Sonya’s Chickens + Chicken Coop Pretend Play

Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

Learning through story is a powerful way to engage kids, especially when it comes to learning about the interconnectedness of the natural world in which we live. Life and death and are not easy topics to communicate, but Phoebe Wahl’s picture book, Sonya’s Chickens (Public Library | Local Bookstore) does a masterful job using storytelling to share with young readers the pleasure of  responsibility, joy in watching them thrive, and at times the heartbreak of raising animals.

Sonya's Chicken's 1

Sonya's Chickens 2

Sonay's Chickens 3

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Sonya’s father returns home one day surprising her with three little chicks.  “I’ll be your mama,” she tells them as she springs into taking ernest responsibility and pride of caring for her chicks day in and day out as they grew into adult chickens. But one cold night, Sonya is awoken to squawking and noises from outside and runs out to the coop only to find a whirl of feathers and only two hens where once there were three. After carrying the upset and heartbroken Sonya inside, Sonya’s father sits her on his lap and tells her the likely backstory behind why a predator, most likely a fox, took her dear chicken away. Shining an entirely different light on the account, her father’s story shares how we’re all doing our best to keep the children or animals in our charge safe. Just as in the the story of the natural rhythm of life, Sonya’s Chickens ends with a new beginning.

As a long time admirer of Phoebe Wahl’s illustrations,  Wahl’s delicate storytelling is equally as charming as her famous cozy and bright illustrations. An important story of the natural ebbs and flows of life, Sonya’s Chickens is a story of love and responsibility and reminds readers of the important role we all play in the world we share.



Sonya's Chickens Activity

My girls love chickens and ducks. They love to read stories about them, we visit the Tractor Supply when the little chickies and ducklings arrive in the spring,  they thumb through hatchery catalogs, and every day on our walk to school, we say hello to our neighbor’s chickens. Until that day comes when we are able to have chickens of our very own, I’ve set up a pretend play chicken coop in our home inspired by this idea from Storytiming.

Chicken Coop pretend play 1

I cleared a couple of bookshelves in our living room for the coop. My 5yo had this snuggly white hen for awhile and I recently found the brown hen for $5 at the Antique Mall, which was my 2yo’s birthday present along with a set of wooden eggs. Using egg cartons I had saved for future crafts, as well as a couple paper bags that I scrunched into nests, and a basket, in just a few minutes the kids had their very own pretend play chicken coop.

Chicken Coop Pretend Play

Chicken coop pretend play 2

chicken activity

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Chicken Coop pretend play 4

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Since I’ve been reading Sonya’s Chickens frequently with my oldest, it’s reawakened her daydreams of having her own chickens. Hopefully, our pretend coop will keep her interest alive until the time comes for her to mother her own chicks just like Sonya.


Books About Chickens

If you enjoyed reading Sonya’s Chickens, be sure to check out:

A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers About Familiar Fowl by Robin Page – A great introduction to chickens from their life cycle to how to care for them

Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life by Julia Rothman -This book includes a section devoted to common breeds, coop styles, and anatomy of a chicken. It’s also a fun read to explore the in’s and out’s of farm life.


*Review copy of this book was provided by Tundra Books




Sunday Dance

Circle Dance Lawrence Folk - Sturdy for Common Things

When was the last time you swung your partner round and round? I learned how to square dance in 4th grade and that was probably the last time I did any dosey doe-ing on my own accord. Earlier this week we attended an all-ages folk dancing introduction put on by the good people at Lawrence Folk. It was thrilling! My childhood self who watched Little Women almost every Saturday morning, dreaming of parties with organized dancing reveled in the experience. More often than not when I attend parties I feel awkward and self-conscious… I stand around talk, talk, talking, while I’m dream, dream, dreaming of social events of yesteryear. The shuffle of feet, the holding of hands, the gathering of community, and the dancing of dances that have been passed down through generations. This morning we have the radio on and are looking up dance steps, preparing from the next gather. Starting a Sunday off dancing is always a good start to the week.

Is there a lost practice from long ago that you wish still existed today?

Below I’ve listed few places to visit on the interwebs to start your week. I’ve had some recent illness that has kept me from posting the past several weeks and I’m finally starting to feel well enough to spend more time here again on SfCT. For little bits and pieces in between, follow along on Instagram.

