Last weekend my daughter and I took a leisurely autumn walk to the park. Actually, we never even made it into the park -- only to the entrance steps! Little Miss F. was having so much fun playing with the leaves as we went we didn't get very far. While we were sitting on the steps enjoying the leaves, an older man stopped to share, "I was watching you and your daughter as she was playing in the leaves." I wasn't sure where this was going...but I listened. Having a dog and a baby has taught me that people feel quite comfortable to come up to you at any time and just chat. Then he asked me, "Do you know Buckminster Fuller?" He then said, something I hope I carry with me always. He explained, "When your daughter pulls on the drapes, LET HER! There's only two weeks that she'll be that type of scientist!" It was amazingly affirming to hear from a complete stranger, YES! Do let your child play in the leaves. She is happy. She is exploring. She is engaged. She is learning! Thank you kind stranger. You left me with a quote I will ponder for some time.
Nature and offering natural materials to my daughter is important to me. Especially since we live in New York City. In last post I shared our Nature Pal Exchange box. It was so much fun to purposefully explore the nature around us in New York! There is a lot to notice, explore, wonder about, and enjoy! I learned some lessons too! Dry out your collected materials as soon as possible! I made the HUGE mistake of not drying out my collected acorns and leaving them in open bags in a closet. Big mistake! I noticed the condensation on the bags & hoped since they were open they would dry out on their own. Nope. Mold formed. I was so disappointed & it was totally my fault. I felt so bad-the acorns could have been tasty meals for squirrels. :(
Learning my lesson I quickly decided to dry out all of the items in the oven before I posted them to our Nature Pal friend.
I learned how to bake natural materials in the oven last spring and had great success with baking natural materials. Last fall I asked my Mom to collect pine cones around her farm for LMF.
She gave me a big bag of pinecones collected from her farm.
Then, I let them dry out for a while (along while!). Even after all of the exposure to the dry heat of a New York apartment, they were still a it sticky with sap so I knew I would need to bake them. (That was a tough decision because I also absolutely love the look of the sap, but practically of using these materials with a baby won out).
There is lots of advice on how to do this online. But I was sure I had a booklets from the Cooperative Extension on how best to dry pinecones. I remembered my Mom talking about putting them in the oven on a covered baking sheet, but I could not find these info sheets at all!
So, as always, Pinterest came to the rescue!
There are several sites that offer different directions for baking. Most sites suggest baking at 250-350° for anywhere from 20 minutes to 30-45 minutes! For bark, most sites suggest baking at 200-250° for 2-3 hours.
I set my oven to 350° and baked the seeds at least 20 minutes. I was a bit nervous for some of the items so at the midpoint I set my timer to 5 minute intervals to check before allowing certain items to bake longer.
How to Bake Acorns, Pine Cones, Sweet Gum Seeds, and other Tree Seeds and Natural Materials in Your Oven.
Refresh Style & A Lovely Setting give great step by step directions. Tipnut also offered easy to follow directions. For my Nature Pal Exchange decided to bake everything including the bark, seeds, etc.
You can see how the sap from the pine cones gathers below.
Although I was not sold on the microwave method, it did get rid of the last bits of sap!
Pinecone Texture Play for Babies & Toddlers: Using Natural Materials with Children!
This is one of the few baskets that almost has a 'permanent' home in the nursery. Little Miss F. LOVES her pinecones. I firmly believe that by offering her the lots of natural materials early on in her life has shaped her love of nature. We've worked to teach her that it is important to stop and enjoy nature -- if it is to stop on a walk and look up at the leaves on a tree branch, or letting LMF play with the needles of our Christmas Tree, those times are important. Now, I am ALWAYS finding lots of natural materials in my diaper bag, purse, pockets, you name it! She loves to collect rocks, leaves, acorns, seeds. They are her special treasures.
Safety Reminders: Adult supervision is highly recommended for all of the activities, ideas, and materials featured on this blog. As parents, guardians, and caregivers, you know your children best and your own comfort level with the different suggested activities. Littleredbarn is not responsible for any injury or damage from reproducing the activities, materials, or ideas from this blog.