Freewriting Fun: Take it Outside

Walking and writing… this is our writing focus this week.  We’ve been experiencing beautiful, warm fall weather, an ideal time to head outdoors for some writing. The assignment?  The daily focus may vary, but every day, my son is to take a walk and then complete a 10-20 minute freewrite about the experience. What is freewriting? From Julie Bogart’s The Writer’s Jungle: “Freewriting is the … Continue reading Freewriting Fun: Take it Outside

5 Best Places to Bird Watch in the Bay Area

Thank you to guest writer, Ernie Allison, for sharing this article! *** Even though summer isn’t the peak season to witness a heavy migration, the bay area is still full of spots for birders to see some beautiful wild bird species. Whether you’re a local looking to quench your bird watching craving before the migration season, or a visitor looking to see what kind of … Continue reading 5 Best Places to Bird Watch in the Bay Area

Halloween Fun: Spooky Night Hike

Saturday evening, we went on a fun “spooky night hike” at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.  My son was looking forward to this event more than to trick-or-treating on Halloween night! Before sundown, we met with our hike leader (a naturalist / pirate), who gave the kids some safety tips before heading out.  Then he led the families up into the hills. Along the … Continue reading Halloween Fun: Spooky Night Hike

Mono Lake: Panum Crater

Due to the government shutdown during our visit to Yosemite National Park last week, we decided to head over to Mono Lake and hike the rim of a volcano instead!  Panum Crater, located just off Highway 120 near the South Tufa Area of the Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve, is part of a chain of volcanic cones called the Mono-Inyo Craters.   These are considered to … Continue reading Mono Lake: Panum Crater

Animal Fun! Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward

I’ve been wanting to write about the Sulphur Creek Nature Center for a long time now.  When my son was two and three, we visited the center regularly for their awesome toddler wildlife classes (for 1-3 year-olds).  I found it was the best place in the San Francisco East Bay to give my son hands-on wildlife experiences.  In each class, the children are introduced to … Continue reading Animal Fun! Sulphur Creek Nature Center, Hayward

Solar Cooking Science: Melting Marshmallows

We had a bit of fun on Friday afternoon, melting marshmallows to make s’mores, using the Thames & Kosmos Solar Cooking Science kit. After a week of higher than 100 degree Fahrenheit heat, the weather finally cooled down to a high of 80 degrees on Friday…. cool enough for us to head outside for a solar energy experiment. First, we built the solar oven provided … Continue reading Solar Cooking Science: Melting Marshmallows

Framed: Step Into Art Exhibit, Bay Area Discovery Museum

If you are in the area and have the opportunity, I highly suggest you take your little ones to the Bay Area Discover Museum in Sausalito to play in the “Framed:  Step into Art” exhibit, which will be on display until September 8th, 2013.  We’re fortunate, in that this is this is the second time we’ve been able to check out this great exhibit.  It … Continue reading Framed: Step Into Art Exhibit, Bay Area Discovery Museum

Geology for Kids: Crystal Mining Excavation Kit

My son recently received the 4M Kidz Labs Crystal Mining science kit for his birthday.  He LOVES these excavation kits (see this post about a similar kit, also made by 4M.. Paleontology Play:  Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit – Velociraptor). My son is super into rocks and minerals these days, so this was a timely gift.  The kit comes with eight different kinds of crystals, hidden … Continue reading Geology for Kids: Crystal Mining Excavation Kit

Fun with Magnets: Geomag

We’ve used some fun magnet science kits in the past, but the way my son likes to play with magnets best is through building toys.  We have three different kinds… Magna-Tiles, Magformers, and Geomag. I credit my son’s strong understanding of geometric shapes to playing with these magnetic toys. Geomag building kits come with magnetic rods and steel balls that can be combined to build … Continue reading Fun with Magnets: Geomag

Create-With-Nature Earth Day Celebration: Sand Globes

Photos of my husband and son making sand globes, from the Create-With-Nature Earth Day Celebration, 2013, at Stinson Beach, California.  Instruction was provided.  Apparently, once these are made, they’ll keep indefinitely, as long as they are misted with water daily.  We won’t be able to find out… my son had fun using the ones they made as “snowballs”.  Most of the orbs were incorporated into … Continue reading Create-With-Nature Earth Day Celebration: Sand Globes

Create-With-Nature Earth Day Celebration: Beach Labyrinth

Photos of the labyrinth created in the sand, from the Create-With-Nature Earth Day Celebration, 2013, at Stinson Beach, California.  Usually, these are made for meditation, but that’s not how my five-year-old used it.  He had so much fun running around and around and around the winding path.  Either way, the design was appropriate for the celebration… I read somewhere that the Hopi considered labyrinths to … Continue reading Create-With-Nature Earth Day Celebration: Beach Labyrinth

