Nature Study · Uncategorized

Natural Backyard Play Supplies

Natural Backyard Play Supplies - The Silvan Reverie

“Daily exposure to the outdoors stimulates the brain in many ways: (1) There are no expectations. Children are forced to use their imagination in order for that stick, rock or pinecone to become a part of their world. (2) There are endless possibilities. The outdoors challenges the mind to constantly think in new ways. (3) There is no pressure. When engaging in active free play, children can play with others or not, make up their own rules or follow someone else’s, be rough-and-tumble or quiet and contemplative.” (Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J. Hanscom)

Books to Inspire Nature Play

See this post for all my favorites books to inspire outdoor nature play.

Note that I do not think anyone NEEDS any of these books! These types of books certainly are popular for publishers to put out in the last couple of years. And I get it. I think they can provide a fun way to flip through for ideas you might not have otherwise thought of. I certainly have appreciated having these and have learned a lot of new skills. I enjoy these types of new and fun activities with my kids, but we certainly aren’t referencing these books every week. They are there if we want to try something new.

Our Outdoor Play Supplies

Below I will be sharing a list of all our outdoor play supplies. I organized most of the smaller items in to an IKEA TROFAST storage system on our front screened-in porch. I absolutely love that the plastic bins can individually come out. The kids can handle moving them around and clean-up all on their own. PLUS, the bin itself serves as a play element.

Note that this is protected from the elements since it is housed on our porch. You could also store these types of things in a small shed or garden-tool bin.

Our mud kitchen supplies stay in a crate with that area of the yard. Other large items like tree stumps, ramps, crates, and tubs stay either in the yard or in our storage shed.

(1) Natural Loose Parts

The term “loose part” has become a bit of a fad. Basically it means something that can be played with in a very open-ended way. The opposite of a loose part is a “fixed toy”—a Mickey Mouse figurine can only ever be Mickey Mouse (and always happy because he is smiling). A pinecone or “loose part” can be currency or an ice cream cone or a mixer or a bug or a rocket ship or … even a Mickey Mouse!

Here’s what we have for loose parts play:

  • Tree slices (large & small)
    • We made ours but you can purchase these at craft stores or Amazon
  • Sticks (various lengths and widths)
  • Rocks (a variety of sizes)
  • Tree nuts
  • Acorns
  • Pine cones
  • Large movable tree stumps
  • Flat wooden boards

Nature Loose Parts Play - The Silvan Reverie

We also have some non-natural loose parts in the mix like old tires and rope. I’m also including a traditional wood block set made for us by my father-in-law.

We actually have a gravel driveway and the rocks there have proved to be a favorite yard toy for years.

Shells, dirt, sand, mulch, wood chips are just a few other ideas for natural loose parts.

We have small wood scoops for use with the small loose parts like acorns.

(2) Imaginative Play

Note that I’m including a separate list for imaginative play BUT the idea with the loose parts listed above is that they could also be used for pretend play. A pinecone can be a hand mixer in the kitchen or currency at a shop. A stick can be a horse or a wand or musical instrument. Small loose parts can be built in to small worlds like castles or bug villages.

  • Play Silks (be sure to see this list for the play possibilities with play silks if you are not already familiar with these)
  • Bow & Arrow
  • Butterfly Wings
  • Crowns (handmade, could be crafted or made with nature items)
  • Wands (just a plain stick or one that is crafted)
  • Bubbles
  • Pinwheels
  • Spray Bottles
  • Sheets, Tarps (for building shelters)
  • Garden tools (hand rakes are fun and so are kid-sized shovels and rakes)
  • Wheelbarrow (kid-sized)
  • Wagon
  • Baskets
  • Buckets
  • Tray for outdoor art & play dough
  • Peg dolls for fairy houses
  • Schleich animals
  • Small tubs for sensory play / water play
  • Sand pit

Backyard Nature Play - The Silvan Reverie

You can also construct stick shelters or use play silks or tarps for shelters to go along with imaginative play. As mentioned earlier, I also think imaginative play can include building small worlds for wooden peg dolls or other toys–e.g. build a camp site or fairy houses.

I will also say: if you have a tent, you can always set it up in your backyard for a couple of days for your kids to just play in!

(3) Mud & Water Kitchen

Note that you won’t find a Pinterest-worthy mud kitchen in our backyard. Here’s how I put it together: I scrounged around for items we already had. I spent no money. Remember you do not need elaborate & beautiful mud kitchens: you just want something your kids will want to play with!

