Sunday, October 28, 2012

Family Weekend

We just returned home from a beautiful Autumn visit to Dee's college for Family Weekend.  It was so nice for the little girls to get a chance to see where Dee is going to school.
 Swarthmore's campus is absolutely beautiful.  One of the most beautiful I've ever seen.  The campus itself is an arboretum (a tree museum) and the staff and student body hold all plant life in such reverence.  It's wonderful and in true Quaker tradition.

 Many of the old stone buildings go as far back as the 1920's and are just simply stunning.  

 We spent all day on Saturday just walking around campus, enjoying the foliage and architecture and each other.  

 My heart gets so full when I see my four girls together, laughing and being friends.  It reminds me of what a precious gift they have of sisterhood.  A gift that will follow them into a world way beyond me - one day they will love each other's children and be aunties... they will hopefully call each other when they need a friend... I am so thankful I had four daughters.  I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.  

 This swing was a HUGE hit and we came back a few times for the girls to enjoy it.  What a great place to take a little break from studying and allow yourself to feel free for awhile.  
 We left Swarthmore just in time to get home and prepare for Hurricane Sandy.  We stocked up on food, water and stacked wood for our fireplace.  Brian tested out the generator we got for Christmas and we set up mattresses in our basement so we can keep the girls all together and safe in case of any fallen trees (we should have taken a few down last year but never got around to it).
 This storm is going to be a big one.  I hate having Dee so far away from us.  It gives me even more anxiety than the storm alone is giving me.  We are prepared and hoping it will move quickly so we can get back to normal as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, this will be the second year in a row for us that our girls have had Halloween cancelled because of a storm.  I may host a fun costume party after everything passes so they can still celebrate.  
For those of you on the east coast, please stay safe and be careful.  If Little Acorn Learning is offline for awhile, you know why.  


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Windsocks

We adapted a cute activity from First-School by using brown paper bags instead to create little Pumpkin Windsocks.
First we painted our bags while we learned the color orange:

Orange is a carrot
Yellow is a pear
Purple is a plum
And brown is the bear.
Green is the Grass
And blue is the sky
Black is a cat
And red is cherry pie.

 Then after they dried Ms. Eileen cut fringes at the bottom of our bags. 
 Then we got to pick our own black felt pieces to put on for eyes, nose and mouth.
 And we made a pumpkin face :) 
After adding a simple string on top, our pumpkins were ready to blow in the wind!  

When the gentle breezes blow,

The trees are talking, oh so low.

But when they start to swing and sway,
I know they’re shouting, “Time to play!

Oooooooh went the wind and OUT went the lights and the two little pumpkins flew out of sight.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Giveaway Winner!!!!!

Congratulations to Jess for winning a FREE space in the Skill It Online Cooking Course!!!!!  

Thank you all for participating!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Parent's Pledge to Their Children

The following pledge was found in an old book published in 1958 that I received from my husband's grandmother before she passed away.  What do you think of it?  If you made your own pledge to your children what would it say?  What should a universal pledge to the world's children look like?  How should this be updated, if at all, now that we are in the year 2012?  

While the book Every Woman's Standard Guide to Home and Child Care doesn't sit well with me in many areas for today's world (i.e. be dressed and ready with make-up when your husband returns home from work), this pledge and its content impressed me with its openness and desire to promote acceptance and tolerance - especially considering when it was written.  I think most of the points are not obsolete in our world today and love the idea of a pledge to our youth.


"In every home where this pledge is made and kept, children will have a greater opportunity to grow into healthy, intelligent, and useful members of society."  
Artist:  Mary Cassatt (1845-1926)

**This pledge to children was unanimously adopted by 6000 delegates at the Midcentury White House Conference on Children and Youth, held in Washington D.C., December 3-7, 1950.  