Observe: Insect Activity

What cool insect, arachnid (spider), or mollusk (snail) activity can you find around your yard? Has your child watched a spider spin a web? How about ants marching along on a mission? What about a snail eating a plant? Give your child the time and space to observe these small creatures in their natural environment… your back yard. Here’s my five-year-old, completely fascinated, watching a … Continue reading Observe: Insect Activity

Kid Science: Make a Seed Viewer

Seeds… how incredible that plants of all sizes can grow from such a tiny thing.  If you’ve gardened with a young child, you’ve witnessed their fascination and wonder at the mystery of plants.  To give your child the opportunity to actually witness the growth of a plant from the first roots shooting out of the seed to ultimately pushing through the surface of the dirt, … Continue reading Kid Science: Make a Seed Viewer

Kid Science: Owl Pellet Dissection

Owls are fascinating creatures.  They have a special organ (gizzard) that stores the undigestible parts of their prey, preventing these parts (bones, teeth, fur, feathers) from proceeding through the digestive tract.  The gizzard compresses these parts into a pellet which is later regurgitated.  This is a pretty simplistic explanation.  If you’d like to learn more, check out this page from the website, The Owl Pages,… … Continue reading Kid Science: Owl Pellet Dissection

Great book! Friends of the Earth: A History of American Environmentalism

In preparation for Earth Day next month, I’m currently reading a wonderful book… Friends of the Earth:  A History of American Environmentalism by Pat McCarthy.   The book, written for children ages 9 and up,  introduces the efforts, struggles, and triumphs of men and women (scientists, artists, authors, naturalists) who dedicated their lives to protecting the United States’ natural heritage.  The author has also included twenty-one … Continue reading Great book! Friends of the Earth: A History of American Environmentalism

Photography for Kids: Fun with an iPhone

I enjoyed a fun walk around our neighborhood on Monday with my son, looking for signs of spring.  My son loves to take photos, but he’s become frustrated with the quality of the images he takes on the kid camera we gave him for his birthday last year.  He wants to be able to take photos close-up, and his camera simply doesn’t zoom in well.  … Continue reading Photography for Kids: Fun with an iPhone

Looking for Signs of Spring: A Walk Around the Neighborhood

After school on Monday, we went for a walk around our neighborhood to look for signs of spring. As an extension of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge (Phoneography Challenge: My Neighborhood), I gave my iPhone to my five-year-old son and asked him to take photos of what he could find.  The signs he saw were primarily floral… wildflowers and blossoming trees.  We did see our … Continue reading Looking for Signs of Spring: A Walk Around the Neighborhood

Paleontology Play: Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit – Velociraptor

My son has played with a few of these kits in the past, and he absolutely LOVES them.  This one, Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit:  Velociraptor,  is made by 4M Kidz Labs, and it was exactly what my son was hoping it would be…. a plastic dinosaur skeleton hidden in a block of plaster.  The kit came with a plastic digging tool and a brush.  In … Continue reading Paleontology Play: Dinosaur Skeleton Excavation Kit – Velociraptor

Citizen Science: FrogWatch 2013

As I sit here at my computer with the backdoor open to allow some fresh air into our home, I’m listening to the lovely sound of frogsong.  The chorus is coming from the creek on the other side of our backyard fence.  Up until today, we’ve only been hearing one frog at a time.  Suddenly, this afternoon,I can’t distinguish how many I hear.  Has the … Continue reading Citizen Science: FrogWatch 2013

Paleontology Play: The Magic School Bus Fossil Science Kit

For those of you with kids in the 5-12 age-range, I highly recommend you check out The Magic School Bus Science Club, offered through The Young Scientist Club (www.theyoungscientistclub.com).   By joining the club, you’ll receive twelve Magic School Bus science kits, one mailed each month of the year.  The cost is about $240/year, but you might be able to find a 50% off membership … Continue reading Paleontology Play: The Magic School Bus Fossil Science Kit

The Calming Effect of Nature on Children

One of the great things about playing in nature is that bouts of exertion and excitement are often interspersed with quiet, contemplative time.  I don’t have to recommend these quiet moments… my five-year-old sits down and calms himself entirely on his own whenever he’s inspired by the beauty around him. I often wonder what he’s thinking, but I wouldn’t dare interrupt the magic of the … Continue reading The Calming Effect of Nature on Children

More Fun with Animal Tracks

This past weekend, we attended a fun nature class at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.  This free class for children aged 5+ and their family, called Family Nature Hour, is held on Saturday afternoons throughout the year.  Each week a different concept from the natural world is covered.  The one we attended on Saturday was about animal tracks. We were fortunate to have the … Continue reading More Fun with Animal Tracks

Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center, located in Santa Cruz on the bluffs above the Monterey Bay, is a true gem.  Don’t expect the grandeur of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but be prepared for a smaller, quieter, more intimate experience here.  The location is phenomenal.  On a clear day, the views can’t be beat. Inside the center, children will actually have time to experience the touch … Continue reading Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Santa Cruz