Posts Tagged With: projects with kids

Make a Lung Model out of a Plastic Bottle, Straws & Balloons!


It’s funny how this thing has become a toy to her. This morning she was in her room explaining the respiratory system to Scooby Doo and the Gang!

It’s anatomy time, and the human body unit is in full swing at The Cabin. In learning about the respiratory system, we created a simple lung model that has been a hit in our household. I doubt Captain will ever forget how this system works!

You’ll Need: A plastic 2 liter bottle cut in half, two straws, two balloons, masking tape (or black electrical tape as that is what we had around and it worked great!) a rubber band and a piece of plastic bag.

* As you are creating this model with your kids, be sure to use the proper terminology. Explain that you’ll be making a model of the lungs to show how the respiratory system works. Let them know that the plastic bottle represents the rib cage, the straws represent the trachea/bronchi, the balloons represent the lungs and the plastic bag represents the diaphragm. While assembling, use only the anatomical names! For example: “Can you hold the ribcage while I slide the trachea and lungs in?”

Step 1: Put a straw down into a balloon, almost to the bottom. Securely tape the top of the balloon to the straw so that it is air tight. Go around with the tape a few times to be sure it is sealed. Do the same to the second balloon and then secure the two straws together with more tape.

Step 2: Put the straws down into the bottle top and tape around and around the rest of the bottle-opening to be sure that it is air-tight. If air gets in, the model won’t work.

Step 3: Place the bottle onto a piece of plastic bag and use a rubber band to secure it tight to the bottom. Trim off the excess bag, if needed.

Step 4: It is helpful to tape a little piece of paper, or a string, to the bottom of the diaphragm to pull it up and down.

That’s it! Now the child can pull the diaphragm up and down and see the lungs expand and contract! In the human body, the trachea goes down and splits into the two bronchial tubes that go into the lungs. We weren’t able to show this extra step in our model, but we looked at pictures and learned how it works. Here is a good explanation to share with your kids, if you don’t have other learning materials handy:

“Your body needs air to live! Air is a mixture of many things, but the oxygen in air is what your body needs most. Oxygen is a gas that your body combines with the food you have eaten to make energy. When you inhale, or breathe in, air goes in your nose or mouth, down a cool tube called a trachea and into your 2 lungs. Your lungs are big bags made of a bunch of tiny bags that fill with air.Oxygen from the air goes into the blood and carbon dioxide, a waste your body makes, comes from your blood and goes into the air sacs. When you breathe out, the carbon dioxide leaves your body. Ya-hoo!”

You take about 20,000 breaths a day and sneeze at about 100 miles per hour! Lungs weigh about 1 pound each and adult lungs are each about the size of a football! Your right lung has 3 regions, or lobes, while your left lung has two lobes and each lobe has its own blood supply. That way, if one part is damaged, the other 4 keep working! How cool is that?


One more note: It is very beneficial to have kids draw a picture of what they learned, coloring the balloons, straws, etc. Help them label the simple parts.

The human body is amazing! Happy breathing into all of those lovely lobes!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Writing Practice, Art & Imagination: Create Your Own Superhero!


Princess Halina, Animal Rescuer, has super-powers, a secret cabin, blue hair and her motto is: “Be yourself: everyone else is already taken”…

Here is a simple way to get the imagination rolling, get some writing practice done, and draw and color/paint your very own special superhero. I was surprised at how Captain reacted to this simple prompt: “Create a superhero character. Draw, label, or write about what powers that person has, or can do.” Basically, she thought about it for about a minute before she started spewing out a list of exciting possibilities. I sat on the opposite side of the counter from her, with a paper and pencil ready, and made notes as quickly as possible. She really enjoyed that I was “her assistant note-taker” and felt free to just brainstorm. It was really fun! Afterward, she sketched her character in pencil and then colored her in with markers. She wanted to copy the notes in pen, as she was sure she wouldn’t need to erase a single thing. She was right! We did this activity a couple of days ago, and she is still talking about it and adding to the story. Princess Halina, Animal Rescuer, seems to have empowered her creator and I can’t wait to see where it goes! *On a side note, I believe that an adult offering to just be an “assistant” or “note-taker” for early writers is very valuable. They feel special, and the freedom to just go with their ideas without having to fiddle with handwriting is priceless!

