Casa, DIY, Family life, Nature, Practical Life, Preschool

DIY: wax-dipped autumn leaves

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Have I mentioned how much I love autumn? Even with the high spirits of Halloween behind us and the disturbingly eager holiday retail machine kicking into gear, I’m determined to stay present with the season as long as possible. Particularly since otherwise, November can seem like one long grey wait for better days.

23158082_10102016913446891_704227450_oAs the night time wild winds blow, the kids and I seem to collect beautiful and colourful leaves spotted on our travels each morning, adding to our collection daily. Some get put on the nature tray by the back door, some founder on the floor of the back seat, some crumble out of pockets in the laundry.

But a chosen few are dipped into sweet-smelling wax, saved, and hung up to bring the glory of the outdoors into our home. Because it involves using some caution around warm beeswax, this is a great activity for ages three and up, depending on the child. (If your kids are anything like mine, that added element of manageable risk makes leaf-dipping extra appealing!)

It’s simple really.

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What you need:Β 

A bunch of beautiful leaves

Beeswax, grated

A double-boiler or some other method for heating the wax

A length of string or yarn

A hole punch (optional)

How to do it:Β 

  1. Gather up your leaves and grate up your beeswax into the top of your double-boiler. Start water boiling on the stove. Note: I have a metal bowl and grater that are used exclusively for beeswax, because it can be tricky to clean up once it hardens, and you don’t want any melted wax going down the kitchen drain.
  2. Lay out some paper to catch any wax drips and some parchment for your wax-wet leaves to dry on.
  3. Heat the beeswax on top of boiling water until just melted. Once it’s melted, you can either bring the bowl of wax over to your leaves, or bring your leaves right to the stove — whichever is safer.
  4. Hold each leaf by the stem, and dip it into the melted wax, being sure to cover the whole surface of the leaf, front and back, with a thin layer of wax. Set it onto the parchment to cool.
  5. When your leaf is cool and dry to the touch, and flexes without cracking the wax, it’s ready to prep for hanging up. Have your little one punch a hole in each leaf, and thread through with a string.
  6. Hang up your sweet nature bunting, and take in the autumn splendour!
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22-24 months, 24-28 months, 3 years old, 3-6 Years, Family life, Nature, Practical Life, Preschool, toddler

Autumn activities for little people

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Autumn is one of my favourite times of year — a time for circling back, for settling in, and for reaping the harvest. It’s also the time when I celebrate my birthday, our wedding anniversary, and two amazing holidays — Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween. Looking for ideas on how to make the best of the season? Take a few tips from a pro.Β πŸ˜‰

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Plant bulbs now for flowers next spring. During last week’s Milkweed Montessori morning, my toddler friends and I read Planting a Rainbow, and then spent some time digging holes and popping in bulbs for crocus, tulip and daffodils. It’s great way to connect this moment within the flow of moments that make up the days, weeks, months, and seasons, that lead us to a moment next spring when, green shoot pokes through the earth and offers up a bloom.

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Get in touch with the fruits of the season. Part of what makes autumn so magical is that it is the culmination of the warm sunshiny days that came before it, and no where is that better illustrated than in ripe apples and big, round pumpkins. Apple picking, the pumpkin patch or a wander through a corn maze offer opportunities to connect with tradition in a hands-on way, from toddlers on up. These are the icons of the season for a reason, so throw out the cliches, and get out there and see how and where they grow. If your tastes run a little wilder, keep an eye out for high bush cranberry or autumn olive on outdoor adventures.

Ready to take it to the next level? Save your pumpkin seeds for growing in the garden next year. This year our backyard pumpkin patch has provided two perfectly round specimens for two perfectly spooky jack o’lanterns.

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Make a pie! A few years ago, a morning-long Pie 101 presentation from my friend Katie (an award-winning pie baker!) helped to conquer my fear of pastry. Now I always make a few pies when the fruit is at its peak, and I nearly always have help from my helpers, who love to peel the apples, bust up the butter, and roll out the pastry. If you do brave pie-baking with preschoolers, snap a pic and use the #montessoripie hashtag!

Follow along with Fall Outside 2017, an annual online reminder to go outside, and a welcoming online community to share those experiences with. For me, November is one of the hardest times of year — a wistful goodbye to the joys of October, and a grey introduction to the months to come. I’ve enjoyed following along with the prompts since November 2015, and we’ll do so again this year.

What are you up to this season? Share your ideas and tips with me, because there’s still some autumn left!Β 

Related posts:Β 

Autumn fun – a bumper crop of apple worksΒ 

A whole post dedicated to Planting a Rainbow

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22-24 months, 24-28 months, 3 years old, 3-6 Years, Books, Casa, Family life, Nature, Preschool

Montessori books to celebrate changing seasons

After Mother Nature hit our area with some late-breaking hot hot heat last week, it seems that finally crisp mornings and falling leaves are signalling the seasonal shift from summer to autumn. Feeling these changes as each season rolls on is something that I’m more and more attuned to, both as I get older, and my kids do. Growth, change, forward momentum, life in all it’s many forms β€” it’s a daily celebration on this traveling orb we call Earth.

