Fall Find It

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We’re always up for a good nature walk, so loved this suggestion from our latest High Five magazine. Their Fall Find It page, featuring a checklist of items to find, added a whole new element to our stroll. The treasure hunt was so engaging for Travis, who loved finding the things on our list (“We still need a pinecone…” he would muse, as we ambled).

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Even better, this time I brought along the instant camera so he could snap pictures as we went!

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Pretty soon we’d checked our way through a neat assortment, including:

A squirrel

A chipmunk (two actually, chasing each other!)

Acorns

Funny twigs

A leaf with two different colors

Pinecones

A yellow leaf

We never did find a few items on the list, including a woolly bear caterpillar and a pumpkin, but this in itself made the hunt exciting! We added a few things not on the list, like this cricket:

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By far the best part was taking a pause to sit so Travis could “draw” what we’d seen. Older children can no doubt truly test their art skills here, but it was great fun just to see Travis wield a red crayon and say he was drawing the red ants we’d spotted in the dirt, or a tree across the way.

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Once home, continue the fun by going back over your memories as you glue the items onto construction paper.

Travis loved overlapping his leaves..

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…And was so proud to incorporate the instant pics we’d snapped, and a little bit of his drawings.

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What have you found on your fall hikes so far? Please share in the comments!

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Glow-in-the-Dark Jars, Two Ways

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We seem to be having endless fun with our glow-in-the-dark paint lately. To add to a budding collection of gleaming creations, we put two additional mason jar projects together! Basically this is just two different methods of using the same two materials, so I’ve combined the crafts into one post.

First, we made a glow-in-the-dark lantern. This one was simple as can be, but giddy fun. Squirt glow-in-the-dark paint into a mason jar.

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Now seal the lid, and shake shake shake, like it’s a maraca!

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Travis loved seeing how this dispersed the color. Once your jar is coated, you can make a handle out of pipe cleaners: Twist one pipe cleaner in a U-shape in the center of the other.

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Wrap the long pipe cleaner around the jar’s neck securely.

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Charge up, and enjoy the lantern! This would be fun to add to any Halloween patio scene.

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For the second version of jar + glow paint, we wanted to replicate the old tradition of collecting fireflies in a jar – without harming any fireflies!

Put glow-in-the-dark paint into containers; a few different colors will make the prettiest result.

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Dip your paint brush into one color, and place in a mason jar; tap against the jar (almost like you’re ringing a bell), so the paint splatters.

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Repeat with the remaining colors – very Jackson Pollack-esque!

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Set your jar under direct light so your “fireflies” glow once the sun goes down.

Banana-Seed Pudding

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I’m always on the lookout for desserts that pack a nutritional punch, alongside a chocolate-y smile. This one wins on both counts!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vanilla almond milk
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • Banana slices

1.       In a bowl, whisk together the milk, agave, cocoa powder, and salt.

2.       Stir in the chia seeds, then cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to overnight, stirring occasionally (this helps to smooth out lumps).

3.       To serve, place about ½ cup pudding in bowls, and top each serving with thinly sliced bananas.

Play Dough Monsters

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Here’s the perfect way to shake up your play dough routine in the spooky month of October! This little craft is great for kids who might be experiencing their first fears about monsters; your silly and cute creations will have them giggling and realizing monsters don’t need to be scary.

Travis didn’t quite understand the concept at first, so I set about making a few goofy monsters as he watched. Beads made for silly fangs and smiles, and googly eyes are always fun.

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Trim lengths of pipe cleaner to be smiles, curly hair pieces, or even whiskers!

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Once he got the idea, Travis was so into the craft. He loved adding shiny beads as eyes.

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And decided that each monster needed a smile, which he drew on with his finger.

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We wound up with quite the little monster mash family.

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Glowing Nature Crate

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There seems to be a feedback loop between our Little Explorers and Koala Crate subscriptions these days! Having recently learned all about glowworms through the former, our most recent crate form the latter was not just about nature but about glowing nature and touched upon… glowworms! Luckily there was very little overlap in the projects. Thanks to the booklet and crafts, we covered: glowing fungi; glowing insects; and glowing sea creatures.

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Travis loved the crafts in our kit this month. We started with the Mushroom Lantern, which featured a pitch-perfect way for preschoolers to paint; squeeze from the provided paint tube onto the mushroom’s plastic cap…

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And then dab on with the sponge brush.

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Travis loved the method so much that some additional squeezing and dabbing on newspaper had to happen.

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We left the mushroom cap to dry, after which it fell to me to finish the craft. Attach the cap to a cardboard tube base by threading a pipe cleaner through the cap and a foam circle (this is your lantern’s handle), and then pushing the foam circle into the tube to secure. Glow-in-the-dark stickers around the mushroom cap are the final touch, and what will make your lantern glow after charging in sunlight or other direct light.