Here is part one of Captain’s Superhero Description:

“My Superhero, Princess Halina, is a girl who saves animals. She wears a yellow dress and crown, and sometimes a yellow cape. Her super powers are to read minds (but only when wearing her yellow cape, dress and crown), shoot lights out of her fingers (to blow things up), and she can make a light so bright that nobody can see except her, when she is wearing her goggles (which magically appear). She also has another secret, secret power that nobody knows about yet…

Princess Halina has a secret cabin where she can hide animals when she’s helping them, and to keep them safe from creepy people who want to steal them. She needs a lot of powers to defeat the bad guys. Ten people have already told Princess Halina “Be yourself: everyone else is already taken” and she really knows it!”

I also feel that creating a superhero can help kids work out some of their fears about things like “bad guys” and “creepy people”. Incidentally, the quote above is from Oscar Wilde and was our family “quote of the week” last week. It was sweet that she incorporated it into her creation.

This one gets a gold star for simplicity and fun. I hope you’ll try it with your own kids, and we would love to hear about it here on Kartwheels.

Powerful, blue-haired thoughts to all,


Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Plan an Exciting Treasure Hunt For Kids to Find The Mysterious Black Cat’s Eye Diamond!


Care to excite your kids into hunting for treasure? This is a perfect family activity for summertime! I would like to share our method for cooking up some delight for Captain. This activity takes a bit of planning, but is well worth the efforts! Burn the edges of some paper, create some clues, and find a cool treasure to hunt for (how about THE BLACK CAT’S EYE DIAMOND?), and your kids will be busy little pirates and full of imagination for an entire week ūüôā


Here is a giant, glass jewel that I purchased at Michael’s Craft Store for $4.99. ¬†It is big, heavy, and very sparkly. You can use this idea, or find another treasure that would excite your kid/s. I tried to find this online to leave a link here, but they only sell them in the stores. They are usually on rack at the end of an aisle, near the flower vases. They also come in pink, red, blue, green and clear. I like the black one with iridescent colors in it and named it “The Black Cat’s Eye Diamond”. If there are multiple kids then perhaps some smaller jewels, coins, or something like that…


You will create 7 “main clues” that will be left for the child to discover when they wake up each morning, and 6 “hints” as to what the treasure is. The “main” clues will guide them to a location, preferable outside somewhere, where they will discover the “hint” in the form of a little puzzle or clue as to what they are searching for. The main clues can be written on any paper, but a kind of tan paper give it a bit more of an “antique” look. Burn the edges of the main clues with a lighter (you may find yourself burning paper in the night after everyone is asleep ūüôā The main clues can rhyme, or not. We also threw in a little math and some word scrambles. Our clues can be seen here below. They probably won’t make sense to everyone else, as they are custom to our kid, but she was delighted:

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Once your child figures out the main clue that you left them in the morning, they will race right off to find the treasure hint. Basically, on a little piece of paper, I left a fun clue as to what the treasure is, and for the last treasure-hint-clue, I told her what it was:


Every morning Captain raced right to the counter to find her main clue! She talked about it all week and was really into it. On day six, when she discovered the scramble clue that mentions The Black Cat’s Eye Diamond, she was almost too excited to sleep….

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For the 7th day main clue, guide them to the place where “X” marks the spot. ¬†Basically I dug a hole and buried the jewel in a burlap sack that was tightened with twine into a bundle. ¬†(Kids love little realistic details, and when she uncovered a dirty ball of burlap, she gasped.) I covered the treasure with two sticks shaped into an “X”.


She found the “X” and started digging…


It’s in here!


It’s real! ¬†The Black Cat’s Eye Diamond is REAL!


Showing Dad her treasure.

