Building fairy houses using natural materials found outside is an imaginative way for children to engage in the world outside their doorstep. You don’t have to go to the store or spend a penny for this ephemeral nature project– Fairy houses can be made in your yard, local park, on a beach, or in the snow using whatever natural items are available during the present season. My 5-year-old has been making her own fairy houses for a couple of years now and it has been fun watching her construction skills and creativity develop with each house she makes, not to mention the stories told about the fairies who live there. Here’s a short rundown of this one part art, one part nature activity for kids with an element of magical pretend play.
Materials to build a fairy house can be anything you find outside such as sticks, leaves, seashells, driftwood, grass, stones, seeds, feathers, bark, snake skin, pinecones, etc. Try your best not to disturb anything that is living.
Oftentimes a fairy house evolves. It rains and part of the structure falls over and has to be repaired or reimagined. A toad decides to use it as a home. Branches and stones and leaves can be added to expand and modify the home. Ephemeral means “transitory” or “short-lived” and like most things in nature, it’s an organic process that’s always changing. If not maintained, the fairy house will deteriorate back to the earth from which they came.
When fairy houses are constructed close to our yard, they’re often embellished with sidewalk chalk, glass floral stones, or odds and ends we find in the dirt. We try to keep it as natural as possible. We don’t leave anything outside that animals could harm themselves with or choke on. We’re also sure to pick up any pieces that were not found outside and remove them from the site after a fairy house deteriorates.
The fun part is imagining the fairy or fairies who take up residence in the home. What is his/her name? What magic powers do they have? Can they talk to animals? Are they the reason the roses bloomed early? We pretend to spot them around their new residence, make them fairy soup (water, flower petals, grass, seeds), or leave gifts of little berries or pebbles at their doorstep.
The picture book Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane (public library) is a terrific prompt for this magical, nature-based activity. The back of the book provides the reader with ideas for ways to incorporate materials from each season into your construction. Invite friends to build a fairy village together or build a house during a walk outside. This is an activity my oldest often likes to do alone when she is in need of quiet time absent of activity.
Building fairy houses provides children with a hands-on sensory experience with flora and fauna. It encourages awareness of the seasons through foraged loose parts and adds an aspect of wonder to their outdoor play.
Storytime Anytime is a simple storytime experience that parents and caregivers can recreate at home. Each storytime focuses on a book about a specific interest, a song, rhyme, or fingerplay that complements the story, and then a few, simple extension activities. Storytime doesn’t just happen in the library, storytime can be anytime!
READ: We’ve been reading a lot of books about weather lately, and the vintage gem Bear Gets Dressed: A Guessing-Game Story by Harriet Ziefert, illustrations by Arnold Lobel (public library) is the story most often picked by my 2-year old. The story starts with bear waking up in the morning and looking outside his window. Each page after depicts a variety of garments and asks the reader what would bear wear depending on the weather he sees outside– Open the flap and the answer is revealed. It’s a straightforward, sweet book for toddlers and preschools by two highly regarded kid lit authors.
If you’re a librarian or teacher, it would make a wonderful flannel board. I didn’t check to see if someone has already thought of that idea or not. So if someone in internet land has – Kudos! Bear Gets Dressed is a new-to-us classic that encourages kids to think about weather, seasons, and how the clothing we wear reflects both.
SING: There’s a fantastic selection of weather songs over on Jbrary’s YouTube channel, but their rendition of “What’s the Weather?” seems to be the weather-themed song we enjoy singing the most of the bunch. That one, and “Come Under My Umbrella” are big hits in my house. Try not to hum “Oh my darling, Clementine” anytime someone asks “Whats the weather?” after singing this song a few times…
What’s the Weather (sung to Clementine) via Perpetual Preschool
What’s the weather? What’s the weather? What’s the weather like today?
Is it foggy, partly cloudy, is it raining or is there snow?
Is it windy, is it cloudy or is there sunshine today?
What’s the weather? What’s the weather? What’s the weather like today?
PLAY: These are a few no-stress weather activities to play after reading Bear Gets Dressed:
- Play a weather dress-up game! Gather an assortment of clothing for all types of weather and lay them out in a room. Pretend to look out the window and say, “What will the weather be like today? It’s ___________ !” and ask the child to find and put on clothing that best fits the weather you describe.
