Our Backyard Campout (that wasn’t)

If you’ve taken a minute to read the Simple Kids About page, you’ll note that I have promised to always be honest and authentic with you, the Simple Kids readers.  Before I share our Great American Backyard Campout experience with you, I have to confess that we are not a camping family.  All of us love the outdoors, and I’ll happily hike and swim and explore and experience nature with you anytime, but when nighttime rolls around – well, I prefer to indulge in the creature comforts of air conditioning and a soft, warm bed.

Now having said that, I had prepared myself to be open to anything to celebrate the Backyard Campout.  We borrowed  a tent from friends, rounded up the bug repellent, and prepared for an adventure.

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There was a lot of initial enthusiasm on the part of both girls . . .

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but eventually the novelty wore off and the call of other backyard projects proved more enticing than hanging out in the stuffy tent.  (Saturday happened to be one of the hottest days of the year so far, and even the hours of late evening and dusk were uncomfortably hot.)

There were leaves to collect

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and adventures to pursue.

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Eventually, the girls wanted to go back inside, and I was thankful that I was not attached to any expectations or outcomes.  They are only four and not-quite-two, and we have lots of summer nights ahead of us to see the backyard campout through to sunrise.  Just another exercise in letting go and going with the flow . . .

I am so looking forward to hearing about your campout! Did you roast marshmallows or tell stories around a campfire? Did anyone play music or make up new games? Did the camping out last all the way through the night, or are you planning to try again? Leave a comment or post a link to your own backyard campout experience!

Honoring the Power and Pleasure of Tea with Your Family

I look forward to hearing and seeing how your backyard campouts turned out, and we’ll plan to discuss that tomorrow.  While summer invites us outside to explore and play, it is also sometimes a season of extreme weather.  I know some of you are enduring many days of rain, while others (like my family) are finding it necessary to take shelter from sweltering heat in the afternoons.

When a long summer day offers the chance to slow down together as family, why not accept the invitation with a nice cup of tea?  I’ve asked my friend and passionate tea aficionado Trisha to share some ways tea can minister to your family – in the summer and all year-long:

teaAs a parent, you’re undoubtedly always looking for opportunities to foster your child’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and social health. As a parent striving for simplicity in your home, discovering something that can cultivate all those areas (without adding strain to the pocketbook) is simply thrilling. Hold on to your many hats, because have I got a gem for you. You might not realize it, but you likely have this amazing treasure in your house right now; perhaps you just haven’t considered sharing it with your children yet. This impressive tool has the power to heal, educate, and build character if you simply introduce it to your kids’ world. Got tea? It does a family good.

Tea is a multi-tasking wonder for the parent who would like to prevent and treat life’s little ailments naturally. Drinking tea provides your children’s little bodies the same benefits it does your grown-up one. The vitamins and minerals in tea build strong blood vessels, aid digestion, and are essential for the development of strong teeth and bones. Consuming tea will also boost your young’uns immune system, so they don’t bring home every cough and sniffle. Regular tea drinking can alleviate symptoms of allergies, hay fever, and asthma. If tooth brushing is a struggle, you’ll be glad to know tea inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth associated with plaque formation, is an excellent source of fluoride, and can even be used as a mouth rinse to prevent tooth decay.

When minor maladies arise, tea can be your go-to “medicine.” Offer kids a warm cup of tea with a bit of honey for complaints of sore throats, stuffy noses, or upset tummies. Ginger and chamomile teas are wonderfully soothing, peppermint tea helps clear congestion, and red tea has antispasmodic properties that help relieve stomach cramps and even pacify colicky babies (I’ve known mothers to mix a little in with mama milk when needed.) Its soothing effect applies to external use as well. Apply a cool tea compress to diaper rash, eczema, or other skin irritations for relief. As a bonus, most teas do double duty: chamomile also aids sleep, peppermint also supports digestion, and red tea also stabilizes blood sugar. A little research will reveal a host of applications for each tea, allowing you get the most bang for your brew.

