Tag Archives | eco activity

Summer Fairy Garden and Fairy House

I’m so happy to write about a long awaited eco-activity we’ve recently finished – building a fairy garden and fairy house. It’s been my 6 year old son urging me to help him make fairy furniture and design plans for the house which has been a very cool surprise…I always thought this would be something I’d create with my daughter’s so I’m thrilled my boys thought this was a fun idea. Creating the garden, furniture and house was so much easier thanks to the awesome tutorials at The Magic Onions. I’ve talked about this site before because it’s the ultimate resource for convincing non-crafty folk like myself that I can create some of nature’s magic with my own children.

It was so heart warming to me that one of my son’s was so determined to get this project off the ground. We had so much fun and I’m proud that all of the materials for the garden came from our yard or nearby forests…nothing needed to be purchased and borrowing a glue gun from my friend became another fun highlight for my kids (glue guns make crafting so much fun!). Our garden doesn’t come close to the artistic design that The Magic Onion achieves with her blog but check out the pictures at the end of this article – I think we did pretty good and even managed to create a new item that is the perfect accent for any fairy’s garden (hint: think acorns and hemp string).

I loved the idea of finding a wine barrel for the garden, but we used an over sized planter currently not being used. Whatever you use, make sure it’s large enough because your children will want to play with the garden when it’s completed. Also, have potting soil and make sure the container/planter/barrel has a hole in the bottom for drainage purposes because you’ll need to water your garden to keep the moss and flowers alive.

We didn’t draw out our our fairy garden before hand – but I do recommend it. Having your child map out on a sheet of paper where everything will go is a very magical step in the process and a great keep-sake. We filled up our planter with potting soil and dirt, pulled out a small flowering plant with roots intact from our main garden and replanted it in our fairy garden. Angelo found a plastic container to use for our fairy pond, then we put marbles around it with a path. Now came the fun – fairy doors, fairy furniture, and the fairy house! I followed all the instructions from The Magic Onions except for the one piece of decor within the fairy garden that was dreamed up by my sweet boy Angelo – lantern lights to hang high above the garden to light the way for fairies and gnomes. Angelo is always picking up acorns wherever we go – they are a staple item collected for his nature box. We used some hemp string and tied approx. 6 acorns together and attached to taller branches. These became our fairy lanterns ~ funny what ideas you start to imagine when you believe that fairies really do exist.

We really enjoyed making fairy furniture from the tutorials at The Magic Onions: fairy bath tub, fairy dining table, and our favourite the fairy’s washing line! This is the drying line where fairies leave their extra set of wings or dresses after they’ve been dampened by the morning dew. If you have tiny clothes pegs – that is best.  For the clothing line – I used the annoying ties that you need to unwind when receiving a new toy. You know those grey ties that you fight with to ‘release’ the toy after your child unwraps it?  Well my mom pointed out a few summers ago that she loves using them for tying back plants in the garden. I started saving them too because they do come in handy. They worked perfectly to tie around two sticks to create our clothing line. Here are our pictures:

After our fairy garden was complete we sat back and enjoyed our accomplishment for only a few days before Angelo decided that a house needed to be built. Thankfully, our wonderful friend Patti had many examples from her own adventures so we followed the fantastic model of no gluing, no tying to get our log house built. We simply cut approx. 20 sticks to the same size and built 4 walls (with a gap for a door) by pushing the sticks down into the soil of our fairy garden. Our roof and fairy door was made from tree bark; easy to break and mold into the shape needed for both.  I love that Angelo went into the yard and was so excited that he found the perfect door knob for the fairy door – a dandelion top that hadn’t blossomed yet. It was perfect for a knob and we used the glue gun to attach it to the door. Very easy to build and our garden is almost complete. We used all materials that were already on-hand or found on a forest floor. The last surprise will be the little ladies and goodies I have arriving from The Enchanted Cupboard. I’ve long been a fan of artist and mom Beccijo who hand paints wooden treasures and has truly captured the magic of fairies and mermaids in her lovely Etsy shop.

Here are the final pictures from our fairy garden and house. So fun and hopefully a summer memory that my kids will always remember – I know I will.

Related Articles:

Fairy Doors, Fairy Dust, The Makings For A Magical Party Game

The Fairy Ring ~ Etsy Wooden Fairy Dolls

Celebrate Your Little Girl’s Love For Fairies – Make A Toadstool!

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School or Teacher Year End Gift ~ Rain Barrel

Wow did I ever stumble onto some magic yesterday.  Our preschool decided to give the school a rain barrel as the year end gift for the school.  Well – it’s turned out to be the best project ever and this idea could easily double as a gift for grandparents, father’s day, gift for a school or teacher because it has nothing but positive elements.  I love giving practical, Eco-friendly, educational, affordable, and naturally beautiful presents and this project was all of these as the finished product is amazing. 