Friends, I can’t tell you enough how worth this activity is! ¬†Coming up with some clues and hints wasn’t difficult, and it was fun to see my kid’s imagination go crazy and her patience grow. Most fun activities are over in a day, but this one stretches over a week, and I was surprised how patient she was. She seemed to like that there was no quick end to it. ¬†I also recommend writing up your clues ahead of time. I left the first clue for her on a whim, and then would find myself trying to whip something together at night for the next day ūüôā My husband and I had some sweet time together burning paper in the night, when I finally caught up with myself and got the rest done for the week…

If you decide to plan a treasure hunt for your kids, I would LOVE to hear about it.  What treasure would you use?  What would you name it?

Until then, happy adventuring. Remember being a kid during the summertime? These days of magic end so quickly. I try to remember to scoop them up, close to my heart. Some day I will wish that I could plant jewels in the ground and go treasure hunting with my sparkling child.

Here’s to the good ‘ole days of now! ¬†Karen

Categories: Family fun, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Make Beautiful Rock-quariums for Mother’s Day, or Any Day!


Mother Nature shares her lovely gifts of rocks and water!

Do you love the look of stones resting in water? There is something peaceful and beautiful about having little bowls of water and stones inside our house. They make delightful table decorations, and really shine when placed on a surface near a window, where the natural light spills in and lights up the colors of the stones. I adore rock-quariums!  I used to collect stones when I visited my family on the east coast, and would leave one for them as a thank you gift when I left.

Stones, quartz, granite, pebbles, and little rocks from our driveways, make great decorations. The very act of collecting them is a wonderful experience for adults and children alike, and they seem to add a peaceful air to our counters and tables. ¬†Place one in your bathroom for a little “moment” near your bathtub, or children can put one in their room. Why do they make us feel better? ¬†I suppose the beauty alone helps, or water and rock together being such a natural draw to our human spirits, or perhaps it is because rock can absorb negative energy? ¬†Does it matter? They are my most favorite simple project ever!

Gather stones from your yard, parks, anywhere!  Scrub the rocks with soap and water, arrange them in a glass jar or vase, and fill with water. Voila! Change the water whenever it gets too cloudy and occasionally scrub the rocks off again if you need to.  At a certain point we like to return all of the rocks to the great outdoors and make new rock-quariums another time.


These make great gifts! ¬†Mother’s day is coming and I would much rather have a beautiful rock-quarium from my Captain, than flowers, candy or other presents! ¬†In fact, a rock-quarium next to a bathtub with a note that tells mom to take as long as she wants in there would be perfect!

I purchased the vase with the frilled edge (on the right in the photo) at the dollar store. ¬†We also use old mason jars, jelly jars, etc. ¬†Another sweet idea is to make mini rock-quariums in the small, 8 oz mason jelly jars and put one at each guest’s place at the table, with one large one as the centerpiece. ¬†Sweet! ¬†We like to add plant cuttings, like manzanita or bear clover to them for table decorations as well.

This is the simplest, most inexpensive, loveliest project I know.  Nature rocks!

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dandelions Rock! Dandelion Flower Cookies, Fairy Crowns, Crafts, Coloring Pages and Good Health!


Ooh, I want to be a tiny creature rolling around in the sunny yellow softness of Taraxacum Officinale!

Did the people of Atlantis really use the dandelion for food and to make exotic elixirs? ¬†I don’t know for sure, but what a cool part of the legendary story! ¬†Springtime bursts with these little beauties in fields and lawns, and every year they bring to my mind the memory of childhood. ¬†I can close my eyes and still feel the grass between my toes as I took flight, with energy and madness, toward the swing set, the cool heads of dandelion clusters cushioning my toes…. my sisters and I rubbing each others’ noses with the silky yellow dust…. They are cherished in many countries for their health benefits and tastiness. Here in the US, dandelions sometimes get a bad rap as a “weed” or a “nuisance”, but as long as they haven’t been sprayed by weed-killers, they are delightful and nutritious!