I love to read books that are tuned in to these seasonal rhythms, and that reflect the times we’re having as a family. Sometimes a book that cycles through all the seasons, reminding of us of where we are in the big picture can be just the thing to remind us to celebrate the present.

Friendly for both toddlers and preschool-age reading times, and full of good curiosity-building possibility, here are a few books that our family has enjoyed reading, no matter the season:

Out and About: A First Book of Poems

Lovely to page through from cover to cover, or to read through the poems that fit today’s season or weather, this book is a treasure. Written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes, the creator of the beloved Alfie series, you’ll find these poems are a true reflection of family life lived in season.

To Be Like the Sun

A girl, her sunflower seed, and the glory of the flower it produces… and then, midwinter, a girl, and her sunflower seed once more. This book is beautifully illustrated, with a story told with enough energy to keep even the tinies captivated.

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights

In our family, we have a particular connection with the arctic, but I think the subtle changes that this book follows through one of the planet’s most unique environments will delight any curious child as each page follows the light.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm

A sweetly-detailed book that follows the calendar year through each month on a busy farm, this is an evergreen book that seems to expand to meet the growing child’s awareness.

When the Wind Stops

A favourite of mine to read, and of Jasper’s to hear, this book is the kind that settles the whole family into the peace of evening after a busy day. It answers those simple and yet big questions every child has in a way that is plain and true and also deeply metaphorical. Where does the sun go when it sets? To bring morning to another place.

Do you have a family favourite for all seasons? Let me know in the comments below!Β 

 

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22-24 months, 24-28 months

Autumn fun β€”Β a bumper crop of apple works

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It’s Halloween day, which I’m trying to convince myself does NOT signal the end of autumn, and the start of…that other season. With warnings of wet flurries tonight, it’s been a real challenge.

I thought I’d round up some of the apple and harvest-themed work we’ve been up to over the past month or so, before it’s too late. Apples are a wonderful cold-storage fruit too, so the fun with local apples can continue all winter long.

apple picking

Apple Picking

We are really blessed to live in a bit of an apple belt (there’s a local stretch of country roads labelled as “The Apple Route” if themed road trips are your thing), and there are a number of orchards around that are available for picking-your-own. This was our second year going, and it’s becoming a really sweet tradition. It really helps to set the scene early in the season, so that J can grasp where these apples are coming from. It’s also an affordable way of stocking up for all the apple fun to come. Plus, apples grow really low. Like, toddler height, for instance.

apple peeling

Apple Peeling

We were given an apple peeler last Christmas by an old friend and it has turned out to be one of our most-loved gifts. Jasper is becoming more and more adept at turning the crank, but even as a younger toddler, we’d do it hand-over-hand and he loved to watch the apple turn. He loves to eat the ribbons of apple peel that twist off of the peeler. I can see this becoming an independent work within a year or so.

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Apple Cutting

Our apple peeler also slices the apple into a spiral, which is a great set up for the next work: cutting with a knife and cutting board. When he was younger, we usually used the wavy chopper from Montessori Services, and he’s since moved onto using a small, slightly serrated knife (which is meant to be a cheese knife. Have we talked about cheese knives? They’re toddler-hand-sized and depending on the knife, perfect for either cutting or spreading. Get thee to a thrift store!).

 

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Apple Stamping

Jasper has been loving painting these days β€” at almost any time of the day. Case in point: today he painted before breakfast. Having the paint and paper available on the art shelf at all times has been really allowing him to pursue this love.

A few days ago, we did some apple stamping. Slice an apple in half (in this case, an apple I found on the counter with two small, browning bites out of it), paint the inside, slam it down. Actually, J eventually found that slamming doesn’t actually transfer paint very well.

And bonus pumpkin action! Pumpkin Washing

This is a variation on the watermelon exploration we did in the summer β€” carrying, measuring and washing a pumpkin. And hey, sometimes those pumpkins can be a bit muddy straight out the patch, so this practical life work can be really practical.

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Here are a few more apple-themed works from around the web:

How about baking up some tasty apple crisp with your toddler? β€” from Sixtine et Victoire

Loved this apple pie exploration for a young toddler. β€” from Welcome to Mommyhood

This genius sensory exploration for even younger toddlers. β€” from Natural Beach Living

This life cycle of an apple tree project would be nice to combine with an orchard visit.Β  β€” from My Montessori Journey

Learning the parts of a fruit. β€” from The Natural Homeschool

A whole week of apple activities! β€” from Golden Reflections

Another week of apple fun and a week of pumpkins too! β€” from Study-at-Home Mama

This idea for an apple-tasting is great for pre-schoolers. β€” from Natural Beach Living

For older kids: apple tree art β€” from Hip Homeschool Moms

pumpkin carving

Keep your fingers crossed for warm weather for wee trick-or-treaters tonight! Happy Halloween!

P.S. What are your plans for keeping November from getting too wintery?

