Brrr. It’s so cold here in NJ! Today is a great day for cozying up in front of a fire with a big stack of beautiful books. Today I am sharing what is in our Winter Book Basket.
These are just some of our winter favorites. Pop over to Instagram where we are working on a running list of everyone’s favorite books for winter.
I am so thrilled that many of you purchased your first set of Unit Blocks over the holidays for your little ones. They are certainly an investment, so I want to make sure that your children are actually using them!! Here is a simple guide to encouraging block play at home or in your classroom. Three simple steps. If you decide to follow them, let me know what works and what does not.
BLOCK PLAY SIMPLIFIED:
Edit Your Space
Organize The Materials
Hang Out With Your Blocks
EDIT YOUR SPACE:
Walk out of the room where your blocks live and then walk back in. What is the first thing you feel when you walk into the room? Is there a designated space for block play? How is that space defined? Is the flooring sturdy and even or is it a shag carpet?
My first bit of advice is to move some things around to make a designated area for building. There are two reasons for this. One, it shows your child that you value block play. By creating a physical space designed for building, you are helping your child to focus on creating without distraction from his or her thoughts. Think of it like this.. Do you have a designated space where you work? Maybe a desk or a table that holds your computer, important documents, and some reference books? It's easier than just plopping down in the middle of a chaotic, messy room and pulling out your computer, right? Same thing with building and playing.
This space does not have to be spacious, just make sure it's big enough for your child to move around and build without getting in her own way. If there are little siblings in the picture, it might help to put this space in an area that is protected from unsteady toddlers or speed crawlers. Maybe you could put a small block shelf in your child's bedroom or perhaps in an area of the house that his little sibling cannot access. (My sister put her block area in an enclosed pen to keep the little ones out and the builders building! Genius.).
ORGANIZE YOUR MATERIALS:
How do you store your blocks? Are they all dumped into a bin, stuffed behind the trucks and puzzles? You are not alone. Pull them out and sort them by shape. Your child can help you or you can grab a coffee and go it alone while listening to an awesome podcast. I'd go the podcast route, but that's me.
Once you have them sorted by shape, decide on a shelving system. My father-in-law built us a custom shelf to house our blocks, but then again, I am the crazy block-lady. You can use a shelf designed for blocks like this one, but these shelves are super pricey and any shelf system that you already have will do. Better yet, check out your local facebook SWAP sites. Get an IKEA hand me down. However you decide to obtain a shelf, just get one. Trust me, it makes all the difference in the world in how your child will use the blocks.
When you have your shelf in place, lay out the blocks according to shape and size. You can organize them in a manner that makes sense for you and your child. I try to make sure the larger, heavier blocks are on the bottom, but I'm not sure it really matters. The most important thing is that each shape is visually represented and can be easily accessed by the child.
HANG OUT WITH YOUR BLOCKS:
Alright! The hard part is over and all the really great learning and engagement is about to happen. Invite your child into the space that you have created. Show her how you've arranged the materials. Ask her what she might build? Will it be a house for stuffed animals or a parking garage for her race cars? Will she build flat or will her building be tall?
With reluctant builders, I might 'pre-build.' That means I might lay out a very simple structure and ask the child how he can add to it. Then follow his lead. He adds a rectangle, you do the same. Try to mirror their block building behavior. Once they get going, you can slowly step back and let them go. Remain interested, but do your own thing. You want to encourage independent play.
When I notice my children haven't been building a lot, I do one thing and it works EVERY TIME. I sit in our block area. I just sit there quietly and read on my phone or read a book to them. They usually want to go wherever I am. If I am in our block area, that's where they will be. If those blocks are organized and displayed in an inviting fashion, they can't resist them. And that, my friends, that's where the magic happens.
Here is some language you might hear me using to encourage block play.
Which shapes will you use first?
How can you use these squares to make a long, flat line? How can you use them to make a tall, standing up line?
Which blocks would make a sturdy base for your buiding?
How can you make a house for your lovey? Will it be tall or will it be down low? Will it have a roof or a door or will it be open?
Can you make a pattern using the blocks?
Which block do you like? What do you like about it? How can you use it in a building?
