile any time their creativity falters until they’ve finished a full-length mystery.

Meanwhile, I was so proud of Travis for his one-page short story and he was proud, too.