Did you know that many city municipalities in North America subsidize composters or rain barrels?  I contacted the Parks and Environment Division at the local city office and purchased a huge rain barrel with the down spout converter and tap kit for $40.  The city pays $50 for them and then subsidizes a percentage of the cost to make them so affordable.  Best of all, the material our rain barrel was made from is recycled food containers. 

So being the outgoing, graduating class from our preschool the gift was this rain barrel but the magic started happening when the painting and personalization of the barrel started.  I could hear Jackie, our very patient coordinator for this project, telling the children that the barrel would collect rain water for everyone to water the garden at preschool ~ all while helping each child paint their hands and fingerprints to personalize the barrel with the garden/flower/bug theme. This turned into a perfect eco-activity to educate children on the importance of water conservation, reusing, and helping the environment.

I’m so glad we took before and after pictures of the barrel.  To personalize, the children painted their hands and fingers to leave prints that Jackie turned into magical butterflies, flowers, bugs and the end product is gorgeous!  It started out as a very plain blue barrel and now it’s something decorative and functional for a school to water their garden.  Even if you just purchased the barrel and just put hand prints of all your children it would make a wonderful Father’s Day gift ~ all for under $50.  Use paints that will stand up against wet weather and you are good to go!

Here are the before and after pictures of our barrel.  I hope they inspire you.

Before:

During:

Note: Jackie gasping in awe of perfect handprints!

After:

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Join The Great Backyard Bird Count ~ Eco Fun!

Teachers, parents, here is an awesome eco-activity that is sweeping through North American over 4 days in February (13th-16th) and its called The Great Backyard Bird Count.  If you haven’t tried bird watching or counting the number of same bird species in one spot, you are missing out.  Kids get so excited with this activity ~ it’s like a rock star enters the backyard when you see a group of birds you can name quickly…kids love it!  Anyone can participate during these 4 days because it’s a fun eco activity that involves bird watching, counting, and entering data online ~ perfect for kids (and adults) of all ages.  Why would you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count 2009?  It’s fun, free, anyone can participate and it teaches your children to help birds. This event is now an annual event and creates a snapshot of which birds are where, across North America.  This count is important and actually helps scientists learn about bird populations, by knowing where the birds are.  For more reasons this count is important, click here.

How can you participate?

During one, two, three or all four days of this event, plan to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes.  You submit a different checklist (checklist is online) if counting in different areas (backyard, beach, park, etc.) and a different checklist for different days.  You count the greatest number of same species birds that you see together at one time.  Record these numbers on your checklist (helpful to print a hard copy to use before entering the results online), then enter your numbers online via the website, starting on Feb 13th.  It will be active to enter your results until March 1, 2009.

Things you might need?

The best purchase I’ve made lately was visiting my local wildlife bird store and purchasing a book with bird species that populate the area where I live (West Coast).  My kids love looking through it and recording the different species we find then recording their discoveries in a bird journal.  See To Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature for more information.

Other helpful tools located on the Great Backyard Bird Count site are:

Printable Tally Sheet. Input your postal code and the GBBC site will bring up a list of all the species you might encounter during your bird counting. If you click on the name of the bird, you’ll see a picture of the species and tons of information….an awesome tool!

The entry form.  Best to print this off beforehand, then enter the information online later.

Tips for attracting birds ~ from choosing bird food to selecting a bird feeder.

Top 10 Birds from the 2008 Backyard Bird Count

Games for Kids. My 5 year old completed the bald eagle puzzle and loved it!

Stats for those into statistics. Wouldn’t it be cool to see British Columbia make the top 10 for checklists submitted in North America? Let’s go for it!

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Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

After a few days of enjoying bird watching, making home-made bird feeders, forest walks, and basically falling in love with trees and nature again, I want to share a few sites that continue to re-inspire me.  It is so important for children and parents to get outside and enjoy at least an hour of outdoor time each day.  I feel like a new person when I get out and explore tree stumps or explain to my children how wonderful it is to see and touch an enormous tree because it means they’ve been on earth for many years.  The process of getting all my kids dressed for cold weather and listen to the complaining about gloves or boots not fitting properly is almost enough to just abandon the whole idea, but once we are finally outside, the kids have the best time and I feel like a new mother ~ ready to teach, inspire, and I regain lots of patience.  Nature really is magical and has a healing effect on myself and the kids.

Don’t know where to start with encouraging family enjoyment and the outdoors?  Purchase a Nature Bag.  This gift will far out-last its value because the ideas it inspires in a forest, backyard, or adventure walk are precious.  I always try to remember my child won’t tell me how much they appreciated a treasure hunt, eye-spy or scavenger hunt….until they have children of their own and remember it fondly as a grown-up.  Adults always come back to concepts and activities they enjoyed as children once they become a parent, so help create memories that imprint your child’s memory over a life time.  It is parents finding the time, energy and enthusiasm to setup such a special activity.  The two moms that created the Nature Bag make it easy including leaf viewers, a magnifying glass, a blindfold, and their eco-activities included in a booklet that are truly amazing.  Really, re-introduce your child to nature this Valentines Day and enjoy the rewards this gift will bring your entire family. Click here to find locations that sell this product.