- When you go outdoors, talk about the weather you see and feel. Is it cold or warm? Is it cloudy or sunny? Rainy? Foggy? Is it dark or light? What time of day is it? Will the weather change during the day? What is the season? Do you have a favorite type of weather? Taking time to notice weather is just one way to connect children to the cycles of the natural world.
- Dress up a doll or stuffed animal over the course of the week according to the weather forecasted each day. Does the doll or stuffy have to change outfits a few times to accommodate the weather? Or are they able to wear the same outfit for a majority of the week?
BOOK SUGGESTIONS: For more weather book suggestions for younger children, scroll down to the end of this weather booklist!
“In a place where colors ran wild, there lived a girl who was wilder still. Her name was Swatch, and she was a color tamer. She was small, but she was not afraid.”
Open Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos (public library) and experience a stampede of color. Young Swatch is a collector. Like most kids who are passionate about collecting, they try the best they can to accumulate as much of their desired object as possible. But unlike most kids, Swatch collects color. She enthusiastically plucks, nets, tames, and traps an array of every color she comes across. When she calls out their name “Bravest Green”, “Just Laid Blue”, and “Rumble-Tumble Pink” the colors come to her and she bottles them up to be added to the rainbow of colors already captured. But one day, instead of calling out the name of “Yellowest Yellow”, a coveted shade, she asks the color instead of calling it to her. “Yellowest yellow.. would you like to climb into this jar?” The shade politely declines and instead of plucking it up nonetheless, she leaves it be and something spectacular happens.
Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color is not only visually stunning, but the story stars a strong, courageous female character- We can never ever have enough strong female characters in books for young children- and demonstrates what happens when we let go and allow creativity to flourish. A big thank you to my buddy Erinn Batykefer from Library as Incubator Project, for putting this book on my radar this past winter. It has not only become a favorite story in our home, but an inspiration for many color adventures since reading it.
FACE PAINTING FUN
Throughout the story, Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, Swatch seems to always have paint on her face. I thought expanding on this detail through face painting would be fun platform to talk about color mixing and also provide the opportunity for the kids to paint a canvas they are very familiar with, their own faces!
- Face lotion or lotion without fragrance or dyes
- Food coloring or liquid watercolors
- Watercolor tray or whatever you have on hand for paint mixing
I used this DIY face paint tutorial for making the paints. You can swap liquid washable watercolors for the food coloring if you prefer. The food coloring might take a day or two to wash off. Using a water color tray, the kids mixed up some colors with food coloring and face lotion. Then I set up a mirror and let them have at it. Here’s our set up:
I have never seen these two smile and laugh during an art project like when they were face painting. It was a playful, color-filled sensory experience!
After face painting, my oldest decided she wanted to LOOK JUST LIKE SWATCH and quickly changed into clothing similar to Swatch’s outfit in the book. Then, she asked for a jar to catch colors in and ran around the yard for a good part of the evening role playing the character of Swatch. She continues to this day to talk about color names and fantasize about colors.
Swatch encouraged us to see colors in a new way and allow them, and our imaginations, run wild. Now more than ever, Lorelei makes up names for colors she sees. I’ve been hesitant to return a book that has sparked so much wonder in my girls, but tomorrow it’s going back to the library. It’s time to let Swatch be free and work her magic in our community.
For more color mixing magic that would also pair well with Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, check out this Mix it Up! project.
Source of book reviewed: Borrowed from my local public library!
“What will the weather be like today?” It’s one of the first questions we think of when we wake in the morning. Every day we experience weather. Some of us live in places where the weather is consistently the same throughout the year, and some of us live in places where there is a wide range of weather – especially during seasonal transition. Regardless of where you live, learning about weather elements is a fun way for children to take notice of and apply weather to their everyday world. Since we’ve been experiencing a lot of weather changes with the seasonal transition where I live, I put together a list of favorite children’s books that are both fiction and nonfiction about weather. What’s your favorite book about weather?
