Tuesday, November 8, 2016


My name is Carson Gull. I am ten-years-old. I am making and selling natural play dough to earn money for a mission. I use the play dough recipe that my mom uses for nature preschool. I like playing outside with nature and climbing trees. Learn about local nature at www.insideoutsidemichiana.com, our family’s nature blog. 

I sell my products at Pop-Up Handicrafts at the Old Bag Factory in Goshen, IN, or you can send my mom an email at insideoutsidemichiana@gmail.com. Feel free to call me after school at (574)966-0250. I am happy to make special orders. 

I make seasonal loose parts kits and 9 oz. play dough options for families for $2.50 each. I can also make larger batches of 95-100 oz. for educators. The cost is $15/batch with a $3 discount for educators. Mention code "educator" when ordering.  

Larger batches of pumpkin spice and allspice play dough for the Early Learning Center in Granger, IN:

I also make animal tracks from Plaster of Paris. For a set of 16 animals (26 tracks total), the cost is $45 plus shipping. What a great way to learn about tracks!
A fall loose parts add on kit:

Find samples at Pop-Up Handicrafts in Goshen, IN:

I also sell rolling pins, natural tree blocks, etc. 

We made monsters at a craft day at Pop-Up Handicrafts:

A huge thank you to RAW Sustainable Living for loose parts donations! 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Harvest Moon!

Inspired by a book I heard about in the Nature Inspired Books for Kids group, I thought it was destiny that the book happened to be on top of the shelf at our local library when I was checking out books.

I didn't preview the book By the Light of the Harvest Moon, but just decided on the spur of the moment that our family needed to read the book on the front porch. It was delightful! The book looked at leaf people that come out at night, playing games, and eating PIE! I can't wait to have a real Harvest party next year and invite friends to enjoy the full moon based on the book. Obviously, the book is a whimsical story that helps our imaginations stretch. Since we read the book without much advance notice, we came up with our own nighttime activities, noted below! We also talked about the history of the Harvest Moon

1. Watch for bats at dusk! We live near a pond and can see the bats flapping around at dusk. Their flight pattern is distinct, which makes it interesting to watch. 

2. Flashlights and frogs! As darkness settled, we pulled out my husband's flashlights to check out nature at night. We found the frogs were so easy to find with a flashlight! We could have spent hours doing this (and often do now!).

3. Seed exploration! We are in the middle of fall seeds and had to check out the jewelweed and help it pop along. 

4. Creek exploration! Of course we had to go see what was in the creek. With the flashlight, we more easily found the fish and other critters in the stream. Of course, more frogs! 

5. Catch a tadpole! We found tadpoles by the pond in the rocks along the edge. There is something different about these at night.

6. Splat! While we witnessed frogs near the end of their life cycle, we also found them at the end as they were run over by a car. I'm finding I have to slow down on this road on moist evenings to avoid the frogs. While a little gross, we used this untimely demise to look at frog anatomy. 

7. Tree frogs! I have had a friendly frog outside my work window for a bit. We visited our friend at night when he is most active. 

8. The moon! Of course we had to check out the moon! We live in a wooded area and the moon was obscured by the trees for quite sometime. A little later, around 10:30, I called the kids out so they could witness the super moon! It really is brighter! 

How might you celebrate the Harvest Moon based on where you live? How is your experience outside at night with a flashlight different than what you might see during the daytime? 

This post may contain affiliate links. 

Seeds! Book Reviews and Activities

Seeds are such a great natural item to explore! I find we typically look at seeds in spring as we might be starting a garden and in the fall when all the seeds are ready for harvest. I wanted to compile a few of the books we enjoy (there are so many more!) and activities we enjoy with seeds in nature. 


