Monday, June 15, 2015

Bean Pole Teepees plus an indoor Jack and the Beanstalk experiment

Children are born naturalists, if you have ever watched a 2 year old wander down the street you'll know they pick up every stick, stone or feather, they stop to watch a pretty bird or smell the dandelions. This is why its so important to harness this natural love of nature and include it in their learnings in a fun way as they grow. Kids learn far better when outside 'doing' and the garden offers many ways in which to teach skills such as math, science, writing and art. All while learning a respect for nature.

These Bean Teepees are great way to get kids learning in a fun hands on way. Beans are an ideal way to start gardening with children, the beans are easy to handle when planting, the plants grow quickly and the pole beans used for a teepee get so tall its fun for the kids to measure their growth. Plus at the end you will have the added bonus of having a nice green vegetable your children can pick and eat in salads or cooked.

We added a second part to the bean growing project indoors on a windowsill so that they could really see what was happening below the soil to the beans and gain a really good understanding as to how the beans germinate underground.

To create a bean teepee you will need:

6-8 long garden stakes
packet of pole beans
A sunny spot in your yard

Step 1

With the children, and in a sunny spot work over an area of soil. Ours was a raised bed approximately 4x4ft but anywhere that makes sense in your yard will work. Just keep in mind that the larger an area you dig over the longer the poles will need to be to get the height in the center of the finished teepee. My children will dig for hours in the dirt so while they worked over the soil I was able to get planting in my other raised beds. They helped dig them over too!

Step 2

Once they had had enough digging we positioned the poles around in a circle over the worked soil. Place one pole in each corner and then add extras in the middle where needed. Make sure you leave a wider space at one point on your teepee to enter and exit the teepee. Lean the poles inwards and secure at the top where they meet with string.

Step 3

At the base of each pole we made four small holes and planted about 3 or 4 beans per the packets instructions. Now we just need to wait for some warmer weather to help these grow. Be sure to water frequently and have your children come to measure how there plants are growing. In the center of our Teepee I laid some stone tiles that I had but this is optional, you could use mulch, straw or even a small chair depending on the size of your Teepee to give your child somewhere dry to sit.

Step 4

It wasn't long before we had small green shoots peeking through the soil. 

The kids started measuring them and this is the great thing about beans, if the weather is warm they often grow by the day. I think I might hide in here too on hot sunny days.


Don't have a back yard large enough for a Teepee? Kids can still explore the wonder of growing a bean with this indoor project we set up at the same time as planting our Teepee. This project is a great way at letting the kids see what happens to a seed after it is planted in the soil; something that they don't usually get to witness.

Jack and the Beanstalk

 You will need:

A glass jar or clear plastic cup
Two beans (just in case one decides not to grow)
Kitchen paper towel

Optional for addition of a castle:
Wooden Peg
Elmers glue

Take the plastic cup, fold a sheet or two of paper towel in half and fold around your hand. Now place this inside the cup, it should stand around the inside of the container leaving the center empty. Now between the paper and the plastic container push two beans (we did ours either side of the cup). Now mark the cup at 1 inch intervals so you can record how quickly your bean grows. In addition we created a castle from paper and glued it to a peg and clipped it to the top of the container. Now add a small amount of water so that the kitchen paper becomes wet and place in a sunny location.

As the seed begins to grow the children can have fun watching the different stages.

Once the leaves reach the castle you can transplant your seed outside to your yard in your teepee or even into a large container with soil just remember to add a pole for it to climb and keep measuring.

As the summer progresses be sure to check for beans.

We love this recipe for green bean salad,

1 lb Green beans
1 cup cherry tomatoes (home grown or from our favorite local farm are best)
1/2 small red onion chopped
Crumbled feta cheese

Dressing: Mix equal parts balsamic, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. A little crushed garlic and some salt and pepper.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Spinner YoYo's

This was one of those five minute pull together projects that kept my kids entertained for ages which is always a good thing right? I remember making them as a kid and they are still just as cool. You probably have all you need to make one right now, and if you like spinning tops you'll love these.

You will need:

Pens (if using white paper)
White card (we used the inside of a cracker box)

Step 1

Cut a circle from whichever card stock you are using. We draw around the lid of a Bell jar, but these will work big or small.

As we were using the inside of a cracker box we needed 2 circles for each spinner. We glued them printed side together so that we had the white outer side to decorate. Also if you are using a thinner card you will probably want to use two circles to give greater strength to your spinner.

Step 2

Once cut out you can decorate. As our card was white I had Lulu color bright designs onto the circles. If you are using printed paper you can skip this.

Step 3

Punch two small holes through which to thread the yarn. These should be close to the center and equal distance from each side. If you don't have a hole punch you can thread a needle to create the holes and add the yarn.

Step 4

Thread the yarn through one hole and then back through the other and tie in knot.

The loop should fit so that if you put one side over each hand you can hold your hands comfortably about hips width apart. My kids found if I made the loop too big it was much harder to use, but also keep in mind that its easier to shorten than lengthen the loop.

Step 5

Loop the yarn over each hand and position the spinner in the middle of the yarn.

Slowly twist the spinner around and around to twist the thread. This step often needs a second pair of hands for optimal twist.

Now let go and watch your spinner spin. 

Teach your kids to slowly relax and tighten the string and you will create a yo-yo spinner that winds and unwinds itself over and over again.

So pretty how the different color patterns create different effects.

It is hypnotizing

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pretty Peonies

We have had a couple of rainy days here in New England. Normally I'd be disappointed but the weather has been so hot and dry the grass really needed it. The only disappointment was that the Peonies I had been waiting for fully bloomed in the pouring rain and got bashed to pieces; oh well it is a good excuse to pick them and bring them inside. I wish they flowered for longer, they really are spectacular in full bloom.

My little guy has one more week of preschool so we used his day home to create some beautiful handmade Peonies for his teachers this coming Friday to say thank you.

You will need:

Tissue paper
Hole punch
Piece of card

Step 1

Cut a circle out of card (we used the inside of a cracker box) and punch holes in it. The holes can follow a pattern or just be random it doesn't really matter which. Depending on the age of your child let them cut the circle and make the holes. D made maybe 3 holes and then decided he would rather I did it.

Step 2

Cut a length of yarn, it is better too long than too short but you need it long enough to thread around the holes. Thread through the first two holes and tie in the back.

Now you can hand it to your child to start threading. If the end of the yarn becomes frayed you may want to wrap a little tape around it - this also makes it easier for younger children to push back and forth   through the holes.

Once they have connected all the holes with the thread, tie the loose end off again on the back.

Step 3

To create the petals, take a sheet of tissue paper and fold back and forth on itself.

Place glue along one edge and fold in half to create a fan shape.

Step 4

Cut petal shapes at the end that is not the fold.

Now carefully pull open the shape, keep a hold of the center and glue the two outside edges you have together. You should end up with a circular flower shape.

Step 5

Glue the threaded circle into the center of your flower. We also glued a wooden skewer onto the back to hold the flower with.

They turned out SO pretty we just had to share here.

D was pretty happy with them too!