Coronavirus Self-Sufficiency Part 2: Budget Cloth Diaper Supplies for the Quarantined Mama

Ok. So you’ve got your brand new (or new-to-you) cloth diapers. And the inevitable question that’s looming in your mind grows bigger and bigger until it’s unavoidable: “But what do I do when baby poos in them???”

Let’s take a deep breath together. In… and out…

People have been caring for babies in non-disposable diapers for thousands of years. Somehow, we’ve all made it this far.

If you’re not used to reusable cloth products, then yes, it is going to seem weird at first while you’re getting the hang of it. But YOU 👏 CAN 👏 DO 👏 THIS 👏

There are a few things you need to make cloth diapering work from baby to washing machine and back to baby again. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy (except one item which I’m going to encourage you not to skimp on) but they are important to get you set up for cloth diapering success.

(This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosures for more info.)

CRISIS CLOTH SUPPLIES

In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, you may be turning to cloth diapers as an emergency measure with limited funds and limited store access. You’re going to want to do the best you can to feasibly make cloth diapers work even if it’s not the most glamorous experience.

In addition to diapers (refer to this post for more about that), you will need a way to sustainably clean them. This is not hard and it needn’t be revolting, but it is a skill that you’ll have to learn with a few tools to get you going.

Here’s a quick overview of the absolute basics that you will need:

1.) Wipes

2.) Something to get poo off diapers

3.) A place to store dirty diapers

4.) Laundry detergent

5.) A place to dry diapers

Let’s talk through these items, and chat about what you have around the house to use as well as what you can purchase online affordably and what you absolutely cannot skimp on. Ready?

1.) WIPES

If you have access to disposable wipes, you can definitely use them with cloth just as you always would have before with paper diapers: wipe and toss. However, if your store shelves look anything like mine (or if you’ve been ordered to shelter at home), you might want a reusable cloth wipe option.

You can easily make cloth wipes — even if you don’t have a sewing machine or fancy fabric!

No-Sew Fleece Wipes

You can make reusable wipes from fleece without sewing AT ALL. This is great news if you don’t have a sewing machine (or just don’t have TIME). You could even source fabric from an old fleece blanket you never use.. or you could buy a fleece blanket from the baby section at Walmart… or just get fabric by the yard from Amazon.

It’s 100% as simple as it sounds: buy fleece, wash, cut into squares, wipe, wash, repeat. Here’s a great, detailed tutorial with more info!

Flannel Wipes

You can also make wipes with flannel. This is how I made our current stash. I purchased a couple yards of flannel at Walmart, prewashed the fabric, cut it into about 9 inch squares (I like big wipes 🤷‍♀️), and then stitched along the edges with a zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine. I just made single-ply wipes with only one piece of flannel, so you can see the back side of the fabric — but it’s a WIPE and I’m ok with that.

You don’t necessarily need to buy new fabric for wipes. Those old flannel receiving blankets collecting dust bunnies in the garage? Those would work perfectly!

For more details with photos, this post is awesome.

Here’s a no-sew tutorial for flannel wipes.

How to Use Cloth Wipes

Wipe. Place in bin (or whatever you use to store dirty diapers). Wash with diapers. Repeat.

You can also use a homemade wipes solution like this one or you could just use WATER.

I like to keep my wipes flat and dry in an open basket ready to use. I have a perrie bottle with water to wet wipes as I go. I’ve found this works well for us since we use a lotta wipes — but I also don’t have to worry about mold or burning (in a wipes warmer).

If you DO want a warmer, I love this one so much that I have TWO lol. Although I don’t use them year round and I use one exclusively for face/hand wipes at the table, it can be helpful in the winter or at night because no one likes an icy cold wipe — especially sleeping babies. It’s not, however, a “necessity.”

2.) SOMETHING TO GET 💩 OFF

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet. I have a diaper sprayer, and I consider it $20 exceptionally well spent. It’s so easy to install that I did it MYSELF, which is an absolute miracle because I’m not handy with stuff like this AT ALL. Which means that if you can read this, you, too, can install a diaper sprayer.

If you don’t have twenty bucks, you can also do the good old fashioned soak-in-the-toilet option but 🤢 that was not for me.

[After writing this, I checked out Amazon for diaper sprayers, and they’ve really gone up in price — perhaps thanks to Covid-19’s toilet paper shortage. You can also search for “bidet” if you don’t find a diaper sprayer in your price range.]

I’ve heard you can also use an allocated (<— this is important!) spoon to scrape 💩 off. That’s entirely up to you. I imagine any old spoon would do the trick. Just… keep it secret. Keep it safe.

WHATEVER you do, DON’T put 💩 in your washing machine. The only beautiful exception to this rule is exclusively breastfed baby poo — it can all go in your washer because it’s water soluble!

3.) DIRTY DIAPER STORAGE

You’ve got options. I use a Dekor diaper pail with Dekor and Planetwise reusable liners. You don’t NEED a pail, but if you can get one cheap second hand, it makes life easier.

You could use a large wetbag, like this one available on Amazon. I have a couple, and I used to use them alone before I had a pail. They work.

