Crafting Play – Cultivating Learning

Utilizing the magic of dramatization in learning.

Drama, drama, drama. Yup, that would aptly describe our crazy home. And I’m not just talking the pull your hair out because life is driving you crazy kind of drama, although we get our fair share of that, too.

Over here, we’ve found that drama is a great way to maximize the enjoyment and retention of whatever we are currently learning about.On any given day if you were to stop by, you would frequently find kids dressed up and playing hard. What is so cool is that while they are playing (and I make a mad dash to the kitchen to pull dinner together) they are reinforcing what we’ve been reading about.

As we read books, sometimes the kids will zero in on something and run grab an item around our home that can stand in as a prop. I’ve found that a key prop or costume piece goes a long way to cultivate this learning through play. And this doesn’t have to be crazy expensive or complicated. Oftentimes, one small item coupled with their imagination is enough to transport them into many a historical epoch.

For instance, when we were learning about the Revolutionary War, the boys noticed that each of the soldiers had a cartridge box slung over his shoulder. My youngest knew where my stash of purses were kept and remembered that little black purse that I’d held onto for over 20 years now. That’s right folks, I’m the sentimental person that has kept my first ‘purse’ all these years. That little black leather purse was a constant companion for my little guy as he traveled from battle to battle.

To this end, we oftentimes try to utilize our crafting to maximize dramatic play. That was the case when we were learning about Joan of Arc. Book after book revealed her marching into battle with her white fleur de lis banner.

So we set to work cutting up an old sheet into a pennant shape. I didn’t even bother to hem the edges. I care about those things, but the boys certainly don’t. I simply made sure I folded over the edge big enough to go over our PVC pole that the boys already had sewed a loop. We’ve even been known to use fabric glue if I’m too lazy to pull out the sewing machine.

Next, we set to work making a stamp. We had some crafting foam from an earlier craft they made at someone’s home and we re-purposed that for our fleur-de-lis stamp. I simply printed off a picture from the internet and set about cutting it out with an exacto knife. I didn’t feel quite comfortable turning them loose with that sharp little tool at that time, but the boys have definitely upgraded to using exacto knives now (with mom’s ample warnings). The boys found an unused bobbin that could be used for our handle because I’m all about not making any unnecessary trips to the store.

And then, their favorite part – stamping away!

The result? “JON of Arc” making a courageous stand to free France from the English and help Charles VII claim his throne, over and over and over again! All it took was creating a flag and letting it fly!

A Book and a Little Red Hood – DIY Gifts (Day 19)

A Book and a DIY Gift Idea: Make a little red hood and give the gift of this darling book!

It’s been a busy week, so I’ve fallen a little behind here. But today I have a treat for you! Inspiration for the book lovers and DIY-ers out there! For those of you who sew here is a beautiful idea from my amazing sister…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I sew frequently and knit almost constantly. The work really helps me relax; it uses some other part of my brain then reading/thinking and I do it when the house is quiet after the kids are in bed and I feel all the stress of caring for small children run out of my fingers into the fabric or the needles.

Creative inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Back when my daughter was a baby, I found Trina Schart Hyman’s Little Red Riding Hood laying on my sister’s floor. The book charmed me instantly. At that point, I decided I would make her a red velvet hooded caplet for her 5th birthday and give it to her along with the book. Fast forward to last summer. Using a pattern from my Japanese sewing book and yardage of red velveteen and Kona cotton, I set to work. Six months later on her 5th birthday, she opened a package to find the book and caplet I had imagined for her.

Gift Idea: Sew a Little Red Riding Hood and pair with a beautiful book. Gift Idea: Sew a Little Red Riding Hood and pair with a beautiful book. Gift Idea: Sew a Little Red Riding Hood and pair with a beautiful book. Gift Idea: Sew a Little Red Riding Hood and pair with a beautiful book.

Creative GIFT IDEA: Some DIY magic transforms your little girl into the story. Little Red Riding Hood Cape + a beautifully illustrated book!

Little Red Riding Hood – retold and illustrated by one of our favorite illustrators.

Oliver + S Little Things to Sew – fanciful patterns including a red cape much like this one or you could pick up the Japanese Sewing Book my sister used if you can manage patterns w/out needing to read them! 🙂

bethGuest Post: Bethany {attorney turned stay-at-home mom of three kiddos (6, 5, 2), loving wife, crafter/artist extraordinaire, fashion consultant (to me, anyways), best-friend sister to two of us!}


Click on the button to see other gift guides that inspire learning and spark the imagination!

31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

Kings, Queens and Knights, Oh My! Gift Ideas (Day 2)

Inspiration for medieval themed gift ideas for kids! {31 Days of Gift Ideas that Inspire Learning}

This post may contain affiliate links.

Oh the middle ages… What kid hasn’t fallen under the spell of this mesmerizing period in history. It is alluring for boys and girls alike. Today for my first themed gift guide, I want to share some ideas of some amazing gifts that will capitalize on their interest in or pursuit of learning about this period in history.