The hose is nearby so the kids have a water source they can manage on their own to make mud.

  • Pots & Pants
  • Muffin tins, cake pans, pie pans
  • Plates, Bowls, Cups
  • Mixing spoons
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Pitchers
  • Canisters
  • Scoops
  • Buckets
  • Spray Bottles
  • Watering Cans
  • Large tubs for holding water

Again note that the natural loose parts listed above are often used as ingredients in our mud kitchen or used in water play.

Mud Pies Nature Play - The Silvan Reverie

(4) Nature Study, Art, & Handcrafts

I created a category for nature study and nature art because I find that we will bring back a variety of nature treasure from hikes to our yard and I wanted to have materials accessible to explore and play with those nature finds some more.

Art & Handcrafts

Organic Artist For Kids - The Silvan Reverie

Wildlife Observation & Nature Collection

(5) Games

I am aware there are a wide variety of lawn games but I wanted to share what we have: my preference is for (1) traditional games with not a lot of bells & whistles and minimal plastic parts, (2) games that can be used by small children and (3) games that can be used in a variety of ways. For example, wood tree slices make for great lily pad jumps in an obstacle course and can also be used to roll down ramps.

  • Rope Rings and Stakes for ring toss game
  • Bean Bags (we have a bean bag toss game with boards)
  • Wood Boards (various sizes work great for construction projects, ramps, etc.)
  • Milk crates
  • Kubb
  • Balls (a variety of sizes)
  • Wood Block Set
  • Old Tire(s)
  • Movable Tree Stumps
  • Rope(s)
  • Clips
  • Buckets

Other ideas for games are making water ramps with old gutters or PVC pipes. Make a pulley system. Make a scale. Create an obstacle course.

(6) Practical Stuff

I like to be well set up so that I am not having to run in and out of the house. Here are just a few things I keep with our outdoor supplies:

** I love this style of outdoor tarp blanket because it is light enough to be used to make a play tent and it is really easy to clean if we spill food on it while picnicking (you do not have to put it in the laundry, you can just wipe it down or hose it down). Also, it compacts down small so it is easy to travel with.

Nature Play Ideas Checklist

Nature Play Ideas Checklist - The Silvan Reverie

I have used this list for Nature Play ideas for a few years . I find it is helpful to just glance at every once an awhile and have one or two ideas in the back of my mind that could be fun for us to do that week. I do not see this as a checklist where I feel like we have to do everything here or my kids will have a deprived childhood!

It simply is a list of ideas. Potential. Opportunities. Inspiration.

Hopefully it is of use to you!

This printable is available to Newsletter Subscribers

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your backyard play adventures.

Books · Nature Study · Uncategorized

Dinosaur & Fossils Study Resources

Favorite Dinosaur Books - The Silvan Reverie

Books

*Note that the first of these from DK is for ages 5-8 and the second is ages 9-12

Dinosaur & Fossil Resources - The Silvan Reverie

For Fun

Flash Cards

Fossils Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Fossil Study

Dinosaur Fossils - The Silvan Reverie

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Land & Water Forms Nature Study

Land and Water Forms Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Books
Printed Resources
For Fun

Try to create your own land and water forms using one of the following:

  • Play dough
  • Air dry clay and paint
  • Felt
  • Graham crackers & blue icing
  • Blue & green glass gems
  • Cardboard
  • Colored rice

Have your child sort land and water animals OR sort land and water vehicles.

Find famous examples of each on a world map or MAPS book and explore real images.

FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE
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Ocean Nature Study

Ocean Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

A Quick Note

This post is meant to house all my favorite ocean-themed books and learning resources, but please know I have never gone through ALL of these at one time with my kids! We have done ocean units a few times and each time change the focus a bit—one time was more about whales, another time more about lighthouses and sailing, another time ocean explorers. I follow my kids’ interests! Hopefully this list is helpful to you and not overwhelming.

Without further ado, here are my favorite ocean-themed learning resources!

Nonfiction Books:

All-Encompasing

Sea Life

Coral Reefs

Ocean Exploration

Humans & the Sea

Sea Birds

Fiction Books:
Curriculum:

I have the Marine Biology Unit from The Good & the Beautiful but have not done it with my kids. I know many people love this! 

Printed Resources:
Just For Fun:

Ocean Bingo (LOVE this game!)