If you are just trying to use things you have at home, you could use a bucket. Or a plastic hamper or basket. Just something large enough to hold as many diapers as you plan to wash at once.

4.) LAUNDRY DETERGENT

And speaking of washing… This is a critical step in cloth diapering that CAN be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

Basically, like investing in a high quality diaper cover, I’m going to recommend ALWAYS buying a high quality detergent. I use Tide Original Powder. I’ve tried other cheaper brands and other earth-friendly brands — but with our extremely hard, iron-rich water the only detergent that actually gets 💩 done is Tide. Don’t skimp.

If you must, use Tide exclusively for your cloth diapers and a different detergent for all of your other laundry. Some people say this causes a detergent buildup in the machine that can cause problems for your diapers, but I’ve not had this trouble.

I also use Calgon as an additional water softener for washing diapers. You could use Borax for this if Calgon isn’t available, but it doesn’t work as well for me.

5.) A PLACE TO DRY DIAPERS

You’ll want to avoid the dryer as much as possible. High heat can melt your PUL covers, and it quickly wears down elastics. You CAN dry diapers on low heat, if you must. I always attempt to air dry — but in the dead of winter that’s a joke, so into the dryer on low for 90 minutes they go.. however I always air dry diaper covers and wet bags.

I have a super tacky, DIY clothesline above my washing machine that I use frequently for cloth diapers. I also have this gull-wing drying rack leftover from our apartment days, as well as a clothesline in our backyard.

You don’t need anything exceptional. IKEA has a cool octopus hanger thing if you’re into that, but you could even string up diapers in a window with command strips and twine if you had to. Be creative, I bet you already have the makings of a “drying rack” in your home.

Questions? Comments? Drop me a line below and let’s talk diapers!

Coronavirus Self-Sufficiency on a Budget: Cloth Diapering When You Swore You Never Would

I know. You were never going to cloth diaper.

It’s ok. Me, too.

To be fair, I started cloth diapering after my second baby was born out of necessity (because two under two in disposable diapers = $$$). But it was never something I had initially planned to do. I remember SCOFFING at the idea of using cloth on my sweet baby’s bum. How DISGUSTING.

Ha. HAHAHAHAHAHA

Ok, so that was years ago, and I’ve now been successfully (and even happily!) cloth diapering my babies for some time. I even went through a complete obsession-over-all-things-cloth phase … just ask my husband. He thought it was adorable. And a little concerning. But mostly adorable.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosures for any questions.

I’m going to cut to the chase for this post, because we’re all sort of insanely busy being stuck at home trying to figure out life with perhaps less income than we’re used to and certainly less contact with the Outside World (read: Walmart). And lately the Americans have all lost their minds at the thought of weathering a home quarantine without the convenience of disposable paper products. I GET IT. We’re used to comfort and convenience and not getting our hands dirty. It’s hard to think about doing things a new way, especially when we’re stressed about catching The Plague.

So if you are home for the first time with a baby that is rapidly burning through your box of ‘sposies, NOW IS THE TIME to learn the effective and valuable skill of The Dreaded Cloth Diaper. Here are a few suggestions based on my experience to get you started with a limited budget and limited store access.

Step 1: Buy Diapers

Okay, this is obvious. But which diapers? And how many? And holy sticker shock — cloth diapers are sooooo expensive!?!?

Calm down, Joan. You’ve got this.

You can definitely cloth diaper on a budget. You can do it very cheaply, moderately affordably, or more on the expensive side (but it’s a long-term investment and perhaps this works for you!).

VERY CHEAP CLOTH DIAPERING

A cloth diaper very simply needs two parts: absorbency and waterproofness (<– is that a word?). There are MANY ways to accomplish this. I’m going to tell you how to use Flour Sack Towels or Flats with PUL Diaper Covers.

First thing you need to do is order covers. The cover is what keeps all the pee and poo inside the diaper and not all over your house. It is important to spend wisely on covers (or whatever you use for the waterproof element) because this IMHO makes or breaks a diaper.

I love Thirsties Duo Wraps. My baby is 15 months old, and she fits Size 2. The wraps have snaps to adjust the size, and you can choose either hook and loop or snap closure. You can get them with a St. Patrick’s Day discount at Green Mountain Diapers by clicking this link. They are also available on Amazon, just click here.

You only need enough covers to be able to air dry between uses (for pee diapers) or wash between uses (for poo diapers). If your baby just pees in the diaper, you can let it hang dry to freshen up a bit while you use another cover + insert. If baby poos, please wash the cover. Depending on your baby and how often you want to do laundry, you’ll need 3-5 covers minimum to get started. I would double that if you are able, because you just don’t want to run out.

The next thing your diaper needs is absorbency. There are, again, many options for this — BUT when you’re on a budget the cheapest version (at least from my research) is a Flour Sack Towel.

This is just literally a towel, made with a simply woven cotton that back in the day they used to (you guessed it) make into flour sacks. These days flour sack towels are often used in kitchens for cleaning or for drying hands, etc. They absorb quickly, wash easily, bleach easily, dry quickly, and don’t take up much room folded — making them a PERFECT for cloth diapering. Oh, and they cost only about $1 each — making them perfect for budget diapering!

