12 amazing autumn nature crafts

Wow, you guys love a good nature exchange! Over 100 enthusiastic participants signed to trade natural finds with a partner, from school groups to families to individuals! I sent out emails last week assigning everyone an exchange pal. (If you think you signed up and haven’t received a message from me assigning you a partner, please send me an email at rainydayriotblog@gmail.com and let me know.)

So for all those who love to collect and receive Mother Nature’s goodies, I put together this little round-up of different ways to explore and create with natural items.  Whether you’re gathering on your own or trading with a partner in the nature exchange, these are some great ways to have the fullest experience with your natural finds! Just a reminder, if you are using items you’ve received in the nature exchange, please keep your exploration indoors so you don’t accidentally introduce invasive species into your environment.

When we come home with treasures from a nature walk, I usually begin by just setting them out for open exploration. This can be something as simple as a large platter or tray to spread the items out on, or you can make a whole nature table with them, like this wonderful one from The Imagination Tree.

After examining and enjoying the items, sometimes they find their way to a bowl on the coffee table or a centerpiece. But this indoor land art project from Smiling Like Sunshine looks like more fun:

Another way to enjoy natural items is to create a small world box with them. Any semi-enclosed space can work for this kind of project. In this post on Create with your Hands, our old favorite, the cardboard box, does the trick. With natural items combined with small animal figures or dolls, kids can make a whole little world of their own.

After plenty of time to enjoy the sensory, and tactile experience of nature finds, you can make them into something to decorate your space. I wish I could find the original source for these simple but beautiful hanging decorations. It looks like some twine and a large stick are all you need to make them – and maybe a dab of hot glue here and there for the more slippery-shaped objects.

Here’s another way of making a hanging decoration out of nature stuff – this adorable mobile from Red Ted Art. Bonus: this one actually has instructions!

For the slightly more ambitious, here’s a really cool wreath project from Fun at Home with Kids, with, once again, cardboard and nature things as the main materials.

And it wouldn’t be a 2010s craft round-up without a garland, would it? I’ve been admiring this one on pinterest for a while, but it turns out it’s another one of those untraceable images seems to exists nowhere but pinterest and a bunch of Eastern European home decor image collection blogs. Still, this one looks super easy to create too, just yarn and your favorite nature and seasonal items.

Another way to create with natural items is to paint them. Colorful acorns are another ubiquitous pinterest thing, but these ones from Home Stories A to Z are just so cute, and you could do the same idea with many other nuts, seeds, or stones.

I also love these acorn cap jewels from Kiwi Crate. So pretty, and easy enough for kids to do it all themselves, with nothing more than markers, white glue, and playdough.

It’s also fun to make something entirely else out of natural items. I love Krokotak’s little snails made from buckeyes (as we call them in the midwest).

And if you have some wool roving and wooden beads, you can make these cute little pinecone fairies from a tutorial on Willodel.

Or these squee-worthy milkweed pod babies from Kleas, another terrific project that even a preschooler can make.

And these are just a starting point – the stuff we gathered last fall, and even things we received two years ago in another nature exchange are still floating around my house, decorating candleholders, serving as hideouts for playmobile people, taking on their own lives in a made up game with rocks and bits of yarn. Here’s hoping your fall nature finds bring you months of enjoyment!

it’s friday i’m in love

toadstoolsHappy Friday!! I’m starting this one off with one of my all-time favorite 80s songs. I once listened to this song 17 times in a row in a Circuit City waiting for my new car radio to be installed. And it got better every time.

