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With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

visit-eric-carle

A few months ago we decided not to throw our kids a birthday party. I know, how horrible. Instead we took a week-long vacation in the Berkshires. I get that sounds all pretentious but I swear we are average folks. I smuggle my peanut butter jelly sandwiches into places just like every other mom. But we decided for the cost of a two hour party we could give our kids some really fun experiences they will always remember.

We visited a lot of great places and enjoyed trips to several museums where we found science, art and history exhibits. We even saw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit which made me and hubby feel a little old. Not only do we remember the first time we watched the original movie (which was playing on a continuous loop), but we remember playing a Nintendo game unit like the one now old enough to be on display as a “classic.”

I digress.

One of our favorite stops was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My kids loved making art in the art studio, reading and relaxing in the library and seeing art work from their favorite authors on display.

Here is what we enjoyed!

ecarle-collage

The art studio is a large sunlit room bursting with creativity. The resident artists select a craft project each day to share with visitors to the studio. All the materials and instruction are free. There are convenient drying wracks just outside the studio entrance where you can leave your creations while you tour the rest of the building. If you have kids of different ages and stages there are fun hands on play stations for your little ones to enjoy.

The galleries offer a look at original art work created by Eric Carle and other renowned picture book artists. Our favorite by far was the Brown Bear 50th Anniversary exhibit. We could see different versions of the way the animals were drawn. We immediately found the reading area which provided books and comfy brown bear cushions to cozy up to while reading. There are a variety of ways kids can interact with the art and games to help them talk about what they see. Each of the gallery rooms is minimal with plenty of room to navigate a stroller or wheel chair through. But no pictures are allowed for this exhibit.

ecarle-library-collage

The library was the big hit for my kids. Not only did they have access to kids’ books, but they were obsessed with the giant stuffed versions of the book characters they love. Brown Bear was carried around by just about every kid that came in. There are also lots of learning toys like latch puzzles, magnet puzzles and coloring pages. Hubby and I enjoyed getting to sit down and relax a bit while our kids had a safe place to roam. There are kids story times and other events taking place so be sure to check the schedule before you travel!

The Auditorium offers concerts and educational films. We arrived between movie viewings so we did not get to check out the auditorium. But you can check online to see what film or concert is being offered on the day you visit.

The Bookshop is filled with a lot of fun games, stuffed animals and unique gift ideas. We found some great post cards featuring art from our favorite Eric Carle books. I bought extras to frame when we return home.

ecarle-collage-2

Everything about this museum is designed with families in mind. You can request extra diapering supplies from the front desk, borrow a stroller or wheel chair and the coat room has individual lockers with a key to stash your diaper bag and extra stuff you don’t want to carry. There are activity kits to borrow to help your kids have a more interactive experience (I didn’t see those until we were on our way out). The museum admission price is also family friendly $22.50 covers a family of two adults and two kids.

Since our visit was in November it was a little too chilly to check out the art sprinkled along the walking trails and museum grounds. You can also find picnic tables outside to enjoy that homemade peanut butter sandwich right out in the open.  Or you can stay inside and enjoy a non-smuggled lunch right in The Carle Café where they offer free coffee and organic/natural vending machine fare.

The museum is located in Amherst, MA which is approximately 2 hours from where we are in Ulster County. This is a great place to take your young art lover and little reader. It is a perfect day trip for families and especially accommodating for every age group. Older kids can read and learn details about the art exhibits, create art and there is plenty to keep their younger siblings busy and engaged.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Photography 101

Like most kids today, my children don’t know what life is like without mommy snapping 50 million pictures of nearly every minute of their lives.  So it is only natural that they are curious about using my camera. A few summers ago, I picked up a small Fuji digital camera at a garage sale for around $50. It isn’t a great camera, but it is small and I didn’t invest too much money into it. So I handed it off to my kids and set them loose in the back yard. That might sound like a crazy idea, but part of photography is developing a natural instinct to capture a moment, or tell a story in one single frozen frame. That only happens with practice.