The word “dandelion” comes from the French Dent de Lion, which means “lion’s teeth”. ¬†All parts of the plant have been used for various things, such as the roots, which can be dried and ground for a coffee-type beverage. Dandelion greens were steeped by pioneers for a healthy spring tonic to replenish vitamins after the long winter. The blossoms are good for your heart, and dandelions have substantial amounts of calcium, potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. ¬†The best edible dandelions should be picked where the grasses grow tall and free as “yard dandelions” that have been cut are more bitter. ¬†Be sure to gather the leaves before¬†the flowers bloom for the best flavor. ¬†The oil of the Dandelion is very good for massage. ¬†As we are always looking for creative ways to paint, we are going to try painting with dandelion flowers as paintbrushes too. Cool!

4 Steps To A Beautiful Day With Children:

1. Find and pick some dandelions and make fairy crowns!  Simple make a small slit in the stem and poke another stem through it.  Continue on until a chain is made.  Or, take 3 flowers and braid the stems.  When one stem gets too short, add another one, and so on.  

2. ¬†Dance in the sun!! ¬†“Grow” up from the ground like a flower and sway in the breeze…

3.  Gather enough flower heads to strip the yellow parts into 2 cups.

4.  When it is time to go inside, make Dandelion Flower Cookies!  (Recipe to follow).


Dandelion Flower Cookie Recipe:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached flour

1 cup dry oatmeal

1/2 cup dandelion flowers

Be sure to remove the yellow flower parts from the green parts (compost the green parts). Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix oil & honey, then beat in the 2 eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, oatmeal and dandelion flowers.  Drop batter by tablespoons onto oiled cookie sheets.  Bake 10-15 minutes.  Cool and enjoy!

Thank you Kimberly Gallagher for this wonderful cookie recipe found at¬† ¬†I highly recommend this site for lots of great herbal ideas, remedies and free stuff. Also, have you ever wished that waaaay back when you were, say 5, that someone had taught you about plants, herbs and natural remedies? ¬†Check out LearningHerb’s kids book series:¬†Herb Fairies A Magical Tale of Plants & Their Remedies! ¬†I can’t wait to get them for Captain.

For a fabulous online source of natural dandelion supplies and information, bulk herbs, and sooo much more, please visit one of my favorite stores on Earth:  Mountain Rose Herbs!

Click here for a free printable dandelion coloring page.

Find a cute dandelion flower craft, using card stock, shaving cream, cotton swabs and green paper, here at House of Baby Piranha!


From all the way up here in Sequoia National Forest, we are wishing you a beautiful springtime. ¬†As they say in the song, “These are the good old days!”

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Foodarella, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Child’s Art Inspiration: Make a Recycled Clay & Dried Flower Sculpture


“All The Love In My Heart For Mom” ~ clay, dried flowers, feather & cardboard box sculpture, made by Captain when she was 3.

This is a sculpture that Captain made as a gift for me a couple of years ago. ¬†She had been in the habit of picking flowers from a large Rose of Sharon bush and then drying them in baskets. ¬†One day she decided to use a little white box to stuff all of the leftover bits of clay (the parts where all of the colors are mashed together) and, very privately, went to work. She stuffed the box with the clay very tightly and then carefully (yes, I do mean carefully! ¬†Even though she was 3 she was very intent on her art projects!) placed the dried roses and pushed them in. ¬†She was so proud to give it to me as a present, and I cherish it to this day! ¬†It is gorgeous, and all of her own creation. ¬†Originally, the sculpture didn‚Äôt have a feather in the top corner but she was bothered for a couple of months when she looked at it because she said that it was ‚Äúnot finished yet‚ÄĚ.¬† She was pleased (and relieved) when she finally found what was missing and placed the feather in the top right corner. ¬†I keep this sculpture on the mantel in our living room.

This sculpture is an awesome (we think!) use of all of the leftover bits of clay (do you have a baggie full?) dried flowers, or any other bits of found nature, feathers, beads, trinkets, well, just about anything that can be pressed into the clay. ¬†She used a small 4 x 3″ white box, the kind that a little necklace would come in, but just finding a tiny box of any sort would work. ¬†This is, afterall, a work of recycled art, and kids love that!


There is a gentle old-fashionedness to this piece that strikes such love in my heart!