MORE TIPS TO ENCOURAGE BLOCK PLAY
Snap photos of your child's block building on your phone. Print them out and bind them together with a binder ring and a hole puncher.
Hang the photos around the block area to inspire your child.
Add a small basket of people and a small basket of cars to the block area. See how it changes the play.
Encourage your child to make signs for his or her buildings with a basket containing small pencil and papers. Just remind them not to write on the blocks.
I could write about the benefits of block play and how to encourage block play for hours and hours. Do you want to pick my brain? I want to know WHAT you all need help with when using blocks in your home or classroom. Leave me all your questions in the comments below and I will answer them.
Happy building, friends! As always, thank you for following along with me. If you are not already, join me on Instagram by clicking here.
Here’s how to shop this guide: Click the words below the image to be taken directly to the coordinating item. These are affiliate links, which means I get a small finder’s fee when you shop them. This costs you nothing. Thank you for supporting The Workspace for Children. xo, Lizzie
16. 110 Number Board
Here’s how to shop this guide: Click the words below the image to be taken directly to the coordinating item. These are affiliate links, which means I get a small finder’s fee when you shop them. This costs you nothing. Thank you for supporting The Workspace for Children. xo, Lizzie
Tweens can be hard to shop for. These are the actual items that my tweens will be receiving for the holidays this year. If you see them, don’t spill the beans!!
Here’s how to shop this guide: Click the words below the image to be taken directly to the coordinating item. These are affiliate links, which means I get a small finder’s fee when you shop them. This costs you nothing. Thank you for supporting The Workspace for Children. xo, Lizzi
I scoured the internet to find your kiddos cute, cozy, and functional wear for the holidays. Whether you are somewhere warm and beachy or cold and snowy, your little ones will be looking and feeling great! All you have to do is click the coordinating text below and it will take you to your product. These are affiliate links. That means I get a small kickback from the brands featured at no cost to you. It’s kind of like a finders fee! Thank you for supporting The Workspace for Children. xo, Lizzie
P.S. Only get this stuff if you want your kids to be twinning with mine…. My cart is full of everything on this list!
Are you avoiding taking your little one to the dentist? It can be a daunting experience when you and your child are unprepared. It can be a fun and healthy habit when you are prepared! Read on for tips on taking your kids to the dentist, and why we choose The Silverstrom Group in Livingston NJ.
TIP ONE: READ LOTS OF BOOKS ABOUT GOING TO THE DENTIST
Reading books is a great way to introduce new experiences to your child because it stimulates their curiosity about the subject, as well as offering them a chance to gain mastery over something new. There are so many good books about going to the dentist. Head over to your local library and check out a whole stack! (We especially love THIS Mister Roger’s book.)
TIP TWO: PLAY ‘DENTIST’ USING DOLLS
Set up a make-shift dentist office using your child’s toys. It doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to buy anything. Do you have a dollhouse? Maybe some blocks, magnetic tiles, or even a shoebox? Use your imagination! Show your child what happens at the dentist by practicing on her baby dolls or stuffed animals. Walk them through the experience using toys or dolls. These can be ANY dolls- stuffed animals, robots, even dinosaurs. Use whatever your child loves. You will help them feel ownership over the situation by “walking” the doll into the “waiting room” and pretending to wait. ‘Notice’ (out loud) the things you might see at the dentist office.
Here are some examples of language you might use:
Look! There is the receptionist behind the desk. Let’s go tell her your robot’s name and why she is here. Let’s help your robot introduce herself and write her name on the sign-in sheet.
What can your dolly do while her mama is filling out those grown-up papers? Should we give her a toy to play with?
Let’s take the dinosaur into the pretend office. Look at that chair and all those tools! I wonder what they might be for.
How is your dolly feeling? Is she excited about the chair that moves up and down, or maybe she’s feeling unsure. How can we comfort her?
Follow your child’s lead. Have the pretend dentist come in and count the doll’s teeth and pretend to brush them. You get the idea, right? It may feel a little silly, but your child will love it. This kind of play will help them process the new experience of going to the dentist.