  • From your earliest infancy we will give you our love, so that you may grow with trust in yourself and in others. 
  • We will recognize your worth as a person and we will help you to strengthen your sense of belonging.  
  • We will respect your right to be yourself and at the same time help you to understand the rights of others, so that you may experience cooperative living.
  • We will help you to develop initiative and imagination, so that you may have the opportunity freely to create.
  • We will encourage your curiosity and your pride in workmanship, so that you may have the satisfaction that comes from achievement. 
  • We will provide the conditions for wholesome play that will add to your learning, to your social experience, and to your happiness.  
  • We will illustrate by precept and example the value of integrity and the importance of moral courage.
  • We will encourage you always to seek the truth.
  • We will provide you will all opportunities possible to develop your own faith in God. 
  • We will open the way for you to enjoy the arts and to use them for deepening your understanding of life.
  • We will work to rid ourselves of prejudice and discrimination, so that together we may achieve a truly democratic society.  
  • We will work to lift the standard of living and to improve our economic practices, so that you may have the material basis for a full life. 
  • We will provide you with rewarding educational opportunities, so that you develop your talents and contribute to a better world.  
  • We will protect you against exploitation and undue hazards and help you grow in health and strength.  
  • We will work to conserve and improve family life and, as needed, to provide foster care according to your inherent rights.  
  • We will intensify our search for new knowledge in order to guide you more effectively as you develop your potentialities.  
  • As you grow from child to youth to adult, establishing a family life of your own and accepting larger social responsibilities, we will work with you to improve conditions for all children and youth. 
Aware that these promises to you cannot be fully met in a world at war, we ask you to join us in a firm dedication to the building of a world society based on freedom, justice and mutual respect.  

So you may grow in joy, in faith in God and in man, and in those qualities of vision and the spirit that will sustain us all and give us new hope for the future.  

Natural Gift Giving for the Holidays

As the holiday season is approaching, I thought it would make sense to share an article that I wrote for publication a long time back. Feel free to pass it on as long as the bio at the bottom is included - Enjoy!

Natural Gift Giving for the Holidays

Watching our child’s eyes light up with excitement during the holiday season is one of the many joys of parenthood. With our love, each year, many of us go to the ends of the earth, wait in long lines for hours and spend more than our budget permits in an attempt to create a magical experience for our children.

More often than not, we return from our shopping trip overwhelmed and over budget. And when the holiday arrives, we are understandably disappointed to see our carefully found treasures thrown into a pile of accumulated things while our children move on to open the next package.

Not long ago, the holiday season was a simple time of family traditions, gratitude, and gift-giving from the heart. The magic and beauty of the season did not come from how much one could receive but from how much one could give.

Decorating was beautiful and modest with candles and branches of evergreens draping the doorway. Family and friends would gather together, bringing along homemade treats and small gifts of appreciation.

Most gifts were made by hand and simple. Mothers would knit sweaters for their children and fathers would search local shops for the perfect gift. Children would receive much less but appreciate much more. A new set of blocks, a special doll, or a set of books would be cherished for years to come.

Toys were natural and open-ended, leaving room for hours of imagination and free play. They did not blink, flash, need batteries, or keep children indoors for most of their day.

How, in a world that is much different now, do we recapture the truth and surround our children with warmth, simplicity, and peace this holiday season?

The Benefit of Natural Toys

Toys of today are much different than the basic and sturdy toys of our past. In addition to the more recent concerns of lead paint on some foreign-made toys, some of the components that are added to products made with PVC plastics have been linked to cancer and other serious ailments. “A recent Greenpeace study revealed that PVC softeners known as phthalates have been found to cause liver and kidney damage and disrupt hormonal systems in children (see "Teething Toxins," In Brief, March/April 1998). In response, several European nations have banned PVC toys altogether. U.S. toy distributors are still debating the issue.”

With the very safety of our children’s playthings in question, many parents are choosing to buy natural toys and products for children this year. But safety is not the only benefit of items made from natural materials such as wood, cotton, silk, or wool.

Children, like sponges, absorb their environment and the world around them. The quality and essence of the things that we surround our children with can have a direct effect on their behavior, health, and ability to learn. Holding something beautiful that is made from the earth has tremendous positive psychological effects on human beings.

In fact, natural materials teach children correctly about the world around them. When a child picks up a rock that is made of plastic, it feels light and weightless. In nature, rocks are heavy and solid.

Toys that do not require batteries invite open-ended play. This type of play sparks children’s creativity and requires them to finish the story on their own. Many electronic toys have a predetermined ending – leaving little room for imagination causing the child to lose interest quickly.

More often than not, loud toys over-stimulate young children. Blinking lights, loud sounds, and so much going on muffles the child’s ability to hear his or her imagination speak. We must quiet the noise in order to allow our children to listen to the true magic that is within.

Equally important is the fact that natural toys are better for the environment. Plastic can sit in landfills for hundreds of years and is not biodegradable.

