The first thing my East Coast friends notice about my Alaskan born kids is that they love being outdoors, doesn’t matter if it’s snowing or raining. Ethan specializes in sinking his feet into the nastiest mud puddle he can find. Kyra collects rocks, sticks, sometimes logs. The size and weight don’t bother her at all. Both of them seem to have a homing device for the deepest snowdrift or steepest berm, anything really that could trap, trip, or bruise them.
As long as they are dressed in the proper gear, I encourage their curiosity about nature. And since they are also descendants of a long line of artists on my mother’s side, I’m always looking for outdoor art projects that offer a teachable moment in their favorite playground.
Back in December, the kids and I made ice ornaments in memory of my Grandmother and mother who passed away (see my blog post “Holiday Cuing.” //kidsthesedays.org/content/love-emotion-holiday-cuing). We hung them up on our porch rail, watched them sparkle in the setting sun for about five minutes before we had to leave for the airport. When we returned two weeks later, before we even made it up the driveway, Kyra said, “Oh no, somebody took our ice ornaments.”
The ribbons that held the ornaments in place were still intact. We jumped out of the car and stepped on a scattering of rocks, twigs, magnetic letters, toys, and other items the kids had froze in the ornaments.
Before tears could spill down their cheeks, I explained to them that the ice ornaments simply melted. While we were out of town, the temperatures must have risen high enough to melt the ornaments. The kids asked a lot of questions and I got a chance to get them interested in melting points, solid and liquid states.
With spring on its way, we spent a sunny Saturday making cheerio pipe cleaner bird feeders. Mainly, I wanted Ethan to work on his eye hand coordination, while Kyra role-played as teacher. They both finished two feeders each and then ran out onto our deck to tie them on the same ribbons we used for the ice ornaments.
Day after day, they studied the feeders and worried about why the birds weren’t hungry. Then one afternoon when Ethan patrolled the living room in his Cozy Coupe while I wrote in my study, he yelled, “Bird, Bird, Bird!”
Running down the hall to the living room, I heard Ethan say, “He’s eating my cheerios!”
“Yeah, it worked!” I said, cheering for Ethan, until I peered out the window and saw a huge squirrel freeze with guilt on his way down the porch railing, pipe cleaner and cheerios hanging out of his mouth.
That day, when Dad came home from work, Ethan, who had never seen a squirrel before it ate his cheerios, kept pointing at birds in the sky and saying, “That’s a bird, not a squirrel!”
I’m looking forward to trying out some new outdoor art projects. Here are two, courtesy of Disney’s FamilyFun Spring Crafts :
Painting in the Rain
Materials: Cardstock and Washable markers.
- Draw on card stock with washable markers, then place the papers outdoors in the rain until the colors have run.
- Bring the paintings back inside and put them on a flat surface to dry.
Materials: Fresh flowers and leaves, unbleached muslin cloth, paper bags, hammer.
- Cover a smooth, hard surface with paper bags and spread out the fabric. Arrange a leaf and flower design on one half of the fabric, then fold the other half over the design.
- Feel where the outlines of the leaves or flowers lie. Using a hammer, pound on top of the leaves or flowers, being sure to go all the way to the edges. When the color has bled through the fabric, open it up and scrape off the plant residue. You’ll have a mirror image of the leaves and flowers.