I recommend first explaining the project and having the clay on hand. Then have an art “treasure hunt”, whereby the child searches for a suitable box and goes outside to gather found bits of nature. ¬†This is a Captain-recommended project for kids and we truly hope you will try it, just in time for April Earth Month. ¬†I am going to post a photo of this sculpture in the k’ARTwheels art gallery, and if your child makes one, feel free to contact me to show their recycled clay sculpture in the gallery, if they like!

We would love to hear your thoughts, or how this project worked for your family.

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tempera Still Life Painting Project With Kids!


When my daughter painted her very first still life, it was amazing to watch her really envelop herself in the whole process, and have so much fun doing it. ¬†She arranged her fruit, mixed her own paints with 3 primary colors, sketched, and then painted, her subject. ¬†Watching her delight as she discovered that adding a few simple lines gave the bowl depth was priceless. It was such a wonderful experience for both of us, that I would like to share our version of a still life painting “learning unit” for kids. This is just what we did, you can adjust along the way to suit the child’s needs. ¬†This is a project to delve into when the child is relaxed and feeling creative. This is not a project to do today if mom or kiddo is feeling rushed. ¬†Early still life painting is special and needs as much time as it takes. ¬†Here goes!

Supplies to have ready:  bowl, fruit, pencil, powdered tempura paints in red, yellow and blue, paint smock or old shirt, paint brushes, newspapers, black marker, glass of water and rag to rinse brushes, thick paper suitable for paint, popsicle sticks or spoons for mixing the paint, and a small plastic palette or little cups for the paints.

Step 1. ¬†We talked about what a still life is, as we gathered materials. Basically, a still life is a picture of ¬†inanimate objects, such as fruits, flowers, books, etc., usually grouped on a flat surface. ¬†I also took this opportunity to reiterate the terms “landscape” and “portrait” in terms of placement of the paper. ¬†Portrait is when the shorter side of the paper is at the top, and landscape is when the longer side is at the top.

Step 2. ¬†Captain chose a bowl and as she arranged her fruits just so, I took a moment to talk about the term “arrangement”. ¬†Help your child take the time to arrange, and not just throw the objects in the bowl or on the counter. ¬†This is a still life, and composition is important.¬†I told her that an artist usually takes their arrangement very personally. ¬†How the artist places the fruit is important for composition.¬†(I didn’t explain exactly what “composition” means to her at this time, just threw it right out there with everything else.) ¬†We were low on fresh fruits, so we used some plastic bananas and grapes to fill it out. ¬†She really enjoyed placing everything just so.¬†She took her time with the arrangement and decided that the grapes were too squished-looking by the pear, and changed it around and placed the banana gently on top. ¬†Voila! ¬†Now THAT is how we arrange things. ¬†Fantastic! ¬†Make sure there is good lighting for the objects. ¬†A small lamp can even be used to enhance the light source. ¬†Before she started sketching, we talked about lighting and depth. ¬†“See how the light shines from one direction and changes the colors and makes shadows?”

Step 3. Captain sketched her still life by drawing a large circle for the bowl in pencil, and then drawing many circles bunched together for grapes, and other shapes for the rest of the fruit.  It was great!  After she sketched, we took a break and then returned to mix the paints.

Step 4. From the 3 primary colors we had, Captain was able to make all of the colors she needed to paint her still life.  She measured out about a teaspoon of powdered paint into her cups and mixed water, a little at a time, to make her colors. (I wish I had offered her a dropper to use for the water as I think she would have really liked using one with the paints.  She could take her time and add drop by drop, because that works with her personality!) She needed red, green, purple, yellow and orange to complete her project.  She mixed her colors and painted her fruits and bowl.  This is a good time to remember that red and yellow make orange, and so on!  The painting looked wonderful already!

Step 5. ¬†The paints dried quickly, and, after a snack, we talked about outlining the fruits to give them more drama. ¬†It was just a choice that I offered to her and she leaped to the idea immediately. We didn’t have black paint on hand, and she was ready for a change, so she used a black marker to outline each fruit and to add a line inside the bowl to give it more depth. She was amazed by this. ¬†I held it up before she drew the line, and after, so she could see the difference, and she exclaimed “Wow! ¬†It really looks like a bowl!!!”