  • The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle starts in Autumn with the wind blowing seeds away, showing how they may end up places where they cannot grow such as the ice, dessert, ocean, etc. One makes it  to the ground. Winter comes along and a mouse eats a nearby seed. In Spring, plants start to sprout through the ground. Flowers bloom. In Summer, the tiny seed becomes a tall, tall flower, with many visitors. Autumn comes again and seeds are blown in the wind again! 
  • From Seed to Dandelion by Ellen Weiss starts with a word hunt with pictures--I like that this helps us preview what we might see in the book and reinforces vocabulary. Topics include weed/flowers, anatomy of a dandelion, and a dandelion life cycle. It ends with a vocabulary list and pictures of other flowers that have parachute seeds. 
  • Maple Trees by Marcia S. Freeman includes simple sentences to introduce maple trees including the small flowers and seeds called samaras. It has a vocab list, additional books, and internet sites to visit. 
  • How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan uses colored drawings to show various seeds and what they grow into. It shows you how to grow seeds in an egg shell with activities to do at various days of growth. I would use this more in the spring to plant the bean seeds in the garden. 
  • A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long is just beautiful. I love all the books in this series as the artwork is detailed, seeds are labeled, and the details explain how a seed is so many different adjectives, such as sleepy, secretive, fruitful, naked, etc. I like that it can be read on a simple level with the larger words or more detailed with the labels and additional details. It shows how seeds can move, such as through wind, by animals, "hitchhikers", etc. It is one of my favorites.
  • This is the Sunflower by Lola M. Shaefer is a type of circular story with the sun, seeds, birds, colors, etc. showing how seeds can grow into more large sunflowers! I like the detail at the end with birds and names of them all, along with various sunflower facts. 
  • Let's Go Nuts! Seeds We Eat by April Pulley Sayre looks at many seeds and how we use them for food! April is actually one of my favorite authors for children's nature books, writing Vulture View, Woodpecker's Wham, and more. The simple words have a good cadence and teach so much! She looks at seeds as spice, meals, beans, nuts, grains, and so much more! She ends with "Celebrate seeds!" The last pages have good details on seeds and answers common questions. It also looks at nut allergies, cacao, seeds we drink, and more! I really like these informative endings for adults. This book begs for a wide variety of seeds and REAL work with the seeds, such as grinding spices or cornmeal, drinking rice milk, opening a coconut, smelling the various spices, and so much more! 
  • Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith is a beautiful book. I was gifted it from the Nature Inspired Books for Kids Facebook group in one of the monthly drawings. It's a great place to learn about new books and ask for suggestions on topics. I love the sounds in the book, the details in the drawings, and how it shows the role of animals (including humans) in spreading seeds. I feel like a gardener when I read this book and see how we help the wild garden by planting its seeds in many ways.  See my full review of the book HERE.
  • Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move by JoAnn Early Macken is another favorite. It shows specific seeds and how they skitter, skate, flip, float, splash, swish, bounce, pop, and so much more. It shows various ways seeds are dispersed. It has a vocab sheet with pictures at the end as well as a note about seeds. 
All these books come alive with first hand experiences with seeds. Having practical, real life experiences in early childhood is essential. Here are a few of the activities we might do with seeds, though the list is endless. Feel free to share what you are doing as well! 

1. Go on a seed walk in Fall! Take a basket to collect a few seeds on the way--this is just a small sampling to look at the diversity of seeds. Back at your class area, sort and categorize the seeds.

2. Explore seeds in a playful manner. Find seeds that explode! These are so much fun and some of our favorites! These are impatiens, but we also really like jewel weed as our preferred native. Try bringing real seeds in for playful exploration. We also enjoy cattails and milkweed seeds to "explore". 

3. Shell seeds! We found a local gardener who let us pick and shell her beans! How fun and what a sensory experience! 

4. Seed investigations--half a pumpkin, tweezers, and magnifying glasses are the seeds of inquiry! We added a number line AFTER we found the kids were naturally counting with the seeds. I bought these pumpkins at a roadside stand for 3/$1--very economical! Similarly, we did this with sunflower seeds--powerful! 


5. Create with seeds! We decorated pumpkins with seeds for a stunning and creative effect.  Seed collages are also fun! I typically use the 15 bean soup mix as an economical base for these.

6. Seed collections. Help children make their own collections in an egg carton or baggie. Also, allow children to investigate your seed collection. Start finding these now to have for future explorations. 


7. Plant a garden! We planted these peppers last spring--how neat to see the fruits of our efforts in the fall and even taste them! I also like mung beans in a baggie with a moist paper towel and growing wheat berries in soil for quick results and to see the roots and such

8. Have seeds for a snack! Sugar snap peas are a fun snack. We also like edamame, strawberries, and others where we can be more involved in the snack. 

