Wednesday, December 5, 2018

6 Reasons To Let Your Kids Play In The Mud

My kids love playing in the mud. And while it can be messy, I try to let them do it often. I remember making mud pies and sticking my bare toes in squishy mud puddles as a kid. Mud play can be an amazing sensory adventure. And it turns out, playing in the mud can be beneficial in many ways especially for young children. 


Benefits Of Mud Play: 

Fine Motor Skills

Using a shovel, playing with kitchen utensils to make mud pies, scooping, and digging all help develop fine motor skills. Playing in the mud is a fun way for young children to practice these types of skills.

Makes You Happy

According to recent science, soil naturally contains Mycobaterium Vaccae, a friendly bacterium that stimulates the immune system and increases serotonin production (source). So, not only is it just fun to play in, mud literally makes you happy!

Good For The Immune System

Thanks to various friendly bacteria found in soil like Mycobacterium Vaccae, soil stimulates the immune system. 

Exposing your child to dirt and mud can help their immune systems develop and learn to battle invading organisms. 

Healthy Brain Development 

Spending time in nature can help increase cognitive skills (source). It's also linked to decreased stress levels. 

Encourages Creativity 

Mud is an excellent medium for sensory play and gives children an opportunity to play creatively. And that same release of serotonin caused by Mycobacterium Vaccae, had been shown to increase cognitive function!

Connect With Nature

Playing in the mud gives kids an opportunity to connect with nature and to develop an appreciation for the natural world around them. Kids today are spending an increasing amount of time indoors. Mud play is an excellent opportunity to get your kids outside and connecting with the natural world.

Fun Mud Play Ideas:

Make Mud Pies

Mud pies are always a favorite. Grab a few old pie pans and some bowls, spoons, etc... and get baking!

My kids like to gather rocks and leaves to decorate their mud pies and cakes.

Make Mud Art 

Make works of art with mud. You can grab a stick and sketch in the mud. Or use an old paint brush and paint a mud masterpiece onto some paper or a large rock.

Work In The Garden

The garden is a great place for getting your hands dirty. Let your kiddos help you plant and care for some veggies or flowers in a sunny place in your yard. Not only is it a fun way to get a little dirty, it's also an awesome life skill to teach your kids.

Build Mud Canals

My kids love this one. Grab a small garden shovel and let your kiddos dig canals in the dirt. When they're done let them pour water through their canals.

Build A Dirt Race Track For Toy Cars

Challenge your kids to build a dirt race track to race their toy cars on. If you have toy tractors, use them to help build the track!

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-5 Reasons To Let Your Kids Go Barefoot 

-Backyard Nature Activities For Kids

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Learning About The California Gold Rush

The California gold rush is one of my favorite historical periods to learn about. I grew up in an old gold mining town in the Sierra Nevada foothills in northern California. The rich history of the area instilled in me a deep interest of this period. In this post I share some fun activities and resources for learning about the California gold rush with your children. 


A Little Gold Rush History:

On January 24th, 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in the Sacramento Valley in northern California. This event would inspire hundreds of thousands of people to move west in hopes of making their fortune. It was one of the largest mass migrations of people in modern history.

People came to California from all over the world. Many came across the country in covered wagons. Others sailed on ships. Gold was pulled from rivers with gold pans, and sluice boxes. It was also mined from the mountains with explosives and hand tools.

Most people who came to California seeking riches didn't end up rich, but a few lucky miners did find their fortune. On April 12th, 1859 a workman at the Willard Claim on the Feather River in northern California, found a 54 pound gold nugget. The nugget was worth about $10,000. It was the largest true gold nugget ever found in California.

Gold Rush Activities:

Backyard Gold Mine- Paint a few pebbles with metallic gold paint ahead of time. Hide them in a sandbox or a tub filled with sand, pebbles, or dirt. Have your child mine for the gold pebbles using plastic sand tools or some old kitchen utensils.

Go Gold Panning- Get your hands on a couple gold pans and give it a try! You can order them pretty cheap on Amazon. And check out this video for some quick tips:
-Gold Panning from Wilderness Survival 

Gold Rush Craft- Pretend your a prospector and have to make a   map of an area of uncharted gold country with this fun craft idea from Crayola.

Gold Rush Math- Food and other basic commodities were expensive in California during the gold rush. This is because demand was high and supply was low. A single egg would sometimes sell for as much as $3! That would be about $80 today, for just one egg! Using the following gold rush prices, have your child calculate the total for various items. You can also have your child calculate the difference between gold rush prices and today's prices.