The video is kind of amazing in a very Sketchbook of Patrick Nagel way. But just feel free to hit play and then scroll down and enjoy these links as you let the waves of Norwegian new wave synth pop wash over you. brownie ice cream sandwichesSo I’m a little late for National Ice Cream Sandwich Day (August 2) but Smitten Kitchen’s innovation of brownies for the cookie part of the sandwich are a genius idea that simply Must Be Tried. Preferably before the month is out. Check out this amazing Motion Silhouette pop-up book from Japanese designers Megumi Kajiwara and Tathuhiko Nijima. You use a flashlight to create moving shadows on the pages. Sooo cool. This would actually be an amazing inspiration for some paper engineering/art projects! Speaking of inspiring, how awesome is this softie convenience store in London. Artist Lucy Sparrow (of course her name is like something out of a Beatrix Potter story) recreated the entire inventory of an abandoned corner store in felt, and everything she crafted is for sale, from the packets of crisps to the till. Oooh, look at me, getting my British on. Tea and crumpets, jolly dee, carry on!

While I’m on the subject of awesome British things, here is a heartwrenching story of someone who’s an even bigger Harry Potter fan than I. (And just so you know, my husband and I spent our first wedding anniversary reading book 7 aloud to each other and drinking homemade butterbeer. NERDS IN LOVE!) Anyhow, this is a really wonderful, tear-jerking story of how the Harry Potter books were a lifeline for another boy who lived. This story is part of a project called “Call Me Ishmael,” a collection of voicemails people anonymously leave about books they’ve loved and stories they’ve lived.

In happier news, I just found out that dirt is nature’s anti-depressant. Apparently, there are microbes in soil that are released into the air and inhaled by gardeners, which can stimulate serotonin production. Finally, the science behind why we’re all happier if our lives include a little playing in the dirt. Yay for microbes, our benficent overlords!

And if all that’s not enough to boost your mood on this summer Friday, I give you BABY PUFFIN CAM.

image via awwww-cute.tumblr.com

Is there any bird cuter than a puffin??? (Answer: yes, a baby puffin.) I dare you to watch these little critters and not smile.

Have a great weekend, kids!

it’s friday i’m in love

Happy Friday, kids! Here is your weekly dose of random awesome things from the internet.raspberries

1) First of all, a shout out to my friend Nils’ amazing band, Future Folk. Did you guys see the movie The History of Future Folk? If you haven’t, you should totally watch it. It has goofy but lovable aliens, banjo music, a charming romance plot, and saving the Earth. What more do you need in entertainment? The band, consisting of two helmeted, folk-music playing spacemen, are currently on a US tour, so if you have the chance, go see them play live – you won’t be sorry:

2) How cool are these little ceramic mugs by Creature Cups with a secret sea creature at the bottom? I have a birthday coming up this month for my ocean-obsessed son, and I’m thinking one of these might be just the ticket. Now to decide, shark or octopus??

3) Check out this super simple and – this is the awesome part – COLLAPSIBLE cardboard playhouse

My kids would love this, and it looks so easy to make, and to store when they’re not playing in it! Could be the perfect thing to pull out for a rainy day, and let them go to town decorating it with markers.

4) Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.

French supermarket chain Intermarché recently launched this campaign (there called Les Fruits et Légumes Moches, but I rather love the translation “inglorious” for moche) to combat food waste. Basically instead of farmers throwing away all the produce they grow that doesn’t look like a textbook perfect specimen, Intermarché bought all the reject fruits and veggies and sold them to the public at a discounted price. Brilliant. Why doesn’t every supermarket everywhere do this. It’s unbelievable that farmers have to throw away so much unsellable food , yet there are people going hungry, or struggling to afford fresh produce. A perfect solution.

5) My Milk Toof

This insanely cute blog by California artist Inhae Lee is basically like a photo-comic that follows the adventures of two baby teeth who go around having adventures, trying on underpants, and experiencing the anxieties of modern life. I LOVE IT. There is even a picture book. Might have to get that for when my three year-old starts losing teeth, which, if she follows in her brother’s footsteps, should be in about 12 months… GULP!

6) You always hear about “the summer slide,” where kids lose their academic and reading skills over the months away from school. I’m not really worried about that right now, since my kids don’t even go to school yet, but we did sign up for our local library reading program just for fun. (Though since neither of them know how to read, perhaps we should call it our summer listening program.) One thing they both can do on their own, however, is math. I credit this 10% to the abacus my mother-in-law gave them, and 90% to Bedtime Math.