TIP THREE: YOU PRETEND TO BE THE PATIENT
Have your child pretend to be the dentist and check your teeth. Let her count them and brush them while you lie on the couch. Then switch roles. Invite your child lie on the couch while you brush her teeth and count them. Then do the same thing with other household members or friends. Have fun with it, I bet your child will too!
We recently had all three children’s teeth cleaned at Dr. Gary Silverstrom’s office in Livingston, NJ.
The moment we walked in we were greeted by the cheerful staff, who assured me that I didn’t need to shush my children or keep them sitting still in the chairs (phew)! The kids were each given a swag-bag containing a stuffed animal and other goodies. As a mom of three, I often feel like a traveling circus when I enter a quiet office with my crew, but this office was ready for them.
After a few moments, we were escorted into the exam room, and guess what… Sloane’s favorite show was playing on the TV. She was floored. She literally couldn’t believe that going to the dentist meant cuddling with a new stuffy AND watching a show! Sloane is a generally slow-to-warm-up five-year-old, and I nearly melted in relief to see how comfortable she felt here. The hygienist was warm and friendly, and very tuned into each child’s personality. I was so impressed with the way the staff tempered their approach to the age and developmental stage of each of my three children.
They had Nate, my eleven year old, chatting about his favorite topics in no time. Ruby, who is nine, was feeling anxious about some yellowing on her front teeth that developed this summer. She was worried that she would be scolded for not brushing well. The exact opposite happened. The staff explained to her how that kind of marking develops and assured her it was through no fault of her own. Then they proceeded to polish it right off! Ruby was thrilled.
Dr. Gary Silverstrom and staff were so wonderful to work with, my kids are actually looking forward to their next dentist appointments! If you are local to NJ, I highly recommend you check them out for your entire family’s dentistry needs.
*This post was sponsored by The Silverstrom Group. All thought and opinions are my own. If you decide to check out The Silverstrom Group, mention The Workspace for Children and receive $100 new-patient courtesy.
Is your preschooler having a friend over after school today?
My four year old always wants to bring friends home with her after a morning of preschool. I love that she wants to be social. But, truth be told, she is not the most fun child right after school. She is usually ravenous and cranky. She’s been sharing all morning, and most likely, she will find turn-taking at home to be hard. Typically, our schedule involves lunch and quiettime, so a playdate can be taxing on her. But, Sloane loves spending time with friends, and I love that she is developing that part of herself.
Here is how I support Sloane in afterschool playdates:
I prep lunch BEFORE I do the school pick up. I set up a tray of finger foods that make lunch fast, filling, and energy-boosting . Today, I put out a long tray with a bowl of carrots, a bowl of pretzels, hummus for dipping, a bowl of apple slices and some cashew butter and honey mixed to make a dip for apples. Each child had their own yogurt cup and they grazed together on the snack tray.
I prep a simple, open-ended activity that includes a sensory component. Today, the children used a tinker tray of loose parts with rainbow playdough. I chose this activity because it was easy. I already had all of the necessary components at my fingertips . I simply pulled out an old tray and filled it with bits and bobs from our art cabinet and then I dug into my playdough stash. I keep playdough in these containers and it lasts forever!
When I am prepping an activity, I always try to have more than what I will need. Tired kiddos make impatient sharers, so I want to be sure to make play easy for them by having more than enough and limiting wait-time.
I try to incorporate a sensory component to the play because it can be comforting to a child who might be feeling unsure in our home environment. Playdough is attractive to ALMOST all four year olds. It’s familiar and can go in any direction the children take it.
Two More Lifesavers:
Keep them short! A playdate for a four year old doesn't need to be longer than a hour or so.
ALWAYS show your guest where the potty is before you do anything else.
Below you will find the supplies that I used in my tinker tray. They are affiliate links. Thank you for your support.
For the tinker tray you could use a recyled egg carton or this one.
The mirrors are from Ikea.
Click here for a link to my favorite playdough recipe.
How do you feel about preschool playdates? Love em' or hate em'? Do have any advice for me about preschool playdates? Talk to me in the comments below.
Thanks for reading along!
Do you want to WOW your children? Make this simple Halloween play dough kit, and give them hours of seasonal, imaginative play. Sloane and I made this kit for her Kindergarten classroom, but she couldn’t resist a quick play with it at home first.
