Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

Making A Playful Learning Space

September 18th, 2011 by zoe 9 Comments

With growing children in a smallish house I have to stay on top of how we play. I am constantly rethinking our space and shifting things around for the children’s ever-changing growth and development.
Recently I became inspired by the realization the my boys don’t so much play with “toys” but instead prefer to “work” at tasks. It made me think about all the learning they do at home and how much better they play when their “tools” are set up properly. Clean, forward facing presentation makes all the difference.

I have been super inspired by how creating a this desk has totally changed the way I work. I simply love to sit there and be productive, I feel clear and motivated by having a well designed space. After reading this new book Playful Learning by Mariah Bruehl I hoped to create a learning space  for the children that would be similarly inspiring.  Her website is chock full of ideas!  Excited, I set out to commandeer this corner of the living room to be our new Playful Learning Space.

First I painted the walls in the entire living room a hue of gray that I “mostly” like.  A story that involved MANY paint samples and those late night “it’s half painted but I’m not sure I like it” doubts. But that is a story for another day!

We are still working out the types of learning toys we will welcome into our new space but currently there is

  • A basket for nature watching, binoculars,magnifying lenses bug boxes and nature guide books.
  • A manual typewriter, bought at a tag sale for $5,  for finding letters and making words come together.
  • Sketch paper and an array of colored pencils, crayons and pastels displayed at their level for self inspired art projects.
  • A toy shelf that partitions our learning space -  for holding the favorite toys of the moment.
  • A nature table bowl, made with the guidance of my friend Kristin, using a technique similar to this.
  • A globe for — seeing the world.
  • Shelves for storing our science books.
  • Math and sorting games printed and found here.
  • A tiny vase for holding the feathers we collect on our nature walks.
  • A magnetic strip with metal clips for hanging our freshly composed projects.
  • Lots of handmade  journals for them to fill with their thoughts and stories.

I moved most of the more commercial toys to the children’s room and Waldorf -ed out this downstairs space. It makes a HUGE difference in the nature of the games invented. Because even though batman is a “good guy” he still seems to start a lot of trouble at our house!

All in all, these changes have shifted the energy in the room and the way the boys play together. They seem to find a project and get started at it all by themselves.

They seem more focused, peaceful, engaged and …..  they clean up all by themselves!!!!

We simply LOVE it.


A Life in the Circus

September 16th, 2011 by zoe No Comments

I am so very busy in this fast and furious season of Fall. In an effort to ward off complete panic I keep taking deep breaths and reminding myself to focus, reminding myself that it WILL all get done. And yes – things are slowly being crossed off lists, and yes – the studio sewing work IS getting stitched together.

Leather wallets, hand stitched T-shirt baby wear, polka dot dolls and baby bird bean bags.

With all the hurry and furry of Fall some  days it feels as though I am directing a three ring circus!

To print your own Color By Number Circus Sheet click the photo, save to a file and print.

Mushroom Fun House

September 9th, 2011 by zoe 2 Comments

Here in the Northeast we have had a sea of rain fall on us, it just keeps pouring and pouring.  With all this rain the boys and I had a day of mushroom play. We put on our rain jackets and went on a Rain Hunt through the forest. I got the idea of collecting and photographing the mushroom varieties from our young neighbor Neice. The photographs taken of her mushrooms were crazy beautiful!! I did all the collecting with gloves on. In all honestly I was a little scared of some Edwardian fate be falling me, a sad tale of woe.  “Alas, she mistakenly plucked the dreaded Mushroom of Death, her children miss her so!”

I would love to learn more about them and hope to be able to use the photos to identify them once we borrow some field guides from the library.

We were so inspired by our real mushrooms we decided to make this mushroom house out of cardboard.

All of our little animal figures are sliding down the chimney and peeking out the doors of this giant mushroom house. Now, I best be getting to work cleaning the pond out of my basement or we will have a mushroom (not so fun!) house of our own!!!!

Oh, one more thing -

I am kinda new to this blog world and sometimes I am uncertain when to toot my own horn. In the last few months I have had some really cool sites feature some of my work – it’s always fun to have new visitors and this kind of recognition from established sites re-inspires me to carry on.

You can find some of my projects featured at

One Pretty Thing

The Crafty Crow



Dyeing a Rainbow of Play Scarves

September 7th, 2011 by zoe 5 Comments

Whenever the kids ask me what my favorite color is I say RAINBOW. One of my boys loves hot pink best of all, this makes me happy beyond all belief. I wonder when he will be hustled into believing colors belong to different genders? A few weeks ago he approached an older woman at the lake – “Excuse me, I really like your dress because, you know, hot pink is my favorite color!” Big smile.