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While our mushroom dried, Travis couldn’t wait to start on the next craft – the most adorable stuffed Glowing Firefly. The kit came with a sock in glow-in-the-dark material; try painting glow-in-the-dark fabric paint on a white sock to replicate this at home. Before we even began the craft, the sock itself and the fluffy roving were big hits.

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We’ve had stuffing projects from Koala before which Travis was a bit young to help with at the time; this time around, he inserted much of the roving himself!

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I added the provided rubber bands to seal off the end and head, and looped through the fabric wings. Travis squealed with how cute our firefly was once we attached 2 googly eyes.

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Then it was time to set it beneath a lamp (direct sunlight also works) to charge up. For some daylight fun, the firefly is also perfect for adorable games of catch.

As we waited, we dove right into the final project: a glow-in-the-dark Jellyfish Game. I was a bit disappointed in the mechanics of this one, both because it was very hard for little hands to put the craft together and because it didn’t last long once created.

Travis could definitely help thread the fabric tentacles through the cardboard jellyfish body…

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And add the eyes and glow-in-the-dark stickers…

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But from there it was up to me to thread the jellyfish through a provided cardboard frame and rig it up on the window with provided suction cups.

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To be fair, Travis went wild for the game; by tugging on the strings, children can now wiggle and wobble the jellyfish around.

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A couple vigorous tugs broke the frame, however, so the fun didn’t last long. I was disappointed Travis didn’t get a chance to see the jellyfish in motion after dark and all aglow. Luckily there were additional stickers to decorate our underwater scene, which Travis loved with and without the jellyfish around. So my best advice for enjoying this craft is to proceed gently!

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As the grand finale, we set all three toys under his lamp near bedtime, then turned out the light for a glowing extravaganza!

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Gourd Pets

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On the heels of our Fall Friends, Travis wanted to decorate more little creatures to celebrate autumn. This time we turned gourds into patio “pets”, thanks to this cute suggestion from Barefoot Books‘ Kids Garden set.

We don’t have our own garden, so didn’t actually harvest our gourds, meaning we could skip the steps of cleaning them and leaving them to dry out for a few weeks (!). A quaint stop to purchase gourds at a farmstand did the trick instead. Still, because I knew he would love it, I told Travis we needed to clean the gourds before we could decorate them.

Add a little dish detergent to warm water and give your gourds a nice soapy scrub, then dry.

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From there, I simply placed a big pile of craft supplies in front of Travis and let his imagination take over. The older he gets, the more I love providing minimal direction and seeing what he’ll do.

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He was most into painting the gourds, and loved the way the brush worked on the different textures, i.e. our bumpy ones versus our smooth ones.

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There was also some fantastic color mixing going on; I loved the hues he made to go on our white gourd.

Because we were making them into pets, I asked Travis if the gourds had names. He quickly responded that they did, including Ranger and Radar. Several of the gourds then received glue and feathers, making them seem like fantastical birds.

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Googly eyes were the finishing touch before we set them aside to dry. Feel free to add other crafty items as well, such as ribbon, markers, or glitter.

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Once the paint and glue dry, find a spot for your “pets” in a garden or patio.

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Now enjoy them all season!

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Fall Sensory Jars

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This easy project works on several skills: sorting, fine motor skills, plus a little bit of science when it comes to what will sink and what will float. But never mind all that – kids won’t even notice they’re learning; they’ll just love the process and seeing all the pretty fall-colored things in their final creation!

To start, gather any fall-themed or fall-colored bits that will fit in your water bottle. I had hoped to use foam shapes in the shapes of leaves, pumpkins etc., but wasn’t able to find any at the store. Instead, we had an assortment of little wooden craft leaves, paper leaves, and buttons and pom poms in autumnal colors. Bits of fall-hued ribbon would work well to!

To start, encourage your tot to sort the items by kind (or by color, if you prefer).

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Travis was impatient with that step because he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the water bottle. Pour a little water from the top, leaving it mostly full, and begin adding your items.

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Here is where we had fun guessing what would sink and what would float. Buttons made a quick descent to the bottom, whereas our pom poms and wooden leaves stayed near the top.

The narrow opening of the bottle also posed an interesting puzzle for Travis to work out. How could he fold our leaves so they fit inside?

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Once the jars are filled, use a hot glue gun (grown-up step) to seal on the caps. Now your child can watch the items swirl back and forth!

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Salami Roll-Ups

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Skip the bread and simply roll up Yves Veggie salami slices, and you have the perfect nosh for your kiddos. Double up portions to make these lunch!