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Family life, Montessori philosophy, Nature

Monarchs & Montessori

ImageThe name “Milkweed & Montessori” is meant to reflect the spirit of our family’s intention to bring both nature and Maria Montessori’s ideas into our daily life (but it just as often serves to remind us to live that way).

These days, I’ve got milkweed plants on my mind more than ever because tiny purple buds are starting to form between those great big leaves, and soon they’ll be in full, dusky bloom (as they were in the photo above, taken last July).

This year we’re particularly excited about our growing butterfly garden project, because it’s official: our yard is a Monarch Waystation! The Monarch Waystation is a designation granted by Monarch Watch, a US organization interested in supporting the habitat of monarch butterflies. We had to register our garden’s size and the variety of milkweed and other nectar plants we grow, as well as commit to using environmentally-friendly (hello, rain barrels!) and pesticide-free gardening practices.

ImageThe sign is a charming little educational tool, too, which we hope will help our neighbours understand why our front yard looks so… unmown.

Our focus on attracting pollinators has made us very aware when we do see them visiting our yard, and has given us opportunity to share the excitement with Jasper. He’ll often call “There it is!” in his sing-song way, pointing out a flitting cabbage white.

ImageThese days, he’s all about the book I Am a Bunny. Admittedly, it does feature a bunny as narrator, but the illustrations (by Richard Scarry in his pre-Little Town days) are wonderfully realistic, and the butterfly page is worth lingering over. David can name so many so them!

As our garden grows, I look forward to seeing more life spring from it, and more butterflies stopping in. And as Jasper grows, I look forward to exploring this corner of our yard with him, and engaging him with butterfly-related works.

Here’s a few examples of Montessori-inspired Monarch butterfly work:

This handmade felted Montessori life-cycle is very sweet.

Earlier this week, Deb at Living Montessori Now featured a whole page of life cycle activities.

Beth from Our Montessori Life showed a Monarch life-cycle matching set on her Instagram feed a few months back. Which, if you’re not already following, do that while you’re there. Her photos capture the simplicity and peacefulness that make me love the Montessori method.

Puzzleheads sells this Monarch butterfly nomenclature puzzle, which includes caterpillar phase.

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Family life, Nature

Getting back to nature

Imageβ€œTime in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”
β€” Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

It’s the eve of the first day of May (Uno de Mayo?) and here in our neck of the woods, it feels like the weather’s about a month behind schedule: wind, torrential rain and chilly temperatures.

Despite all that, our family is taking on a challenge. The 30×30 Nature Challenge to be specific!

30 minutes in nature for 30 days in a row, throughout the month of May. We’re joining thousands of other Canadians in committing to getting outside. Research (and our own experience) tells us that doing so will make us happier, healthier and less stressed.

For some time now, I’ve set an intention to get outside with Jasper everyday, no matter the weather. And usually, we do. But it’s amazing how often that precious little time gets squeezed out of our day β€” over-scheduling, weather-shy parents (Jasper is an all-weather backyard enthusiast). It’s truly amazing to me how often we spend more time in the car than we do with grass beneath our feet. For us, the 30×30 challenge is a chance to reset and realign ourselves with the natural world.

I highly recommend jumping over to the Suzuki Foundation website to learn more about the challenge and the benefits of spending time in nature. Consider joining us (and many others) on this journey to connect with the world outside these four walls.

And pray for sun.

The photo above is from May 1, 2013, when the little guy was but a wee mite and the sun shone and the flowers bloomed.

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18 months, Montessori philosophy

Keeping it real

There are times when I have doubts or questions β€” about just about everything in life, including the Montessori method. But I’m learning as I go, and often I find I’ll stumble upon the answers to my questions just as soon as I’ve asked them.

Most recent example: the idea of realism and imagery in the Montessori philosophy.

I’d read that cartoon images are generally avoided because it’s important for young children to form their understanding of how the world really is. Fantasy can be introduced later, when their minds are ready to play with ideas. For now (under 6 years), it’s just the facts ma’am.

It makes sense. Really. But our culture is fairly steeped in the idea of fantasy for very young children. And any suggestion otherwise has hints of being too strict, or of limiting imagination and creativity.

Recently Jasper and I stayed at a hotel. When we woke in the morning, I turned the TV to a kid’s channel and let him watch a children’s channel while I packed up. A show about Jasper’s favourite thing in the world β€” dogs β€” came on. A cartoon show. As the dog-characters leaped onto the screen one after another, there was silence. Their goofy, creatively-interpreted, oddly-shaped cartoon bodies were completely unrecognizable to Jasper. It wasn’t till the last one, an obvious Husky, bounded into the picture that Jasper made his usual “oof-oof” sound signalling that he’d seen a dog.

I got it. Loud and clear. Those other things weren’t dogs, in his mind. But what if he’d never seen a dog before? Would he, with his absorbent little mind, think a dog was something boxy and brown with tiny little legs? Or that a pink assortment of clouds is what a poodle really looks like?

Come to think of it, there was nothing remotely beautiful or creatively-rich about this goofy, low-budget Saturday morning cartoon.

And the more I think of it, our real, natural world is the most beautiful creation I know of.

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