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!

Wild Moves

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I was a bit surprised to find no craft or Green Time in Travis’s latest issue of Ranger Rick Jr., but the magazine was full of fantastic facts and stories about animals, as always. It also included an activity to work those gross motor skills: copying the movements of wild animals.

First up was hopping like a kangaroo. This one was especially neat because the magazine pointed out that a kangaroo can jump 30 feet in one bound (!). We needed to pull out the yard stick to visualize that, and measured our own jumps.

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From there, we tried the article’s other suggestions, which had us waddling like a penguin, flapping like a duck, and pouncing like a cat.

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Travis was having so much fun that I encouraged him to decide which animal move he could do next. Soon we had slithering snakes;

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Trumpeting elephants;

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And a very ferocious lion (pictured at the top of this post).

A great prompt for imagination and to get us moving.

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Green Time: Camp in Your Backyard

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I’ve given our Ranger Rick Jr.¬†subscription credit before for getting us outside and inspired, but this time the magazine really hit a home run. Never in a million years would I have taken Travis backyard camping, until it¬†was the magazine’s summer Green Time suggestion. We pledged to join the Great American Campout at National Wildlife’s Federation’s website, originally aiming for the start day of June 23. Rain delayed us by one week, but we’re so glad we got out there!

Let’s start by saying I’m not a camper. Luckily we were able to borrow a tent from a friend, leading to instant excitement once it was up in the backyard.

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Folks, I’m here to say backyard camping is the way to go! Easy access to bathrooms if needed, popping inside to cook vegan s’mores over a cast-iron pan, and a cozy bed if kids decide they can’t make it a full night outside.

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We headed out at bedtime (8 pm) with the sun still setting. Travis popped up with his flashlight for every sound, enamored with nature.

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“I heard something! Let’s check it out!” We loved seeing birds and the setting sun in the clouds.

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And fireflies! Can you spot the pinprick of light in this picture?

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Stories by flashlight once it as completely dark were especially fun.

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Around 10 o’clock, Travis decided he was unable to get comfortable so we headed inside. But this was easily the most magical night of the summer so far. I asked Travis what his favorite part was, and he said playing with the zippers on the tent flaps – ha! Thanks NWF!

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Tuna Boats

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There was a very cute recipe in our summer issue of Ranger Rick Jr., for a sandwich in the form of a sail boat. The recipe called for tuna salad, and happily there are multiple choices on the market for vegan tuna these days. Using a can of Loma Linda Blue fishless tuna, we were ready to set sail!

First we mixed up a batch of basic tuna salad: 1 can of vegan tuna, 1/4 cup Earth Balance mayonnaise, and 1 chopped celery stalk.

Divide the tuna salad evenly among 2 hot dog buns (or 1 sub roll cut in half).

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Cut carrot sticks that are about 5 inches tall and stand upright in the tuna salad. Tear off two leaves of romaine lettuce and poke two slits in each lettuce leaf; slide onto the sails.

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Sail away!

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Make a Changing Caterpillar

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After a recent documentary on Bugs, Travis is in love with caterpillars. It was perfect timing for a story unit on caterpillars turning into butterflies in our latest Ranger Rick Jr. We downloaded the template and put together this neat felt project that illustrates metamorphosis beautifully.

A note on the project: unless your kids are at the upper age range of Ranger Rick Jr., grown-ups will likely need to assemble the caterpillar and butterfly. But then the kids can play with it!

First, use the template to cut the large butterfly shape from black felt. Cut the small butterfly shape from orange felt, and glue onto the black. (You’ll need fabric glue or a hot glue gun). Set aside.

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To make the caterpillar, cut a rectangle from black felt. Cut a long strip from felt for the antenna (Travis wanted blue instead of black). Fold the strip into a V and glue onto the top of the black body. Add two stripes each of yellow, white, and black felt. Glue on googly eyes (Travis wanted 3 eyes, not 2, hence the odd appearance!) and then 2 eyes onto the back.

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For the final component, cut the large butterfly shape from green felt. Glue onto the back of the black butterfly; this will be your chrysalis.

To put it all together, attach 2 Velcro dots to the body of the caterpillar on the black stripes, and line up with Velcro dots on the butterfly’s body.

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Place additional Velcro dots on the left top and bottom of the black butterfly wing, and then on the opposite sides of the green “chrysalis” so you can fold it closed.

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Now it was time for Mr. Caterpillar to crawl into his butterfly wings and fold himself up into a cozy chrysalis.

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Travis loved it! Note: You can also attach a string to the green felt so the chrysalis can hang.

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Open back up again for the butterfly transformation.

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Green Time: Go to the Park

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Sometimes the simplest moments with our kids can be the most beautiful, and this “Green Time” suggestion from our May issue of Ranger Rick Jr. was a reminder in just that!

The task? Simply to go to the park. This might sound like something you do with your kids anyway, but this time we made things different.

I deliberately chose a park without any facilities – no playground, no swings, nothing built up. Instead, we showed up with a blanket to sit on and only a few other goodies.