Tea also holds a wealth of educational opportunities, because its story involves much history and culture. Stimulate young minds with intellectual conversations about the social, political, and economical impact of tea around the world, or broaden their global perspective by learning about the various traditions and customs associated with drinking tea in different countries. All of this information has been neatly packaged in books geared for both youth and adults, and is also accessible via our beloved internet.  Incorporate it into hands-on activities, trivia games, or storytelling to appeal to kids and teens.

“Taking tea” together presents an excellent opportunity to engage in meaningful quality time and foster your precious relationship with your children. Tea parties can be a wonderful tradition in your home, creating lasting memories. Make it an anticipated event by including the kids in preparation. Set each place with a special cups and saucers from a thrift shop, toy store, or leftover party paperware. Bake a sweet recipe that includes tea in the ingredients, like these scrumptious Chamomile Lemon Squares from TeaChef.com. Pour your children’s favorite tea, and begin your party with a festive chorus of “I’m a little teapot”. While sipping, read from a storybook about tea, like Lady Ginny’s Tea Parties by Susan Rennick Jolliffe (perfect for a girly party) or Come to Tea on Planet Zum-Zee by Tony Mitton  (a playful story that will delight boys and girls). Tea parties also provide an occasion for your child to develop social skills and build important character qualities like hospitality and manners, especially when you invite friends and extended family.  A good resource to help you incorporate these aspects into your teatime is Children’s Tea and Etiquette: Brewing Good Manners in Young Minds by Dorothea Johnson.

Tea offers a simple way to enrich your family’s life in these areas and more. Smile, you’ve just hit the jackpot.

(A quick reminder:  always take care to let the tea cool significantly before offering it to a young child. Also, be sure that any boiling hot mugs or kettles are far from the reach of tiny hands eager for their favorite “medicine.”  For young children, I recommend sticking with herbal tisanes and decaffeinated teas. Herbals also contain low levels of tannin – the ingredient in black or green tea that inhibits absorption of iron – especially needed during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and early childhood development.)

Trisha is a wife, daughter, and sister who anticipates the day when she can add “mom” to her title. She is passionate about relationships, health, discovery, and natural living, and enthusiastically pursues a slew of hobbies including gardening, cooking, dancing, language, literature, and blogging about this mishmash of interests at ~~myOLIO~~.

(photo courtesy of siukankay)


June 26th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

Simple Kids is a community for parents and caregivers of children in the birth to mid-elementary age range.  Sometimes I feel that I don’t allow enough emphasis on the incredibly important birth to age one stage of childhood, so today I wanted to share a couple of Showcase ideas that might inspire parents of these littlest ones.

As most of us can testify, that first year can be wrought with teething woes.  I sometimes hear of little ones who simply wake up in the morning with a two brand new teeth and not a soul knew they were teething.  This has never been the case with either of my daughters!  The appearance of new teeth is always heralded by weeping, wailing, and, well, gnashing of gums in our home.  Emily wrote to tell me about tutorial she created for making a soft cloth teething toy.  This is the finished product:

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and this is the happy teether:

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Here are Emily’s instructions for making a soft cloth teething toy.

When you are parenting a baby, you are not only responsible for their health and well-being, you are sometimes called upon to be an interpreter for their inner thoughts and feelings.  Reader Dena wrote me this week to share the Father’s Day poem she created for her husband, “spoken” in the words and perspective of their four month old daughter:

Dear Daddy,

I love you.  You’re my daddy
And you always know just what to do.

I know you’ll teach me lots of things
Right now I’m not very old
I’m waiting for a few more Springs
To start becoming bold.

You’ll teach me how to swim outside
And how to ride a bike.
You’ll teach me how to swing up high
And fun things to do on hikes.

I know we’ll have a loving life;
A lot of fun each day.
‘Cause, Daddy, you’re the best of all
To kiss my tears away.