I have deep respect for the two website that inspire me constantly with new ideas about how to get my children to enjoy nature and fun activities.  The BEST activity all four of my kids enjoyed this winter season I learned from the mom writing for Nature For Kids.  You really get the sense that she knows what works for children and nature, she reminded me of the craft of making peanut butter bird feeders.  Pine cones you collect, cover with peanut butter, and then roll in birdseed.  Hang up high and away from your house, so only birds are encouraged to feed ~ this had been such a blast for even my two year olds to participate with.  The amount of birds we’ve watched come to our backyard with these feeders is simply amazing!  This leads me onto a connected eco-activity…

Green Hour – I’ve mentioned them before and I’m a huge fan.  This site simply exists to help re-connect your children with nature for one hour each day. The amount of nature-based activities they’ve listed are simply amazing, but their ‘bird journal’ stuck in my brain because this activity combined with the bird feeder, has simply been the best kid’s activity ever in this household. I purchased my boys a bird sight-seeing book, and then gave them a journal and pen.  They write down the page number from the book and species of bird and record a mark for each of these birds that come to investigate the bird feeder.  I had no idea that our backyard was filled with Black Eyed Junco birds….I would have just assumed they were Chickadees.  A great help for kids that can’t read is to print off pictures of the bird species for their journals so it’s easy to cross match with their book!  It’s hilarious and wonderful that my kids act like a rock star entered my backyard when a ‘Winter Wren’ or ‘Bewick’s Wren’ makes an appearance.

Kids are just naturally drawn to nature.  That must be why a tip for colicky babies is to take them for a walk or when children are just miserable, you put them in boots and give them freedom to ‘go nuts’ in a puddle…suddenly, these ailments are gone.  It is parents finding the energy to make the outdoors exciting and fun.  I hope some of the resources I’ve mentioned help your family discover how refreshing and fun nature can be ~ just go outside.

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Safe, Fun, & Easy Pumpkin Crafts For Kids

Are you like me and couldn’t wait to buy/pick pumpkins in late September?  My family was at the opening weekend for our local pumpkin patch and just couldn’t walk away empty handed, even though it was still September.  I knew the pumpkins will last because of a great non-carvable pumpkin craft I found years ago.   We’ve been painting our pumpkins into little ghosts for a few years…and it’s the biggest hit with my kids.  Also, because the pumpkins aren’t being cut, they can last the many weeks leading up to Halloween.  The below image is the picture from a magazine I saw while waiting in a Doctor’s office and knew instantly that my boys would love it!  Aren’t the pumpkins just the cutest?  Read on for easy instructions to re-create this craft.

 

Take light blue paint (we are still using up wall paint purchased 4 years ago to decorate a room) and cover the pumpkin.  Make sure the pumpkin is clean and dry before applying the paint.  You might want to do 2 coats, but it’s not necessary.  When pumpkin is dry, take a permanent marker and color eyes.  Keep pumpkin off the ground because they will rot early.  Mount them proudly for everyone to see.

Another craft that has become a tradition at our house is the lollipop graveyard.  It is a great activity if you want to bring a treat for a school Halloween party or do a count-down to Halloween.  It also doesn’t involve carving but still involves lots of fun for kids.  I actually think the ‘ghosts’ stay in place better if the pumpkin remains whole (no scooping out pumpkin seeds).  I don’t have a picture of the finished craft, but it’s easy to imagine.

Lollipop Graveyard

First you create 20 odd lollipop ghosts (change number to amount of children in your class if bringing for a school Halloween party).  To do this, cut paper towels or tissue in a 6 or 8 inch square.  Cut white yarn or ribbon approx. 4 inches long. Place the lollipop in the center of the tissue paper and wrap the tissue around the lollipop.  Tie the yarn or ribbon around the base of lollipop and draw 2 eyes and mouth on the tissue paper with a thick marker.  Repeat for as many ghosts as you want in the graveyard. 

Pick a medium sized pumpkin, take a nail and poke holes into your pumpkin for the same number of lollipop ghosts you have.  Stick the lollipops into the holes and complete with a little sign saying “Family name or school graveyard”,  You’ve made a great decoration or given wonderful presentation for bringing a treat to a party or Halloween celebration.  If you are looking for amazing tasting lollipops that are 100% organic and safe to bring to a classroom that might have children with allergies, try YummyEarth organic fruit lollipops. They would be the perfect compliment to this fun craft! Here is an example of the lollipop ghosts:

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