A Nature-Themed Advent Calendar

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I am really excited to share with you today an upcoming series that will be starting soon right here on Raising Little Shoots: A nature-themed advent calendar!

Beginning on December 1st, through to December 24th, each day there will be a new post; an unfolding of the Christmas Story in scripture, and an activity for the day. The activities will be mostly nature-based, with a few special Christmas activities here and there, to add a little Christmas magic.

Please use the share buttons, and be sure to subscribe to the blog so as not to miss a day!

Setting Up Your Calendar Of Firsts

A few days ago I shared my idea with you for keeping a Calendar of Firsts.

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I have been so encouraged by how many of you shared, both here and on FaceBook, that you would like to join me in keeping a Calendar of Firsts for 2016.

I promised information on setting up your own calendar of firsts, so here goes.

I used the Moleskine Large Weekly Diary (soft cover) last year & will do so again this year. Please feel free to use any diary you like; you do not need a Moleskine to join in with me. Just beware of any diaries with a glossy finish to the page. They will not take colour well.

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The paper is not great; a little thin for nice, splashy watercolour, but the layout is perfect for my needs. You can see in the photo below you have a left side with a week to view & space for each day.

This is perfect for recording the ‘firsts’ that you see in nature, and making wee sketches.

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You can also see in the picture above that I also printed out tiny photographs on my printer; these made lovely additions to my sketches.

The right had side page is lined, so I added full-sized photographs to some of these pages.

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To others I added a full-sized sketch

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Because the Moleskine paper was so thin, I worked these full sized sketches on watercolour, or cartridge paper. This also helped with the mini sketches for the following week, as although I was working on the Moleskine paper, it had some weight to it from the paper glued in the previous week.

Here you can see my lovely 2016 Moleskine. It is a lot thinner than the book that has been well loved this year (see the top picture)

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Not essential, but a nice touch, is to add washi tape to each & every page edge in your diary. This makes the pages more substantial, and the edges prettier 🙂

I have several roles of tape; here are a few. Don’t worry about this step, it is not essential.

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Here you can see I have added a strip of wash tape to the first page; simply apply half the width of the tape, then fold it over, so it covers the free edge of the reverse page. (I hope this makes sense!)

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Here I just need to trim the top & bottom of the tape.

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You will also need a waterproof pen; I love this one. The micron pens are great too. Basic sketching supplies of your choice, be that watercolours, coloured pencils, or even pens. You might find an old post, Supplies For Nature Journaling useful.

I think that is everything! Please do let me know if I have missed anything.

I look forward to getting started with you in January. Please do share what you are up to, either here, or on the Exploring Nature With Children FaceBook group, or find me on Twitter.

 

Lichen Week ~ Exploring Nature With Children

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We has a lovely sunny day for nature study this week; a welcome break from the heavy rain we have been experiencing.

The pigeons were rather hungry

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Very hungry

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We had fun in the park; we spotted several fungus & I forgot to photograph the lichen!

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We bumped into friends, and returned home to complete our journals

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Happy exploring!

A Calendar Of Firsts

It is a capital plan for the children to keep a calendar––the first oak-leaf, the first tadpole, the first cowslip, the first catkin, the first ripe blackberries, where seen, and when. The next year they will know when and where to look out for their favourites, and will, every year, be in a condition to add new observations. Think of the zest and interest, the object, which such a practice will give to daily walks and little excursions.

Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p. 54

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ETA: Setting Up Your Calendar Of Firsts

At the beginning of the year I came across Stephanie Ackerman’s Documented Faith Project.

Stephanie was using a journal to record “my life, my dreams, my prayers, my moments.  A place to document my faith sometimes monthly, often times weekly possibly even daily”.

I was really moved by this idea and immediately set to work, creating my own pages, capturing daily happenings, special moments, and so forth.

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I added sketches, photographs, words, stickers and other memorabilia.

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This diary helped me to develop my style of quick pen-sketches, with touches of splashy water colour.

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I used a Moleskine Large Weekly Diary, which has days of the week on the left hand page, and a space for notes on the right hand page.

I generally use the left hand side page for little sketches and notes.

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On the right hand page, I would glue in a piece of paper to create a larger sketch. (The paper of the Moleskine diary is very thin, & not the best for water colour.)

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A lot of my sketches have been nature-orientated

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Which has led me to thinking…What a wonderful format this would be to keep a Calendar of Firsts, as Miss Mason advised!

So my goal for 2016 will be to use this way of diary-keeping, to keep my very own Calendar of Firsts. I intend to do this in addition to my nature journal. I am planning to use the same diary; The 2016 Moleskine Large Weekly Diary.