You can get Flour Sack Towels (FSTs) many places, but I’ve been really happy with the set I purchased on Amazon. You can also check them out at Walmart.

For a slightly more spendy and slightly more absorbent diaper option, you could try Cotton Flats. These look pretty much exactly the same as flour sack towels, but they will be more absorbent and probably more durable in the long run. The best on the market IMHO are the Cloth-eez Birdseye Cotton Flats from Green Mountain Diapers.

If you are now completely freaking out at the idea of folding towels a la Marie Kondo and pinning them to your baby’s bum — FEAR NOT. You do not need pins to use flats. You don’t even need to know how to make origami.

Of course you could use pins. Or these fun, modern diaper Snappis. And you could fold your flats into some clever shape to be most absorbent — but you don’t have to, because THANKFULLY someone once was as lazy as me and decided to just fold the flat LIKE A TOWEL and be done with it. No fuss, no pins. Done.

In my experience, the “pad fold” is the easiest (read: least frustrating) and most effective way to deal with diaper flats or FSTs. You can find great tutorials here. Or you could just, ya know, fold it.

Cost of Covers: $33-55 (for 3-5) plus cost of FSTs: $17 (for 12) = $50+

Cost of Covers: $33-55 (for 3-5) plus cost of Flats: $26 (for 12) = $60+

MODERATELY AFFODABLE CLOTH DIAPERS

Now, for those of you who would rather spend a little more money for somehting a little more modern and a little less involved, I would say you should absolutely check out pre-loved diapers online. Yes, yes, some other baby has already used them, but it’s ok — there’s this great thing called bleach that will be your best friend when purchasing diapers second hand.

A step up from diaper covers and flats would be the All-In-One diaper (AIO). This is a beast of a diaper, ready to go the moment you grab it and strap it to your little naked escape artist. AIOs are PERFECT for Houdini babies who cannot stay still for the entirety of 5 seconds that it takes to change a diaper.

I’ve tried a LOT of diapers, and I always come back to Thirsties. I love their Natural AIOs, but the microfiber AIOs are also a good option. We have very hard, iron-rich water, so I’ve had better luck washing natural fibers vs. synthetic fibers (i.e., cotton/hemp vs. microfiber). Microfiber is great for quick drying, though, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Now, on a budget, you won’t want to buy these brand new. My favorite site for purchasing cloth diapers second-hand is Cloth Diaper Trader. There are many awesome BSTs on Facebook for cloth diapers, too. I love the Unofficial Thirsties BST. I’ve also had good success using Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist… but that can be more complicated at a time like this, when we are all stuck in our own homes.

COST of Pre-Loved AIOs: $10-20/diaper for 15 diapers = $150-$200

Sidenote: please use your own best judgement when it comes to buying diapers second hand right now. If you are not comfortable with the idea of bringing in someone else’s stuff into your home — that makes perfect sense, and it’s even possible that after I publish this post it will be widely recommended that you shouldn’t buy second hand items during quarantine.

MORE EXPENSIVE CLOTH DIAPERING

Perhaps money isn’t an obstacle for you in prepping a diaper stash, and you just want really high quality, really easy to use diapers. That’s awesome! The world is your stage.

No, really. But um I’m going to recommend Thirsties because … I just love their diapers. And no, they don’t pay me for promoting them — they just make really good diapers, and I’m a really happy customer. I’ve been super happy with Thirsties because they use a blend of hemp and cotton in their natural fiber cloth that is UNBEATABLE for softness, absorbency, and drying time. My kids are “heavy wetters,” and these diapers stand up to the challenge.

You can probably get started with a brand new set of cloth diapers for $300-500. You will need enough diapers to get you through a full day (or two), plus a couple extra for the hours your diapers spend in the washer and dryer.

Cost of 15 new diapers for $27 each = just over $400

Perhaps when we can all buy paper products again without fearing for our lives, we may even continue cloth diapering — because it’s just so much more convenient than running to the store to buy disposables. I mean, who knows??

Do you cloth diaper? What are your questions or concerns about cloth diapering?

Keep an eye out for the next in this series of blog posts: Coronavirus Quarantine Self-Sufficiency on a Budget: Cloth Diaper Care for the Cloth Diaper Newbie

Morning Menus

Have you heard of Morning Menus?And no, they’re not about food!

Morning Menus are a simple way to make a gathering time in your homeschool streamlined and consistent. I first heard about them within the context of Charlotte Mason education, and yeah, I thought they were about recipes, too — but trust me, this is better than a menu of breakfast ideas.

Rather than food, Morning Menus present a feast of beauty and rhythm, with no prep time required (once assembled). You can include anything you like in your menu — and that’s why they’re so perfect. They’re adaptable to suit just about any family culture.

I’ve attempted a variety of morning menus (with varying degrees of success). I used to try to thematically design our menus to coordinate with every unit study we were doing — but this was crazysauce for me. I just couldn’t keep myself organized or prepped ahead of time (and lemme just say, stuffing these menus is easier said than done).