-Beef: $10 per lb.
-Butter: $20 per lb.
-Rice: $8 per lb.
-Cheese: $25 per lb.
-Boots: $6 per pair
-Shovel: $35 each

Gold Rush Writing Activity- Make a journal with some construction paper, lined paper, and yarn. Then have your child write in it pretending they are a miner far from home, hoping to strike it rich.

To make the journal, fold a piece of brown construction paper in half. This will be your journal's cover. Cut several pages of lined paper to fit inside the construction paper. Using a hold punch, punch two hold near the spine of your journal and then bind together with the yarn. 

Resources For Learning About The Gold Rush 

-California Gold Rush from Ducksters has lots of kid friendly information about the California Gold Rush.

-California Gold Rush Facts from Kiddle has general information about the gold rush, written for kids. It also has lots of great pictures to look at.

-The California Gold Rush cartoon from Simple History is a short fun video about the California Gold Rush.

-The California Gold Rush Of 1849 is another short video full of facts about the California Gold Rush.

-And don't forget to check your local public library for books about the gold rush. The public library is an awesome resource, use it!

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-8 Activities Inspired By Farmer Boy

-Learning About The Human Body Part 1: The Skeletal And Muscular Systems

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Surviving The Camp Fire: Our Story

November 8th started out like any other day. My husband left the house before 5am for work. The kids and I slept in until about 8am, and then got up and made cheesy egg sandwiches for breakfast. I had no idea that by this time the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history was already racing into town.

The power company had issued a warning earlier in the week that they may cut power to the area that night if winds got as high as the meteorologists were predicting. High winds plus low humidity creates a high risk of fire.  But the power was still on despite the very high winds that had been gusting since the middle of the night. I figured that not cutting power was a good sign and didn't think much else about it.

After breakfast, I started hearing what sounded like small explosions (I would later find out that this was people's propane tanks exploding across town and echoing across the canyon). Around this time I also noticed what I thought at first was dark rain clouds, but turned out to be a plume of smoke.

My mom called and told me that we were all under mandatory evacuation orders and that my dad was on his way to pick us up since I didn't have car at home. I honestly didn't want to go at first. Wildfires are nothing new around here and we've stayed home through evacuations before, but my mom insisted that we leave. Apparently she had spent the morning putting out spot fires at our church, where she works. This fire was no joke.

I asked my 7 year old to pack a bag for her and her little sister with a couple changes of clothes for each of them, which she did amazingly by the way (she even packed them each their favorite stuffed animals and snacks). I got started packing a change of clothes for my husband and myself. Then my dad called and told me he didn't think he was going to be able to make it up to get me. Apparently there were flames engulfing the only roadway between his house and mine. We decided that I should walk out to the main road with the girls and try to get a ride out of town.

I realized walking out was going to mean leaving most of my animals behind. There was no way to carry out our bags, and all the animals, and keep the girls safe. I filled the chicken's water bowls and poured all the rest of their feed into a big bowl and left them free in the yard so they could flee if they had to. I gave the reptiles fresh water and food. I put the cat outside with the last of his of food and some water. If the fire reached the house, I didn't want him to be locked inside. The hardest part was what to do with my elderly Chihuahua. He can barely walk anymore and has trouble holding his bladder. I tried to find our old cat kennel so I could transport him more easily, but I couldn't find it. In the end, I made the decision to leave him in the house. I gave him a bowl of food and a big bowl of water. I figured it was unlikely the fire would reach my house and we'd be allowed to return home in a couple of days.

At the last minute I decided to grab this years school work and curriculum. I want to be able to take a few weeks off in February after the new baby is born so I didn't want to fall behind schedule. I tearfully gave my Chihuahua one last pet and promised him he'd be safe and that we would be back soon.

I unplugged everything in the house, turned off all the lights, and locked up the house. I put my two year old and one of our bags in my big double stroller. I had my 7 year old walk the puppy. I pushed the stroller and carried the other bag. In the 10 minutes it took me to walk out to the main road, I hardly saw anyone. It looked like most of my neighbors had already gone.

The main road was a circus. There was bumper to bumper traffic both directions. People were yelling that they had closed traffic over the dam and that up over the mountain was the only way out. There was a woman running around in a night gown and slippers screaming that the whole town was going to burn and we were all going to die. She really upset my girls, and honestly freaked me out a little too.

After just a few minutes a woman stopped and insisted we get in her truck and ride out with her. Her kids helped me tie down our stuff in the back of her truck and we squeezed into the cab which was stuffed full of her family's belongings.

