7 ways to welcome mud season

mud sensory table

Oh my lord, I thought it would never come. But despite the waist-high piles of snow and ice settled around my house, there’s finally been enough thawing to begin to welcome that lovely microseason of early spring known round these parts as Mud Season. Although I know it will soon have my washing machine begging for mercy, I am so excited for my kiddos to have something to play in outside besides the ice and snow that has blanketed our part of the world since last November.

Let the Children Play had a great post a few years ago on how to embrace and even, gulp, enhance mud play for preschool-aged kids.

Puddle jumping is the classic mud season activity, and one that kids certainly don’t need to be taught or provided any encouragement to do, in my experience. But I’m just putting it on here to encourage parents to give it a try themselves! I think my all time favorite Henry and Mudge story is Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble, where Henry and Mudge sneak out and go bonkers in a huge mud puddle, and then when Henry’s dad finds them, instead of being mad that they a) snuck out without a grown-up, b) made an enormous mess of themselves, and c) splashed mud all over him, he just decides to jump in along with them. I absolutely adore these photos that Melissa of Fireflies and Mud Pies took of her boys going to town in some amazing mud puddles.

Another great idea is to stock a simple mud pie kitchen, like this one from Inner Child Fun. Some vessels, some utensils, a water source, and a few extra ingredients like dried beans or birdseed, and you’ve got yourself a pretty sweet set up for some mud kitchen magic.

You can also use mud to create art with, believe it or not. Anything from making hand- and foodprints on a large cardstock or canvas

to making sculptures and drawings with mud

and apparently, you can even make paint out of mud!

Speaking of paint, I can’t wait for a good rainy day to try this cool raindrop splatter paint project from Little Page Turners.

Happy mudding, and if you’ve got any more fun mud-based play ideas, send ’em my way!

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making fairy houses

fairy cabin and garden

We love fairy houses. After seeing dozens of amazing fairy houses last fall at the Grafton Nature Museum, the kids and I built the above one in our yard last fall and they insisted we also “plant” a garden in front for the fairies. It’s just a bunch of sticks and rocks balanced together but amazingly it is still standing, eight and a half months and 50 bajillion snowstorms and melts later.

More ephemeral was the fairy campout we created to lure fairies to our yard last year on Midsummer’s Eve. I started by pushing four sticks into the ground and the kids turned it into a bed by filling it in with plant fluff (I don’t even know what to call it, these weird flower skeleton things that grow on a shrub in our yard) and placing a maple leaf on top for a canopy. They added a picnic table with acorn caps filled with fairy pudding (squashed yew berries), a bathtub, and a bark dance floor. Sounds like my kind of campout.fairy bed

It’s nearly Midsummer’s Eve again, and when I saw the cute toilet paper roll houses on this woodland folk craft at Tried and True, I knew the littles would love it.

Besides all things fairy house, my kids love making stuff out of toilet paper tubes, so this was sure to be a double win. I cut out a couple of circles, slit halfway and folded over to make the cone-shaped roofs, and hot-glued them onto the toilet paper rolls. The five year-old insisted he need a door that could open and close so he cut that one out himself, while I helped my three year-old do the other one.Image

OK, progressing along, now to gather the decorative materials. I told the kids to go outside and get some buckets to collect sticks and pebbles and stuff. At this point my older child said he needed to make a boat for his fairies. Rolling with it, I stapled the end of one toilet roll shut, cut off half the tube lengthwise, and taped a little semicircle in the back to make a boat shape. Then he insisted it needed to be waterproof so he could sail it in the sand and water table (which the kids finally evacuated of the birdseed garden last weekend). Hmm. My best attempt at waterproofing was to coat it in duck tape. Then he needed it to be a pirate ship, so we made a sail with a toothpick and more tape. The finished boat was deemed too plain, so he spent 25 minutes decorating it with washi tape. The newly adorned vessel was taken immediately for her maiden voyage. By now, two things were obvious: 1) She was not at all seaworthy and 2) it was past lunchtime, and we were going to have to wait until the following morning to finish the fairy house craft.