Hummus Roll-Ups:

  • 3 slices Yves Veggie salami
  • 1 tablespoon hummus
  • 1 tablespoon shredded carrots
  1. Spread the hummus evenly over the salami slices.
  2. Top evenly with the carrots, then roll up to serve.

Pizza Roll-Ups:

  • 4 slices Yves Veggie salami
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sliced black olives
  • 1 tablespoon shredded non-dairy mozzarella
  1. In a bowl, mash together the cream cheese and tomatoes until combined. Spread evenly over the salami slices.
  2. Sprinkle evenly with the black olives and mozzarella, then roll up to serve.

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Little Explorers World Coins

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Welcome to our third journey with our Little Explorers subscription! This month’s kit was all about currency and money from around the world.

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In many ways, this experience was the opposite from last month’s Natural Wonders; Travis had very little interest in the learning booklet, until I eventually corned him into it over snack. But he loved all the other activities and goodies inside, whereas “natural wonders” were a bit abstract.

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As a result, he was also much more interested when we found the spots on our map that corresponded to our stickers this month.

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World Coins Craft:

We dove right in with coin rubbings the moment the kit arrived. Travis already has a budding coin collection of pre-Euro European currency, so we pulled those out and got right to it. He was fascinated watching the images appear, both trying it himself, or asking me to do some and watching the imprints emerge. Super simple, but super fun!

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World Coins Science:

The suggestion from the booklet to make salt dough coins was a huge hit. First we watched how coins are made, and then I asked Travis if he wanted to make our own coin press. He couldn’t wait! We scooped the flour, poured the salt, added yellow tinted water (in the hope of making gold coins, although it didn’t really show up), and then stirred.

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One note of caution: the booklet recipe said to add 2 cups water to 1 cup flour and 1 cup salt, but it became clear after pouring in 1 cup of water that this was not the amount needed! We had to backtrack and add lots more flour to avoid a watery mess, which made this truly a good lesson in the chemistry of baking.

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Once we had a workable dough, we rolled our coins, cut out circles, and used stamps to make designs.

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When he saw happy face stamps, Travis declared that those coins were from “Happytown!”

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To preserve the coins, bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour.

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World Coins Keepsake:

Travis loved his Toby coin and coin purse mementos. The latter will be perfect for gathering other coins in our collection as it grows. And of course we did a rubbing of the Toby coin!

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World Coins Field Trip:

Although not a direct suggestion from the booklet, we decided it would be fun to build Travis’s collection with a few new special coin, stopping into a local coin shop.

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We came home to see what new treasures we had!

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If you’re anywhere near the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia or Denver, then lucky you! Here is your chance to go visit. We settled for this online tour.

World Coins Further Activities:

As always, the booklet was full of ideas to further your little explorer’s explorations. We sneaked in a math lesson by counting the coins in his collection thus far. Travis so proudly counted all by himself up to 27 as we slipped coins into the Toby purse!

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You could also try sorting in any way you want – by shape? By color? Here was our (roughly) gold and silver division.

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The booklet also got us talking about which was our favorite coin and why. Travis simply adored the Roo on Australia’s gold dollar and deemed that his favorite. I was very taken with the seven sides of a thebe coin from Botswana, which I’d never heard of before.

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Finally, we headed to the library to see what more we could learn. To my surprise, there actually are quite a few quirky and fun children’s books that make this subject matter anything but dry.

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In sum, you can bank on having fun with this one!

Corn-Husk Dolls

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Corn-husk dolls are a lovely project that you can add to any fall or harvest decorations in your home. Or, as it turned out for us, just a fun chance to play with a new material!

If you have fresh corn from the farmers’ market, here’s the perfect opportunity to save the husks and turn them into something new. In a pinch, you can buy corn husks in most grocery stores.

I followed instructions from Barefoot Books’ Kids Garden kit to make the dolls. Actual assembly of a doll is a bit complicated for little hands (although kids aged kindergarten and up can get much more involved), but Travis simply adored exploring this new material while I made our “dolls.”

The husks were great for layering….

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Or his favorite, ripping into strips.

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Meanwhile, to make a doll, tie together three husks for each of the arms, securing with yarn or twine. Trim to desired length.

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Tie together three husks for each leg as well, leaving them long. Line up the tops of all 4 arm and leg segments, and tie them together about 2 inches down, to form the neck and head. Trim off any excess twine. You can draw on a face with marker, if desired.

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Travis decided that the husks he had shredded looked like a nest, so we made an “owl” as well, by gathering together husks and tying off at the neck. Or perhaps it was a Halloween ghost!

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In an impish twist, Travis decided it was much more fun to pull apart all the husks in our doll than to set it outside with our pumpkins. So much for adding to our fall decor! But I loved seeing his delight, which made the project worth it.

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Get creative! What other dolls or animals can you make from the husks? Please share in the comments!