Step 6. ¬†After lots of ooohs-and-ahhhhs over the painting (!), now is the time to ask the child if they would like to give their still-life a name (always refer to it as a “still life” and not “picture”). Captain didn’t want to give hers a name and so we called it an “untitled painting” and talked about it. ¬†I have found that kids like to discuss their paintings after they are done. ¬†She wanted to talk about the colors, the arrangement and how she felt while she was doing it. ¬†She was positively lit right up! I just can’t express how cool it was to be with her while she talked about her art with such animation. ¬†We hung it right up and she couldn’t stop admiring it. When her dad came home, he barely got into the door when she rushed him over to admire it. ¬†Even now, a few months later, when someone comes visiting she often takes them right to her still life to tell them all about how she did it. ¬†She is so proud and I am even more proud than she is!


Captain’s very first still-life! ¬†She LOVED this project and wants to do more and more…

After the fact, it is wonderful to show some examples of famous still lifes throughout history. I prefer to show Captain other artists’ works¬†after¬†she has done hers. ¬†I just want art to be pure and open for her so that she can approach things with her own creative mind and heart, without preconceived notions of how it “should” be.¬†There are so many still lifes to choose from in art books, magazines, online etc. I will leave you with 4 wonderful examples to share with your little artists. ¬†Thanks for reading.
Cheers!  Karen


Still Life with Apples, a Pear, and a Ceramic Portrait Jug (1888) Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)


Bouquet (1599) Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625)


Pfirsichzweig (Peach Twig) (1630)  Georg Flegel (1566-1638) 


Dishes and Fruit (1901) Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cool Field Trips Ideas For Kids!


It never hurts to Ask!” ¬†I have found that educating my child at home, and in the world, requires a lot of new experiences, ideas, and other people to share their gifts, talents, and knowledge with us.¬†We¬†are always learning, individually, and together, and I wanted to share some of the ideas we have come across, quite successfully, because we simply made a phone call or email, or simply asked. ¬†

Anyone who homeschools with their kids knows that a big part of the experience is to seek out and discover new ways to excite imagination and learning. ¬†This is true of kids who attend brick-and-mortar schools as well. ¬†Kids who do go to a seat-based school usually have opportunities to go on field trips to museums, community services, and other fun things. Homeschooling kids need these opportunities too, and it is our job as educators to provide new experiences to learn and just have a great time with other kids and parents. Here are some field trips that Captain and I have arranged, and enjoyed, and they didn’t cost a thing (except for some stickers and badges that we got for the kids). We recommend trying these out…


#1. Visit Your Local Fire Department!: ¬†We did this 2 ways. ¬†In California, I arranged a tour with the local fire house for a large group of moms and kids from The Mommy Network. ¬†I simply looked up the local fire department online and sent an email to their public relations department explaining that I had a group that would love to tour. ¬†The captain called me back immediately and we set up a date. ¬†It was awesome! ¬†This was an extensive tour of the facility’s barracks, kitchen, garden (with chickens!) and then on to the firetrucks themselves. ¬†The kids learned about fire safety and even got to try on the gear and climb all over everything, with lots of cool firefighters on hand to help. ¬†The guys were great and even had a tug-of-war and other fun stuff to do on the lawn. ¬†At the end, the firefighters gave each of the kids a goody bag with fun stuff AND their very own plastic fire hats. What a great tour! ¬†At another time, on a visit to Troy, Ny, we were simply walking by and poked our heads in to the firehouse and the wonderful Captain on duty let our little Captain climb around inside the truck and was there to answer any questions we had. Both ways are fun, but I highly recommend arranging an actual tour with the fire department as if it very informative and fun. For a firehouse tour, you will generally need to gather a group of at least 8 people, but you can arrange this when you call or email.


#2. Visit your local Police Department!: For this tour you will need to do the same thing as above and contact your local police department’s tours/relations department. ¬†We did this in Paso Robles, CA and they had regulations on the size of the group (6-10) which wasn’t a problem. When we arrived, we had a tour of the building and jail cells. ¬†The tour leader talked about safety and showed us how people are fingerprinted, searched, and processed through the jail. ¬†Captain and I handed out stickers and each kid got a small, metal police badge that I found very cheaply online through a wholesale sticker outlet. ¬†It was fun and informative, and once again, I was surprised at how easy it was to arrange.