So I’ve simplified our morning menus. Rather than changing every few weeks, they will be essentially the same for the remainder of this semester, with the exception of the monthly calendar and hymn pages. This means I only have to battle with slipping paper into the stubborn plastic sleeves once a month! It also means I must now invest zero energy or time into creating materials for the morning menu — it’s all done!

You can see in the photos that I use a compilation of resources. I’ll include links below. I use this restaurant style menu, and I can also recommend this one.

Front Page — Calendar

I use this beautiful and FREE printable calendar by Paper Trail Design.

Page 2 — Hymn of the Month

I follow along with Happy Hymnody for inspiration and lovely, ready-to-use printables. They’re free, too! I also love that they frequently include links to excellent recordings of these classic hymns.

Pages 3-5 — Preschool Morning Binder

I’ve included three pages from the Kindergarten Morning Binder by Life, Abundantly. These are awesome for morning time because they allow the kids to practice basic skills every day! (You could alternatively use the same pages from the Preschool Morning Binder for younger children.) My kids use dry erase pens (and I’m excited to soon try these dry erase crayons) to practice name tracing / writing, age, emotions inventory, calendar practice, and weather.

Page 6 — Charlotte Mason Motto

I made a simple printable with our spin on the “I am, I can, I ought, I will” student motto by Charlotte Mason. I actually spent a ridiculous amount of time fumbling for a way to word each statement so that it reflects our family and homeschool culture and speaks clearly but not condescendingly to the kids. (Features licensed artwork; not my own watercolor — please email lydia@greenurbanmama.com for a digital download.)

Page 7 — Psalm 23

I found this beautiful subscriber freebie over at the Proverbial Homemaker with a printable for Psalm 23. It comes in both ESV and KJV, plus there are flashcards with smaller portions of the chapter to make memorizing easier and coloring pages.

Page 8 — The Apostle’s Creed

This is another page I put together, and it uses a contemporary version of the Apostle’s Creed. This was a staple of my childhood (although we recited the traditional version), and I have often found it helpful to have this solid summary of my faith. I want my children to begin to hear the message of the Gospel so they can respond to it in their own time. (Features licensed artwork; not my own watercolor — please email lydia@greenurbanmama.com for a digital download.)

If you are new to morning menus, there are other ready-made menus available. I would highly recommend these to save time and headaches. One shop I love is Meaningful Menus. Ashley also has a Meaningful Preschool menu for Level 2 of Gentle + Classical Preschool — and I’m excited to use that when we make it to Level 2. You can purchase menu covers from this shop, as well.

You can also find epic Morning Time inspiration in this blog post over at The Silvan Reverie, in the subscriber freebies at Life, Abundantly, and in the Morning Menu highlight by Give Them Beauty.

(At this time, I’m not adding the two pages I put together to my shop. Please email lydia@greenurbanmama.com if you would like those pages. If there is enough interest, I can update with my own artwork and add them to the shop.)

I hope this is helpful! Please share how you do morning time in your home. Do you use a “morning menu”?

Raising Artists

Art Appreciation … with preschoolers?? So much YES! 🙌

When I was growing up, I was privileged with classical art exposure through ballet and orchestral music. I pursued flute intensely through high school and later went on to study ballet and modern dance as my minor in college.

It is a goal of mine to instill a love of the arts in my children early — and to create an infusion of art into our home atmosphere whenever possible.

Can Children Appreciate Art?

Can children appreciate art? Oh, absolutely!

Who better to revel in the colors of a painting than the child who just yesterday marveled at the tomato in the garden turning red? Kids are natural observers and proclaimers of beauty, especially if given an extra push in that direction.

Charlotte Mason says it well: “An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing.” She was referring here to nature, but I believe the same is true of art.

An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing.

Charlotte Mason

My kids definitely explore, create, and expound on their own interests in pretty much everything they find… but they also are at the perfect age to love the things my husband and I love. Of course we encourage our kids to pursue their own interests, but we also foster a curiosity and hunger for beauty by sharing our love of art with them.

Art as Family Culture

There are many, many ways to create an art-filled home. I think about this endeavor as cultivating the culture of our home environment. Home is the primary place our children build their entire framework of reality. Presenting our kids early and richly with exposure to great beauty, the power of imagination, and the poignancy of communicating across language and cultural boundaries through art — THIS is a powerful foundation!

Ahem. I’ll steps off my soapbox now…

In our home, we implement art in some very simple ways. We do visual art appreciation, practice daily use of visual arts skills, listen to a variety of quality music, and provide access to beautiful books as well as books specifically filled with works by great artists. We keep real musical instruments in our home and teach our kids how to treat them respectfully. We are also beginning to add fine arts lessons outside our home.

Visual Arts Appreciation

For art appreciation, I regularly download and print classic works of art from WikiGallery. I include the art medium, date (if known), and the artist’s name, country of origin, and the years he or she lived. I’m not super well-versed in studying visual art, but I love taking this opportunity to learn alongside my children. Sometimes we do activities or crafts about a piece of art, but often we just have the artwork visible to be experienced and enjoyed.

