Thursday, April 28, 2011

Painting Fun

Q: Our preschool teachers would like to allow children to explore letter writing with various textures. The children commented that they like using shaving cream at home. We are not able to use this at our center. Do you have any ideas?

A: Here is a good alternative to shaving cream. You can keep the clear, uncolored thickener in the refrigerator for quite awhile. It also makes a good paint extender. I pulled the recipe from the following website: There were over 100 recipes on the site. Many did contain soap, but others were cooking ingredients. Some great textures were offered.

Cooked Home Made Finger Paint
· 4 cups cold water
· 6 teaspoons of cornstarch

Mix a small amount of cold water with cornstarch until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the water. Cook the mixture over low heat until it is clear and the consistency of pudding. Add tempera for color.

This would be a lot of fun to use on an outdoor art easel! In fact, I just may round up my TAC pals right now to make some paint and then make some art.

Monday, April 25, 2011

DIY Rain Barrel

April showers bring May flowers, it’s true, and those showers can be pretty fantastic – and not just for your tulips and daffodils! Why not create a rain barrel to store that water? There are a lot of great reasons to create a rain barrel, including water conservation and saving money.

Our friends at have a lot of ideas about this very topic! Here are some reasons to create a rain barrel:

· Water conservation
o When you conserve water, you are not just helping yourself, you are helping your community and the planet.
· Saving money
o The primary advantage to using rain water over municipal water is that you are saving water and money.
o You can use the water you collect to take care of your garden, lawn and outdoor cleaning tasks.
o This means that even when your community is on a water restriction you can still water plants and your lawn because you are not using public water

Including a rain barrel in your outdoor classroom is a wonderful lesson for your children. You will be setting the examples of conservation in more ways than one, and you can use the water you collect for the plants in your garden! What’s not to like about that?

Check out the following sites for tips and instructions for creating your own rain barrel:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Composting (Part 2 of 2)

On Monday we discussed the fantastic benefits of a compost pile in your outdoor classroom. Today, we’re doing to talk about how to create that compost pile!

These tips came from the BBC article “Make Your Own Compost.”

You will need:
· a compost bin with a lid
· old plant waste
· kitchen waste
· soil

1. Help your children to set up the compost bin or site, ensuring the bin is placed on earth and not concrete.

2. Fill the bin with dead leaves, green waste from the garden, old plants you've pulled out, fruit and vegetable peelings from the kitchen - even eggshells!

3. Next, sprinkle in some soil.

4. Cover the bin with an old piece of carpet or a doormat to keep the heat in and leave it alone until you have some more waste to put inside.

5. After three or four months remove the cover and help your child to dig the compost over. Leave it to rot down further.

6. When the bottom of the compost is brown and crumbly, it is ready. You and your children can dig it into the garden - your plants will be really pleased!

Tips and advice
· This is a joint project for adults and children together. You will need to provide the physical manpower for a lot of it, but the children will often provide the motivation to keep filling up the bin.

· When preparing a meal, why not ask your children to help you sort out which pieces they can put in their compost bin? Vegetable and fruit peelings are great. Don't put in cooked food or meat, as it may attract rodents.

Happy composting from The Adventurous Child!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Composting (Part 1 of 2)

This spring The Adventurous Child has been talking about seasonal activites to enjoy with your children. Some of our previous suggestions have included gardening and natural playscapes. Today we are going to talk about composting!
Okay maybe composting isn’t very glamorous – but it IS the foundation for a nutrient-rich garden, which makes it a big deal. Karen Miller, author of The Outside Play and Learning Book, explains: “For plants to grow well, the soil needs to be loose to a depth of at least twelve inches and rich in nutrients. It is probable that your playground soil will need enriching. There are many ways to do this. The children could be involved in breaking up the soil with a hoe or shovel, as well as mixing in compost…” (p. 238).
By creating a compost pile, you are teaching your children several great lessons. Blogger Kaitlyn Wessels explicates some of those lessons:
Money in the Bank: “From a financial perspective, it reduces the cost of purchasing topsoil and fertilizer for your plants. Why buy a big bag of dirt when you can make it yourself? Chances are, your composted material will be a lot richer and healthier than anything you buy in a store because you know exactly what's going into it.”
Green is Green: “From an environmental perspective, you will significantly reduce your household waste. Between our recycling bin and our composting container, [my husband] and I have put out only one bag of trash for the weekly collection, compared to two and even three bags a week.”