#3. Visit a Veterinary Hospital! : This is as simple as emailing your local animal clinic or hospital with your request to tour the facility and learn about what veterinarians do and how animals are cared for there. Include a time frame of possible dates and the number of people who will attend. We toured Paso Petcare in Paso Robles, CA, and they are awesome!  We ended up taking our new puppy there, actually, after we had visited and saw how clean and nice their clinic is, and how they care for the animals.  They were wonderful and welcomed us all. Dr. Lucy gave us the tour, and we all learned about the rooms, the surgeries and care that the animals need. There were things to touch and animals to see and we got to meet the resident one-eared cat that had been rescued by the staff. Lots of questions were answered and the kids loved the animals.  Getting to see how they are cared for was a wonderful experience!


#4. Arrange a tour with your local Ambulance company!

Yet again, it never hurts to ask!  I called a local ambulance company in Atascadero, CA and made arrangements for a group of moms and kids to learn about ambulances, and what paramedics do to help people.  Mostly the kids enjoyed climbing all over inside the ambulance and getting strapped into the gurney.  When I called to make arrangements, I was told that the ambulance could come to a school, or other facility, and since I had a good-sized group, they were willing to meet us at a local park. They let me know right away that they would call me in on the morning of the tour to confirm, and also that if an emergency came up that required our ambulance, that we would need to wait, or postpone.  It actually did happen that an emergency occured and our ambulance was needed somewhere, but I got a call on my cell that they would be an hour late.  No problem!  The location being a park was ideal and all of the kids played and ate lunch until the ambulance arrived.  It was great!  They pulled right up and the paramedics came out and introduced themselves and talked a little about what they do and answered questions.  Then, they opened up the back and told the kids to jump right in.  It was really fun for everyone!



Learning about what people do in the world is awesome, and I would like to thank all of the people who took the time to share with us their experiences in helping people and animals in the world.  If you have arranged any cool tours for kids and parents, we would love to hear about them.  I look forward to all of the adventures in learning to come.  Thanks for reading!

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Easy Dough Ornaments For Easter, Or Anytime!


Here is a very simple recipe for craft dough for making cool ornaments. These dry quickly so there isn’t an overnight-wait period for little crafters ūüôā

This dough is great to use for any ornament shapes, using cookie cutters, and you’ll want to have some colorful yarn, or ribbons, on hand for hanging the sweet creations when finished. ¬†After the paint dries, Captain likes to write her name and the date on the back with a black, fine-tip permanent marker, which adds such a nice touch for gifts for family. ¬†This is a perfect Easter craft too, as a simple egg shape looks adorable with any colors or patterns!


4 cups flour, 1-1/2 cups water, 1 cup salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Combine flour, salt and water (excellent time to let the kids measure & mix!) and after mixing well, knead for 10 minutes (let the kiddos set the timer and help knead too!).

Roll out onto floured surface and cut into desired shapes.  Make a hole for hanging.  Bake for 30 minutes and allow to cool.

Paint with tempera paints and allow to dry. You can now write on them with permanent markers, if you like. Spray with clear polyurethane on both sides. ¬†Hang from ribbons.¬†¬†I hope you enjoy making these with your little ones…

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

From Tree To Table: How Maple Syrup Is Made!


Scrumptious gift from the beautiful maple tree:  home-canned maple syrup!

I would like to share with you the wonderful information we just learned, as a family, about how maple syrup is made at home.  Kids love to learn new things about trees, and as is the case of my kiddo, food too!  If you live in the northeastern part of the US, or in the Canadian regions where maple trees flow with wonderful sap, you are very lucky to have this gift so close to home.  We are fortunate to be visiting upstate New york and just saw friends who shared with us the process of tapping trees and cooking down the sap into syrup. After the how-to portion of this post, I will share some terrific news on the health benefits of real maple syrup, a maple syrup & walnut popcorn recipe, and a link to free, fun printables about maple syrup for kids.

