Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

Posted in Family, Gardening, parenting

Natural Insect Repellents

It’s kind of a given that you shouldn’t use too many chemicals in an area that your kids are going to be playing in. However, if you are someone like me who loves the outdoors but has an overwhelming fear of something that’s creepy and crawling with eight legs and a thousand soulless little eyes (a totally rational fear I might add), then you may be determined to use some sort of insect repellent in your garden and yard.

There are some natural ways to do this. I will say the only one I have tried personally is the first one (and that was just in my house and while camping, not necessarily on my garden yet). But! None the less, before going on with anymore gardening information I thought I would share some natural insect repellents that I have found:
My arch nemesis. There are several things that claim to repel spiders. I have read in multiple places and have tried in my own home using the smell of citrus. Apparently they don’t like it. Using lemon peels, orange peels, and lime peels is one way to harness this scent. Boil them in some water and put that water into a spray bottle. Spray all around your doors (or in this case your plants). In your garden you can actually just lay citrus peels out around your plants.
There are plenty of citrus essential oils to try as well, lemon I think being one of the strongest.
I have also seen some recipes that say adding vinegar to the lemon and water spray bottle idea will help to repel spiders. Unfortunately the small of vinegar makes me ill so I can’t test if this is effective.
Some other things that I have read:
Peppermint oil; for the same reason as citrus, the scent is unappealing
Cedar Chips; I’m not really sure why but I have seen using cedar chips can repeal them
Chestnuts; you just place chestnuts in a bowl and put on window seal ( I would assume this would work in a garden as well)

One natural way to repel mosquitos is to plant marigolds. BE ADVISED, they do attract bees, which I don’t think is a bad thing but if that’s another little bug you’re trying to stray from then not the best idea ( I know a lot of flowers do but marigolds are potentially even more appealing and they also attract spiders).

I’m one of the only people I know who does not enjoy the relaxing scent of lavender. Apparently mosquitos do not like the smell either. Planting lavender in your garden will help to repel them.


There is always the tried and true citronella. The candle wasn’t just dreamed up one day. Planting citronella can repel mosquitoes from your yard.



Japanese Beetles
Some repellent plants for Japanese beetles are catnip, chives, and rue.
Ehow has a short article on making a natural Japanese beetle spray. You’ll need baby oil, dishwashing soap, garlic, and a spray bottle. If you combine these repellent plants and use this spray then you should be beetle free!

If you know of some home remedies for insect repellents or natural ways to get insects out of your garden please share!

Posted in DIY, Education, Family, Gardening, health

How to Start a Family Garden

First and foremost do not make this a chore! If you already an avid gardener and you know which plants you like, where you like them, how to perfectly make them grow, you need to kick some of that out the window. Kids are messy and will make a lot of mistakes. They will plant somethings too deep and somethings not deep enough. But let them mess up. Don’t go behind them and fix every single they do. Let them see the outcome; these grew to blossom because you did this…and these didn’t because you did this…Explaining their mistakes is a much better way to improve their gardening and growing skills.

Listen to your children as well. You may be all about some pink and white flowers but your kids want to try and grow vegetables that they can eat. If you can do both great, if not let’s try their idea. Some kids will just never like gardening. There are plenty of children who do not like dirt, the idea of sitting in the mud or grass is not appealing, and there is no way to force them to like it. That’s fine too. They can still participate with things like garden planning, creating labels for the plants, decorating flower pots, and making little animal or fairy houses to put in the garden (talk about more in activities).

You must be realistic when starting this project. Don’t tackle a huge garden filled with apple trees over there, and potatoes over here, and some lilacs over there. Gardening and growing food is a skill that takes time. Good gardeners really don’t get enough credit. Work with the space you have and maybe start with 3-5 plants. Once they are good and growing add another if you can. If working with a small space here are some ideas:

Herb gardens do not need a lot of space and are nice for kids because they get a reward out of it. They get to see their plants grow and then they get to taste new delicious foods! Mint, lavender (which I personally hate to be honest), oregano, and basil are all easy to find recipes for. Chives is also a good one because it repels mosquito (more natural bug repellents here.)


If you have some more room here are some great resources on garden mapping:

 Kitchen Garden Planner– This site is mostly to sway sales; however, they do have pre-planned maps and interactive maps to help you plan your garden.

Better Homes and Garden- Good article on how to map out your garden.

If you have the space, consider having seating within your garden. You and your child should be able to come outside after a long day and admire your hard work. A table and chairs amidst your plants is a great place for kids to relax or play. If you are starting a porch garden or indoor garden this applies to you too. Make sure you have a seating area near your plants. This will also make it easier to show off your child’s hard work. Some ideas for seating:

Hammock Nook11c769e28ffc5e341783eceef2d97ed9cute little bench...  Budget Backyard: 10 Ways to Use Cheap Concrete Cinder Blocks Outdoors

Dishfunctional Designs has some great ideas too!

Some things to consider:

Always keep your garden a safe area. Have a set place, preferably a locked place, to keep all sharp garden tools.

Use little (or preferably no) fertilizers or insecticides because they are toxic to people. Kids eating dirt isn’t really a big deal, kids eating chemicals can be.