Each week I will record the firsts of nature as they happen in my locality; the first Snowdrops, the first time the goldfinches visit my garden, the fist visit of the hedgehogs, and so forth. I shall still continue to record special family happenings, but the focus will be Nature-firsts.

This is something that could be kept individually, or a family Calendar would be a family treasure to return to year after year.

It would be wonderful to have you journaling along with me; do let me know if you would be interested in keeping a Calendar of Firsts yourself. I will post nearer to the time some ideas for setting up your journal, supplies, tips and so forth.

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Moss Week ~ Exploring Nature With Children

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This week’s theme from Exploring Nature With Children is Moss.

Today was an extremely wet day! We braved the rain to go and feed the pigeons, geese, ducks and swan at our local nature spot.

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The geese & ducks were worm hunting..

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Pigeon lady..

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We hunted for moss..

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We found a few, before the rain drove us home to warm up & complete our journals.

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11 full page moss

Christmas Gift Ideas For Nature Loving Children

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We are fast approaching Christmas, and any parent who values their sanity, looks to buy gifts that will last long after the holiday season, rather than requiring a new set of batteries every few weeks!

To help make gift giving that little bit easier, here is a list of wonderful presents that will delight your nature-loving child.

Binoculars and Birdwatching Book

RSPB children's binoculars blue

A smashing combination that will have your child out of doors over the Christmas holiday, instead of cooped up indoors. Add a small notebook and pencil if your child is writing and they can record all the birds they see.

Bug Hotel and Bug Barn

 Gardenon Natural Insect Hotel Bee Bug House Hotel

A great way to teach respect for living creatures, whilst allowing your child to explore and observe them.

Parts Of a Flower Puzzle

Outlet Parts of a flower puzzle

A beautiful wooden puzzle, perfect for small hands that need to be busy on bad-weather days.

A Nature Magazine Subscription

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Eco Kids is a high quality nature and wildlife magazine for children aged 7-11

Flower Press and Wild Flower Guide

 Legler Flower Press Playground Equipment

More useful in Spring and Summer, but your child will be able to make some beautiful pressings of evergreens over the Winter holiday.

Indoor Bulbs for Winter ForcingNarcissus 'Sacred Lily' (indoor flowering) - 5 per pack

Enjoy the beauty and fragrance of flowers during the dreary, cold months by giving your child build suitable for forcing indoors during winter time.

Singing Soft Toys

RSPB singing robin soft toy

These soft toy birds with their authentic bird calls were a real hit with my children when they were younger!

Nature’s Collection 1000 Piece Jigsaw

RSPB Nature's collection 1,000 piece jigsaw

A smashing jigsaw for older children featuring some lovely nature photography. Perfect for cosy afternoons at home after a brisk morning walk.

GoPro Camera

 GoPro HERO Camera - English-French

A more expensive option, but this would make a smashing family gift! Fantastic for filming local wildlife, and will film underwater, too.

Gardening tools and gift voucher
Small Foot Company 1710 Garden Tool Bag

Get your child all fired up for spring, with their own gardening tools. A gift voucher for a local garden centre will allow them a morning choosing their very own packets of seeds; there are some types of flowers and vegetables that are particularly easy to grow & interesting for young children.

America’s National Parks – A Pop Up Book

For my American friends, or those who love America, this is a smashing book that brings the parks of America to life, whilst raising funds for their upkeep.

Finally, consider my book Exploring Nature With Children, as a gift for the whole family.

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A complete, year-long curriculum designed to guide you, step by step, through an entire calendar year of nature study. Completely self-contained, this book has all the information you need to make nature study happen regularly for your family.

As an early Christmas present to my readers, enjoy a 30% discount by using coupon code CHRISTMAS15 which is valid until December 25th.

Creating A Watercolour Nature Journal Page ~ A Tutorial

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As promised in my last post, here is a tutorial to help you to create your own watercolour nature journal entry.

A lovely reader recently asked what a nature journal is for me. My reply was that it is very easy to become discouraged when looking at journal keeping as ‘art’. If a nature journal is looked at as a means of scientific observation & a way to record that information (rather than trying to create pretty pictures) then it is a much more satisfying experience.

Also as parents, nature journals are a wonderful record of happy times with our children, to bring out often & look back upon.

Here is Rose (now ten years old) working in her journal when she was five years old.

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For me personally, as well as the points above, I have learned so much about the world around me from observing nature in my journal. It forces me to slow down and enjoy this beautiful world. I think if everyone kept a nature journal, the world would be a happier and more peaceful place!

So onto the tutorial. I warn you this post has many photos 🙂

I must preface this tutorial by stating that my style will not be for everyone! I used to create my journal entries in the dry brush style that Charlotte Mason favoured. However, it took me such a long time to complete, that I found I was creating less and less pages. This caused me to create pages in my own, much looser style, using a wet on wet technique.