We used our standby recipe, pictured here. Just mix it all up in a big old pot and cook over a low flame until it turns into play dough. We added orange coloring into the water. You could also add glitter or scent, but we like to keep things simple around here.
We love these lidded containers for various DIY art-kids.
The spooky skeleton, glitter balls, googly eyes and chenille stems were all purchased at our dollar store, but I have linked similar materials below.
This play dough lasts and lasts as long as you keep it sealed up tight in a plastic bag.
Let’s play, “BACK TO SCHOOL”.
DO you want to help your child to process their thoughts and emotions about school? Read on…
I think it’s finally safe to say we are all back in school…hopefully?
Big transition, amiright? My little one started all-day Kindergarten, and the second she gets home, she NEEDS to play. All I want to do is hear about her day, (like, every. single. detail.) but she needs space and time to reflect. One of the ways I am encouraging her to process all these new experiences is by setting up intentional toys. My girl takes the bus to school this year, so I was beyond excited to discover this gorgeous school bus from Teeny Weeny Toys. She plays “going to school” and “coming home” non-stop. My teacher-self GLOWS when I see this, because I KNOW that play is the best way for her to process all these big, new feelings and experiences.
Have you ever tried to recreate your child’s day with toys?
Below are some of our favorite materials for playing school. (Click the image to find out more.)
Inspired by one of my favorite accounts, @mamapapabubba, I made Sloane this simple salt tray to practice her writing. Want to know how? It took 2 seconds (well, not really, but it felt fast and easy😜)
1. I poured salt in 2 small bowls.
2. Added a squirt of neon watercolor into each and mixed it.
3. Let dry (I dried mine in a low oven because I’m impatient.) 4. Mix the colors together on a clear tray and put it on the light table 💫
It was pretty impossible to resist. All three kids were writing and designing (and fighting and elbowing for space around the tray). How will you inspire learning in your home or classroom today? .
Is your little one off to a full day of school? Will she be eating lunch at her new school? Here are some tips to make lunchtime predictable and successful for your child.
Use a simple lunch box. (We use the Omie Box. Se my IG for a full, detailed tour of the box) Cut everything up, unwrap it all.
Simple, easy to eat foods. Nothing complicated or over the top. Trust me, the teachers do not think you are a better mother if you pack the fanciest or healthiest lunch. Pack a nutritious lunch that your child can eat independently in a timely manner? Now you are impressing the teacher (not that you need to).
Pack foods you want your child to eat in any order THEY choose. If you will be upset that they ate dessert and not their apple slices, don’t pack dessert. Save it for when they get home. They are exercising their independence when they eat lunch at school. If you pack all foods that are acceptable to you, it is ok for them to chose the order in which they want to eat it.
Lower your expectations and expect them to come home hungry! School lunch is mostly just about being social and only a little bit about eating. Knowing that, pack a punch with the snack you plan for when they arrive home.
PRACTICE! Use your child’s lunch box at home. Show them what their lunch box with their name on it looks like. Have them practice opening and closing the latches and containers at home. Get them completely comfortable with it. No surprises on that first day. This is one unknown that you can get in front of.
Do you want more back to school lunch tips? Head over to Instagram and check out my IG stories!
What did you do at school today? Nothing.
I bet you’ve heard that one before! It can be maddening to wonder what our little ones are doing off in their own world, and when they finally arrive home, they tell us NOTHING! I remember when my oldest, now eleven, started nursery school and would barely answer me from the back seat of the car on our way home. I would badger him with questions all throughout lunch, and still, nothing. It was really hard. But guess what, he was tired! And children like to talk on their own terms. So do yourself a favor and wait until they've had a snack and relaxed a bit before bombarding them with questions about their day. Even better, wait for them to start to talk about the day before you even ask. Be patient.
Here are some simple prompts for supporting your child in communicating with you about their day.
- What color was the paint today? Did you choose to mix the colors together, or did you keep them separate?
- Who sat next to you on the rug today. Did you talk to them? Can your remember her name? I wonder who you will sit with tomorrow?