Small Figures for Sensory Play and Learning

Peg Dolls

Schleich Ocean Animals (larger toys)

DIY Wood Boat and Lighthouse

Coloring Books

FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE
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Books to Celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day Books - The Silvan Reverie

A Note About Earth Day

We are an “Earth Day Every Day” sort of family, but I love the idea of setting a day aside to celebrate our wonderful planet and inspire ourselves and others to care for it.

My kids witness the harm done to our precious natural world with their own personal experience and observation: we find trash in our woods all the time, they have seen signs up in protected spaces asking people to not trample a sensitive area, we observed boat motor scars on the backs of Manatees while on vacation in Florida, and we have talked about how chemicals upstream from us sometimes make our lake unsafe to swim in.

I am not interested in being so heavy-handed with my kids and to forcibly burden them. I mainly focus on giving them an out-of-doors life, care-free, for hours of unstructured time each day. The already love the Earth; I do not need to tell them they should.

“Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life.” -Charlotte Mason

I do find, though, that reading books together we can work out some of that angst we naturally witness and feel. Learning more about our home called Earth, how to care for it, and what a nature-advocate looks like are important lessons and need not be approached in a way that robs children of childhood. We just need to start with love.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

With that in mind, here is a list of Earth Day inspired stories and reference books.

Picture Books: Fiction

Nonfiction & Reference

Below are some favorite nature nonfiction and reference books we own and peruse often. But first I want to share this previous blog post:

Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies

The post above includes favorite children’s biographies of Jane Goodall, Beatrix Potter, Rachel Carsen, David Attenborough, John James Audubon, John Muir, and many more!

I tried to keep the list above condensed as much as possible, but be sure to also check out these favorite nature-based authors:

Books for Nature Engagement

Books for Parents

 

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Endangered Species Nature Study

Endangered Species Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Books

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Resources

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On Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing

**UPDATE 4/11/20 — After writing this post I decided the Wild Hope book is not very kid-friendly. The stories are not very hopeful and longer than the All Creation Waits book (which I still love).

Wild Hope is a guided devotional for Lent by Gayle Boss. As a family we have been going through Gayle Boss’s All Creation Waits for three years now during Advent, and I am excited to read through Wild Hope this year for Lent. All Creation Waits is themed on animals’ adaptations to winter; Wild Hope is themed on endangered species.

So why focus on endangered species for Lent?

“The purpose of Lent has always been to startle us awake to the true state of our hearts and the world we’ve made. Which wakes an aching, wild hope that something new might be born of the ruin. The promise of Lent is that something will be born of the ruin… Lent is seeded with resurrection.” (Gayle Boss, Wild Hope)

We open our hearts and souls up to the animals who suffer, the “least of these” and feel their suffering as our own.

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FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE

 

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Bears Nature Study

Bears Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Nonfiction Books:
Fiction Books:

Great for Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

Early Chapter Books

Bears.jpg

Resources:
FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE

 

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Favorite Tree Books for Children

Favorite Tree Books For Children - The Silvan Reverie

Tree Narratives for Children

A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry

A poetic ode to the beauty of the presence of trees in our everyday lives. The simplicity is perfect and a lovely depiction of childhood.

*Great for preschoolers

Greta and the Giants by Zoë Tucker

An allegorical depiction of a young girl standing up against deforestation. Based on Greta Thunberg’s life, this is also a testament to the power of community coming together.

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers

I love ALL of The Fan Brothers books, and this one does not disappoint. A man transforms the spirit of a town and the life of an orphan boy by designing whimsical topiaries each night in secret. Charming and sweet. The best kind of story.

Tall, Tall Tree by Anthony Fredericks

A lyrical counting book in a giant redwood ecosystem. Learn about all that lives in this unique habitat — perfect for anyone totally enthralled by these giant trees.

*Great for preschoolers

The Little Fir Tree by Christoper Corr

You can view more of my favorite Holiday evergreen trees on my Conifers Nature Study post. I’m including this one on my “regular” list because the story is a classic one — based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale. Our family loves these illustrations so much!

Seeds and Trees by Brandon Walden

A powerful story about friendship and kind words and the state of our hearts. Emotions are represented as good trees and bad trees, and the visual landscape is stunning. A beautiful story with an important and timeless message.

The Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree by Naoko Stoop

A library built into the nook of a tree in the woods with friendship at the root? Who wouldn’t want such a thing! This book has been a long-time favorite in our family. So sweet.