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I’d say 70% of mama-initiated crafts end up going sideways like this around here. Which is why I have 85 thousand awesome pinterest things but only very occasionally actually execute one of them. But I am really good at collecting amazing projects to think about maybe possibly doing one day perhaps.

Anyhow, the next morning I sent them out to collect things to decorate the fairy houses and this is what they came back with:

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a bunch of sticks and twigs which I trimmed into fairy house-sized pieces, a little heap of strings of brown flowers from our oak tree, leaves at various stages of dried out-ness, acorn caps, pebbles, and pinecones, the largest of which we tore apart to make fairy shingles.

I let my five year-old use the hot glue gun to stick the items onto his toilet paper roll house. Some people might think this reckless but hey, if it’s good enough for Teacher Tom, it’s good enough for me. If you don’t know Teacher Tom, you should go over there and subscribe or follow or whatever to his blog right now. He is an awesome preschool teacher in, I think, Seattle, and he makes this blog full of wisdom about teaching and learning with young children. He’s like a guru of early childhood education.

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The five year-old loved being allowed to use the glue gun himself, and sticking the items onto his house base. Incidentally, I noticed in that Tried and True post that not only does she have the exact same hot pink glue gun as I do, but hers is just as gross and ratty looking as mine is. That makes me feel slightly better about showing it on the internet.

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I have to say, these little cottages turned out pretty rad.

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I helped my three year old with the glueing, but she selected the materials and directed me on placement, so this design is all her:Image

When the fairy houses were complete, my son instructed me to take a picture where it looks like he and his sister are fairies going into their houses. I’m afraid this was the best I could do with a point-n-shoot, but I like that he’s already hip to trick photography and the manipulation of images. Chalk that one up to having a photographer for a father.Image

We tucked the fairy houses into a woodsy nook on one side of our yard, where our fairy cabin sits. We’re getting a regular Hendrickson family compound of fairy houses over there… I guess they’ll be sure to do a campout in our yard this year!Image

That’s right, I just made a reference to a TV show about polygamy and the abuses of crazy fundamentalist Mormons in a post about my children’s sweet innocent fairy houses. That’s how we roll here, folks.

embracing entropy

At the cold, blustery end of last fall we dumped the scrabbly remnants of our once-pristine, fancy, silica-free, child-safe sand out of the sand/water table and stored it away it for the winter. I was pretty sure I was going to just get some new sand to restock it in the spring but it’s June and I don’t seem to have gotten around to it… I’ll just add it to the list of things that I meant to do but the longer I don’t do it the less the likelihood it will ever actually happen. Like organizing my basement or going to graduate school.

However, I’ve found that life with a disorganized basement and measly Bachelor’s degree is still pretty livable, so perhaps life with a sandless sand-table will work out OK for us too. Early this spring the table was employed as a mud-pie kitchen, and later I threw a bunch of straw leftover from my lawn rehabilitation efforts (sorely needed as you can see in this photo) into the sand-half.

mud sensory table

A couple of weeks ago, when sunny weather finally deigned to bestow itself on Vermont, I decided the time for indoor sensory play was over and banished to the yard a tub of birdseed that had been played in all winter, and eventually scattered over the kitchen floor. I thought that it might attract a bunch of birds to watch, or at least squirrels, but it seems the only ones interested were the children, who apparently poured it into the “sand” table, because I looked in there the other day and found this:

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I guess that when I give my children mud, straw, and dirty birdseed as playthings, I shouldn’t be too shocked when they adopt burnt firewood as toys. A few days after the sand table garden discovery, I found my 5-year-old playing ocean with the following creatures:

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Sea Hare (a gigantic sea slug)DSC09542s

Angler FishDSC09564s

Hey, it’s more outdoor toys that I don’t have to store in my disorganized basement next winter!