I just want to add that I do not make any money per clicks or via referring companies so any pictures or links that I post are because I found them doing research and thought they would be beneficial to you 🙂

Posted in Family, Gardening

Why Start a Family Garden

Remember that Lima bean experiment you did in school with the wet paper towel? You got to watch over time the roots grow and the bean start to sprout into a plant. Other than that one tiny bean I don’t recall any sort of gardening or growing of food education when I was in school. There are some schools now that have programs for this but most do not. That is why I am doing a four part post on why you should garden with your children, what the advantages are, how to do it successfully, and some fun activities to incorporate.

Chances are you have at least one place that you remember as a kid, which was outside, that you liked to go to. Maybe it was a relative’s garden, or the woods behind your friend’s house, or even the local farmer’s market. I remember a friend of the family had an old plantation. In his backyard was a small bush lined maze with four pockets. Inside were things like a bird bath, or a fruit tree, or different kinds of plants, but walking through there just transported me to somewhere else when I was younger. You can make a small magical area for your kids right in your own backyard. Don’t stop reading if you think your yard is too small or you don’t have the area that would be needed. Even window plants, porch plants, indoor gardens, and other small areas can work.

                                                                                               (Results may vary, fairy not included in all gardens, not typical outcome)

With STEM education still on the rise learning environmental science can never start early enough. Getting firsthand experience with nature and watching things grow can give you child an educational boost in the science department. Also getting kids outside and working in a garden starting a young age will make them less likely to become couch potatoes. Childhood obesity is no joke and is still, even with all the great resources out there, a major problem. If your child starts to appreciate the outdoors and everything they have to offer you can probably avoid this problem. They will be getting physical exercise while gardening and learn a sense of responsibility. If you are growing fruits and vegetables then learning good nutrition and becoming interested in eating these natural foods will also create healthier children.

On top of everything you will bond. You will start something that you and your children do together that will become almost a tradition. Something they will remember and (hopefully) keep up into their teen years when they are the hardest to reach.

Another huge plus to gardening and growing foods with your children is improving their self-esteem. Some signs your child maybe experiencing low self-esteem can range from not trying new tasks, cheating at games or on tests, becoming withdrawn, being over sensitive of other’s feelings about them, and even trying to be too helpful at home. Gardening can instill responsibility and also give them a sense of pride. They can show off what they have done and say “I made that grow”.

Even though we do not want to cheat per say I found a great list of plants which are easier to grow. Seeing the end product and their plants be successful can be crucial to keeping their interest in gardening alive, especially in the beginning. There are also ideas for indoor and potted plants.

See list here. 

A good garden is something you can work on all year long, so don’t assume you can only use this as a way to bond in the spring and summer months. I will show you in the activities post how to make some of the garden excitement last throughout the year.

More on this to come…

Posted in Education, parenting

Rain, rain

Well it’s pouring buckets right now outside my window and it made me want to do a post about using rain as a learning experience. As you all know by now I have a young daughter, 16 months, and she has developed a love for mud and puddle jumping. Naturally the first time I took her walking and she decided to plop down in the middle of a puddle with one of her cuter outfits on I was a little hesitant. But the next time I was more prepared. I put her in some sweat pants and a t-shirt and let her run wild. She loves watching the ripples form as she runs and seeing how far the water will splash.

For kids grades Pre K-1st you can actually bring the rain inside. There’s an activity where you basically make your own mock rain cloud. You take a glass, or jar, and fill most of the way up (about ¾) with shaving cream. Let it sit for a minute. Then give your child a dropper and small bowl of blue food coloring. Let them drop the food coloring on top of the shaving and watch as the “rain” comes down into the glass. One site with directions on this activity can be found here.

Rain painting is a fun activity to do outside. You can use a lot of different materials for this. You can break up pieces of dry water color paints, you can use food coloring, or just plain old magic markers! Have your child color a pattern on a thick piece of paper. Then set it out in the light rain, you can go out there with it, and watch the rain start to transform the image. If it’s a tsunami outside this won’t work, just a heads up. Also, coloring a wet sidewalk with sidewalk chalk is better than a dry one. After the rain has stopped go outside and see how much brighter the colors are.

On this blog she wrote about taking her boys outside with some kitchen supplies (pots, pans, large spoons) and letting them use the rain water for pretend cooking. It is so easy but kind of genius.

play in the rain, how we learn

Puddles alone offer a plethora of fun activities. Make little paper boats and float them around the puddles. The book “The Tin Soldier” has a scene where the soldier is stuck on a paper boat and sent out to sea. Might be a good book to incorporate once you go back in and get dry. You can race things across puddles like ice cubes or curved leaves.

If you want to get your older kids and teens excited about the rain and away from the tv have them create vinyl designs for their rain boots. You can buy adhesive vinyl for your printers at office supply stores. Let them design words or pictures that they want to put on their boots. Then print and apply. Full details on how this one family did it can be found here.

It’s a fun creative way to get them doing something during the rainy weather. Bring outside activities in. Have an indoor picnic, make sheet tents. Use the weather to your advantage for ambiance and have a scary movie night. And there’s always water balloon fights. You’re going to be wet anyways.