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? I share this article every year around this time because it’s an important read, especially if you have or work with children: How to talk to your children about Thanksgiving’s ugly history by Susan Rohwer. And this video Everything You Know About Thanksgiving is Wrong is also a good watch.

One photographer gives thanks to nature’s tiniest gifts with this stunning photo series.

It just started getting chilly here in Kansas– Winter is almost here! These two articles: The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter  & Get cosy: why we should all embrace the Danish art of ‘hygge’ are a great read on these two countries’ positive outlook on the winter season.

How are you feeling this very moment? There’s a poem for that feeling.

We Don’t Need No Education, by Ben Hewitt via Outside is a lovely look inside his homeschooling life with two boys on a farm in Vermont. Their entire world is predominantly spent outside. Makes me want to live on a farm.

Matt Kirkland, a friend of ours, was kind of a big deal this past week when CNET pick up his fun side project: Dumb Cuneiform preserves your fleeting tweets in ancient symbols.

Ho Ho Ho! How great are these Santa sculptures by Phoebe Wahl? I’m reviewing her children’s book, Sonya’s Chickens, along with a fun activity to go along with it tomorrow on the blog!

Have a great week!


Currently listening to: “Old Old Fashioned” by Frightened Rabbit:




DIY Light Table + Light Play Explorations

DIY Light Table for Kids

…. Or perhaps the post should be titled “A Tale of Two Light Tables”?  Below are two DIY light table methods, one I created last year and one I put together this month. After reading more about the Reggio Emilia educational approach and being inspired by the photos in this post by Racheous, I’ve been trying to find more opportunities to provide light play in our home. Light play is a creative, open-ended learning experience for children with so many outlets for inquiry, experimentation, and most importantly — FUN! It can be a platform for discovering color theory, light and shadows, creating art, construction, and sensory play to name a few explorations. When we moved last spring, I gave away the first light table I made and decided to try an entirely different method making a new one. Both light tables have pros and cons, but ultimately I have a favorite that will be revealed at the end of the post. Which will it be…..? Method #1 or method #2?! THE SUSPENSE!!!


DIY Light box for kids


  • Clear Plastic Storage Container with a flat surface. The size I used was 28-quarts, so a bin like this would do the job.
  • 2-3 Strands of White Holiday Lights
  • Parchment Paper
  • Scotch Tape
  • Extension Cord (optional)

Okay, here we go. Take off the lid of your container, connect two or three strands of holiday lights, and lay them in the bottom of your plastic container. You could drill a hole in the side for the plug, but I let the plug hang over the top of the bin and that seemed to work just fine for us.

DIY Light Box for kids 1

Next, tear a piece of parchment paper the size of your lid, trim with scissors for exact size, and tape it to the underside of the lid with clear scotch tape.

DIY Light Box for kids 3

DIY Light Box for Kids 2

DIY Light box for kids

Snap the lid on, plug in your light box, and you’re done. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!



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DIY light table 1

Open your storage container and lay it so that the interior of the bin exposed. In a well ventilated area, spray the inside of the bin with the frosted semi-transparent spray paint covering all interior parts of the bin. Leave to dry. Spray additional coats if needed.


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Once the container has completely dried, adhere your LED lights inside the bin.  Turn the lights on, snap on the lid, and voila!



While Light Table #1 was much easier to put together and far less expensive, the big downside of Light Table #1 is that it requires an electrical outlet. It limits where you can play and is also a safety concern. Light Table #2 required a bit more work and was more expensive, but is battery operated which allowed the table to be in any location. I also didn’t have to worry about the safety factor of being near an outlet or using an extension cord with the kids. After awhile though, the frosted paint would flake off where the lid snapped in place to the bottom of the container and would eventually in time need a new coat of paint.

Which out of the two do I prefer?  Light Table #1. Hands down. It’s low-cost (most of the materials were found around the house), easier to assemble, and the light is more evenly dispersed across the surface. The only thing Light Table #2 has going for it was that it was battery operated, which was handy because we could transport it anywhere.