I love you, Daddy.  I can’t wait
To grow up big and tall
So I can hug you really tight
And tell my friends how you beat them all.

I thought this was a perfect example of how long before your children are able to participate in the creative process, you as the parent can begin building a groundwork of creative living!  So sweet.  Thank you for sharing, Dena!

And now your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

The Latah Eagle: Cultivate a life-long fishing buddy; take a kid fishing
Zen Habits: 21 Tips on Keeping a Simple Home with Kids
ProPhotoHome: Taking Better Pictures of Your Kids

Simply Delicious

Journey to Simplicity: Cool Treats – Simple and Frugal
Foodie Tots: Virginia Farmland Solstice Supper
FIMBY: Wild Edibles

Inspired Projects

The Mother Load: Can I Craft Some Bath Toys?

Inspired Images

The Rinrins: Camping

Inspired Words

exhale. return to center. : b r e a t h i n g . s p a c e
Holy Experience: How to Nurture Genius

Happy weekend and happy camping!

Connecting with Nature Challenge #3: Backyard Campout!

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Our third challenge in the Connecting with Nature is to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout on this Saturday, June 27th.

Your family may choose an elaborate set-up and indulge in a night spent entirely outdoors, or perhaps a more simple approach for a few evening hours is more your speed.  Whatever it looks like for your family, this is a fun way to unite with families across the United States (and perhaps even across the globe!) as we celebrate the tradition of the campout.

Don’t forget to head over to Simple Mom for this week’s discussion of Last Child in the Woods – chapters 6-8!

photo courtesy of cotaro70

Discussing Nature Challenge #2: Awakening Your Senses in Nature

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Evidently I was so excited to begin our fantastic CWDkids giveaway yesterday that I forgot we were going to discuss our Connecting with Nature Challenge #2!

Last week when I issued our second challenge to connect with nature.  I asked you to focus on awakening your own senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound) through your own interactions with nature. We talked about how we must be careful to remember that our children observe the ways that we as “grown-ups” interact with nature, so we want to model for them that being outdoors allows each of our senses to be engaged.

It is not unusual for me to sit outside on our back steps for a few minutes each morning, watching the trees light up in the golden rays of morning sun while I listen to birds chirping as I sip my coffee.  This past weekend offered me an opportunity to take up more of a challenge: my husband and I spent the weekend in Kansas City which moved me out of my normal routines and our spacious yard shaded by decades-old trees and into the city, where concrete replaces green grass as ground cover and traffic lights far outnumber mature trees.

On Saturday morning, I had the chance to explore the Country Club Plaza (our nation’s first suburban shopping district) and so I decided to try to take in nature from a more urban perspective than the lens I usually view through.

I observed that my morning coffee and the blueberry muffin on which I splurged were every bit as satisfying next to greenery that grew behind a plaza bench.

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Even carefully manicured flowers still startle with amazingly brilliant colors.

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There was plenty of noise from the car traffic driving by, but I could choose to focus my auditory attentions on the gentle, soothing splashes of water that flowed from the fountains.

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There are places where the landscaping is allowed to grow a little more wild and free.

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And though I didn’t capture it with my camera, there is nothing quite like the smell of a crowd of people caught in a summer rainstorm – would it be crass to say that the entire plaza smelled a bit like a wet dog?  After the rain had cleared, the entire area seemed to gleam in the sunshine, and the unpleasant odors were redeemed with that sparkling new smell of fresh.

If it weren’t for this challenge, I might not have taken the time to slow down and seek out nature in places that appear to have been overrun by mankind.  I certainly would not have taken note of how being outdoors in an environment that is more carefully managed than my own backyard can still alert my senses. I’m glad I took the time to capture it in pictures – they are some of the most meaningful shots from my trip.

How about you? Did you take up the challenge to experience nature with all five senses? What did you discover? Share your insights in the comments section or leave a link to your own post with thoughts on this challenge.

first photo courtesy of isado