I tried to call my dad to let him know we had found a ride so he wouldn't keep trying to get up the hill to me but my phone had lost service. Traffic moved slow for awhile but eventually spread out and moved along at a reasonable speed. Up the mountain, we finally got our first clear look at the fire. It was massive and so close!

Coming down the backside of the mountain several hours later, all our phones finally regained service. About a million text messages and phone calls started pouring in. The lady we rode with, whose name I never got, got a phone call from a neighbor saying that their neighborhood was already gone.

I checked in with my mom. She had thankfully made it out of town safely and was headed to my brother's house down the hill. She asked if my dad had ever made it to my house, apparently she hadn't heard from him at all since he left to get me. I immediately tried calling him but his phone went straight to voicemail. I prayed that he was safe and felt so bad that he had had to try to get up the hill to us.

The view of the fire from that side of the mountain was horrific. It was clear that the fire had exploded in size and looked like it had likely spread across the entire ridge that we call home. The sky was black with smoke and ash was falling all around us. The sun was a barely visible red disc behind the thick cloud of smoke.

After several hours we finally made it down to the valley. I said goodbye and thanked the lady who had given us a ride and started walking toward the mall where my cousin had arranged to pick us up. We met up with my parents (my dad had finally made it down the hill, thank God), my brothers, and my husband who had been down the hill at work all along and was worried sick about us.

Then we sat and watched the horrific news coverage of our beautiful community burning to the ground. We watched our favorite restaurants, our schools, and homes burn on television. I cried as countless places that held precious memories disappeared.

The Camp Fire quickly became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. Over 17,000 structures were destroyed, including over 12,000 homes. At this point, a little over a week later, 77 are confirmed dead and hundreds more are still missing. My parent's, my mother in law's, my aunt's, and my cousin's homes are all gone. Those of us whose homes still stand, are still under mandatory evacuation orders. We have no idea when we will be allowed to return to our houses. We have no idea what kind of damage there might be from all the smoke and toxins that were in the air. It could be months before power and water are restored.

My parent's house after the fire

I spent the first 5 days of the evacuation calling and messaging every pet rescue organization in the area trying to get someone in to get my Chihuahua and my chickens, not knowing if my house was even still standing or if they were alive. I hated myself for leaving them behind. Finally on day 5 I got confirmation that they had been rescued and taken to shelters. I cannot even begin to explain the relief I felt when I heard that they were okay!

On November 8th 2018, our lives were changed forever. My hometown will never be the same. At this point I'm unsure if the town will ever even recover. We've lost about 90% of the town's structures. The destruction is unreal. The pictures and videos coming out are apocalyptic.  My heart breaks thinking how destroyed our once beautiful ridge is. Our friends and family and neighbors are spread out across northern California, where ever they can find housing. I miss my home, I miss our beautiful community, I miss my life!

We are lucky though to have all made it out safely. We're lucky our house still stands and that at least some of our possessions are not lost. My husband still has a job and they are helping us find an apartment to rent temporarily. We have a warm place to stay in the mean time and have been given enough clothes and other necessities to get us by until we can return home and see how much is salvageable. Our church still stands (quite possibly thanks to my parents putting out those spot fires). Our future is uncertain at the moment but I am thankful to be part of such a caring community while we figure it out.

I love you Paradise! This how I will always see you:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

4 Reasons I'm Thankful To Be A Homeschooling Mom

In honor of Thanksgiving this month, I thought I'd write a little bit about why I'm thankful to be a homeschooling mom.  I know homeschooling isn't the right fit for every kid or every family, but it is definitely the right choice for my family. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to help my kids learn and grow everyday, and to get to play such an active, front seat role in their education.


Quality Time With My Kids

I am so incredibly thankful to get so much time with my kids everyday. Everyone talks about how fast these years go, and I don't want to miss any of it. I want to enjoy this time! I honestly can't imagine sending my kids off for more than half the day, 5 days a week. 

I also love being the one who gets to be there, watching my children learn and discover new things. It's beautiful to watch a child master something new. 


I am thankful for the flexible schedule homeschooling allows our family. I love that we can wake up when we're ready and that we avoid all those early morning walks to the bus stop in the cold.  I enjoy our impromptu field trips when my husband gets called off work.

I am thankful we can be be flexible in our learning methods. I love that my kids can play an active role in what and how they learn. I can tailor suit lessons to fit each child's individual interests and needs. And if something we do doesn't work, we can try something new. 