The Shady Tree by Demi

A Chinese fable about greed versus generosity. This book has the similar unforeseen shift in story like The Empty Pot.

Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins

Is there anything NOT to love about treehouses? This book imagines all the possibilities of treehouses in the spirit of all children. So imaginative and inviting!

Kate, Who Tamed the Wind by Liz Garton Scanlon

Such a charming story with a female protagonists who solves a windy problem by planting trees. This just so happens to be a legitimate environmentally-friendly solution!

The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward

A simple rhyming story about the life of an old oak tree and all of the life it supports. The details are quite lovely and I find this so charming and simple.

*Great for preschoolers

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

This is the true story of Kate Sessions who was instrumental in bringing trees from around to the world to a little desert town known as San Diego.

This book also appears on my Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies.

Tree by Britta Teckentrup

A peek-through book that depicts a single tree through all four seasons. Lots to enjoy on each page and the story is rhythmical and lovely.

*Great for preschoolers

Redwoods by Jason Chin

A fun depiction of the the power of books and the mystery of the redwood forests. A boy imagines himself into the redwood forests as he learns important facts. This is one of those nonfiction-books-disguised-as-fiction. Unique and fun!

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This classic. I can remember reading this so many times as a kid. The tree is so simply illustrated and yet incredible impactful in the imaginations of many.

Maple by Lori Nichols

There are other books in this series and they are a lot about the sisters Maple & Willow and their relationship. I love the idea that a child can find friendship in a tree, or really anything natural in their yard.

Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses by Shira Boss

The title explains the bulk of this story — a true story about Bob Redman, an arborist in New York City, and his passion for trees. Most naturalists do in fact have close ties with nature as children.

A Year Around the Great Oak by Gerda Muller

I love Gerda Muller so much! This book is a wonderful depiction of a tree through the seasons and how the children relate to it. Also the tree in this book is a 300 year old gorgeous oak tree!

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson

There are several Fletcher books but I particularly love this one. I adore Fletcher’s desperation to save his tree because he doesn’t understand that the leaves falling is totally natural. Too sweet.

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves by Annemarie Riley Guertin

A stunningly illustrated tale about kindness, told as a classic story. We learn why Cardinals do not migrate south in the winter AND why evergreens keep their leaves. Thanks to a little generosity from the trees and magic from Jack Frost.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

A hilariously absurd story from Oliver Jeffers that will have everyone giggling. Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree one day and then cycles through increasingly crazy objects to fling up in the tree to free the kite.

The Things That I Love About Trees by Chris Butterworth

I adore the illustrations in this book and the fact that it takes you through all four seasons and describes things to appreciate about trees in each season. A lovely depiction of a childhood spent in nature.

UPCOMING RELEASES:

Peter and the Tree Children by Peter Wohlleben — April 2020

Under My Tree by Muriel Tallandier — April 2020

Holiday Evergreen Tree Books

Favorite Holiday Tree Books - The Silvan Reverie

See this blog post: Conifers Nature Study for a list of favorite holiday books featuring evergreen trees.

Tree Nonfiction Books For Children

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups

This book is a great crossover from a field guide to a nonfiction read. It is not meant to be a field guide but could work that way for you. Each tree gets a 2-page spread and I think it is nicely representative of North American species.

Tell Me, Tree

Gail Gibbons is the Queen of nature books! And this one does not disappoint. Tell Me, Tree is a little different in style than her other books, but she always has a great balance of text and images to keep the reader interested.

The Magic and Mystery of Trees

This is such a fun reference book to learn all about trees. I think pretty much anything you can think of is covered in this book! The illustrations are appealing to kids but I think do a great job of referencing true-to-life imagery.

Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Trees

If you have followed me for any time on Instagram, you will know how much I love the Crinkleroot books. This is a nonfiction learning book, but a true living book with a wonderful narrative that presents information through story and not just facts.

Trees: A Rooted History

This book is one of those appealing coffee-table type books that I often feel appeal more to adults than children. BUT, I will honestly say that my kids love this book. I think it helps that it is specific to trees and there is a whole world about trees to explore on these oversized pages. It’s beautiful and engaging.

Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them

This book is so fascinating. I personally love learning about trees around the world and going beyond the trees we see everyday.

Favorite Tree Field Guides

The Sibley Guide to Trees

This has to be my favorite field guide (of any category) that we own! I consider this a must-own for any nature-loving family. It is perfect.