9. Make seed bombs! Thanks to a generous mom, we had this great seed bomb activity for us. She brought in many seeds, such as sunflower, calendula, milkweed, dill, and more. We stuffed a toilet paper tube with wool and seeds to plant later. Another version is mixing seeds with soil and then encapsulating it with clay. Allow to dry and throw out for a guerrilla garden. 

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Deer Dancer: A Book Review and Resources

Deer Dancer by Mary Lyn Ray is a delightful look at the interaction and play between a young child who is in dance and a deer. You can find it read online here. It is a simple, easy to read book which would be appropriate for preschoolers or younger grade school. I really liked the movement, imagination, and the connection of dance to nature. Personally, I typically do programs on deer in the fall. I would include this quick book as part of a creative movement feature, reading the book, and then having music for a deer dance. There is a native story that this reminds me of deer dancing like this. I might also share this book as part of our exploration on deer. Here is a listing of various native stories on deer. Here is a link on a Yaqui Deer Dance as well and another with a video.

The story reads:
There’s a place I go that’s green and grass,
a place I thought that no one knew—
until the deer came.

I love that this recognizes and validates those special places for children. We tend to watch our children pretty vigilantly as a society, but allowing a nearby secret space or even just a hidden space nearby where we can hear what is going on is magical. Additionally, there is much imagery, as she is still as the grass. I really like the natural connection. 

The girl is somewhat apprehensive with her skills as a dancer; however, her confidence grew as she lifted her antlers like the deer. 

I love seeing children explore animals through play. Dance is a form of play. Here are other ideas I have pulled together to help children learn about animals through play:

Additionally, I often teach about deer in nature preschool. Here are ideas that we used to connect to deer.

General information on White Tailed Deer in Spring:

This post may contain affiliate links. I found it at the Bristol Library. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adding Plants to an Outdoor Classroom

 Plants are a great way to add color and texture in any outdoor space, including natural play spaces for children. At the recent Nature Explore/Outdoor Classroom Leadership Institute, I outlined tips for adding plants to your area in my mind.  I'll share my thoughts here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pirate Party=Loose Parts + Nature Play!

Ahoy there, matey! We had a pirate birthday party for our wee one!

Our youngest son recently turned four. To celebrate, we invited friends and family to our new house for some nature play, er, I mean, for his birthday party. We have a great space for adventures, so took some basic concepts of nature play we could easily do in our yard and wove them into a story for a bit of pirate adventure! 

I found a few decorations at Hobby Lobby, but also had the boys raid the dress up box as I knew they could find the flag, capes, and hats that would work well for the party. They also found the pirate ship and Playmobil figurines for starters and decor. 

We also pulled out some loose parts toys. This was my son's attempt at a primitive pirate ship!

The birthday boy also got some of these cool Tegu blocks for his birthday (when they were on sale!), so many planks were made for walking!

We made a "plank" to cross with milk crates and marine plywood ($2/length of this size at the local Restore). We had these all on hand. The planks were reconfigured many times and many ways! #looseparts

The younger ones loved walking the plank! I appreciate how encouraging and helpful my oldest was with his little brother. 

After walking the plank because the ship wrecked, we "swam" to the shore and then climbed the highest mountain we could find to look for a good place to build a shelter.

Alas, they found sticks, old curtains and more to build shelters!

After we found shelter, we needed to look for fresh water. We explored the water's edge, yet only found one tadpole (maybe too many people) where we pulled 14 out of the pond just a few days ago.  Of course they were released after we checked them out a bit. 

We followed the stream back into the forest, crossing the bridge, and hearing the frogs jump in!

Our next mission was to find the treasure chest! We had to climb up and down the giant logs to find them. 

Loved seeing these little ones just drawn to the logs! Some had no fear! 

We distributed the booty and then searched for more treasures! 

One treasure we found in the forest was a slimy slug! Another great thing to explore (and put back where we found it!

We had both sand and water options for more treasures! 

We washed hands and headed inside for snacks--peg legs (carrots), fish and chips (chips and goldfish crackers), banana pirates, orange boats, and gold nuggets (cheese cubes). 

The birthday boy was very proud of his banana scribbles!

The birthday boy blew out his candles and the planks became great places to sit. 

Presents were opened (lots of creative options, construction sets, loose parts toys, and more!). 

And we had more free play time! 

Keeping it real since it looks all rosy! A cover was taken off the hot tub, disturbing some wasps. Lots of stings and screams later we completely avoided that area!