Some people have a natural spark or interest for photography and children are no exception. At first I sat back to watch what kinds of things my kids want to take pictures of. They seemed to want to take action shots of each other pretending to be animals in the wild, “now be a Cheetah and run at me!” Or they took close up shots of bugs and flowers. I tried to offer only a little guidance on how to hold the camera, using the strap for safety and how to use the zoom.

I have to say not every photo is worth a million bucks, but sometimes even a young kid can really nail a shot. It is simply amazing to see what they see through their lens.

lady bug 2

Photo Credit: My 5-year-old (No filter)

Here is how you can help your kids get comfortable behind the camera lens:

PHOTO GEAR

You don’t need a fancy camera, or invest money in a child specific camera they will outgrow. You can hand your child your cell phone, or a simple point and shoot camera. Starting with a digital camera makes the most sense as your child will take random crazy pictures of their toes and you can easily delete all of those. As your child matures in technique and style, learning to use an old school camera that requires film can be pretty cool.

camera gear

CAMERA PARTS

If you still have your camera manual, review it with your child. Teach them the parts of the camera from the lens, to the dial, to the flash. Once they learn the individual parts they can learn how they all contribute to creating a photo. Younger kids just need to know the parts they use the most like the toggle, the flash, the shutter release (button you press to take a photo), the lens and the on/off switch.

SCAVENGER HUNT

A scavenger hunt at any age is a great way for your child to look for photo ops. Create a scavenger hunt of about 10-20 things for your child to take a picture of. If you are out and about in the car they could snap pics of street signs, or mail boxes that they see out of the window. If you are hiking they could snap pics of leaves, sticks, something red, something blue, etc. Even a rainy day at home could produce some really fun photos.  For older children they could capture textures, colors, letters, signs, buildings and architecture, or even a self-portrait.

COMPOSITION

There are some rules or guidelines for creating a great photo. Show your child how to split the screen into three sections. When taking close up images help your child identify the foreground and background. These simple techniques will help them learn to fill the frame for a more interesting photo.

Camara gear 2

LIGHT

Besides having a great subject, lighting is probably the most important way to create a great photo. Lighting can change the mood of a photo and how well your camera captures details. Have your child take photos in different areas of the house to compare how light effects their images. Then step outside to take photos to see how differently the light changes an image.

PHOTO DISPLAY

You can print out a few photos to display as art in your home, or create a photo book your child can show off to friends and family. You will be amazed how even kids can create some beautiful, frame worthy images. It could also be fun to host a family art show where you all show off your favorite prints.

The number one rule to remember is to let it be fun. Taking over the shot or telling your kid how to make the picture better takes away from their own creativity. Allowing kids to play with a camera and take photos on their own helps them develop their own creative instincts behind the lens.

Have you let your child unleash their inner photographer yet?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Tucked away on a tiny lot which you probably pass every time you make your way through the village of Catskill, is the Catamount. This kooky little people’s museum is fun for all ages. It is quite unique and if you pass by too quickly you will miss it. It sits just above street level and blends right into the greenery and the remains of an old brick foundation. The Catamount is completely hand built and the brain child of local artist Matt Bua. You can read Matt’s blog to see conceptual sketches, ideas and events held at the museum.

Catamount

What makes this museum truly unique is that it is a “people’s museum.” All the exhibits inside the belly of the bobcat are donated by members of the community, strangers stopping by and local historical organizations. You will find maps, water color paintings, a carved wooden cat puppet, newspaper articles and much more. Even you are welcome to leave behind a little work of art, a map, or a note. Have fun signing the guest book and looking through to see how far people travel to visit.

Catamount 1

Catamount 2

Catamount 3

The bobcat was installed in 2010 and it was only supposed to stay for one year. But this heart warming feline has grown on the city of cats and folks here have let it stay. Would you believe I drove passed this spot for a year to schlep my kids to preschool and I never noticed the 15 foot cat?!

