Close your eyes and picture a perfect summer day. How does the sun feel on your skin? How does the breeze sway the trees? Who are you with? What are you doing? How are you soaking it up?
Me? I’m outside. In my front yard. Looking out at all the land. The sun is bright and hot, but not the kind of hot that makes you go back inside. It’s the hot that you crave during the winter cold. It’s the hot that warms your skin and softens your soul. I’m with my daughters, of course. They are playing in the yard. On the slide, in the water, with the chickens… doing what they love to do. I can hear the breeze. I can hear the grass sway and move as the gusts come and go. I can hear birds singing in the nearby trees. My girls are laughing. And I’m just watching it all, like an observer from far away, with a glass of homemade lemonade in hand. (Because what else goes perfectly with a day like this?!)
Days like this are so perfect, so simple.
Days like this go best with fresh squeezed lemonade, of course. Strawberries are in season, making the lemonade even better. Here is my recipe for the simplest homemade strawberry lemonade ever.
½ lb strawberries, washed and hulled
Juice of 5-6 lemons
2 C water
1/2 C sugar (can adjust to taste)
Combine all ingredients in a small pitcher. Use an immersion blender to combine. Serve over ice.
It does not get any easier than this, my friends! Happy summer!!
One of our favorite things to do as a family is explore nature. Whether we go on a long hike or a simple nature walk, it is always something to be enjoyed. Nature always inspires me. It centers me and brings me back. Even my toddlers seem to be calmed by spending time outdoors.
When we are on a nature walk, we try to be great observers. We have been teaching our daughters about using their five senses, so when we walk, we point out what we see, hear, smell, and sometimes feel or taste! We ask our oldest daughter to point out the things that catch her eye.
“I see a tree.”
“What kind of a tree?”
“A green tree!”
“Is all of the tree green?”
“Well… it’s brown too.”
“What part is brown?”
“Um, this part!”
It goes on and on and on, as most of the conversations with my two year-old do.
In these conversations, she is learning to be specific, to pay attention, to use her senses to describe and experience something.
Little ones always want to take some part of nature home with them. My daughter Addie always wants to pick a flower or keep a stick. Depending on where we are and what she’d like to keep, we sometimes let her. Bringing little pieces of nature inside is special. During our nature walk last week, we collected some fun things: tall grass, dandelions, a fern, and some other neat plants. When we got home, we turned it into art! Simply using construction paper and tape, we made a little nature display to go on our fridge. Addie even wanted to make an “A” using the things she found outdoors.
On your next nature walk, see what you notice. Bring back a few pieces of the outdoors to create into a masterpiece!
Around our house, musical instruments are well-loved. From toy drums and xylophones to make-shift pots & pans, we are constantly jamming and singing to something. We needed a few more noise makers, so I decided to make this rain stick! It was so simple to make, I wanted to share it with you. In fact, you probably already have all of the supplies.
What you will need:
Cardboard tube (like a paper towel roll, etc.)
Packing or duct tape
Beans, rice, or popcorn kernels
Hot glue gun
1) Cut the tube to your desired length. I used an old tube from a roll of wrapping paper, so it needed to be cut down.
2) Using packing tape or duct tape, cover one of the tube ends completely with tape. I used several layers so that it stay.
3) Fill the tube about halfway full of either beans, rice, or popcorn kernels.
4) Tape up the other end so the tube is completely closed.
5) Using decorative tape, cover wrap the tube until all of it is covered.
6) Cut two equal sized pieces of felt to wrap over each of the ends.
7) Use a hot glue gun to adhere the felt.
8) Take a rubber band and wrap it around each end, on top of the felt.
9) Cover with decorative ribbon
My youngest daughter, Ingrid, is so close to walking. She walks around the room, holding onto everything in sight. She’ll push a cart or a toy around forever. One thing that has always bugged me about some baby socks is that they don’t all have the non-skid things on the bottom. Luckily, this can be easily fixed! Here is a 5-minute craft project that everyone in the family can enjoy…
What you will need:
- Cut inserts for your socks. (An oval will assure that your socks won’t snag!
- Use puff paint to paint a design on the bottom of each sock. You can get really creative with this step! I did simple polka dots and some tribal triangles, but you could paint designs, use a good mix of colors, or even paint on words or names.
- Let them dry at least 24 hours before use. Enjoy!
I’ve been wanting to make my own play dough for a long time now. After looking over several different recipes, I finally concocted one that I am happy with. It doesn’t taste great, but it’s safe to eat and super easy to make! My girls love it.
What you will need:
1 C water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 C flour
1/3 C salt
1 heaping tablespoon cream of tartar
Food coloring (gel or drops)
Add all of the ingredients besides the food coloring to a medium sauce pan and stir together over medium heat. Keep stirring until the mixture comes together, about 3-4 minutes.
First, your dough will be chunky. Then, it will form into a nice, neat ball. When it does that, it is finished.
Put the ball of dough on a cutting board and let cool just a bit. Divide into equal portions, depending on how many colors of dough you’d like to make. (I made just three!)
Dig a well in the center of each ball of dough and add a few drops of food coloring to each.
Using a wood spoon, mix until the color comes through.
Let your little ones go to town with the play dough!
Cups, cookie-cutters, and other kitchen gadgets make fun tools for playing with the dough. To store, wrap in plastic wrap and place in an air-tight container.
*If you are looking to make several colors, go ahead and double this batch!
Pet rocks are so retro, yet so fun to make. Whether you use the rock to decorate your garden or play pretend, it’s a fun and easy activity to do with kiddos of any age. You only need a few supplies! My two year-old just made her first ever pet rock, and she had a blast doing it! This would also make a fun birthday party activity or teacher gift! “You rock!” ;)
What you will need:
Large rock with a flat surface
Decorations such as pom poms, eyeballs, pipe cleaners, plastic jewels, etc.
