At this time of year, my lawn is littered with pine cones. After collecting a huge bag full of pine cones, I browsed Pinterest to get ideas for something to make with them. I kept being drawn to crafts using the base of pine cones to create zinnias. The kids loved them too, especially the beautiful bright colours.
I set to work painting the pine cones with acrylic paint. The girls loved mixing up different colour combinations. In fact, the bright pink and turquoise/teal colour my youngest daughter mixed, were my favourite by far. I love that this was a project that we could do together as a family but that also turned out so beautifully.
Paint the bottom of a pine cone with acrylic paint and continue to paint to around half way up the cone. Most colours will only require one layer but some lighter colours may need two.
When they are dry, paint the centre in yellow or a contrasting colour of your choice.
Arrange the pinecones on the wreath. Push the top, unpainted half of the pine cone through the wreath and secure with hot glue or florist wire. If you want to stick pine cones on top of the greenery, you will need to saw off the top part of the pine cone to make it lie flat.
Weave the greenery through the wreath or stick on leaves with hot glue. If you use a repurposed wreath as I did you may be able to use the greenery already attached.
I have had so many great comments about the finished wreath and it was so easy to make.
Every year, sparrows nest in our bird box. We watch the mother and father fly in and out, building the nest. We hear the chicks when they are born and see the parents feeding them. When the nest is empty, sometimes we watch the chicks in the trees as they learn to fly.
As I was sitting in the garden, a few days after observing this chick in the tree, one of the chicks flew into the house. I followed it in and opened doors and windows to entice it out.
Shortly after the mother entered the house looking for her baby. Her distinctive clicking cheep sounded desperate as she tried to get the chick to respond to her.
After some time the mother left. We thought we saw the parents flying around with the chick outside. I could still hear the chick’s squeaky chirp, but assumed it was coming for the garden. We left the house, as we needed to go out. Some hours later, on our return the children came running, saying the chick was still flying around inside the house. It settled on a high window ledge and we could see the parents flying around outside and frantically calling. I opened windows and doors again and the mother came in and out, searching and calling. The baby flew to above the front door but didn’t work out how to get down.
Eventually, after hours inside the house, the bird flew to the ground and hopped outside to be reunited with his parents.
A few weeks later, the girls were playing football in the garden and discovered a nest near a rock, shaded by fern. Inside were 3 tiny eggs. A few days passed and the girls ran in to tell me the eggs had hatched. We watched them for the next few days. Sometimes the mother sat on them and sometimes they were left while she searched for food. She was never far away and a number of times we saw her swoop down to scare off an inquisitive baby bunny.
We watched as the strange bald creatures with huge eyes grew into fluffy chicks.
Then one morning my daughter ran to tell me to come and look at the nest. The nest had been pulled from its hiding place and was on the lawn. The birds were nowhere to be seen. Had an animal discovered them, or was it time to fly the nest?
We soon discovered the latter was true. Carefully camouflaged by brown leaves, one of the chicks was hopping around the ground and waiting for the parents to come and feed it. We could hear the other chicks too but we think perhaps they had gone into next door’s garden as we couldn’t see them.
After 24 hours the chick had gone, probably learning to fly. We heard them for a few days and then no more as they moved on to discover the world.
I love that we have learned so much about birds simply from sitting in the garden on a summer day.
Oxbow Farm is my favourite place for field trips. The guides are wonderfully entertaining and keep the kids motivated with songs, movement, challenges and a fast paced, hands-on journey through the farm.
The children learn about the farm plants and have an opportunity to investigate, pick and taste everything, whilst being shown respect for the plants and their environment.
They eat leafy plants being careful not to stand on the plants.
They eat seeds, learning about where the seeds come from, how they are spread and dried out in the greenhouse.
They eat stems. We found tiny celery sticks to try.
They eat flowers. We ate small yellow flowers that tasted like licquorice.
They eat fruit. We ate juicy apples from the tree and found the seeds inside them.
They eat roots. We pulled salad turnips and carrots from the ground, washed them and ate them.
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The girls are totally hooked on the television survival series Alone and eager to go out into the woods and test out their skills. My 6-year-old can often be found attempting to whittle a stick with a pair of blunt ended scissors. It worried me that she didn’t have the correct tools to do this properly and I felt it may be more dangerous to whittle with scissors than with a suitable knife.
My husband bought my eldest a knife when she was younger, so we discussed when might be a suitable time to introduce the younger girls to knife skills. I always believe that when children show a strong interest in learning a skill, then the time is right to introduce them to the appropriate tools. My youngest has very strong motor skills and co-ordination and follows instructions well. The girls are able to peel vegetables with a peeler and have practised chopping fruit and vegetables with a small kitchen knife. With this in mind, we decided the time was right to buy the girls their first knives.