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Based on Ranger Rick’s suggestions, we brought along Travis’s tricycle to ride through the grass:

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A kite for flying:

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And a mitt and soft balls to practice playing catch.

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Nothing makes the afternoon better than an iced tea snack with mama. And reading a few Ranger Rick Jr. stories of course.

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We easily spent an hour in this park, just the two of us (and a new ladybug friend!).

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What’s your favorite (non-playground) park activity with your kids? Please share in the comments!

Mother’s Day Pocketbook

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Travis’s nursery school is hosting a Mother’s Day tea for the moms next week… and he couldn’t wait to make me this pocketbook to carry to it, once he spied in his latest Ranger Rick Jr.!

First we printed out the pocketbook template from online. Cutting it exactly was a bit too much for Travis, but I cut the shape from construction paper while he snipped out another “pocketbook” for fun.

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Next we punched holes all around the edges.

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To lace it up, use either yarn or string. Because I worried our string might fray, I created an “aglet” for Travis by taping around the end.

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This was definitely his favorite part! He loved lacing up and down with our long piece of string until he’d completed every hole.

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Next up was coloring the decorations, also available for print from the template.

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Travis enjoyed selecting colors, like a light blue butterfly since I love blue.

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I cut out the shapes and we glued them to the front of the purse.

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As the final step, thread a 2 inch piece of string through a button, and slip through the slit in the back pocketbook template; secure with tape.

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Now it will secure the purse shut through the slit in the front pocketbook template. I’ll have to pack it with a tea bag or two for the Mother’s Day tea. Travis was so proud to make me this, and I couldn’t be prouder to carry it!

Green Time: Plant a Vegetable Garden

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Yes, here we are planting seeds with our winter coats on. Hopefully from here on out April feels like April, not January! Needless to say, we were eager to turn to this month’s Green Time from Ranger Rick Jr. without waiting for the weather to cooperate!

Ideally, you’ll have a plot of land in which you can truly plant vegetable seeds. Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time know that we used to only have a balcony, and how excited I was when we graduated to a patio with access to a small patch of grass. We still have no true yard, so our “garden” for this project is in a shoebox… which means likely our plants will crowd one another and not grow very tall. Still, I wanted Travis simply to enjoy fresh air and the tactile feeling of dirt and seeds, even if we don’t end up with edible veggies. If you have a real garden, please share your results in the comments!

So, back to our shoebox garden… First we needed to buy seeds. We headed to the garden store for one pack each of the magazine’s suggestions: tomatoes, beans, carrots, zucchini, and peas.

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The first novelty for Travis was seeing the difference in size – pea seeds much bigger than tomato ones, for example.

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Even mommy didn’t know what carrot seeds looked like!

We filled our shoebox with a nice layer of soil.

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Next, we carefully dug a small hole for each veggie and placed two or three seeds in each hole.

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Travis loved the planting, and patting the dirt back over the holes.

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A little bit of water (which we’ll do each morning), and now we wait!

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Travis had so much fun with it that I let him play indoors with the leftover bean seeds with his shovel and some old flower pots.

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I’ll update this post if our veggies manage to sprout in their shoebox conditions!

Update: We have veggies! Travis is thrilled when we go out each morning now to water the plants, all of which our coming up – tiny zucchini leaves, tiny carrot tops, little bean curls… Exciting!

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Splashy Birdbath

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We’re always hoping to attract birds to the yard, whether with bird feeders or a birdhouse constructed recently at a Home Depot workshop. So we loved this idea from our April Ranger Rick Jr.!

To make the birdbath, you need a clay pot and saucer from the craft store. Lay down old newspapers to cover your work surface and set up some paints – I like making Travis a “palette” on wax paper these days, so he can choose from multiple colors.

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He loved painting the clay base in gold the best!

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Meanwhile, we added simple stripes to the pot, which will be the bottom of the birdbath. But get as creative and decorative as you like, adding patterns or dots.

Leave the pot upside down to dry. Paint the bottom of the saucer as well, and position on top of the pot – this paint will actually help the two pieces fuse together as it dries.

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We waited out a couple rainy days, then headed out on a sunny morning to find the perfect spot for the birdbath.

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Travis proudly added a small layer of water, and we added a decorative stone and shell.

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Can’t wait to see what visitors we attract!


Green Time: Counting Walk

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Well, here we are in April but we’re just now getting the chance – a sunny, warm day! – to go on our Green Time adventure from March’s issue of Ranger Rick Jr. – a counting walk!

The magazine included a list of suggested things to count as you take a walk outside, including mailboxes, fire hydrants, and squirrels. We wanted a nice warm day so we’d be more likely to see a couple items on the list like dogs (out for a walk) and bicycle riders.

As we kept a tally of each item, I helped Travis decide what number was one higher than the number we’d said before.

By far we found the most mailboxes – 10!

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Meanwhile Travis loved spotting hydrants – 2!

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We nearly thought we’d end the walk with zero bicycles until a man went cycling past us. Travis was very proud to make the tally.

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And because he loves them, Travis decided we needed to count pickup trucks in driveways as well – for a grand total of 7.

Overall, this was a great exercise – not just for the legs but for the mind as well!

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