Peterson First Guide to Trees

These Peterson “First Guide” series are great for children! They are compact and information is not overwhelming. Obviously this will not be as extensive, but I think it is a great first place to get into field guides.

National Audubon Society: Field Guide to Trees (Eastern Edition)

The National Audubon Society guides use real photos as opposed to illustrations, which I think many find helpful. The photos are often organized in ways that children and non-botanists think about what they are seeing: color and shape. You can peruse a real photo section of yellow fall leaves, or acorns, or berries. So helpful!

Tree Finder

This is a simple booklet in black-and-white that is great for learning botanical terms and working through a decision-tree to get to the answer.

Winter Tree Finder

Similar to above, this is so helpful for identifying winter trees.

Sibley’s Common Trees of Trails and Forest of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest

This is obviously a very specific guide to my region, but I wanted to say that I highly recommend finding a tree guide as specific as you can find to your region. This reduces the sample size in your field guide when trying to identify something you see in your area. Especially for kids, something like this is much less daunting than perusing the Sibley guide I mentioned above.

Other Booklists of Note

You may also be interested in the following booklists on my website:

Favorite Bird Books for Children
Favorite Naturalist Picture Book Biographies
Uncategorized

Wild Cats Nature Study

Wild Cats Nature Study - The Silvan Reverie

Nonfiction Books:
Fiction Books:

There are a great number of children’s books that feature tigers and lions, so I am not even going to bother listing them (though I will put in a shout-out for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, an all-time family favorite).

For other wild cats, check out these titles:

Resources
FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE
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Phenology Made Easy

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

For all of 2019 I kept a Phenology Wheel, one for each month. This type of wheel requires hours of work each month and is something I personally enjoy and find meaningful. However, I understand there is a desire to do this sort of thing but not everyone feels they have the time or is comfortable committing to that much illustration work.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would share some resources to invite you do participate in a phenological study for 2020 in a way that’s inviting and meaningful, but takes less time.

What is Phenology?

Phenology is simply a recorded journal of what is happening in the natural world where you live over time. Theoretically you could have recorded data for year after year and be able to compare important seasonal shifts, like what day did you hear the first Red-winged Blackbird reappear in spring? When did the first Daffodil bloom? When did your favorite tree lose all its leaves? When was the first snow?

A phenological record can be many things: a wheel is a nice visual tool that looks pretty, but keep in mind you don’t need to have something that detailed to record your phenological year!!

Two great inspiring people who held a passion for Phenology are Edith Holden and Aldo Leopold. Both of these mostly have written records just like you would record a journal:

You don’t need to illustrate everything, is all I’m saying! In fact, you do not need to do any illustration at all to keep a Phenology Journal!

I keep a draft document on my computer and write in a few notes here and there as days pass. No illustration, just a quick note: “Spotted bobcat tracks on 1/15.” Simple. Easy. Quick. But it still has meaning and value — it’s so fun to go back over the whole year and read through and remember those experiences even if I do not have an illustration to match in my Phenology Wheel journal.

Phenology Resources Made Easy

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

First, one of my favorite resources is this:

Lynn’s Guide is so thorough and wonderful! She explains the whole process and provides many examples. She also provides a lot of ideas for what to include in your wheel! This tool is an excellent resource that is also kid-friendly. My own kids are excited about doing one like this in 2020.

Okay, so in my Phenology Wheel for every day of the year I track sunrise/sunset, daily low/high temperature, weather, and the moon phase. Below are other resources you could use as a way to mark your phenological study this year without the need to do all of that illustration yourself:

If you are using Lynn’s Phenology Wheel Guide you could easily add to your page simple data for each month (represented as one wedge of the wheel) such as:

  • Total precipitation for each month
  • Average temperature
  • Full moon name

This alleviates the time commitment to track this information every single day of the year.

Or, here’s the thing — as I said before, you do not have to have a Phenology Wheel in order to keep a Phenology Journal! You could simply use a few of the above resources to keep track of the moon and/or temperature, and then keep a written record in a notebook of what you notice in nature. No illustration required!

Favorite Nature Journal Resources

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

On this blog post I detail how I create my Phenology Wheels for each month and what resources I use to create it.

I plan to use the same notebooks with watercolor paper for my kids to do their phenology wheel, which will be just one year represented by 12 wedges.

I’m excited for another year of discovery and paying attention, being present to the created world and its natural rhythms, which root us in a real embodied life gifted to us.

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry

Happy 2020!