I imagine before long hot pink will not be a favorite, but for now, I happily ride this wave of color neutrality.  Children always seem to make color allegiances with other kids, they bond through color, it’s one of those cute ways in which kids make friends …..” Hey I like your green bike dude, did you know, green is my favorite color?”

I am pretty happy to have brought some new rainbows into our lives lately. A good friend and I managed to have a day of nature hikes, and rainbow creativity with a whole passel of kids — we were quite proud of ourselves and the awesome results.

We ordered blank silk scarves through Dharma Trading Co. and looked all over for tutorials on how to Kool-aide dye them. Some the sites we found helpful can be found

here and here .

But mostly after looking around we realized you couldn’t really go wrong!

We dumped our scarves in hot, hot water and threw in a few cups of vinegar. We took medium-sized bowls with a bit of hot water and added three to four packets of Kool-Aide to each one and let it dissolve. Next we dropped a scarf into the dye and stirred a bit watching it quickly soak up the dye. So quick and easy and fun!

The Saffron Yellow and Sky Blue were done using a dozen drops of  McCormick Food Coloring. The colors came out less marbled and a bit more vibrant. I am loving that!

After our scarves were washed in cold water and dried we used them to put on a weather performance. There was thunder, lightning, sunshine, floods and in the end a beautiful rainbow!

Kool-aide flavors from left to right -

Cherry, Orange, Yellow (food dye), Pink Lemonade, Grape and Blue (food dye).

After so much rain these last few weeks I am ready for the rainbow!





A Game of Silly Stories

September 3rd, 2011 by zoe No Comments

My boys are 4 (and a half) now and their play has changed dramatically. They now live in that grand imaginary phase where creativity and pretend play are king. It’s fascinating to hear them talk to one another while they verbally cooperate and map out the rules of stories and games. Everything is bright and wildly magic – I simply love this age. Sometimes they get so caught up in what is imagined they have trouble telling a story that isn’t half fabricated by their wishes and dreams.

I started to play a game with them to make light of this. I  try to acknowledge that the story isn’t entirely TRUE while still finding a place for it in our day without crushing the momentum of their great visions of how the world COULD be. I simply begin telling a story that is even more wild and unlikely.

For instance I might say  – “Oh yeah, well last week while I was gardening on the moon I saw …..”

Then I invite whomever else is present to take a turn telling a wild tale. We all volley back and forth telling larger and larger tales. We also laugh and laugh – the kids just love it.

Four is the age of silly – silly rules and silly reigns and silly really gets things done! When in doubt get silly and you will see —–

grumpy, loud and mad get behavior that is mostly bad but silly oddly enough gets things done.


“Don’t you dare put your shoes on little boys because there is a family of bears living in there”

“Ahhhhh… don’t do it!”

“Oh dear, those poor bears will have to find a new home!”

“You are awfully fast at getting your shoes on these days!”

Now you too must imagine.

Imagine that this post has a lovely painting of a family of bears living in a shoe, not because I cant figure out how to use my new computer but because a family of bears has borrowed it for the weekend and …  imagination is good for us ALL!


Bringing Nature Indoors

September 2nd, 2011 by zoe 4 Comments

The monarch caterpillars seem a bit scarce this year. We have fields of milkweed but after several hunts have only managed to find three caterpillar. I am hoping they didn’t get washed away in all the rain from Irene.

We have a new terrarium set up for watching metamorphosis and are hoping for a wonderful show. Today we shall find some good sticks and set everything up for our new friends.

Did you know each summer it takes four life cycles of Monarch butterflies to complete migration to Mexico? Not all Monarchs migrate but those that do lay eggs along their route. The average life span of the first three eggs is only 2-6 weeks but the butterflies who hatch in Sept-October and fly down to Mexico live for 6-8 months. For some reason I always find long life spans in delicate creatures fascinating! For instance the fact that worms can live up to 4-8 years blows my mind!

Another really cool thing to learn about is epic migrations.

We really like this book  Bird, Butterfly, Eel by James Prosek. The artwork is fabulous and the story makes migration almost mystical.


Here is a little Butterfly Poem coloring Sheet we made to share. I colored mine too because – I just love to color!

To get your own click the sheet, save to file and print. To get the best size image allow your printer to scale to best fit the page.