Healthy Living: “Your composting bin will even encourage you to eat healthier. I don't know what it is, but there is something very rewarding about filling up our compost bin every week. To do that, I have to buy (and consume) more fresh fruits and veggies, which is ultimately better for my health and well-being anyway!”
On Thursday, we’ll talk about how to start up your compost pile. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Natural Playscapes

Last month I talked about Nature Deficit Disorder and its potential harm toward children’s wellbeing. Awareness of this problem, thanks in part to Richard Louv, has led to the increased popularity of natural playscapes. A natural playscape incorporates nature into its outdoor learning environment.

Cheryl Charles, CEO and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, commented: “These play areas are appealing to children and their families. Different kinds of flowers, bushes and plantings add a sense of beauty and place and are very stimulating for kids’ intellectual, emotional, social and physical development.” Moreover, “Academic achievement is enhanced when kids get nature-based settings and there’s an improvement in standardized test scores if outdoor learning is part of a school’s curriculum” (italics mine).

Kaija Clark (2010), author of “Is Nature the Next Wave in Playground Accessibility?” added to Charles’ beliefs, stating “In fact, time outside has been shown to help increase cognitive ability, something that might help multiplication-weary children. Brief stints to stretch their legs on a nature walk ease tension and enable kids to regain focus for more intensive learning when they return to the classroom” (italics mine).

Clearly natural playscapes are here to stay. If you’d like to learn more about designing one for your outdoor classroom, just click here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Springtime Fun: The Adventurous Child Digs In

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

As we talked about last time, gardening with kids is totally do-able. It’s just a matter of education, preparation, and just a little patience.

There are a lot of options when it comes to gardening. A mini garden allows children to access all sides of the garden to plant seeds, pull weeds and water the plants without actually stepping into the garden. (Great for staying neat.)

They can dig, plant, nurture and harvest a variety of plants. This is the perfect size for planting some flowers by the front door; or planting vegetables that the children can grow and eat for a healthy snack.

Speaking of “yum,” why not consider adding a pizza garden to your facility? Make a delicious pizza to share by growing pizza herbs, onions and tomatoes.

Have you ever wondered about the underground world of roots, worms and insects? Jump into that world with a root garden! Children can learn about the growth process as the plant seeds, water, weed and harvest the crops. Periodically, children can open the Observation Doors and study the underground world of the root garden.

Check out The Adventurous Child to learn more about our gardens!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Springtime Fun: Gardening

Home gardens are making a comeback in the United States. Everyone from the First Lady to moms, dads, and teachers on the home front are planting flowers, vegetables, and herbs. There are a lot of reasons for this. Partly, it’s a great lesson in economics and saving money by growing your own food. Gardening is also full of teachable moments about healthy eating. Finally, it’s just plain fun. Victory gardens were all the rage during World War II. This was due to the shortage of public food supply, as well as an effort to boost public morale. Today, “victory” gardens (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) are a fantastic way to teach children how to be “green,” economical, and nature-oriented. By introducing children to the wonderful world of gardening and to the intricacies of nature, you will open their worlds to new ideas and experiences. Is there a greater gift?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Springtime Fun

Wow! Is winter really over? In Ohio, we’re starting to see the trees bud and crocuses are rising out of the ground. Spring is just around the corner!

Springtime is a wonderful time to take your children outdoors to experience nature and its verdant transformation. In the next few weeks, The Adventurous Child is excited to share the following: - Gardening tips - How to get started composting - Rain barrel fun - What to do on a springtime hike Join us Thursday for information about victory gardens and going green!

Nature Deficit Disorder

As the days get longer and warmer, the outdoors begins to look inviting. Perhaps you have already begun dreaming of frequent outdoor class time, nature walks, and stomping in puddles with your children. If you have, you may belong to a select group of people. Richard Louv (2008) coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder – the concept that children are spending less time outdoors, to the detriment of their intellectual, emotional, and physical health. Swati Popat (“There’s Nature in Our Nature!” January/February 2010) stated about NDD: “This disconnect from nature is unknowingly contributing to hypertension, hyperactivity, and attention problems. We need the calming, cooling connection with nature.” Have you noticed any trends in your own school or day care center? When you take your children outside, how do you encourage them to interact with nature?