Natural Selection Activity

One of the easier things to teach your kids about natural selection is the tendency for animals to adapt a coloration reflective of their environment.  It helps them avoid being eaten, as well as to sneak up on their food.

Nature walks are a good time to discuss this adaptation – and easy to do anywhere worms, bugs, birds and other critters are at hand.  We came up with a fun way to play with the idea using a handful of Bee’s toys.

I set a bunch of little rubber critters out for her – and put a colorful blanket or two around the room to help with colors that aren’t already in our living room environment – then instructed her to ‘hide’ the toys on places where their colors blend in.

Here are the results:







And here is the example of what not to do.  If you are an orange grasshopper, hanging out on a rust colored couch, don’t be surprised if Godzilla eats you.


Here’s a great list Kathy Ceceri compiled with kid-friendly sites about natural selection.

Festivals Family and Food

Festivals Family and Food is another of my favorite books for ideas about family time, and especially the role that the cycle of the year plays in a child’s life.

A child’s days, weeks and years feel much longer to them than they do to us.  Half a lifetime for a 3 year old is 1.5 years – whereas for me, it’s over 17.  For a young person, each season is all the more ripe with new experience – we have the opportunity to help them make the most of this magical feeling.


This book takes you through the whole year, with emphasis on holidays (of various origin, refreshingly not strictly limited to one belief system – though I would have liked even more diversity) and associated crafts, activities, recipes, old stories and games.  It feels much older than its copyright date.

here is the Amazon blurb:

This family favourite is a unique, well loved source of stories, recipes, things to make, activities, poems and songs. Each festival has its own well illustrated chapter. There are also sections on Birthdays, Rainy Days, Convalescence and a birthday calendar. The perfect present for a family, it explores the numerous festivals that children love to celebrate..

and a couple of reviews:

“It’s an invaluable resource book.” – The Observer

“A lovely book which I feel every young couple should read.” – The Daily Mail

“This is the book I have been looking for… Festivals is beautifully illustrated and produced… I don’t think I have ever seen a book which deals with its subjects so comprehensively.” – Church of England Newspaper

“An attractive book which will have year round usefulness” – Stroud News & Journal

Easter Bunny in a Hot Air Balloon Pinata

update 4/14 – I’m using this as my post Easter Unplugged Project, because it fits the theme well.

The idea for this project came to me when we found 3-packs of punching balloons at the dollar store (and stocked up, like anybody who knows how much 3yr. olds love balloons, and punching them, would do).

It was such a fun thing for us to make, that I think we’ll build it into our future Easter celebrations as well.

We made a paper mache ‘hot air’ balloon to carry the Easter Bunny into town – and the whole project doubles as an Easter Pinata, to be broken on Easter morning – after a couple of weeks of anticipation, and until then it’s a good decoration.


Large Balloon,

flour and water (use a pasty ratio) in a large bowl or paint pan,

torn strips of newspaper,

tempera paints,



a plastic container (ours was from Chinese Take-Out),

a hole punch,

and a couple of bags of smallish candies,

small stuffed bunny.

1~ Blow up the balloon, and cover your work space w/ newspaper, besmock the child (you’ve been warned).


2~ Dip the newspaper strips (around 2″x8″ or thereabouts) in your paper mache paste, covering them.  This picture shows Bee mixing the flour and water, squishing the lumps.


3~ Cover the balloon with paper mache.  Smooth all the paper over the balloon and cover all of the latex except for the knot at the bottom.


4~ Let that dry.  Then do a second layer, and let that dry as well.

5~ paint a coat of white paint, then let it dry.  Setting the ball in a bowl makes this easier.



6~ Paint the hot air balloon however you like.  The painting is all done before the balloon is removed, because water based paints can soften the paper mache.



7~ Make sure the painted balloon is dry.  Remove the balloon by snipping it a little near the knot and letting it leak all of its air slowly.  This is lots of fun for kids to watch.  Remove deflated balloon from small hole left where the knot was.  Trimming this hole to be a little larger is fine.

8~ Put some candy into the balloon.  We filled ours about 20% or so – don’t put in too much, or you increase your chances of it being to heavy to hang safely.


9~ This part is a little tricky to describe – give it some thought before you do it.  First, patch the hole up top w/ a little paper mache or a piece of duct tape (it will be up top, and hard to see once you hang it up – don’t worry about making it look nice).  I cut several long pieces of yarn and drew criss-crossing lines of glue on the top of the balloon and applied the yard so that the ends hung freely down the sides of the balloon.  Smother the tops with glue – this will make for a secure framework to hang the balloon from.  Thread a piece of strong string through the clustered criss crossing yarn at the very top, make this piece the length you will need to hang the balloon (preferable from a plant hook or nail on a beam near your ceiling – customize this to your setting).  Let it dry, then hang it up.

10~ use a hole punch to put hole around the top of the plastic container that match up with the support strings hanging from the bottom of the balloon, then tie it in place, trim strings, and add the bunny.



A sturdy yard stick should be sufficient for smash time on Easter morning.  We’ll have to be sure the dogs are safely away from ground zero, so they don’t get any candy.  I like the idea of using it as a pinata, because it makes for a finite decoration, like a Christmas tree – so that even though it is something we like, it goes away when the holiday ends.

A clever variation might be to not add the bunny until Easter day, as a surprise – we just happened to already have one that was just the right size.


First Bowling

Today we went bowling for the first time together.  Bee had a great time, and celebrated the good rolls with much screaming and clapping.


I wish they had these ramp things, and bumper bowling in general, when I was growing up!


Six pound ball – she felt like Atlas.


In the end, she scored 101 – coming in second place out of our party of 4 (nobody else used the ramp, or had their dad aim it for them, though)!

Life-Sized Candyland

This was my attempt at scoring dad-of-the-month last August.

To make a life-sized candyland board, you need a large(ish) driveway – and some colored chalk.

The trick to making the path is to duct tape pieces of sidewalk chalk to the rungs of a rake – at the width you want.  Then you walk along, in the shape of the path on the game board (or however you like), dragging the rake and making evenly spaced parallel lines.  Pretty clever, right (spraining arm, patting self on back)?  Then I used a small board to mark each space, so the spaces would all be the same size.

The next part is greuling – color the spaces.  Dark outlines do the best job of defining the color of the spaces, and then I filled in with the chalk turned sideways within the space.  I duplicated the game board as well as I could – including the gumdrop shortcut, special spaces, etc.

_cl1(view from bedroom window)

To move – an MC holds the deck of cards from the game, and you go from child to child.  It works really well as a party theme – I served cupcakes decorated to look like peppermints.  By now you will know that I am half (more?) out-of-my-mind, but that’s the way I like it.

_cl25(beautiful weather doesn’t hurt… rain?  That would hurt!)

_cl2(playgroup peeps)

It was a great day – and one I’m sure all the kids will remember.  My knees remember it a little too.

_cl3(This is Bee, happy.)