If you’re interested in creating your own light table, the following posts served as excellent references:

{Easy, Low-cost} Light Table from TinkerLab
Super Simple DIY Light Table from Kara’s Classroom
Homemade Light Box from Happy Hooligans 


DIY light box 1


The below explorations are just a few of the ways we use our light table. Many of the ideas were inspired by Artful Parent (like THIS POST and THIS POST). See if you can notice the difference between the two tables in the pictures and how much these little hands have grown over the past year!


light table color blocks 2

light table blocks



waterbeads baby

light table watercolors 1




light table magnatiles 1

DIY light box

Light table explorations in the order of appearance from top to bottom:

  • Blocks with transparent centers — I learned about these wonderful rainbow staking blocks and kaleidoscopic blocks from my daughter’s preschool. The girls love playing with them with and without the light table.
  • Water Beads — My then 4-year-old enjoyed sorting the water beads and my then baby had such a good time exploring their texture.
  • Drawing with watercolors on the light table – Illuminates art projects in a whole new way.
  • Magna-Tiles — Magna-Tiles are so versatile and offer both color play and construction when using them in conjunction with the light table.


Have you built your own light table? I’d love to hear about how and/or the tools you use for light table play!




Wild Things in October

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Wild things october 2(2)

wild things october 3 watercolor resist(3)

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wild things october 5 autumn fairy dust(5)

wild things october maple(6)

wild things 6 autmnn leaves(7)

wild things 7 mandala(8)

wild things 9 prairie pumpkins(9)

wild things 8 pickled spiders(10)


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Oh, October. You were good to us. Lawrence, Kansas has an ego in autumn. The city wears the season pridefully like a loud, orotund parade of the trees. Boom! Bloom! Two pumpkin patches are only a 5-minute drive from home, and I’d often talk the little there to play in the morning in the prairie sunshine. Yesterday, the winter chill has arrived with rain and the streets are slick with early October glory. November is moving in.

1. Collecting.
2. Teeny tiny spiderweb between two sunflower skulls.
3. Leaf rubbings and watercolors. (idea credit)
4. Walking along a trail lined with sumacs. My lovely friend Erika snapped this shot.
5. Making Autumn Fairy Dust.
6. Fire in the sky.
7. Falling, falling, falling.
8. Ode to the west wind.
9. Prairie pumpkins.
10. Pickled spiders introduced to the kids my nature class courtesy of another teacher’s husband’s creepy crawly collection.
11. October beginnings.
12. Last pickings before Hallowe’een.




Days and days of wild things adventures.



Hallowe’en Greetings

Halloween Greetings

Happy Halloween my witchies and ghouls! Are you dressing up this year? I still haven’t put together my costume for a Halloween party this evening… It’s a make it work moment!

What I enjoy most about Halloween is actually the tail end of Halloween. That moment in the late night when the trick-or-treating has ended, the kids are sleeping, the streets are dark and the afterglow of jack-o-lanterns are flickering and fading. It is quiet. My partner and I either read in the glow of our paper lanterns and Halloween baubles or watch something not-at-all-scary because someone is a wuss (me). While I enjoy the the hustle and bustle and dress-up and parties and goodies and pumpkin carving and rushing from door to door, that brief moment of calm after the leaves have settled is my Halloween.

To send you off into this jolly, Halloween-y weekend, below is a list of tricks and treats for you and yours enjoy:

Celebrate All Hallow’s Read! All Hallow’s Read is a tradition started by Neil Gaiman to give someone a scary book on Halloween or the week of Halloween. Here’s a list of Neil-approved spooky books for all-ages AND if you want Halloween picture book recommendation for young little goblins check out this list.

Oh my stars! For pumpkin carvers, this constellation pumpkin idea via Fine and Feathered is simple and stunning.

Once your jack-o-lanterns have had their BIG night a-glow on All Hallow’s Eve, consider turing your pumpkin into a bird feeder. The birds will appreciate your generosity as they fly south or prepare to bunker down for the winter months.

Make a friendly ghost appear before your very eyes for fun flashlight play in the dark via This Picture Book Life.

Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble! Make spells and potions with these pretend potion play ideas for littles here and here.

Fall down the rabbit hole… Err… Troll hole (?) visiting the Spooky Science spotlight on Science Friday. I especially enjoyed this clip about the science behind why certain songs scare us complete with creepy music playlist.

I leave you at the door with this nice, old witchy and her gargantuan fungi. Because this is who I aspire to be when I’m 90:

Halloween Greeting Witch

Happy Halloween!

(witch image source)