I hope this tutorial will give you the basics to create your own page, to which you can add your own creative stamp.

UPDATE –

I would strongly suggest just ‘playing ‘ with the watercolour first, (especially if you are doing this with children) Experiment to see how much water / pigment works well and  play at mixing colours…what happens if red and yellow play, or red and blue? What if red, yellow and blue go to a party?
You will learn much more than you expect, I promise 🙂

I really must do a blog post about colour mixing…

Now that is out of the way, let’s get started!

Materials:

  • Nature journal or piece of watercolour paper
  • Watercolour paints
  • A medium sized watercolour paint brush with a good ‘point’, or a selection of brushes (I just use one)
  • A small spritz bottle of water (not essential)
  • A glass of water for brush cleaning
  • A tissue, or old cloth for wiping your brush

You may also find this old post useful: Supplies For Nature Journaling

I begin by planning out in my head how I want my page to look. Here I have sketched out on the blackboard roughly how I expect this page to work. I like it to include important information, and also to look pleasing to the eye.

Here I have included:

  • A title
  • A small box in which to show a pictorial representation of the weather at the time of our nature study.
  • A sketch of the fungus
  • Name & Latin name
  • A poem I wanted to include

You will notice that I used this just as a guide, & changed the layout slightly in my finished piece.

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Here is a quick shot of my nature study bag, in which I keep my supplies.

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I started off by drawing very basic shapes for the three things I wanted to sketch (sorry for the very faint lines!) plus a box at top left for my ‘weather sketch’. You can just make out the vein pattern of a leaf (top left) basic fungus shape (bottom centre) cherry leaf (bottom right).

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Here you can see the leaves I am sketching

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I worked from this photo for the fungus:

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Here is a shot with my trusty carbon pen. Perfect for sketching, as it is permanent ink.

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I then added the title, date, weather box, & poem title in ink.

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I added a simple outline for my leaf. I added the serrated edges, paying attention to how the leaf edge bent, so I could see less of the little ‘teeth’. I noted the way the veins appeared (opposite one another) & did my best to represent that, looking carefully at how they shaped the leaf.

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Here I have marked in the main veins of the maple leaf.

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Next I added the outer leaf edge, looking closely at the leaf as I sketched, rather than the paper.

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The maple leaf is done, and is far from perfect, but it gives me an adequate visual of a wee nature treasure that I had collected, and simply sketching it caused me to closely regard the leaf in question.

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Onto the fungus. It is a case of looking very closely and drawing what you see, not what you expect to see…

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I added some written information:

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Then added the poem I wanted to include. I thought it would be interesting to add the text over an illustration.

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Next I sprayed my watercolour palette with water, which makes the colours lovely & ‘juicy’, and easy to use.

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Here are some of my watercolour brushes. I only ever use the one that is out 🙂

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Here are my paints, along with a wee colour chart I made that shows what the colours look like on paper. They look very different than in the tin!

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On to the painting!

For the cherry leaf shown, I began by splashing on some quin gold. Be sure to have your paints nice & wet.

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Into the wet quit gold, I dropped some winsor orange

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Then I took Sap green, and dropped some on around the edges. Can you see how the colours run into one another slightly?

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Here I am dropping Cadmium red into the still wet orange.

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I have taken a mix of orange & red around the edge of the leaf. See how it is nice & ‘splashy’? No painting inside the lines here 🙂

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I added touches of red round the edged & into the stalk, and I dropped a tiny spot of green into the stalk, too.

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For the Maple leaf, I took some quin gold & splashed it on. See how it pools in some areas? This will make creating light & shade easier later 🙂

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I dropped in some cadmium red

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Flicked on some sap green (I just tap the end of my paint brush – you could also use a toothbrush to spray on colour)

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For the fly agaric stalk, I applied a very light mix of quin gold & neutral tint

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here I added more where the mushroom was darker

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I took Winsor yellow, a lovely warm yellow & just touched it into the wet quin gold/neutral tint wash.

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I added cadmium red

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some touches of ultra marine to make darker patches

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some permanent rose to brighten

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A light wash of neutral tint was applied to the wether box to show mist 🙂

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Then, as I am want to do, I had fun flicking on splashes of happy colour. This step is optional 🙂

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I added a few wee touches of white gouache on the stalk of the fly agaric as a highlight.

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All done!

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Please feel free to ask any questions, and do share your own journal entries. I am far from an expert, but I have found a way to create entries that works for me & I very much enjoy our nature study time.

I am looking into the possibility of running a live class online, to help you create your own watercolour journal entry, were we paint along together. Would this be of interest at all? Please let me know in the comments if this is something you think you may want to do.

Happy exploring!