New Friends 

Another thing I am thankful for is all the opportunities to meet new people and make new friends, that homeschooling has brought my family. People tend to worry about homeschooled kids getting enough social opportunities but that has definitely never been an issue for us. Our area has a homeschool group that meets weekly at the park and does occasional group field trips and other get togethers through out the year. They are such an awesome and welcoming group. We are so blessed to have them all in our lives.

Peace Of Mind

I love the peace of mind homeschooling gives me. I know my kids are safe because they are always with me or with an adult I personally know and trust. I don't have to worry about unsafe drivers on the road while my kids wait for the bus. Just this week I heard of more than one accident involving kids crossing the street after getting off the school bus. I'm thankful that it's just one less thing for me to worry about. 

I love that I can be sure my kids are getting a quality education. I can be sure they are getting the individual attention they need and are not getting over looked or left behind in a class with 30 students and only one teacher. I love that I can be sure I always approve of the chosen curriculum since I'm the one who chooses it.

There are so many reasons I am thankful for this opportunity!

What are the reasons you are most thankful to be a homeschooling family??

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-Homeschool Curriculum And Resources: My Top Picks

-Learning To Read Is Not A Race

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Bath Time Science For Preschoolers

Bath time is a great opportunity for young children to explore buoyancy and the properties of water. In this post I share several simple science activities for preschoolers to do in the bath!


What Floats?

Before bath time, have your child collect various toys and household items like bouncy balls, golf balls, plastic cups or bowls, etc... Have your child guess which items will float and which will sink. Then have your child test them out in the bath tub. Talk about which items float best and why.

What Types Of Things Absorb Water?

Before bath time help your child gather up various items. Pick some items that will absorb water like washcloths, sponges, etc... and some that wont like plastic toys, rubber balls, etc...

Ask your child which items they think will absorb water, then get in the bath tub and test it out!

Color Mixing Fun

The bath tub is the perfect place for a messy painting project! Using bath paint in primary colors, help your child mix colors to make the secondary and other colors.

For instructions for making your own homemade bath paint, check out this post from Life As Mama.

Which Holds More Water?

Collect various cups, bowls, measuring cups, and a large pitcher from your kitchen. In the bath tub let your child test which cups, bowls, and measuring cups hold the most and least water by filling them and pouring them into the pitcher. You can use a bath marker to mark the water level on the pitcher if you want.

Ice Exploration

Make an ice cube tray or two full of ice ahead of time. Let your child play with and observe the ice melting as they play in the tub.

Use this as an opportunity to talk about the states of matter. Ice is solid and water is a liquid even though they are both made up of water molecules. Talk about how water freezes when it's cold and then melts as it warms up. 

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-Simple Autumn Leaf Craft

-Rainbow Science

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Learning About The Human Body Part 3: The Digestive And Nervous Systems

The last two human body systems we studied in depth this year were the digestive and nervous systems. My daughter especially enjoyed the nervous system and learning about the body's senses. In part 3 of my Learning About The Human Body series, I share a few of the activities we did and resources we used to study these two systems. 

If you haven't already, you can read Part 1: The Skeletal And Muscular Systems here, and Part 2: The Respiratory And Circulatory Systems here.


The Human Digestive System

The human digestive tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, liver, gall bladder, and pancreas.

It's the system responsible for taking nutrients into the body and processing them so they are ready to be transported by the circulatory system to all the cells of the body.

Stomach In A Bag Activity:

Make a stomach in a bag to demonstrate how the acids in our stomach and the churning motion of our stomach helps to digest food.

For this activity you will need:

-A ziplock bag

-A piece of bread



Place a piece of bread and 2 tablespoons of water and tablespoons of vinegar in a ziplock bag.

Have your child squeeze the bag, simulating the churning motion of the stomach. 

Observe how the bread breaks down to an almost liquid form. This is what food looks like as it passes from the stomach to the small intestines. 

Resources For Learning About The Digestive System:

-Digestive System video from The Dr. Binocs Show 

-The Digestive System from some kid friendly general information about the human digestive system. 

-Digestive System from Kids Biology- learn about the parts of the digestive system and how it all works.

-Digestive System Worksheet from

-Make Your Own Digestive System Clay Model from karthicstarman's

The Human Nervous System

The human nervous system is made up of our brain and and a complex system of nerves that carry signals back and forth between the brain and body. The brain controls our body's every move.

5 Senses Activity:

Explore the 5 senses with this simple activity.

Take your child outside and have him or her close their eyes. Then focus on each sense, one at a time. Have your child describe what they smell, what they hear, maybe they can feel a breeze? Then have your child open his or her eyes and describe what they can see.

Talk about how each of your 5 senses collects information from the world around you and sends that information to your brain. 