If you have a skill such as sewing, knitting, or woodworking, consider making your child something special this year. Not only does this send a message of love, but it also teaches patience. The time spent on creating something from hand is a wonderful way to show your children the benefit of working toward a goal.

If you are not particularly crafty, there are plenty of retailers that sell natural toys online. Before purchasing, be sure to ask the retailer where the toys are manufactured and what materials are used during production. Here are some wonderful places to start shopping for natural children’s products.
Fair Trade, Organic and Green Gifts and Products
A Broad Selection of Open Ended, Natural, Creative and Fun Toys for Children. Fair Trade and Made in the USA toys as well.
Waldorf Inspired Dolls and Toys.
Natural Crafts, Toys, Supplies, Dolls and Books.
Waldorf Home and School Supplies - Many of the art supplies are imported from Europe.
Natural Playthings and Waldorf Toys.
Earth Friendly Non-Toxic Toy Store
Every product sold at Planet Happy must meet or exceed current US and European safety standards.
Traditional wooden toys and children’s gifts.
European Waldorf toys, natural wooden toys, Montessori toys and dolls that are educational and encourage open-ended, creative play.
Waldorf dolls, children’s books and natural craft supplies to stimulate creative play.
Natural and Wooden Toys and Products.
All of The Wooden Wagon's toys comply with the rigorous European testing standards.

Quality over Quantity

Let us keep in mind that it is not only the quality of the gifts we give this year but also the quantity. How much is really enough?

Before holiday shopping, take a good look around your home. How loved are your child’s belongings? Gifts lose their value when children are surrounded by so many things. It is unfair of us to expect a child to cherish a new toy when they are surrounded by so many of them.

When deciding to purchase an item for your child, be selective and ask yourself the following questions: What purpose will the toy have? Does your child already have this type of item? Does it engage all five senses and encourage imagination? It is much better to offer fewer, higher quality toys that your child will get more use out of than an abundance of toys that will go unappreciated.

This is a wonderful opportunity for parents to teach children the lesson of giving this holiday season. This year, many children around the world won’t even have a holiday meal, let alone presents. Talk to your child about this and then spend a day sorting through items that are no longer cherished or age-appropriate to donate to others. If the charity only accepts new toys, considering selling your items and donating the money earned to a worthy cause.

Simplify and Reduce Stress

Much as young children take in the aesthetics of their environment, they also absorb the feelings and emotions of their caregivers. We must be mindful of the message we are sending to them during the holidays and throughout the year. Here are a few ideas on how to limit stress and create a more peaceful celebration for yourself and your children:
§ Try to limit the number of commitments you make. When possible, combine functions to avoid excessive travel or entertaining. Consider scheduling some events for after the holidays so you can relax and truly enjoy the company of your family and friends.

Create beautiful traditions with your children. String popcorn, make ornaments, or go caroling. Allow even the youngest child to assist with preparing the holiday meal, setting the table, or baking cookies.

Demonstrate kindness. Visit a nursing home, adopt a needy family, or write letters to those who may be alone this holiday season. Children can add so much to the lives of others who have so little.

Consider shopping online for many of your gifts this year. This is a wonderful way to save gas and reduce your stress by avoiding busy stores and shopping malls.

Above all, let us remember that true happiness cannot be wrapped and placed under a tree. When we teach our children this, we have already given them the greatest gift.

Eileen is a work-at-home mother to four daughters. She writes and publishes monthly nature guides for parents and caregivers of young children at and has many ideas and activities for parents on her blog at

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Free Autumn Childcare Menu!!!

Little Acorn Learning is celebrating 3,000+ Facebook Fans by GIVING away a FREE copy of our Autumn Childcare Menu (a $12.50 value!!!!). 

Autumn, the days are getting cooler, and the harvest is in full swing. We can find fresh vegetables and apples, pears and nuts  everywhere. Children are hungry for warming grains, sweet fruits and hardy vegetables. Here you will find plenty of inspiration to keep your menus and vibrant as the Fall colors.

Hurry up and download it today - the menu will only be free for 24 hours! 

The download link can be found on the Little Acorn Learning Facebook Group Page!  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Giveaway: Skill It Online Cooking E-Course!!!