ALL ABOUT WEATHER
These books focus on a variety of weather and season:
What Will the Weather Be Like Today? by Paul Rogers, illustrations by Kazuko (public library)
On the Same Day in March by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Frane Lessac (public library)
Boom Boom by Savinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (public library)
Weather Words by Gail Gibbons (public library)
If Frogs Made Weather by Dane Marion Bauer (public library)
Maisy’s Wonderful Weather Book by Lucy Cousins (public library)
Inside, Outside by Lizi Boyd (public library) – Full book review HERE
Whatever the Weather by Karen Wallace (public library)
THE WATER CYCLE
A look at various forms of water and the phases of the water cycle:
Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Marianda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin (public library)
This is the Rain by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jane Wattenbern (public library)
Water Dance by Thomas Locker (public library)
All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Katherine Tiloston (public library)
Water Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija (public library)
Rain showers, rainy days, after-rain puddles and all things rain, rain, rain:
Raindrop Roll by April Pulley Sayre (public library)
Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin and John Archambault, illustrated by James Endicott (public library)
Mushroom in the Rain by Mirra Ginsburg, illustrated by Jose Aruego (public library)
Come On, Rain! by Karen Helle, illustrated by Jon J. Muth (public library)
Float by Daniel Miyares (public library)
Worm Weather by Jean Taft, illustrated by Matt Hunt (public library)
The Rain Came Down by David Shannon (public library)
Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten, illustraed by Javaka Steptoe (public library)
The Rain Train by Elena De Roo, illustrated by Brian Lovelock (public library)
Who Likes the Rain? By Wong Herbert Yee (public library)
Split! Splat! by Amy Gibson, illustrated by Steve Bjorkamn (public library)
When Rain Falls by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Constance Bergum (public library)
Thunder and lightning can be a bit frightening, but learning about storms can help calm nerves. These stories make storms fun!
The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham (public library)
Waiting Out the Storm by JoAnn Early Macken, illustrated by Susan Gaber (public library)
Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes (public library)
Tap Tap Boom Boom by Elizabeth Bluemle, illustrated by G. Braian Karas (public library)
Thunder Boomer by Shutta Crum, illustrated by Carol Thompson (public library)
Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll by Franklyn M. Branley, illustrated by True Kelley (public library)
The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi (public library)
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco (public library)
Wind causes the trees sway and kites to play. Silly, heartwarming, and informational stories about the wind:
The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins (public library)
Like a Windy Day by Frank Asch (public library)
Wind by Marion Dane Bauer (public library)
Windblown by Édouard Manceau (public library) Full review!
One Monday by Amy Hutington (public library)
Gilberto and the Wind by Marie Hall Ets (public library)
Bluebird by Lindsey Yankey (public library) Full review + author interview!
One Windy Wednesday by Phyllis Root (public library)
Kite Flying by Grace Lin (public library)
Laying in the grass and looking at the clouds is one of my favorite childhood past times. These stories invoke and explain the magic behind those white fluffballs in the sky:
It Looks Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw (public library)
The Cloud Book by Tomie dePaola (public library)
Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld (public library)
Olga the Cloud by Nicoletta Costa (public library)
Sector 7 by David Wiesner (public library)
Clouds by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Frané Lessac (public library)
Clouds by Marion Dane Bauer (public library)
Explore My World Clouds by Marfe Ferguson Delano (public library)
Cloudy Day Sunny Day by Donald Crews (public library)
Our light, life-force, and reason for the seasons– The sun!
Sun Up, Sun Down by Gail Gibbons (public library)
One Hot Summer Day by Nina Crews (public library) — Also is a good storm book!