Arts & Crafts

It has been easy to add art projects into our daily life. Easy — but definitely messy! After a few rough starts and several semi-disasters, I now only buy and use washable art supplies for my kids (who are 4, 2.5, and almost 1). We have on hand watercolor paint, tempera paint, fingerpaint, erasable colored pencils, crayons, and markers … so it is simple to switch up the project for the day based on the kids’ interests.

Music

For music with our little kids, it’s all about immersion right now. I like to give my kids exposure to classical music, church music, children’s songs, worship music, and the genres of music my husband and I love. We listen to just as much Fleet Foxes, U2, and Coldplay as we do Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. We sing songs as a family and regularly listen to music while doing chores or dancing in the living room.

I also do my best to give the kids chances to experience music live. This summer, we spent a day at a bluegrass festival with my parents— and the kids loved it! My 4 year old daughter now wants to learn violin, and purchasing one just her size was how she chose to spend her birthday money. You guys, it is the cutest thing EVER. All the heart eyes!

Dance & Movement Arts

My daughter has taken ballet lessons since she turned 3, and, yes, I plan to enroll my son in ballet. With most of my childhood and young adult life spent in dance studios, I believe in the dynamism of both male and female dancers. I want my boy to pursue his skills in whatever field he chooses — and I aim to give him the privilege of arts exposure without limitations.

We also allow dance to be a regular aspect of our family culture. Lessons, yes, but also encouraging movement for the sake of movement, using dance to express emotions we’re already experiencing (joy, frustration, excitement, etc.). I regularly dance with my kids. Sometimes it is semi-structured with stretches and a few ballet elements, but most of the time it is all improvisation and feeling the rhythm.

Literature as Art

Books are my friends, and I want my children to adore books just as much as I do! However. I discovered early on in my mom life that many children’s books are just … well, they’re awful!

Enter Charlotte Mason’s philosophy on “living books” and the idea of children as “born persons” deserving the very best books that can be found for them. This has been illuminating. Living books are those written by one or more authors who are experts in their field and share a contagious sort of energy in their work that readers instinctively grasp.

I feel the holistic experience of reading should be profoundly beautiful. I used to just take any old book recommendation, but now I’m not just a book collector — I’m a book curator. Which is just a fancy way to say that I’m picky…

A book must be pleasing to hold and to smell. It must have artwork that piques my imagination and take me on a journey. The content must be gentle, original, engaging, rich in vocabulary and literary style. What can I say? I was an English major…

Children are Artists

Instead of asking, “Why give children art?” — I believe the question we should all ask is, “How can I give them art?”

Children have such a capacity for knowledge and a glorious intuition for things that are lovely. Being smaller and possibly simpler than adults doesn’t mean children cannot appreciate art. By virtue of their humanity alone, they deserve to experience beauty, imagination, emotional expression, and creativity. I like this thought from Maria Montessori: “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.“

Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.

Maria Montessori

The arts are not too fine for children. I believe that those gifted with exposure to the arts from an early age will take creativity and artistic expression in stride. Art can become a lifestyle and a platform for making sense of worldview beliefs and life experiences. Granting our children access to fine art can infuse their lives with an appreciation for ingenuity, discovery, and empathy as they encounter ideas and communication styles different from their own.

Perhaps my children will pursue artistic careers one day, but right now it is my desire that they dwell in a physical, emotional, and spiritual place infused with great art. Ultimately, I hope they will take beauty in stride and inspire others with their passion for the arts.

My Favorite Preschool Pumpkin Printables

I don’t know about you, but I love the simple pleasure of a good pumpkin. Sound ridiculous? Ask any preschooler what they think about this seasonal squash and I guarantee their response will be equally exuberant!

This post may contain affiliate links, which you can learn more about here.

We love everything about studying pumpkins in our home. It’s fun to pick them, wash them, carve them, paint them, light candles in them, dry seeds, make tasty treats, and on and on the possibilities go…

Today I’m going to share with you My Favorite Preschool Pumpkin Printables to make your exploration of pumpkins even more exciting!

Life Cycle of a Pumpkin Invitation

The Pumpkin Invitation from Steph Hathaway Designs is everything your heart could desire in the way of beautiful, original watercolor illustrations and educational expansion options. I love simple, flexible materials suited to a variety of ages, and this invitation does exactly that!

My kids using the Pumpkin Anatomy card from Steph Hathaway Designs Pumpkin Invitation

I implemented this resource with my 4 and 2 year olds by displaying the life cycle and anatomy posters, using the mini anatomy card for our pumpkin dissection, creating the parts-of-a-pumpkin play felts with the included felt pattern, and completing the anatomy of a pumpkin coloring page.

We also will use the count and clip cards, lifecycle 3 Part Cards, letter “P” pages. Additionally, there are classic pieces of art featuring pumpkins, a pumpkin poem (perfect for morning time!), and recommendations for additional online resources.

Pumpkin Patch Printables

For a slightly more whimsical and lighthearted approach to pumpkins, Fiddlesticks Kids has a pumpkin bundle that you must see! Becca also illustrates all of her materials — they are stunning.

I love this set of pumpkin printables because it adds another layer of interest and play to pumpkin unit studies. One of my favorite aspects of materials by Fiddlesticks Kids is the unique and imaginative inclusion of games and free-play materials, and this short and sweet bundle is at once both educational and inviting.