Enter to win a FREE spot in this amazing online cooking course by leaving a comment below telling us what you find your biggest obstacle to be around cooking and healthy eating in your home.  We will then choose a winner randomly on October 23rd and announce it here on our blog!  For a second chance to win, sign up for our newsletters:  Skill It Newsletter and Little Acorn Learning Newsletter!

Are you ready to get cooking with your kids in the kitchen? Skill It is delighted to share classroom-tested recipes for delicious, healthy dinners…and your kids will be helping at every step!

In Skill It’s online class for families, Season’s Eatings, you’ll get the tools & inspiration you need to create fun, joy & connection around food and family dinnertime.

Over the course you’ll get an email every Monday for 4 weeks with printable recipes & activities. You can cook at your own pace and give your little chefs the activities whenever it’s convenient for you.

Each week you’ll get:

* 2 Step-by-Step Recipes {8 Total!} for family dinners that tell you which parts your kids can do. Each week includes a kid-friendly, printable shopping list you can take to the store.

* Tips, Games and Fun Activity Sheets to incorporate your kids in the food shopping at grocery stores or farmers’ markets, setting the table, and exploring new cooking techniques.

* Connection to other parents in the Season’s Eatings Facebook Group so you can share questions, successes, and post photos of your finished dishes!

Skill It cooks with kids in schools and community classes and they know how much your little chefs are capable of. Our kids show us time and time again that if they’ve made it, they will eat it!

GOOD LUCK and be sure to check back with us on October 23rd to see who won!!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Prints

The daycare children I have right now are very small so simple and fun activities are what I try to focus on.  Today we enjoyed the Five Little Pumpkin Fingerplay and making Pumpkin Prints.  
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "oh my it's getting late."
The second one said, "there are witches in the air."
The third one said, "but we don't care!"
The fourth one said, "let's run and run and run."
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
OOOhh OOOhh went the wind
And out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.
We are also hoping to make something yummy out of the small pumpkin we grew in our garden this week as well... maybe pumpkin bread, muffins or pie?  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

15 Simple Nature Crafts for Autumn from Little Acorn Learning

We've compiled some of our absolute favorite nature crafts from Little Acorn Learning.  We hope you enjoy them and celebrate this beautiful season with the children.  If you do, please link back in the comments section here so we can see the fun you had.

1.  Cornhusk Dolls

2.  Beeswax Halloween Scene

3.  Autumn Wreath

4.  Pumpkin Candle Holders

5.  Needle Felted Pumpkin

6.  Little Beeswax Pumpkins

7.  Cookie Cutter Bird Treats

8.  Painting Leaves

9.  Bark Rubbings

10.  Little Acorn Necklace

12.  Acorn Fairies

13.  Weaving Pinecones

14.  Pinecone Jewelry

15.  Pinecone Turkeys 

Are these the type of holistic activities you would like to do more of with your children?  Do you need help creating a warm and nurturing rhythm to your days?  If so, check out our seasonal ebooks with more ideas, themes, recipes, songs, lesson plans and more!  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Playgarden in Autumn

I've spent some time changing things around a little in our playgarden space and have been trying to bring in some signs of the season.  We added a small room in the lower level for when my oldest daughter comes home from college and also to use as a napping space for the babies so it has made our play area a bit smaller than before but I think it is working well for us so far. 
I had to get a bit creative with the set-up and even blocked off part of a closet door that we do not use frequently which goes to our crawlspace.  The children actually really love this little nook more so now than when the kitchen set was just against the wall.  It gives them a place to play separately from the other children and toys.

This daycare area has been a lifesaver for having such a big family and running a childcare program at the same time.  It also is a wonderful and well-used space for my own daughters in the evening and on weekends to play and do arts and crafts. 

I have toyed around with the idea of using the upstairs of my home for childcare instead but I think having a separate space works better for us and keeps everything in one place for the daycare kids to get to.
 The little ones love all of the fun things about this time of year... pumpkins, scarecrows and leaves.   

After school we sometimes bake our own snack together and my daughters love being the ones to show the small children what to do.

Our garden season is coming to an end.  We managed to grow one small pumpkin but the vine died off from frost before it was completely orange so we are ripening it in our window and it is working :)  
I'm hoping we can make pumpkin bread together with it.  Next year, we hope to have a FEW pumpkins and maybe one big enough to carve.  We'll keep trying!
Do you have a separate play area indoors and outdoors for your children?  How is it working for you?