Why Do We Get Dizzy? Experiment

This is a simple way to demonstrate why we get dizzy after we spin.

You will need:

-A large glass mason jar with a tight fitting lid or a clear 1 or 2 liter soda bottle.



Have your child spin around in circles about 10-20 times. Ask them how they feel afterward. Do they feel dizzy? Does the room still feel like it's spinning?

Fill your bottle or jar up with water. Add the glitter and place the lid on tightly.

Spin the bottle around several times and set flat on a table. Observe what happens to the glitter and water. It should keep spinning for a bit even after the bottle is set down.

This is exactly what happens to the fluid in our inner ears when we spin. It takes the fluid a minute to stop spinning after we stop. Our inner ears send signals to our brain helping our bodies to stay balanced. When the fluid is spinning our inner ears tell our brain that the body is still spinning even though we've stopped. This is why we get dizzy after we spin!

Resources For Learning About The Nervous System:

-How Your Brain Works video from The Dr. Binocs Show

-The Nervous System from some kid friendly general information about the human nervous system.

-Nervous System from Kids Biology

-Neurons Model Activity from Solagratiamom- has instructions for making your own neuron model with household items.

Be sure to check out:

Learning About The Human Body Part 1: The Skeletal And Muscular Systems

Learning About The Human Body Part 2: The Respiratory And Circulatory Systems.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Learning About The Human Body Part 2: The Respiratory And Circulatory Systems

We've been studying the human body the last few months. We started with the skeletal and muscular systems, if you haven't read Part 1 of my Learning About The Human Body series, you can read it here. In it I share several activities and resources for learning about the skeletal and muscular systems. 

After the skeletal and muscular systems, we moved onto the respiratory and circulatory systems. We had an especially good time studying these two systems. In this post I share some of the activities we did and resources we used to study them.


The Human Respiratory System:

The respiratory system consists of our lungs, diaphragm, trachea, and bronchi. It's the system that is responsible for bringing oxygen into the body and releasing carbon dioxide from the body.

Build A Working Model Of The Respiratory System:

This activity is really neat! You will need:

-A 2 liter plastic bottle

-A balloon

-Some plastic wrap

-Duct tape

-A piece of construction paper

Start by cutting the two liter bottle in half. You will only need the top half.

Take the lid off the bottle and attach the balloon over the pour spout so that the balloon hangs INSIDE the bottle. The balloon will represent your lung.

Stretch plastic wrap across the open bottom of the bottle. Tape it in place so that it's pulled tightly in all directions.

With the construction paper, fashion a small handle and tape onto the bottom of the plastic wrap.

The bottle represents your chest cavity, the balloon is your lung, and the plastic wrap acts as your diaphragm. 

When you pull gently on the handle, your balloon should inflate, just like your lungs do when your diaphragm contracts!

Resources For Learning About The Respiratory System:

-Respiratory System video from The Dr. Binocs Show- a fun video for kids all about the human respiratory system. 

-Breathing And The Respiratory System from Ducksters- some general kid friendly information about the respiratory system and how it works.

-Respiratory System from Kids Biology - All about the parts of the human respiratory system and how it works.

-Measuring Lung Capacity- a fun experiment about lung capacity.

-Respiratory System Model from Primary Theme Park is a fun hands on respiratory system activity.

The Human Circulatory System

The circulatory system consists of the heart, veins, arteries, capillaries, and blood. This system is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood to all the cells of our body and carrying deoxygenated blood from the cells of our body back to the lungs to pick up more oxygen.

Circulatory System Activity

Locate your pulse in your wrist or neck and practice counting heart beats.  Using a stop watch count how many heart beats you count in 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 to find out how many beats per minute. Record this number as your resting heart rate.

Now run in place or do some jumping jacks for 2 minutes. Grab your stop watch and locate your pulse. Again, count how many heart beats you count in 10 seconds. Multiply by 6 and record this number as your heart rate after exercise.

Our heart rates are higher after exercise than when we're at rest. This is because our muscles need more oxygen during exercise so our heart has to work harder and pump faster.

Resources For Learning About The Circulatory System:

-How Your Heart Works video from The Dr. Binocs Show

-Cardiovascular System from

-Cardiovascular System from Kids Biology 

-Make A Blood Model- a fun activity where kids get to make a model of blood in water bottle.

-Respiratory System Printables

If you haven't already, be sure to check out Part 1 of my Learning About The Human Body Series!

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6 Reasons To Let Your Kids Play In The Mud

My kids love playing in the mud. And while it can be messy, I try to let them do it often. I remember making mud pies and sticking my bare t...