My husband researched the knives used by a local wilderness school and decided on the morakniv fixed blade outdoor knife. The knives are the perfect size for little hands. They have a grip handle, sharp blade and a sheath with a clip belt. They come in a variety of colours. We chose neon colours, so they would be able to see them easily.
The first lesson was how to get the knife out of its sheath. They were a little frightened at first but soon got the hang of it. These knives have a bump at the side to remind the children of the correct way to face the knife when removing it from the sheath.
The children have to follow the following rules and guidelines:-
They are only to use the knives under adult supervision
Always put the knife back in its sheath when not in use.
The knives are to be stored in a special drawer and always put away after use.
Never cut towards their hands (they’ve seen what happens if this rule is broken on Alone).
Always sit down when using the knife
Always keep their eyes on what they are doing. If they need to look away, put the knife away first.
The girls loved whittling sticks and were desperate to try other projects. I bought them a book on whittling, The Little Book of Whittling. Some of the projects were difficult with their knives because the blade was too long. On our camping trip this summer, we bought them a multi tool with a smaller knife. With this, they were able carve more successfully and new skills were learned. They learned how to fold it safely and we only had one small accident when my youngest closed it a little to close to her hand. This made the girls more careful in future.
Whittling has been the favourite pastime of the summer. I had to spend a lot of time supervising them, and my garden is littered with bits of wood and splinters but they have had so much fun and learned a lot.
One of my favourite projects, was sharpening sticks to put in the ground and make a playground. They added string to join pieces together and made a zip wire, slide, climbing frame and monkey bars.
They spent a lot of time stripping bark from sticks. Some they used for tent pegs, some they sharpened to make arrows and sometimes they simply whittled the sticks for fun.
They also learned to split pieces of wood with a knife. They used a thick stick as a hammer to push the knife through the wood.
They attempted to make a spoon, like one of the contestants on Alone, but hollowing out wood was a little tricky with their knives. They found it much easier with the multi tool.
They came up with all kinds of imaginative projects,some more successful than others. In the video my daughter demonstrates how she is making a rain collector. The large stick on the floor is the one they used as a hammer, to split sticks. You can clearly see the difficulty the girls had with hollowing sticks. This project remained unfinished, which is just as well considering we haven’t had any rain this summer!
I can’t wait to see what they achieve as they become more skilled.
clear plastic or sheet of glass from a photo frame
bowl of water
I bought sun sensitive paper for my girls as a gift, but today was our first trial. We set out to find objects to place on the paper. Our first attempt used loose parts.
1. Create your designs inside, away from sunlight and put the paper on cardboard or a tray to help carry it outside.
2. Cover the picture with glass to stop it blowing away and keep it flat and place in the sun for 3-5 minutes. The paper will turn white.
3. Remove the glass and the objects. Place the paper in a bowl of water for 1 minute, to stop the chemical reaction.
4. Remove the pictures and leave to dry.
As you can see, one of the pictures came out clearly, whereas the other had only faint prints. The girls discussed why this might be.
Why did mine work better? I thought mine was in the sun longer but the other one was definitely in the sun for longer, so I don’t know.
It wasn’t because my things were heavier because I used sequins too. Maybe it wasn’t pressed on as hard?
I suggested they try another, to see if they could work it out. This time we searched the garden for natural materials. Usually, I only let the girls use natural things from the ground, but this time I gave them permission to pick flowers and leaves. They searched the flower bed and found things they hadn’t seen before, climbed the tree to reach leaves and lichen and we found that even weeds could have interesting shapes.
They chose their favourites to make a design.
And left them in the sun to develop
This batch was both successful.
I love the detail of the smaller leaf. The girls reflected on the success of these pictures.
I think it worked better this time because we laid the leaves really flat before we started, or perhaps it is because we left it in the water for longer? But I don’t think that would make a difference.
Even the little sequins came out this time.
We saved a few sheets for their big sister to try, it will be interesting to see what she will create. I also ordered bigger sheets because some of the bigger leaves didn’t fit on the 5×7 paper.
My kids love any kind of cooking show. A particular favourite is The Great British Bake Off (or baking show as they call it in the US). In true bake-off style, they decided to make a mud cake. “The theme is cakes”, they told me “but it can’t be just a cupcake it has to be a proper cake”.
Today is International Mud Day, when children around the world celebrate the most diverse, low-cost and accessible plaything on earth. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.
They build a plan and get to work, problem solving all the way.
They gather things from around the garden to create their designs.
The children explain the rules for the judging.
Something always goes wrong on Bake Off. The trial run didn’t quite go as planned so the girls think again.
The trial run of the frog mould cake works perfectly, but when the final one is made it drops too early and spoils the mint and grass lily pad. After a few failed attempts a final frog is made by moulding it with hands instead.
And Master Baker this week is…..
The mint and rose surprise – sadly the frog was a great idea but there were a few problems with the batter.
Don’t you love that play can be inspired by so many things? Happy International Mud Day.