We like the pretty watercolor journaling page (although this year I’ll probably primarily use it to decorate my school memory board), the pumpkin anatomy labeling activity, and the awesome pumpkin patch activity with phonics practice pumpkins. Plus, there is a recipe sequence activity, pumpkin math activity, and a super cute Trick or Treat card game included — perfect for Halloween.

If you fall in love with works by Fiddlesticks Kids, then you will be excited to see the brand new Pumpkin Life Cycle Poster! Additionally, the Phonics Play Set features pumpkins for the Letter P activities.

Pumpkins & Beyond

In search of a multipurpose autumn / fall bundle with enough materials to keep you busy from October through November? Look no further than the Fall & Thanksgiving Unit Study from Life, Abundantly Blog.

Talk about versatile. This bundle has so many activities and so many potential uses. More all-encompassing as a fall-themed bundle than the other pumpkin-centric printables mentioned in this post, it could be used as the foundation for a variety of autumnal studies.

It’s also good if the only part you emphasize is pumpkins. Included are coloring pages, fall color identifying, scavenger hunt pages, handwriting tracing practice, lacing practice, and lots more.

For our pumpkin study, we will use the coloring page, pumpkin handwriting tracing page, and the super cute color identifying pages.

Pumpkin Varieties

Finally, I also want to share with you my own pumpkin creations! I’ve designed and illustrated these sets with particular care to expand on the previously mentioned bundles and take a look at pumpkins in a new way.

My pumpkin printables focus on eleven different types of pumpkins — did you know there were so many? I’ve made a Pumpkin Varieties Poster and 3 Part Cards set as well as a Pumpkin Activity Bundle. You can find both in my shop.

Pumpkin Varieties 3 Part Cards

My activity bundle includes a super adorable (IMHO) printable pumpkin bunting banner, large pumpkin counting cards (1-10), name writing page, pattern strips, cutting strips, and a pumpkin-wreathed alphabet. The cool thing about celebrating so many types of pumpkins is that you get many shapes, colors, and sizes to explore!

Click here to check out the Pumpkin Activity Bundle

That’s all I have for you today! So tell me: What is your favorite pumpkin-themed pastime to do with your kids? Do you have pumpkin traditions?

Be sure to subscribe below and follow on Instagram and Pinterest to get all the latest from Green Urban Mama!

Of Mother Culture & Creativity

“Mother Culture” — I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The beautiful Charlotte Mason principle that even as mamas we are still worthy of self-care and value. But more than that, it is a declaration that to be the best mothers we can be, then we absolutely must pursue our own quiet, our own rest, and our own enrichment.

As moms, it can be so easy to prioritize our kids and their needs, our home and its needs, our family and their needs… all the while forgetting to acknowledge we are human and also have legitimate needs for rest, beauty, friendship, and the exploration of our own talents.

If we would do our best for our children, grow we must; and on our power of growth surely depends, not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness. Is there, then, not need for more ‘Mother Culture’?

Charlotte Mason

Becoming a mom has been, shockingly to me, one of the most isolating and lonely seasons of my life. The work has been heavy, and my ability to care for others — let alone my ability to care for myself — has been tested harshly.

One of the unexpected blessings of this season has been making new connections and friendships via social media. I’ve been privileged to meet like-minded mamas pursuing excellence for their children while also bravely expressing their own creativity in various mediums.

One special artist-mama friend is Ashley Titus of Handmade in Hymn. She is a rare soul, courageous in the face of adversity, and an intrepid Jesus-follower. We live in different states and haven’t met in person, but I continue to be so inspired by her. Despite battling chronic medical conditions, she perseveres as a homeschool mom, a talented artist, and a genuine encourager!

I was really honored when she reached out to ask if I would collaborate with her on a design project: an art piece using her hand-lettered calligraphy with my watercolor sketches. The subject? A beloved Anne of Green Gables quote about autumn, my favorite season of the year.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

Anne Shirley | L.M. Montgomery

Perhaps your littles aren’t reading L.M. Montgomery yet… but if you’re at all like me, a beautiful reminder of Avonlea might just breathe joy and peace into those hectic or exhausting mom-moments. When fielding questions about why giraffes have long necks one minute and cleaning up mini-disasters with sensory play tables the next, having artwork on my wall (or — because real life, people — resting on the piano) helps me check my overwhelm.

Much like prayer, I find art to be comforting and even healing. I imagine the “mother culture” that speaks to each of our hearts will look different for each of us. Maybe some of us read, some of us garden, some of us paint, and some of us dance. In this season, I find that a little creativity goes a long way in nurturing my often weary spirit.

What does “mother culture” look like to you? How do you make space for self-care and self-enrichment even in the bustle of motherhood?

If you are interested in the artwork Ashley and I collaborated to make, you can check it out here. Also, follow on Instagram to get all the info about a special offer — coming soon!

Easy Magnetic Matching Activity for Preschoolers

Hey, friends. Here’s one of my go-to activities that we use with almost every unit study for our preschoolers. It’s so easy to set up and the pay off is hours (yes!) of kids playing and learning independently!

