G is for Garden

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help.  Gardening is an instrument of grace  ~Mary Sarton


Fairy Garden Sensory Bin

“It is frightfully difficult to know much about the fairies, and almost the only thing for certain is that there are fairies wherever there are children.” ~J.M. Barrie


To make this sensory bin I colored oodles and oodles of rice green.  I bought a Costco-sized bag of white rice and poured about half of it into a disposable aluminum roasting pan.  Then I squirted green liquid watercolor paint onto the rice and stirred it up–squirting and stirring until I reached the depth of green that I wanted.  I also added about a quarter of a cup of rubbing alcohol to the rice to set the color.  And finally, I dumped it all into the large plastic bin that I use for my sensory bins, and let it dry overnight.  In the morning I added felt flowers, peg people, little wooden pots, glass gems, stripey pink, green and yellow pompoms, rafia carrots and little wooden door knobs that I painted to look like whimsical mushrooms….because of course, every self-respecting fairy needs whimsical mushrooms!

Vegetable Soup

On one day this week each class  made vegetable soup for our snack.  Each child brought a vegetable to contribute to the soup and during our inside play time I individually helped them prepare their vegetable.  I have some child-friendly knives and choppers that we used.  It is so satisfying for a child to feel competent with adult tools.

I have three different types of knives for the Littles.  My favorite is the Jo!e wavy chopper that I first became aware of in Montessori schools.  These are great for chopping potatoes, carrots and celery.  I also have the Curious Chef nylon knives.  I have found that these work best on softer vegetables like broccoli, zucchini and lettuce.   And I have a couple of pampered chef children’s knives.  These also work best on the softer veggies.  Both the Curious Chef and the Pampered Chef knives will cut meat.  Don’t expect nicely chopped vegetables when you are working with the Littles!  They will definitely be irregularly wonky!

To make the vegetable soup, over low heat, sauté chopped celery, onion, sweet bell pepper, a peeled and chopped apple and some garlic in a pot until soft.   Add coarsely chopped carrots, potatoes, sweet potato,  zucchini and whatever other veggies the little ones bring.  Add enough beef broth to cover your vegetables and to make your soup as thin or thick as you want.  I add some Herbs de Province and then some salt to taste.  That’s it–yummy and comforting!

Art Projects:

  1. Our take on Claude Monet’s garden paintings.  I read the Littles the book Phillippe in Monet’s Garden and showed them copies of some of Monet’s paintings.  We talked about how fuzzy looking his painting were.  To achieve the impressionist style of art, I had the children do wet on wet watercolor painting.  First, I drew a light pencil line vertically across watercolor paper about one third of the way up from the bottom edge.  I sprayed each child’s paper with water.  I gave each child a small container of green liquid watercolor paint that I had thinned with some water.  I instructed the Littles to paint the bottom third of their paper with the green paint.  Then I gave each child a little jar of slightly watered down blue liquid watercolor paint and instructed them to paint the top two thirds blue.  Because the paper was wet the blue and green bled together a bit.  It was beautiful!  If the child’s paper is puddly with paint, just tip the edge of their paper over a paper towel and let watery paint drip off.  It will mix and blend and look wonderful!  For the next step, I gave each child a straw and then I dropped little puddles of brown liquid watercolor onto their papers.  They used their straws to blow tree trunks and branches.  Finally I squirted magenta liquid watercolor paint onto their little palettes and they used stencil brushes to smoosh flowers onto the tree branches and the grass.  The final paintings were very impressionist looking.  I think that Monet would have been proud!

2. Printing with garden vegetables.  This is such an easy project but so much fun.  I always like to show the little ones that you don’t have to use a paint brush to paint.  You can use lots of other materials.  In this case we used vegetables  I cut off the root end of a bunch of celery and a head of lettuce.  Dipped in paint and printed on paper, those almost looks like roses.  I also cut some bell peppers in half, cut broccoli into florets and cut some carrots in half.  We used green, yellow and blue tempera paint which, when mixed together, (as inevitably happens) does not turn brown!

3.  Garden Collage.  I love collages.  I love the fact that we can use different materials, different textures, and different mediums to create art.  I cut strips of different shades of blue, green and brown tissue paper.  I also put out pictures of garden fruits and vegetables that I had printed and cut up.  And as a third texture, I set out butterfly and flower stickers.  I gave the Littles small containers that I had poured a bit of glue into, and the paint brushes that we use only for glue.  I instructed the Littles to paint their whole paper with glue.  Then they stuck on the blue, green and brown tissue paper to create a garden bed and the sky.  On top of that they layered the fruits and vegetable pictures, and the butterfly and flower stickers.  Voila!  A garden collage.  Unfortunately my phone was acting up and so I have no pictures of any of the collages or of the children making their collages.  Very frustrated with Apple right now!

4.  Beaded Garden Ornaments.  The idea for making these came from a post on  The Artful Parent blog.  For this projects you will need wooden garden stakes, silver pipe cleaners, translucent pony beads and glass beads, and a glue gun.  I bought wooden garden stakes from Lowe’s at a little over a dollar per stake.  I gave each child five pipe cleaners.  On The Artful Parent, Jean Van’t Hul used lovely glass beads that she and her little ones threaded onto pipe cleaners.  Ad so, I bought some enchanting glass beads and…much too difficult for the Littles to thread onto the pipe cleaners!  I ended up threading a large sparkling bead onto the end each of the Littles’ pipe cleaners and then gave them translucent pony beads.  Those worked perfectly for little hands to string onto the pipe cleaners.  They had enough stamina to put about 15 to 20 beads on each of their pipe cleaners and then I would top them off with another one of the exotic, but difficult to thread, glass beads!  To attach the pipe cleaners to the garden stake I twisted each  one of the child’s five beaded pipe cleaners perpendicularly around a sixth pipe cleaner.  Then I squirted some hot glue onto the garden stake and twisted the strand of pipe cleaners around the top of the stake.  I added some more glue on top just to make sure that the pipe cleaners would stay in place.


Alice has put hers amongst the lavender and roses.   I love how the sunlight sparkles on the beads and how the pipe cleaners gently sway in the breeze.  It adds just the right bit of whimsy to the front garden.

Favorite Books:

There are lots of lovely children’s books about gardens, but my favorite one right now is The Maggie B by Irene Hass.  It is charming, charming, charming!  “Margaret Barnstable wished on a star one night…for a ship Named after me, To sail for a day Alone and free, With someone nice For company.”  When Margaret wakes up, she is in the cabin of her own ship, The Maggie B, with he dear baby brother, James, for company.  They have a lovely farm on the ship, with a garden, a goat and some chickens.  All day, Margaret sails the ocean, capably caring for her ship.  When a fierce storm blows up, she is not afraid, but takes in the sail and ties it tight.  She drops the anchor and stows away all the gear.  Dry and warm in the cabin, she and James feast on a scrumptious dinner of sea stew and muffins, and savor baked peaches with cinnamon and honey for dessert.  Sweet and luminous watercolor pictures illustrate the delightful text.  This is one of those “must reads” for children because it can set their imaginations soaring.  51VJrDIa8oL._AC_US218_

Other favorites that we read this past week:

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