The trees! Due to their sugar content, the following trees are most commonly tapped for sap collection:  Sugar Maple, Black Maple, Red Maple, and Silver Maple.  Sugar Maples have the highest sugar content and therefore are ideal for tapping.

Basically, a hole is drilled in the tree and a tap or spout, called a spile, is used to transfer the sap from the tree into a bucket. ¬†A bucket, or plastic jug, is hung from the tree to collect the sap. ¬†The sap runs out clear, like water, and is collected and cooked down outside for hours to get the water out and thicken and darken it. ¬†The sap is then taken indoors to finish up and is then canned in a hot water bath into sterile jars. ¬†That’s it!

Maple sap generally begins to flow between mid-February and mid-March.  Sap flows when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing.  Generally the sap flows for 4-6 weeks, with the best sap coming early in the season.

Trees must be at least 12 inches in diameter, and larger trees can have up to 3 taps per tree. ¬†The height of the tap hole doesn’t matter, it is a matter of convenience. ¬†A hole is drilled about 2 inches deep, at a slight upward angle. ¬†The spile is inserted and tapped into the tree with a hammer. ¬†The bucket, or jug, is hung by hook or spile. The tree is tapped!

Depending on the season, you can expect 5-15 gallons of sap per tap. The sap can be stored for up to a week or so before cooking, so syrup doesn’t have to be processed daily. ¬†The collected sap is strained to remove debris and is ready for cooking.

10 gallons of sap can be boiled into 1 quart of syrup (ratio of 40:1).  The sap is boiled outdoors because it produces too much steam to do inside. In small batches, the sap boils until it takes on a golden color, and then is transferred to a smaller pot and taken indoors to finish.  Continue to boil the sap until it takes on a consistency of syrup and then a candy thermometer is used to bring it to 7 degrees Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water.

The syrup is then filtered and canned in a boiling water bath for storage, or placed in the refrigerator to be used within 3 months.

I just can’t get enough of this! ¬†I love maple trees, the sap and the syrup! ¬†I am ever hopeful to return next winter and help tap and cook maple syrup. It is truly good family fun, and a delightful addition to the pantry.

Maple syrup, the healthy sweetener:

Maple syrup contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help with inflammation, according to research from The University of Rhode Island. ¬†During the study, one polyphenol, quebecol (named for Quebec, one of the top syrup-making regions) was discovered, and it is unique to maple syrup. University of Rhode Island researcher, Navindra Seeram, discovered¬†54 new beneficial compounds in pure maple syrup (2011), and confirmed that 20 compounds discovered in preliminary research play a key role in human health. ¬†Several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.¬†¬†The darker grades of maple syrup have the highest level of antioxidants. Maple syrup is sugar, and therefore shouldn’t be consumed in huge amounts to try to get the antioxidant benefits! It is simply a much healthier choice for sweetening foods instead of other sugars or anything with corn syrup. ¬†I am happy to say that Captain loves real maple syrup! ¬†We put it on her porridge, pancakes and yogurt, and cook and bake with it as well.


This is Stan, who resides in Columbia County in New York.  He graciously took us on a tour of his land and shared his knowledge of maple sap-to-syrup.  Afterward, he and his lovely wife, Linda, served us sweet little old-fashioned dishes of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with their very own maple syrup.  It was scrumptious, and honestly, the best maple syrup I have ever tasted!  Thanks for reading.  Cheers to Stan and Linda, and maple syrup dreams to all!


Recipe ~Maple Syrup & Walnut Popcorn:  Oil a large bowl and a wooden spoon.  Pop 8 cups, or so, of popcorn.  Heat 1 cup maple syrup to 236 degrees, using a candy thermometer.  Stir together popcorn, 3/4 cup walnut pieces, and syrup.  Break into pieces when cool.  Enjoy!

Click here for a link to fun, free maple syrup coloring pages for kids

Click here for the link¬†to read more about The University of Rhode Island’s study of maple syrup.

You can find the comprehensive booklet Tap My Trees  Maple Sugaring at Home by Joe McHale on Amazon by clicking here.

Categories: Foodarella, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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