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I’ve been scouring and wreaking havoc upon books and websites and my own brain trying to come up with ideas for keeping my son active through the summer. Basically, I want to have some solid ideas before the summer begins so that I don’t slip into wrath within the first week. Here are some of the first ideas I am considering or have decided upon:


To ease myself in I’m considering a dance camp the first week of July that operates from noon-4pm. Hunter has expressed his interest in ballet and hip hop dance and I think that I can probably swing that for him.

On the weekends, my husband does soccer camp with Hunter. Every Saturday from 9-11am he is down the street at one of parks. Makes for a very nice Saturday morning – so we’ll continue it.

Nature:Look with the eyes of an artist

First, I found this wonderful little teaching quote for how to look at just the stuff around you with the eyes of an artist.

It reminds me of seeing things “in their own lettuce way”. I stumbled upon a funny little description while reading in the past about how an artist draws lettuce and it has always stuck with me. (Because it’s pretty weird mainly.)

“When you start to draw a lettuce, you realize the anomaly of having lived with lettuce all your life but never having seen one, never having seen the semi-transparent leaves curling in their own lettuce way, never having noticed what makes a lettuce a lettuce rather than a curly kale.”

When I stumbled across this little write up in a craft book about seeing things with the eyes of an artist, I thought of lettuce immediately. This is certainly something I can teach with the help of pinecones as we have many pinecones around our neighbourhood. I thought a little trip around the block and into the ravine might allow us to find a few different varieties and talk a little about why coniferous trees make different kinds of cones and how to identify which tree makes which cone.

In the back of my mind, I have a dreadful statistic that lurks around. I think I first saw the stat in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, where Al Gore related that many children before the age of 10 can identify hundreds of commercial brands with ease, but cannot identify 6 tree species in their neighbourhood. Could this really be true? I walked out into my neighbourhood that day and could kind of recognize 6, but wasn’t really sure. A person in their 30’s is not sure about 6 different types of trees in their neighbourhood (and can I really count the Japanese or Green maple as their leaf shape is on the flag?) It strikes me in a soft place thinking about how children can watch countless hours of television, recognize dozens of Disney characters (my son is certainly not excluded), recite commercials from the radio and yes…recognize annoying fast food brands from a mile away – so he is most certainly going to learn tree, plant and flower species in our neighbourhood! And so am I!

This learning moment requires a only a little tree and plant knowledge on my part, and with trees in mind – I think this craft is a good start:

The Woodland Basket

It only requires an old basket, pickings from the ravine and neighbourhood and a glue gun. Since they are selling glue guns at the DollarStore now for $2, I figured that my Nature BasketNature Basketson could start to learn how to use one. He’s going to really love that part.

This craft can take place over a number of days, so I really like it: it takes a field trip type outing to get the stuff for the basket – so it gets the baby out for a walk as well: bonus. A different day requires the gluing to occur giving me time to create a sheet that has different shaped cones, leaves and tree identifiers on another piece of paper for him to “scavenge” the right species. I may do this in the neighbourhood, I may do this as an out of town field trip to the Bruce Trail one day – I may do both. I’ve already found a couple of old baskets, and I’ve got the glue gun…I feel ready.

This basket allows for a few other “hunts” as well. I have done a weed hunt in the past for my nephew, and I’m sure I can recycle some of the past work and make another “booklet” of neighbourhood weeds.Weed Hunt

The project came together easily. The front and back of the booklet are made out of a cereal box. Everything else is just taped in pages that Erik and I drew. (Which should explain the art…)

All of our drawings came from a little reconnosaince walk around the area just to see what was out there. Then we needed to “identify” some of the Weed listweeds we didn’t know. We found the Ontario Weeds website pretty helpful in this respect.

We then looked up some funny facts or nicknames for some of our plants online and started write-ups that needed to be read and then the hunt for that particular weed began.

For instance, we learned that there are many different kinds of dandelions, and one of the more fun types was a genus nicknamed “Meadow Goat Beard” Dandelionbecause its petal tendrils are soft, you know, like the beard of a goat. This particular dandelion “goes to sleep” by noon, so it’s only in open bloom in the morning. We were able to find it on our hunt, but it had already closed up shop for the day so we didn’t get that soft goat beard experience.

All in all, I think I can probably do the weed pick-up the same day Hunter is hunting for pine cones. Everything else, the write ups and pictures will only take me an evening to put together for 10 or so weeds.

In the end my nephew had a great time and I don’t think he’s ever forgotten what Queen Anne’s Lace looks like since – so success!

Children can and will identify plants!