- At playtime, did you choose to play right away or did you watch the other children for a while first? I wonder if you climbed or colored with chalk?
- Did you work with blocks? I wonder what the choices will be for tomorrow?
Child-led Conversation Tips:
When you are speaking to your child and you want to gather more information, try not to be too leading. Reflect their words back at them and then wait. It goes a bit like this:
Mom: Sloane, I wonder what color paint your teacher put out today.
Mom: Red. The paint was red. (Pause and wait…and wait.)
Sloane. Yeah, it was red and Daniel spilled some and he cried when it got on his sneakers!
Mom: He cried when it spilled on his sneakers?
Sloane: Yes! He was crying and crying but then the teacher came and she showed everyone what to do if they spill the paint.
Mom: She showed everyone what to do?
Sloane: Yes!! You get a rag from the bucket….etc.
Mom: Sloane, what color was the paint today?
Mom: Red! What did you paint?
Sloane: A balloon.
Mom: What else did you do?
Do you see the difference between these two conversations? The first conversation is open ended and allows the child to think and collect thoughts about what she feels was important in her day.
In the second conversation, the mom leads the conversation and the questions only have one finite answer. There is little opportunity for the child to share the finer details about the day.
Have you tried speaking to your child using this reflective technique? It feels strange at first, but when you see how much more your child communicates with you, you will be astounded!
Please let me know if you decide to check it out!
Thanks for reading and for following along.
My husband and I recently had the opportunity to take a quick trip down to Mexico without the kids. It was blissful. My mom and my in-laws teamed up to conquer our crew and make sure everything ran smoothly in our absence. My kids are five, eight and ten, so leaving them in someone else's care is WAY easier than it was just a few years ago. But, as I packed them up, I remembered all of the tips and tricks I used when they were tots, and I am going to share them with you here.
TIP ONE: Create a simple picture calendar (see photo). Show your child exactly when you will leave, and when you will return. Even very small children can benefit from the comfort of knowing "what will happen next". A calendar of your whereabouts gives them that peace of mind.
TIP TWO: Leave a note to your child for each day that you are gone. I like to seal them each in individual envelopes to make it more fun. The note doesn't need to to be extravagant. Just a line or two telling them that you love them and that you are thinking of them. You can ask your caregiver to read them a new note at bedtime each night.
TIP THREE: Make a date to FaceTime or Skype (Put it on the calendar). This is especially helpful if you are going to be in a different time zone. Keep your phone call short, just a few minutes is ideal. Just enough to see your littles and let them see you. Exchange a few, "I love you's," and one or two exciting things. You know you child best, so if you think that they can't handle seeing you, skip this tip! If you think you will have the time, pack a quick bedtime story in your suitcase. You can read them their favorite book over FaceTime!
Traveling away from your children can be anxiety producing, and not without hiccups. But if you have the opportuity, get out of your comfort zone, and do it!! You will not regret it.
Last week, I traveled to Aruba to celebrate my mom’s seventieth birthday- with ten children (four months to ten years old) and nine adults! Sounds like a circus, right? It wasn’t. It was a blast, and I even managed to relax. Here are my top three tips for actually chilling out while on vacation with your children.
Be prepared. I did a ton of front-end loading before we left. It was a lot of effort and slightly stressful, but so worth it. I packed our favorite travel art supplies (linked below), snacks and toys in easily accessible pouches for the airplane, restaurants, and pool side. When were in the airport and the kids got antsy? Boom. Out came my Bumkins Travel pouch with Magnetic blocks. When my girls needed some quiet time and I didn’t want to leave the pool? Out came my pouch filled with watercolor paper and Ooly travel watercolor kit. Masterpieces were made and I didn’t need to turn away from my book and my cocktail. Have you ever taken ten children to a sit down meal? Try giving them each their own stickers, mini notebook and crayons. The adults actually had a chance to linger over the meal. All of the pre-trip prep was worth it.
Keep things as low key as possible. We stayed in our bathing suits from wake-up to pre-bedtime baths on the majority of nights. Rather than pull the kids away from the fun and wrangle everyone into dress-up clothes in time for a dinner reservation, we opted to chill poolside and eat dinner picnic style. We were still able to try the local cuisine by taking food out from the local eateries. We spread the kids out on towels and all ate dinner without worrying about noise that ten children inevitably create.