It’s this great website and app that each day posts awesome factoids and related story problems, inclusively geared toward various levels of math competence from preschoolers counting on their fingers on up to mid-elementary and beyond. The idea is to make it part of your bedtime routine and slip in a little math practice before lights out. Since I eliminated room cleaning and getting in their own beds from the routine this week, we have plenty of time for doing math. Win-win.

7) Speaking of bedtime, the wonderful Cosmic Kids Yoga posted a really sweet bedtime yoga routine for kids recently, called “Twilight the Unicorn of Dreams.”(Not to be confused with Twilight Sparkle the Unicorn of MLP) If you’re not familiar with Cosmic Kids, it’s this kooky British lady, Jaimie Brodie who makes yoga videos for young children that all involve an animal story for kids to act out through various yoga poses. My kids absolutely adore them and there is nothing more sweet and hilarious than watching them do “namaste” together at the end.

They also recently launched a meditation series for kids called Cosmic Kids Zen Den. I am so, so bad at meditating but I really aspire to work it into my life. I think these beginner meditation lessons meant for kindergarteners might be just my speed…

Namaste, guys, and have a great weekend!

it’s friday i’m in love

friday140705

Happy Friday and Happy 4th of July, people!

1) Here’s a theme song to listen to as you read this list of Friday links. Can you believe this delightful ukulele cover of the Cure version? I love when she does that yodely bit at the end.

2) When you have time, read this poignant, life-changing piece by Rachel of Hands Free Mama about forcing yourself to slow down and let your kids live life at their own pace.

Not sure how I’m going to combine laid-back, unhurried parenting with my lifelong chronic tendency to run late, and still get my kid to kindergarten by 8:25 each morning, but I’ll let you know how that works out for us in the fall…

3) Meanwhile, enjoy these amaaaaaaaaazing macro snail photographs by Ukranian photographer Vyacheslav Mischenko. My daughter is utterly captivated by them:

4) Speaking of extremely charming things from the animal kingdom, scientists have discovered a new behavior in chimpanzees.

chimpanzee ear grass fadThis one troop of chimps in Zambia all started hanging grass out of their ears, after they saw the cool chimp doing it. No joke. This is real, people. APE FASHION TREND.

5) Oh lordy how freakin adorable are mouse melons???

Also called cucamelons or Mexican sour gherkins, they are basically teeny delicious cucumbers the size of grapes. I can’t wait to track down some seeds for these and grow them in our garden next year! These would be terrific as pickles and/or cocktail garnishes!!

6) Check out this sweet felt succulent plant from Bubba Pickle’s Market!

Succulents are supposed to be some of the easiest houseplants to grow cause you don’t have to water them much, but I have had more than one of mine just all of a sudden seem to just melt into a wobbly mess in the pot. This one might be just my speed! And made in the USA!

7) I sincerely hope everyone reading this is going to a parade this morning. Parades are the best! Nothing like a bunch of vintage fire trucks and high school marching bands to get the old blood pumping. And here in Brattleboro, there’s always Alfred to look forward to!

Forever in peace may he wave!

it’s friday i’m in love

Hey, it’s Friday again already! I had so much fun coming up with cool internet stuff to show you guys last week, I think I’m gonna make this a regular Friday feature. And this week, I’m starting it off with magical nordic elves.

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image via El & Em

1) OMG how lovable is Iceland. They recently halted work on an Icelandic highway because people were worried it was going to disturb the habitat of the Huldufolk, human-sized invisible elves that 50% of Icelanders believe are real. I’m serious.

2) I’m really into Yael Naim this week. She’s a French-Israeli singer/songwriter who had that great song “New Soul” in the Macbook Air commercial a few years ago. Right now I’m digging “Go to the River.” The video is kind of weird but the song is beautiful.

