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Crafty Mom: Outdoor crafts for Take a Child Outside Week

Posted September 23, 2011

West Point Mill at Eno River State Park.

Take a Child Outside Week starts Saturday! Here are some fun and family-oriented crafts to celebrate. You will enjoy these activities with your children, and they will have a blast being in the fresh air.

Trees That Breathe … then Tree-Shirt
The first craft is a perfect one to teach inquiring minds about how trees take in carbon dioxide and let out oxygen. All you will need is a tree with leaves, string and a clear plastic bag. Make sure the sun is out before you attempt this experiment. Use a piece of the string to tie a clear plastic bag around a large clump of leaves on the end of a branch. Leave it there for an hour or two. Grab a snack and take a walk while your experiment is in the works.

When you are ready to come back, the inside of the bag will be coated with drops of water. Explain to your children that when plants “breathe,” their breaths are full of moisture which condenses on the bag when it is heated by the sun. Also explain that they can do this with their own breaths by fogging up a mirror in the bathroom. What a cool, fun experiment to add learning into outdoor play! After the experiment, use the same leaves to make a cool tree-shirt. Place the leaves on a solid colored T-shirt and spray the entire shirt with bleach making sure you don’t leave any unsprayed spots. Wash the shirt in water and admire the cool leafy designs you made.

Nature Paint
Put away the crayons, and head outside for some nature-inspired coloring tools. This craft is so simple, yet so creative and fun. Grab a bag and take a walk around a nearby park, in your backyard, or around your neighborhood. Have your child pick up a variety of flowers, leaves, barks, grasses, rocks, soils, dirt and berries while you are exploring. Talk about what kind of colors each may make. When you get back home, use the items you found to make pictures. Sand paper brings out the best colors when using natural pigments. Hang that piece of colorful artwork on the refrigerator to remind you to get outside once in awhile!

DIY Backyard Bird Feeder
Get the family together to make a snack for the birds that live in your backyard. You will need a clean 1 liter soda bottle, knife, two wooden spoons, small eye screw, and twine for hanging. Start off by drawing a ½-inch asterisk on the side of the bottle about 4 inches from the bottom. Draw another asterisk on the other side of the bottle that is two inches from the bottom. Draw a one-inch-wide circle opposite of each asterisk. These will make the holes for the wooden spoons. Parents will use the knife to slit the asterisk lines and cut out the circles. Insert a wooden spoon handle first through each hole and then through the asterisk. Remove the bottle cap and twist a small eye screw into the top for hanging. Fill the feeder with birdseed (either homemade or store bought) and use the twine to hang it on a tree in your backyard.

Ice Cream Soccer
This craft will get the whole family excited and hungry! This would be the perfect addition to your weekend camping trip and might get the kids excited about exploring the outdoors. First, you will need all the ingredients to make the ice cream …1 pint of half and half (or use milk if you like), 1 beaten egg (optional as well), ½ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, and ¼ cup of strawberries. You can always customize the last three ingredients depending on what type of ice cream you want. Add all of the above ingredients to a 1 pound empty coffee can and mix well. Put the lid on the coffee can and secure it with duct tape. Place this coffee can into a 3 pound coffee can. Surround the can with crushed ice and rock salt, place the lid on top, and secure tightly with duct tape. Have your kids sit on the ground and roll the can back and forth, or start up a game of “coffee can soccer.” Just enjoy being outside while you kick and roll the can back and forth. It’ll take about 10 minutes to harden the ice cream. If not, keep playing and add more rock salt and ice. As soon as the ice cream is ready, serve and enjoy!

Inspire your kids to play and learn outside. Give them opportunities to expand their interests and growing mind. There is a whole other world to explore when you step outside your back (or front) door. So get out there and have fun!

Amber is the stay-at-home mom of a baby, a full-time graduate student at N.C. State and a part-time photographer. She lives with her family in Garner. She shares crafts here on Go Ask Mom once or twice a month.

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