We found out about this amazing little place through the Follow That Book program at the Catskill Public Library. Librarians Miss Jennifer and Miss Crystal put together a wonderful tour and story time. My girls even enjoyed a game of ping pong using a wooden plank for a paddle. Why not? The entire Catamount is made out of recycled and found objects. Even the eyes are made from old plates and light bulbs. At night you can see them glowing. So it is only fitting we used planks of wood we foud lying around to create our paddles.

Between ping pong and story time we enjoyed a lovely picnic inside the bobcat. Then it was time to chat with the artist himself. He was really great with helping the kids build their own sculpture from found objects. He let the kids take total control of the project and simply guided them with, “where do you feel that piece belongs?” It was educational, interesting and different than your usual story time.

Tips if you plan to visit: Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the table inside the museum, or spread out a blanket on the grass nearby.

Bring plenty of bug spray. Even though it is a small lot it is quite lush with greenery.

Be sure to stop by Coney Island just up the street (walking distance) for ice cream and fun kiddie rides. Take your picture with the tiny Statue of Liberty.

Bring a camera!

Bring a small piece of history or your own hand crafted artwork to leave behind.

If you just can’t get enough cats in your visit, be sure to find parking on Main Street and take the walking tour of painted cats. You can find a map at the Greene County Arts Council, or just walk on your own. If you stop by the arts council check out the latest exhibits!

Check out the secret gardens planted between buildings on Main St.

Cool off at the library in the kids books section and pick up your calendar for Follow That Book.

Stop for lunch at Village Pizza or the Garden Gate Deli. Both places are kid friendly, affordable and really yummy!

For a really small village there sure is a lot of free art to see and fun things to find! The girls and I truly enjoyed the day. We can’t wait to make a trip back to leave behind our own piece of history.

 painted catsPainted cat 2painted cat 3

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

crafty collage

It is simply amazing the amount of pre-made craft kits available for kids today! I know I date myself when I say this, “in my day we had to make everything ourselves!” But it’s true!

Every holiday we made our own decorations; we recycled all our egg cartons and milk cartons into something new. We made our own candles by melting our broken crayons and we always made our crafts from scratch.

We live in a modern, prepackaged world and I am not going to lie, I often enjoy it! Sometimes taking out all the extra steps to a project really helps a mom actually enjoy making things with her kids. When the girls turned 5 back in the fall I asked for what else? Craft kits! They got so many crafty things to make I tucked a bunch away to bring out through the year.

Who knew you could buy a paint your own rock kit, right? Don’t you just find some rocks lying around outside to paint? Well, I am grateful to the person who bought this kit because it saved me a lot of rock hunting time and it was fun. The kit came with everything we need including tattoos!

rock kit

rock tattoo

How cute is this? You simply place the tattoo over the rock and run under water to get the outline to stick. Then you let it dry for a few minutes before painting. Let the kids go to town and make each little pet their own. I love that googly eyes come in the kit!

This is one of those projects that can take a few minutes or a whole hour. It depends on your kids skill and interest level. My kids didn’t want to color every individual section. A turtle should be green and in one swipe of the brush. Now might be a good time to point out that you should lower any expectations that your project will look anything like the picture on the box. Those pics are merely “suggestions” to have someone else make them if you want them to look perfect. 😉

rock box

This was a great activity to take outside on a sunny day. I’m a big fan of painting outside to keep the mess contained and away from my dining room table. We let the paint dry in the sun before decorating different parts of the yard with them.

rock tattoed

rock outdoor

You can find craft kits like this anywhere: Walmart, Target, Khol’s and Five Below to name a few places to look.

Do you craft from scratch, or buy a kit?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter.

Today I registered my twins for Kindergarten. It was easier than I thought, especially when I saw their excitement. I think I was mostly nervous about how they would respond. I imagined them kicking and screaming that they wouldn’t want to go. Thankfully, no protest and they charmed everyone with their smiles and enthusiasm. After all the paper work was signed and handed over we went home for a snack.