Remember your WHY. Why did you plan this trip in the first place? To relax, to tour? Shop? When we travel with our kids, my husband and I like to explore the local scenery, and learn about the culture of where we are. Partway through this trip, I started to feel guilty for spending all of our time in the resort. When we suggested an afternoon tour of the island, we were met with a lot of resistance from our typically very adventurous children. They wanted to stay at the beach with their cousins and PLAY. We followed their lead on this one, and I am so glad we did. They already understood WHY we went to Aruba. We went to celebrate Grammie’s 70th birthday and spend time with our family. We didn’t go to Aruba to adventure and explore. Once I remembered our why, I was able to settle back into by beach chair happily.
I've linked our favorite travel products below. Click the picture and it will take you to the link (aff).
Do you have any travel plans this summer? I would love to hear about them!
*This post is sponsored by Mixbook. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Are you guys running the end-of-the-school-year race like I am? There's so much to do! There are so many projects coming home as the teachers clean out your child's work to get ready for next year's students. The piles and piles of artwork. These piles are going to add to the piles we already have. My kids are creating every single second! So, let's talk about what you can do with all that art.
First, let me start by telling you that I value of the process of creating. The time spent engaging the senses, collaborating, and the joy in making are the most important part. Much of what we do is open-ended, meaning that there is not a finished product in mind, and that the children can take the materials in any direction they desire. The result is often stunning.
We create at home almost every day. I often set out after-school invitations to create, and our art cabinet and outdoor tinkerspace are always in use. Needless to say, my kids are making something all the time. We end up with a lot of large painted logs, sea glass sculptures and massive collaged murals. Many of you watch the children in action on my Instagram Stories and then I am flooded with messages asking how I keep all of this art.
The secret to keeping the art without the mess is documenting it all in a simple photobook. My children know how much value there is in the process of creating. We talk about it all the time. But, obviously, if they work hard on something, and are happy with the end result, they might want to keep it. So, sometimes we hang a painting on the wall or place a sculpture on a shelf. But way more often than not, we photograph their work and document in a Mixbook. It’s win-win. They get to keep beautiful images of their work, and I get a clutter-fee kitchen!
Okay, okay, I know what you are going to say. Your child is a pack-rat and cannot possibly part with her creations. I hear this from a ton of people. You are not alone. Here are some tips that might help:
1. Involve your children in the process. My middle daughter loves to photograph her work. She borrows my phone and snaps a few photos. Right now, she is intrigued with close-up shots of her creations. Let them help you with photographing their work. This will show them that you value their effort and what they have created.
2. Keep a album on your phone that is dedicated to documenting the children’s art work. After you or your child has snapped a few photos, choose the one you (or they) like best and add it to the album. Delete the rest right away. Your future self will thank you.
3. Show your child physical work that you have saved. Odds are, the ends are bent, and torn. Collages are missing their most glittery accouterments, and that cardboard fort they worked so hard to build is caved in a corner of the playroom. Show them how documenting their work using photo books preserves their hard work and beautiful creations.
4. Keep it simple. The designers at Mixbook did the hard part so that you don’t have to. You can literally drag and drop your photos into the beautifully designed, pre-made templates. Still feeling flustered or overwhelmed? Because I knew that I would be recommending Mixbook to you, I checked out their “Chat” button and asked for support. I was impressed. A real human talked me through my “issue” with almost no wait time. He communicated clearly and was just so helpful! I’m usually so irritable after disconnecting with a “chat” button, but not this time.
5. Look at your beautiful book of art often with your child. Talk about the how and why behind their creations. These photo books give you the opportunity to reflect on your child’s hard work and imagination long after all of the glitter has been cleaned up.
6. When your child is stuck or bored, suggest that they look back at their past works for inspiration. One of my favorite things to hear is, “Remember when we made that? It was so cool!”. Often, they run off to make it again and take it in a whole new direction.
Our family treasures our books of the children's work. I love looking back and seeing the development of their skills over time. Making a photo book clears up the clutter, while still treasuring your child's most precious artwork.