1) Paint the rock with a brush or your fingers.
2) Using rubber cement, glue on any decorations – eyes, pipe cleaners, etc.
3) Let dry.
P.S. – I can’t help but think how cute these would make as garden markers. You could paint on words like “tomatoes” or “lettuce” and place them in front of the different sections in your garden!
Every time we go to the zoo, my kids go crazy in the butterfly house. They love the warmth and all of the beautiful flowers, but more importantly, they love all of the butterflies lightly fluttering about, landing here or there in a delicate dance. The last time we were there, the zoo keeper showed us what butterflies like to eat – rotten fruit! She told us that if we simply left some rotten fruit out on a little plate, butterflies would magically appear. So, I decided to make a little butterfly feeder of my own, using a recycled lid from the pantry. Here’s how…
What you will need:
Plastic lid (yogurt lid, cottage cheese lid, etc.)
Twine or string
Rotten fruit (orange peels, strawberry stems, etc.)
*I was thinking about painting the lid to make it a bit cuter, but then I thought the paint might be a danger to the butterflies.
First, wash and dry the lid. Then, punch 3 holes equal distance from each other around the edge. Next, use twine or string and tie a knot around the edge of each hole, leaving about 12-16 inches of string to hang.
Gather all of the strings together and tie together at the top.
Place rotten fruit on the lid and hang in your garden! Wait for the butterflies to come and enjoy!!!
Here is a SUPER fun outdoor activity for kids of all ages! (My girls are just 1 and 2 and they LOVED it!) You can make your own sidewalk paint with just a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. I tested out several sidewalk paint recipes, and this one was by far my favorite. It’s the perfect activity for a sunny afternoon. Best of all, it’s safe. No harsh chemicals for you to worry about getting on your babes or on the grass/plants nearby.
What you need:
2 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
1) In a jar with a lid, shake together water and cornstarch
2) Divide into containers (I used a muffin tin for easy clean-up!)
3) Add a few drops of food coloring to each container and stir
4) Take the paint out to the sidewalk and let your little ones go to town
If the mixture starts to harden, just stir again. When you are ready to “erase” your sidewalk masterpiece, simple spray with water. Your paint will simply dissolve.
My family and I recently moved to a farm to pursue our dreams of living off the land and being somewhat self-sufficient. Our girls are just 1 and 2 but they are already learning about being thankful for where our food comes from, the importance of hard work, the value of creativity and exploration, and appreciating all forms of life. So far we have a dog, a cat, 4 chickens, and a big vegetable garden – not quite the menagerie of animals and plants we hope to have someday, but a good start for us right now. There is always something to be fed or watered or cleaned up, but it’s good. Whether you have a potted plant in your kitchen window, a plot at a community garden, or a few acres of your own land, gardening can be a fascinating and transformational activity for your family. Here’s why…
- Knowing where it comes from – Too often, we consume food without a thought of where it came from, who made it, etc. Gardening offers a first-hand experience to know what it takes to get something from a seed to a meal.
- The importance of hard work – Gardening takes some work. From watering and weeding to pruning and harvesting, it’s a daily task. Kids can learn the value of responsibility and hard work by helping with the gardening chores each day.
- The value of creativity and exploration – Our girls are literally digging in the dirt everyday. They find worms, water the plants, dig with their tiny tools, and help us as we work. They are outside, with the earth in their hands instead of glued to a TV screen.
- Appreciating life – All of the things we do in the garden help us to appreciate life. Being connected to nature, feeding chickens, watching plants grow, and taking care of it all makes us value all forms of life. It’s a beautiful thing.
One of our favorite things to do on a chilly morning or a rainy afternoon is to have a family art session. We clear off the kitchen table and bring out all sorts of art supplies for everyone to get creative. One thing my girls have really started enjoying is making collages. It’s great for little kids who love visual things and are just learning about the names of things. With toddlers, the outcome of an art project isn’t always the prettiest, but the process is so much fun! (And isn’t that what it’s ALL about?!) This project is SO easy and you can make it your own by adding in whatever you like!
What you will need:
Optional: glitter, stickers, ribbon, pom poms, etc.
1) Look through magazines with your child. Let them pick out the pictures they want to use. (My kids like pictures of animals and food the best!)
2) Cut out the images. (You can let your little one do this if they are seasoned scissor-users!)
3) Using a glue stick, let your little one glue the cut-outs onto a sheet of paper. (We have also glued them onto popsicle sticks, making them into puppets instead!)
4) Then, decorate with paint, glitter, stickers, – whatever odds and ends you have on hand!
This project is such a fun activity for a party. When you are hosting an event where not all of the guests know each other, nametags are a must. Spice up the traditional nametag sticker with a crafty, DIY version.
I hosted a bridal shower at my house last weekend, and needed another fun thing for guests to enjoy. When the guests arrived, they headed to the craft table to create their nametag, using the decorations I had laid out. Best of all, they got to take it home with them!
This would be perfect for a shower or birthday party!
You will need:
Wooden rectangle pieces (sold in craft stores)
Hot glue gun
Before the party:
1) Paint the wooden rectangle pieces with chalkboard paint and let dry
2) Using your hot glue gun, glue the pin backs to the back of the nametags
3) Cut flowers from the stems
4) Cut ribbon and lace to size for nametags
During the party:
1) Arrange your craft table so that all supplies are laid out and ready
2) Have a few hot glue guns plugged in and ready to use
3) Make an example nametag and leave it out for guests to use as a model
4) Invite your guests to create their own nametag, using the supplies you have provided!
You could use a bunch of different decorations to adorn the nametags – buttons, beads, jewels, glitter… Choose whatever supplies go with the theme of your party!