It was such a beautiful day outside that I couldn’t bear the thought of staying inside for the rest of the day. So, we ate our lunch on our deck and played on the swings. My daughters began creating letters with sticks and acorns and pieces of nature they found. We spelled out our names and it was really cool to see them get so excited about it. Great way to practice our spelling!

March 2015 001

Both girls have expressed an interest in learning to use my camera lately. I just have a simple point and shoot, nothing fancy. But, it’s enough to pique their interest. So, I pulled out my ancient digital ELF camera for them to use. It still uses the same SD card as my current camera, but if they dropped the old one I wasn’t going to freak out.

Surprisingly, my girls had interest in taking pics of tree bark and grass to compare the textures and colors. They both enjoyed taking their own pictures of the art work they created. They moved the sticks around to make different shapes and designs before snapping another pic. It was fun to watch them just enjoy this process.

March 2015 005

So, what does this have to do with registering for Kindergarten? Well, I started to remember all the fun we’ve had in the back yard the last five years. From the first time I put them in their baby swings, to watching them kick a ball and running through play dates, to today; where they are now emulating me and my love of taking pictures.

We have spent a lot of time in this back yard creating art and sharing it with all of you. It has been such a wonderful time for us. So, here is a look back at some of our outdoor art experiences.

Acorn Jewels:

Finished jewels. Display among other gems, or alone in a basket, on a tray.

Materials:

  • Acorn tops (must be dry, clean and free from cracks)
  • Markers
  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Gems, or stones
  • Tray

Start with a layer of rocks, or gems on your tray. These will secure acorn tops in place. Next, color the inside of the tops with a marker. It will look rough, but that’s OK! 

Color in the acorn caps with favorite color markers. Then pour Elmer’s school glue into each top and fill to the rim. Leave over night to dry and you won’t believe the effect!

Backyard Pirate Adventure:

Final maps

Connecting Art With Nature: Drawing outside.

Kids using pastels

Creating an Outdoor Mud Kitchen

Mud kitchen 003

The mud kitchen has to be our favorite. My kids have routed around in that box of dirt since they were able to walk and reach over the side. I wanted to make this a planter box to enjoy some colorful perennials, or maybe some veggies. But, they love to dig in the dirt.

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. I hope I’ve inspired you to get outside and get creative! Spring is almost here bringing plenty of days to make some warm sunny art.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

 

The Fall weather is finally upon us and I couldn’t be happier! The mild temperature makes it easier to enjoy the outdoors. Each day we find something new and fun to do after preschool- from lunch at the park, to play dates and even painting and drawing outside.

Painting pumpkins

A very generous neighbor invited us over to pick pumpkins from her garden. The girls were excited to see pumpkins small enough for their tiny hands to carry. Since it is too early to carve pumpkins we agree painting is the next best option. We also added some glitter and sequins because when you are four everything needs a sprinkle of fabulous!

We live in a rather quiet neighborhood so sitting in our back yard is peaceful. We can hear the birds chirping and the breeze rustling through the trees. Plus, the tall oaks lend themselves to a relaxing shady back drop. We used our non-toxic water soluble paints and I just let the kids go to town. I love to move our paint sessions outside because: 1. less mess inside my house and 2. painting outdoors feels more inspiring!

We were so inspired by our outdoor art session that the next day we gathered up our pastels and craypas (a crayon pastel mix) with our sketch books and hit the outdoors once more. This time we sat under our favorite mighty oak and just drew what we saw, or imagined. These are my favorite artsy moments- when the kids can create their own projects. I love creating projects for us to do together, but when the girls are inspired to completely create from their own imagination- well, nothing is better than that!

Kids using pastels

Using pastels outside

Getting our kids outside to draw or paint not  only allows them to enjoy each season, but it helps make a connection to nature and to find beauty in their own back yard.

If you are worried about the kids making a mess with paint, glitter, glue or other crafty materials take it outside! Use non-toxic, water soluble art supplies and let Mother Nature take care of the rest!

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