Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Take time to climb a snow mountain

We’ve been really busy with holiday chores and errand running lately, and not always having time to get my little guy outside to play. I’ve been hurrying him a lot, too; to the car, from the car, from store to one-more-stop to home. He’s been dying to climb the giant snow piles the plows make around the parking lots. So when I picked him up from school one day this week I made sure we both had boots, mittens and hats. I let him go at it.
There were mountains and caves. The Evil Snow Queen’s lair. A snow bridge that had to be collapsed in order to stop her army. We tossed snow chunks down a hill to make an avalanche. We also visited a puddle that has frozen and melted into mud and refrozen repeatedly over the past month. He was fascinated to find it had frozen solid and we could see a metal washer and scrap of paper suspended in it. It was as slick and smooth as an ice rink, which is what it became for a while. Air bubbles were trapped in spheres and swirls. It was beautiful. I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.

Things in nature change every single day, if you look closely enough. It is always worth stopping to take a look. I want to always remember this, especially when I’m in a hurry.

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Get-Outside Gift List

If I were Santa and wanted to get kids outdoors on Christmas day, this is what I’d give them. Whadaya know, Santa has given my kids all of these things (or will be, so I hear)!
1.       Handheld GPS device. For geocaching, watching our progress on a hiking trail, and other fun.
2.       Rope ladders. Attach to a tree or swing set. Great for any weather.
3.       Snow molds, snowball maker, snow paint.
4.       Totally awesome sled.
5.       Rockets. Explosives aren’t necessary. We like the ones you can stomp into the air or set off with baking soda and vinegar.
6.      Remote-controlled vehicles.
7.     Bike stuff.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Train platform time!

We haven't baked Christmas cookies yet, but the boys have rebuilt the world multiple times on our miniature railroad display. The Chef has some special decorative trees and buildings that are set up in an off-limits part of the platform, kind of like a gated community. The rest of it we build with toys and stuff from the wooden train set, and that part gets rearranged almost daily. The Sous Chef and I thought we needed some “natural features.” So we collected rocks, moss and sticks, whipped up some homemade play dough, and created a miniature wilderness. At the moment it is populated by a plastic monkey and pink frog, but that will change tomorrow.

Small natural items, like sticks, stones, dried flowers, dried weeds, herbs, pinecones, bits of pine branches, moss, etc.
Play dough (recipe for homemade is below)
Cardboard pieces (such as from a cracker box)
Any clean paper, foil, plastic or arts and craft scraps

1.      Let anything wet or muddy dry out overnight.
2.       Cut cardboard into shapes for mounting. Small pieces can be the base for trees. Larger pieces can hold entire natural scenes.
3.       Mold play dough into hillsides or river banks. Make small balls to support the trees.
4.       Add the natural items. Moss makes wonderful grass. Pinecones and twigs look just like mini replicas of the “real” thing.
5.       Use whatever else you have on hand to create rivers, ponds, animals, tiny cabins, etc.

Homemade Play Dough – This recipe comes courtesy of the wonderful teachers at the HeartPrints Center for Early EducationCombine 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 1 TB cream of tartar. Heat 2 cups of water, 2 TB of oil and a food coloring until it boils. Then combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing with a spoon until it cools enough to knead with your hands. Store in an airtight container.