Materials

• Metal cookie sheet (this one was $1 at Walmart)

• Printable — print 2 copies (Pictured here is my Autumn Leaves poster)

• Laminator (optional, but it will help your homemade magnets last longer)

• Cardstock

• Magnetic tape

• Scissors

Instructions

Print two copies of whatever printable you will use. I prefer to use poster-style printables for this activity, but honestly you could get creative and use just about anything. I’ve also done this activity with alphabet letters.

Laminate both sheets (if opting for this step, which I do recommend). Cut out all the pieces of one sheet — in this example, I cut out all the leaves individually.

Cut small pieces of magnetic tape, and apply one piece to the back of each leaf. You can also put one or two small magnet pieces on the back of the poster, but this is up to you (and how excitable your kids may become!).

Place the poster on the cookie sheet, and arrange the pieces on the sheet but not all where they belong. Now that my kids are familiar with this activity, I usually place one leaf on its poster counterpart. I stick the remaining leaves around the rim of the cookie sheet.

Share it with your kids, demonstrating how to find a match. I like to ask my kids questions to get their curiosity moving:

“What do you see?”

“What colors are the leaves?”

“Can you find a yellow leaf?”

“Where is the matching yellow leaf? Which two yellow leaves are the same?”

“Are these two leaves the same or different?”

And so on…

I also frequently set this activity out and let the kids free play with it. The beauty of the magnets is that it can be played with over and over — and while they can match items, it’s not strictly necessary.

I often find my kids lining items up, categorizing items, creating imaginary play, or, well, moving all the magnets to the fridge 😂

So that’s it! Easy, fun, and affordable. I’ve been making these magnetic trays since early this year plus a lot of other magnetic items … and we’re still only half way through our roll of magnetic tape.

I’d love to see how you incorporate this activity or some version of it in your home! Please tag me @greenurbanmama or use the hashtag #learningartfully so we can all see and share your brilliance!

Autumn Leaves Unit Study

Why hello, October — this week we’re studying Autumn Leaves! Our maple tree are just barely beginning to turn from green to gold, but a few neighboring trees are tinged with crimson. The kids have been asking why it gets dark so much earlier now, why the leaves are falling, and why we can’t have a sprinkler on in the yard anymore — so it’s the perfect teachable moment (season??) to focus on All Things Autumn.

We’re continuing through Gentle + Classical Preschool Level 1, but I’ve taken a different approach with our unit study this time around. Rather than continue sequentially, we’re skipping ahead to Unit 14: Tree Anatomy to coordinate with the season.

We will be looking at a variety of tree-related things — but mostly autumn leaves. I’ve also incorporated books that touch on trees, seasons, and forests.

Autumn Leaves Memory Board
Here are a few of the great resources we will be using as we explore Autumn Leaves!

Topics to Cover

  • Tree Anatomy
  • Tree Life Cycle (Oak Tree)
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Autumn/Fall as a Season
  • October as a Month of the Year
  • Deciduous Trees
  • Leaf Anatomy
  • Leaf Shapes & Characteristics

I’ve pared back our GCP memory statements to science, Bible, and character/catechism. GCP is a wonderfully comprehensive curriculum, but I’m discovering that my favorite elements of it center around nature and faith. For us, it is working best to simplify thematically around these two subject areas.

Resources

Autumn Activity Bundle & Autumn Leaves 3 Part Cards in our shop

Autumn Leaves Art Appreciation

• Autumn & Tree Printables by Fiddlesticks Kids: Oak Tree Anatomy, Life Cycle Cards, Oak Tree Life Cycle, British Leaves, Leaf Dominos

Gentle + Classical Preschool Level 1 by Gentle Classical Press

• October Tale by Twelve Little Tales

Leaves Nature Guide by Brave Grown Home

Anatomy of a Leaf by Honeycomb Cabin

Fall in Art I Spy Activity by I Believe in Montessori

Autumn Shape Cards by Teach Me Mommy

Books to Read

A Walk in the Deciduous Forest (Rebecca L. Johnson)

A Tree is Nice (Janice May Udry)

Look at a Tree (Eileen Curran)

The Fox and the Falling Leaves (Julia Rawlinson)

Hidden World: Forest (Libby Walden)

A Book of Seasons (Alice & Martin Provensen)

Sunshine and Snowballs (Margaret Wise Brown)

Skip Through the Seasons (Stella Blackstone & Maria Carluccio)

Reference Books

Nature Anatomy (Julia Rothman)

Curiousitree: Natural World (Amanda Wood & Mike Jolley)

What’s Next

Stay tuned for updates as I post about our Autumn Leaves activities — subscribe below and follow along on Instagram!

Honey Bee Unit Study

Studying bees has been my kids’ all time favorite unit to date. From repeated renditions of The Birth of a Bee (complete with plush blankie “cocoon”) to sampling honeycomb to melting down crayons and beeswax for homemade modeling clay — it’s been a busy, buzzy couple of weeks for our Honey Bee Unit Study!

This post contains affiliate links. Please see disclosures for more info.