Mix book is giving you all $25 off your first order with the code WORKSPACE (expires 7/2/2018). I would love to see some images you include in your Mixbook. Tag me on Instagram for a chance to be featured in my Instagram Stories!
Head over to Mixbook to start your book now. Good luck!
Do you want a simple, easy way to WOW your kids? This face painting activity is so much fun for an outdoor playdate or even a birthday party. It is so simple to throw together with a few supermarket ingredients that you probably already have on hand.
We used cornstarch, lotion, and diaper cream (zinc oxide). Mix it up until you get a thick, smooth consistency and add your food coloring! We used gel colors, but any coloring will do.
I loved that the white paste gave a beautiful pastel hue to the paint. I put our body paint in small containers with q-tips for application. Have some baby wipes nearby to wipe little hands. Put out acrylic mirrors (ours are from IKEA) and you are good to go for an afternoon of fun!
Have you tried this activity before? Do you plan to? Head over to Instagram and let me know if you have any questions or comments about this homemade body paint.
My children and I try to spend as much time in the forest as we can. Winter is actually my favorite time to explore (no bugs), but I know most people find the Spring the ideal time for a forest romp. I'm not an experienced hiker. To be honest, I am not even really the outdoorsy-type. But, I love to get my kids playing outside in nature. We are very lucky to live within minutes of the South Mountain Reservation, with access to deep, dense woods and beautiful trails. My children have a favorite spot in the woods and we almost always go there. A few times I have insisted that we try a new spot or hike a new path, but it never works out as well as when I follow their lead, and take them to their favorite spot.
Here's what I've learned over the past few years of regular trips in to the forest with my own kids:
- Follow your children's lead, return to familiar spots. I like the idea that I have the lay of the land. It gives me more confidence to allow the children to roam. (I'm always a tiny bit nervous when we are in an area that I am unfamiliar with and they run off to play.) Remember, nature is always reworking the backdrop so you don't have to. New trees have fallen, the river has frozen or it is bone-dry. There are new treasures to discover depending on the weather, so returning to the same spot never gets old.
- Set up camp, even if you don't plan to stay long. I bring a sturdy blanket or mat. The children know where to find me and where to come to rest or snack. I usually lay out a few pencils and clipboards for writing and drawing, and of course, snacks and water. Depending on her mood, my youngest will sit with me or play very nearby where she can see me. Sometimes she brings her little toy mice and sets them up to play in the leaves and sticks.
- Insist on proper gear. There is nothing worse than getting all set up, and your kid gets wet or muddied and is crying to go home. Water pants and proper footwear (although in the summer my crew is almost always barefoot) will keep them warm, dry, and protect them from ticks. If you know us, you know that all three of my kids have long hair, and a lot of it. I insist on hair being tied back, and I prefer they wear a hat or head scarf.
- I pack a backpack full of supplies... and the children to carry it. They are just as responsible for our gear as I am. I refuse to be their sherpa. It makes me cranky and you know how that goes. When mom is not feeling it, everyone's mood heads south. The children take turns with the backpack and I pitch in as well.
- Know your limits. Know your children's limits. As moms, we are pretty good at gauging the amount of time we have left until one or all of the kids melt. Do not push that limit in the woods. Remember, you still have to hike out. Pack up camp on a high note, that will make the trek back to the car much more pleasant.
- Have rules. Stick to them. When we are heading in, I always remind the kids that they absolutely MUST listen to me on the FIRST ASK and come the FIRST time I call them. I want to allow them some freedom, but it is still my most important job to keep them safe. The forest is wonderful, but not without risk. I need to know that if I see an off-leash dog or any other questionable situation, that my kids will listen to me without question. We talk about this every single time we are heading into the woods and there are no opportunities for second chances here. If they do not comply, we leave. Immediately. That is the natural consequence. It is a huge disappointment, but they must know that I will follow through.
- Check for ticks. When we arrive back at our car, the kids are usually spent. I do a quick tick check before they get in. And a more thorough one when we return home.
Do you like to adventure into the forest with your kids? Do you have advice for us? Please share in the comments below.