3) I loved this Modern Parents Messy Kids post on “The Summer of Yes.” Doesn’t that sound like an awesome mantra for summertime? Here is just a snippet of Steph’s wisdom, but you should really click over and read the whole thing yourself.

  • I will remember that just as giving my children boundaries and reasonable, age-appropriate expectations is not going to break their spirit, letting a few things slide in the name of being a preschooler is also not going to create self-centered and co-dependent adults.
  • I will remember that my friends have dirty houses just like mine – they’ll barely even notice it, let alone judge me for it.
  • I will remember how special I can make my child feel simply by stopping in the middle of what I’m doing, making eye-contact and listening for 3 minutes.
  • I will remember that a little silly goes a long way.

4) Check out these adorable summer-themed building blocks by Fidoodle:

Fidoodle makes all kinds of lovely hand-printed wooden stuff. I’m also rather fond of their suburban-themed blocks. Who knew ranch houses and station wagons could be so cute?

5) CHAMOMILE CUPCAKES. So sweet. My pint-sized little old ladies will love these. 

6) My friend Michelle, the brains behind the thoughtful motherhood essay-blog Juicebox Confession, is hosting an awesome, Waldorfy giveaway of kid and baby stuff.

Click over to her blog and fill out the entry form to win some sweet, wholesome swag for the little one in your life, including wool felt play food by Bubba Pickle’s Market, fairy wings from Fantasy Kids Wear, and beautiful carved wooden toys from The Enchanted Root.

7) Finally, I’ll just leave you with this to usher in your weekend.

Happy Friday!

it’s friday i’m in love

Just a quick post to share some things I’m in love with around the ol’ internet this week:

1) All Girl Summer Fun Band. 

I think I’m gonna officially make these gals the soundtrack of my summer. I first heard this song on a college station back in Chicago lo these many years ago back in aught two. Good times.

2) Dandelion clocks.

I never knew the word for the second stage of dandelion flowers, when they turn into the white puffs that you wish on and blow away. But apparently they’re called clocks, and you can preserve them with hairspray, glitter, and a twig. Who knew??

3) County fair-style lemonade.

My mouth is watering just watching this video. Cannot WAIT to make some of this!

4) Gregorian Wind Chimes.

I’m a total windchimer. Send me into any store selling windchimes and I will be sure to swipe them all. I just love listening to all the different tones! It’s part of what lured my husband in on our first meeting. I chimed all 84 thousand of the different wind chimes for sale in the gift shop of the tiki bar we were at, and he turned red and apologized to the store manager. I would like to blame it on the flaming bowl of tropical booze we had just consumed but truthfully I would probably have done the same stone cold sober. Anyhow, I am so in love with the ethereal tones of this alto gregorian chime I found at our local Agway. Go to the link and hear it for yourself. It’s magical.

5. Patterned Paint Roller

Is this genius or what?? All the charm of a monochrome woodland wallpaper pattern, and none of the commitment! If we ever get around to repairing the crack-dennish walls in our children’s bedroom, I am getting one of these for sure.

6. Custom Superhero Stuffies.

After years of loudly proclaiming his disinterest in superheroes, my five year old has finally begun to have a kernel of interest. As he goes, so goes his sister, and they have now become the superduo of Animaleon (who has the superpower to transform into any animal, living or extinct) and Fleaella (able to jump 50 times her own height). I bet they would be ultra cute superdollies.

7. Lullatone Raindrop Melody Maker Game

Lullatone is a Japanese band that I just adore. They classify their style as “pajama pop.” Actually their whole Summer Songs album could be a contender for my summer soundtrack too, with song titles like “Grocery Shopping for a BBQ,” “Secretly Loving the Smell of Suntan Oil,” and “Driving Home with a Towel on the Seat.” But they also have some apps and games and stuff, and I could entertain myself (not to mention the littles) for hours with this little music composition gizmo. Love.

Happy Friday night everybody!