Resources

Bee Printables from Gentle + Classical Preschool Level 1 and Gentle + Classical Nature by Life Abundantly Blog

Honeycomb Cabin: Honey Bee Printables

Twig & Moth: Types of Bees cards and free “Bee Content” bunting

The Silvan Reverie: Free Hexagon Bee Hive Counting Cards & Free Insect Silhouette Cards

Twelve Little Tales: July Polinator Pack

Here’s our bee display! You can see materials by Honeycomb Cabin, Twig & Moth, Fiddlesticks Kids, Life Abundantly, and Steph Hathaway Designs. Click the photo to go to my Instagram and tap for credits.

Books

Flowers are Calling

The Life & Times of the Honeybee

The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse by Beatrix Potter

Memory Board for GCP

As Gentle + Classical Preschool is our base curriculum, the memory statements play a big part in our days. GCP isn’t designed to be a 100% coordinated unit study, but it is easy to adapt for unit studies (which we are doing). If you follow or implement the material holistically, you do get a very comprehensive early childhood education with basic skills covered really nicely! I’m attempting a middle ground between Doing All the Things and expanding a science themed unit study. It works for us!

Activities

Bee Life Cycle Re-enactment

As incredibly silly as this sounds (and it WAS), the kids had an absolute blast acting out bee life cycles. Who knew??

We read The Life and Times of the Honeybee and used our printables from Honey Comb Cabin and Gentle + Classical Nature for this activity.

Beeswax Sensory Activity

So simple, friends. I had beeswax pellets on hand (from my attempts at making chapstick, deodorant, and baby bum cream — another tale for another time) so I pour a little bit into a bowl. I led the kids in using their senses to look at (noting size, shape, color), smell, and touch (observing texture, malleability) the beeswax. My daughter wanted to taste it, so I let her try some. Not too tasty, as it turns out — but 100% edible if she had enjoyed it!

Hive Bubblewrap Painting

This is a Pinterest win for sure! We made bee hive paintings by brushing yellow paint across the bumpy side of bubble wrap (which I had pre-cut into the shape of a hive), then pressing it onto a large sheet of paper. Very simple, but for my littles this took a lot of attention to detail spreading paint on the bubble wrap and then carefully pressing the paint-side down without wiggling it.

I let the hive prints dry overnight. The next day, I outlined the prints with sharpie. Then, my daughter and I cut out these free printable bees and glued them onto her hive. My son also helped with the gluing — but when he got flustered and frustrated attempting to cut out bees of his own, I helped him practice cutting a fringe on his sheet of bees. He was overjoyed (so was I).

Honeycomb Sampling

You guys. Youhavetotrythis!! I ordered a slice of honeycomb for us to all experience! Talk about a sticky situation— but totally worth it. It was so perfect being able to let the kids explore an actual honeycomb. They were curious about the hexagon cells (we counted the sides) and they were ecstatic about tasting the honey. It made for a delightful backyard second breakfast. Baths followed.

Honey Cookies

Yup, these were as divine as they sound. Here’s the recipe. I also blended up the remainder of our honeycomb and used it as part of the honey component.

Beeswax Modeling Clay

We attempted making our own modeling clay using beeswax and crayons. It was a super fun and slightly dangerous project (for a 3yo, 2yo, and baby in a small kitchen with hot wax) … and ultimately despite our best efforts it was a fail. I think we may have gone wrong using washable crayons…? In any case, we will certainly try again … but when everyone is a little older.

Bee Documentaries

We had a great time watching and rewatching a couple short YouTube video clips about bees. These were our favorites:

Honey Bees Clip

Honey: How It’s Made

Wonders of Creation (skip to 33 minutes into video)

On the Shelves

I set to our Montessori-inspired shelves with a few bee themed activities. The free honeycomb Counting Cards by The Silvan Reverie were a real hit.

We also used:

  • Insect Silhouette Cards with Safari TOOB models
  • Spanish 3 Part Cards (Insects)
  • Letter B shape block pattern
  • Free “Bee Content” bunting by Twig & Moth

Pollinator Story Telling

I recently heard about Twelve Little Takes, and quite honestly this subscription might be the best homeschool purchase I’ve yet made! Every month you receive a bundle of gorgeously illustrated materials for sharing stories together. We first read the main story all together, savoring the details and lovely art. Then, there are twelve story expansion prompt cards. I let each child choose a card over mealtime so we can expand the story together. I have also used this pack with my daughter for one-on-one time together.

The pack for July included a super sweet bunch of story starters about various pollinators, including bees! It was such a precious partnering with our unit study — I highly recommend Twelve Little Tales!

Summary

Overall it was a highly successful unit. I learned so much about bees that I didn’t know! We watched a lot of backyard bees busy with their flower business, and I am happy to report that despite a bad run-in with a bee earlier this year, both kids now know that bees are not sinister creatures out to get them but rather very industrious little insects who collect nectar and have intricate, beautifully choreographed lives in their hive. And anytime we see a bee (outside or in a book), my 2 year old pipes up, “Mama! Bees make honey!”

What’s Next

We’re studying Dinosaurs next! Who’s excited??? Follow our progress and keep up to date on sales, giveaways, bundles, and new releases over on Instagram!