We get these in the summer- we call them emerald beetles, but really I have no idea what they are.
Meet Sally, the suburban chicken. She always gets first choice of the compost- what she and the bunnies don't eat goes into the compost- barely anything!
This is Snowball. His dad is lop-eared and his mom has upright ears, so often one of his will be up and the other down. The thing I love about having bunnies is that they eat lots of our veggie and fruit scraps and their manure is 'green' which means it can be added directly to the garden. I have lots of little helpers feed the tops of strawberries to the bunnies and even gather poop. I removed all the bottoms of the cages so the droppings fall directly onto the earth. This really helps with the oder. Then I simply rake the poop up into a dustpan and disperse into the garden. This way there is not washing of the cage pan or any of the really 'yucky' part!
Again, I like the action of the cycles. i don't go into a lot of scientific info with the little ones about this but they get a real tangible experience of eating strawberries, feeding the tops to the bunnies, taking the bunny poop and feeding it back to the strawberry plants. Usually around 5 years old they begin to make the correlation themselves, which often sounds something like, "That's funny that the bunnies eat the strawberries and then they poop and the strawberries eat the poop with the strawberries in it so it's like strawberries eating strawberries." I am one of those firm believers in the old adage about whenever we teach a child something we deprive them of the process of discovery. We've gotten so focused on 'teaching moments' in recent generations that often those magical moments of discovery are stolen from our children. Children that talk and dress like mini adults are seen as 'adorable' by mainstream media and often imitated by many modern families. I find this to be true in the US more than anywhere else. Even in other European countries a more 'childish' dress and attitude is still favored for the very young. It's rare to see a baby in jeans and a trendy t-shirt. Even in the last 5 years there's been a significant push of 'teen' clothing for babies and toddlers in particular in the US. What marketers won't do for a buck!
The thing I most ask myself when purchasing a toy is, 'Where will it end up years from now?' I think most of us have seen The story of stuff (if not stop everything and watch now!) and realize we do not want to contribute to that cycle of planetary unraveling. So I ask myself, "Will this end up in a landfill or will it be passed on to other children?' And most importantly, "Is its ultimate destination the compost bin?" Does the toy have longevity? Can it be used by more than one age group? Is it well made and sturdy? Is it beautiful? Do I enjoy looking at it? Does it contribute to the overall decor and feel of our home? All of these factor into the decision to buy the toy or not.
A great exercise is to do a basic Gestalt on the toy- this is fun for all the psych majors out there!
Take the toy in question and begin to describe it.
Example: The castle
will be passed down through generations
came from the earth, will return to the earth
Now take a Barbie and do the same
toxic off gassing
feet in permanent high heel position
Now look at the words and think "Do I want my child to absorb these qualities?" Children take in what they play with. As quantum physics now proves everything is energy and all things have a specific energy pattern. Plastic has been heated at high temperatures and has a chaotic elemental structure. Wood has an orderly structure.
Thinking of toys from all of these angles makes the choice for less toys of a higher quality a real no brainer. Clutter and too many toys are a death sentence for creativity anyway. Less really is more.
I placed this removable board in front of the fireplace that I painted in simple watercolors to create an extra play area. When we want a fire we move it over and light up our logs.
Santa brought this castle to the girls but I'm pretty sure they have identical ones at Nova Natural (hee hee). Santa usually brings the bulk of the toys for both girls and just a few as individual gifts. 'A little for myself, and a lot for all' is a message I find important and am glad Santa agrees. Keep in mind this is including me, and not instead of me- a warped sense of martyrdom is as unhealthy as selfishness. The girls have come up with many theories on why he does this, which are usually quite amusing, but the gist of it is that they think he doesn't want them to fight over toys and if it belongs to both of them neither can claim it as their own. Also, he brought this over a 4 year period. Don't think that you have to get everything at once for your children. Instant gratification is not a long term gift. Not only does it defer the costs for the parent it also teaches the child about waiting. I guarantee the girls were way more excited each year to receive more pieces than if they had received the whole thing at once. These were not gifts that were opened, tossed aside and moved on from. They stopped opening, brought them over to where their other castle pieces were and set them up before moving on to the next gift. The more we give children the less meaning all of it has. Less, less, less. the golden rule.I got this little kitchen for very cheap at a garage sale and repainted it in soft colors that don't call attention to itself. It falls to the background so that the play can be the 'star.' The curtain is a piece of silk chiffon that we dyed ourselves. Just thick enough to diffuse the light and create a warm atmosphere.
The basket of silks ought to be a staple in every playroom. The uses of them are infinite- from creating playscape backgrounds to dress up, wrapping gifts to swaddling a doll- they get used everyday at our house. We dyed these all ourselves with the 3 basic colors from dharma trading company. That's also where we bought our silks and curtain fabric. This kitchen was another cheap find covered in country stencils. The bookshelf was a freebie from the trash. I use the top for a nature table area. I also have a large basket of blankets available. I hear so often that wooden toys and and natural things are too expensive. With a little imagination it can be quite cost effective!
"A place for everything, and everything in it's place" is a lovely little song to sing while cleaning up. Simplicity and order cannot be underestimated. It effects every part of a child from their nervous system to their digestion. It is one of the best gifts you can offer your child.
Providing multicultural playthings gives the children an early appreciation for the asthetic
from another country. The early years are not a time to try to make a social studies lesson out of this. I do not tell the children that the shoes are Dutch, Chinese and Japanese. Right now they are elf shoes, princess shoes and farmer shoes, but that changes daily according to who's playing with them.
These items will have been a part of their childhood and always hold a fond place in their hearts. There's plenty of time for teaching in the middle years when they have a concept of what "China" is. Young children are so present in the now- it's all they know. Each time we attempt to teach them about 'over there' we take them from this moment.
Sally thinks she's a dog and is usually at the door waiting to get in. At some point in the day someone is usually chasing her out of the house.
Santa brought the Pagoda and Asian family set years ago, but at the time Magic Cabin was also carrying them.
This is Momotaro, or Peachboy from the puppet play on the Japan dvd. The peach is needle felted using wool roving.
A simple doll of wool and cotton will someday find her way back to the earth and make wonderful compost. But for now she is simply lovable!