Moonbear’s Sunrise by Frank Asch (public library)
A Sunny Day by Robin Nelson (public library)
One Light, One Sun by Raffi (public library)
The Sun is My Favorite Star by Frank Asch (public library)
Fun With the Sun by Melissa Stewart and Jeffrey Schnerer (public library)
Other than puddles, I’d say rainbows are the best part of a rainstorm. These books explain how a rainbow forms and spectrum of colors it displays:
A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman (public library)
Elmer and the Rainbow by David McKee (public library)
Ned’s Rainbow by Melanie Walsh (public library)
All the Colors of the Rainbow by Allan Fowler (public library)
Rainbows by David Whitfield (public library)
Stories featuring the mysterious, lingering moisture that is fog:
Fog Hide and Seek by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin (public library)
The Foggy Foggy Forest by Nick Sharratt (public library)
Fog Island by Tomi Ungerer (public library)
Hedgehog in the Fog by Yuri Norstein, illustrated by Francesca Yarbusova (public library)
Snow and snowflakes and the water cycle during cold weather months:
The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino (public library)
The Snowflake: A Water Cycle Story by Neil Waldman (public library)
Millions of Snowflakes by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles (public library)
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqeline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian (public library)
The Snowy Day by Jack Ezra Keats (public library)
A Snowy Day by Robin Nelson (public library)
Snow by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Lauren Stinger (public library)
WEATHER BOOKS FOR OLDER READERS
Many of the books in this list are intended for older readers BUT have excellent images and activities that can be adapted and enjoyed by all ages:
The Kids’ Book of Clouds and Sky by Frank Staub (public library)
Weather by Seymour Simon (public library)
Whatever the Weather: Science Experiments and Ar Activities That Explore the Wonders of Weather by Annie Riechmann, illustrated by Dawn Suzette Smith (public library)
DK Eyewitness Weather by Brian Cosgrove (public library)
The Secret Life of a Snowflake by Kenneth Libbrecht (public library)
A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder by Walter Wick (public library)
National Geographic Kids Everything Weather by Kathy Furgang (public library)
WEATHER BOOKS FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS
Stories about weather for the littlest readers:
Hello, World! Weather! by Jill McDonald (public library)
Bear Gets Dressed by Harriet Ziefert, illustraed by Arnold Lobel (public library)
A Windy Day in Spring by Charles Ghigna, illustrated by Laura Watson (public library)
Raindrops Fall All Around by Charles Gnigna, illustrated by Laura Watson (public library)
Little Cloud by Eric Carle (public library)
Sunshine Brightens Springtime by Charles Gnigna, illustrated by Laura Watson (public library)
Rain, Rain, Go Away! by Caroline Jayne Church (public library)
The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani (public library)
Kipper’s Book of Weather by Mick Inkpen (public library)
Raindrops: A Shower of Colors by Chieu Anh Urban (public library)
Interested in seeing if these books are available at your local library? I made this abbreviated weather books list on bibliocommons. So, if your library suscribes to bibliocommons you’re list of books to pick up is already started!
What’s your favorite children’s book about weather? Do you have a favorite that isn’t on the list? I’d love to know in the comments below!
Images from top to bottom:
1. Tadepole hunt
2. Big ol’ tadpole
3. Old path/New path
4. False rue anemone
5. Spring beauty
6. yer majesty, Queen Trout lily
7. Wildflower sketches
8. First snail sighting
9. More tadpoles
10. April Showers
11. Wandering in the woods
12. Garden friend
13. House finch nest
Spring came early this year. Water spots are filled with tadpoles. The wildflowers in the woods have come and gone. The prairies are pregnant with new wild blooms waiting to burst.
A pair of House finches have taken residence on our porch. The other morning I checked on their nest and found this– Five perfect palest, pale blue eggs. I’m not sure why at first I was surprised by this. Birds lay eggs. That’s what birds do in nests they build. But it seems personal, sacred almost. I named the parents Lord and Lady Carmine (I’m embarrassed to say I’m going through a historical romance novel phase.) We have a basket stocked with nest materials for the birds that sits on the porch near bird seed, and I see our Lady Carmine made use of many of those items to make her nest- Dried plants and roots, broom pieces, hair, and jewelry box fluff. I wonder how many other nests near our home have materials from our basket? The best part of hosting our porch guests is listening to Lord Carmine sing to Lady Carmine each morning while she warms her clutch. They’ll be hatchings any day now. So much anticipation comes with this season. I felt the same feeling when I peered into our garden bed today and found the smallest sprout pushing past the damp soil. Once again, I know this is what happens when a seed has water and sunlight, yet it continues to be exciting and extraordinary.
Feeling the dirt between my toes
Lady Carmine’s nest
Lord Carmine’s song
Yesterdays as amateur naturalists. For new adventures follow along on Instagram. What are you looking forward to in May? For me, it’s the first bite into a sun-warmed strawberry straight from the farmer’s field.