First off…  Medieval Costumes for Kids.  Costumes enable your child to transport into that period of history.  Kids don’t NEED costumes.  All they really need is an active imagination, but I’ve found that a few key costume pieces and accessories can pack a powerful punch and make for great gifts!  I usually try to get one or two items that are specific to that time in history and then also find items that can be used for other historical periods as well.  As this series progresses, you’ll notice overlap of some of my favorite items!

Gift Ideas for Your Knight

Gift Ideas for your Young Knight | part of a 31 day series of gifts that inspire learning

I have three boys. Battles, bravery and chivalry captivated their attention long after we first delved into this period of history in our studies. Part of that is because it is just a fascinating period of history and part of it is because I was strategic in gathering some amazing gift ideas for them.

Knight costume – this Melissa & Doug outfit is fabulous.  My nephew has it and loves it.   This knight costume comes in S, M, and L, making it easy to buy for your little or your big guy! Costco also carries some great knight costumes at this time of year.

Knight Armor Set – We have three of these sets and my 10 year old still squeezes into it for battles!  They’ve used it when we learned about the Armor of God, morphing it into a Roman soldiers garb.

Playsilks – we love playsilks.  I’ve waxed eloquent on them before.  We use them for all kinds of things.  With three playsilks, you have a knights costume – front/back and belt! They also make for great capes that boys and girls both love!  If you don’t own any playsilks, I highly recommend you remedy that, pronto!  We love the 100% silk playsilks, but you can also get a beautiful polyester playsilk set for less.

Foam Swords – I’m partial to form swords and yes, I buy them in bulk.  They don’t last forever, but it is impossible for the kids to hurt each other with them.  Occasionally you can find these at the Dollar store or in the dollar bin at Target.

Castle Tent – This pop-up castle tower tent is amazing.  It’s always a hit with both boys and girls.  I love that it is easy to take down and store flat!

The Making of a Knight – A captivating book that follows a young boy through the process to becoming a knight

Kitchen Knight  – This is one of my all-time favorite illustrators.  The story will inspire your boys to chivarly and brave deeds.  If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll want to pour over this book again and again.

Any of these combined together are sure to win a boys heart and capture his imagination. {31 Days of Gift Ideas that Inspire Learning Series}

Robin Hood DVD w/ Errol Flynn – a “must-watch” for boys and girls alike!

Bow & Arrow Set – What is a knight or Robin Hood without his bow and Arrow.  You do have to be careful with these and they tend to break after a while, but my boys will play with the bow even long after the arrows have all snapped.  I did call the company and they sent me out a replacement set of arrow free of charge a few years back.

Robin Hood Hat – Your kids don’t necessarily need a full costume.  Sometimes a simple hat is enough to do the trick.  My boys have used their hat for Robin Hood play, Peter Pan and for dramatizing the life of William Tell!

Stick Horse – This wooden horse is a staple in our house.  We own three of them and they’ve withstood countless hours of rough boy play.  I had my concerns when my mom first gave these to my boys.  I had visions of them turning them into weapons.  In the 4-5 years that we’ve owned them, I’m proud to say no one has been clubbed with these wooden stick horses.  These are a true gem.

Imaginative play is the place where a child’s information acquisition comes to life and is cemented into long-term memory.  Any time we can engage the imagination our children cement into working memory all of the wonderful things they are learning about.  Another toy that accomplishes this in a beautiful way are toy castles.  There are so many options out there and tomorrow I plan to give you a castle comparison of the best castle sets on the market.


Gift Ideas for Your Princess

Boys aren’t the only one’s enthralled with this period of history. As the oldest of three girls, we adored studying this period of history. The books available, the idea of princesses and kingdoms, beautiful calligraphy and side-saddle horse riding captured our attention. And the dresses…. Oh the dresses.

As girls, we loved watching Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood and feasted on the many outfits of Maid Marrian as we tried to fashion our own from our dress-up collection. Of course, my boys also love the movie, but for the adventure aspects because they could care less what Maid What’s Her Name is wearing…

It’s time for Dress-Up!

Here are some beautiful dresses to consider:

Gift Ideas for your Little Princess that will promote learning through play!| part of a 31 day series of gifts that inspire learning

1. Guinevere Costume
2.. Renaissance Maiden Costume
3. Renaissance Queen Costume
4. Renaissance Damsel Dress
5. Pretty Maiden Dress
6. Crimson Princess Costume
7. Purple Renaissance Queen Costume
8. Enchanted Princess Costume
9. Panne Velvet Costume

Gift Ideas for girls learning about the Middle Ages! Spark the Imagination! ~ Part of a 31 day series of gifts that inspire learning

Did any of you ever play with paper dolls when you were young?  My sister’s and I spent hours playing with paper dolls and the Dover Historical Paper Dolls were our favorites! A great way to explore the customs and dress of the medieval ages in a fun and painless way would be to get your daughter a set of these Medieval Costumes Paper Dolls.  The details are exquisite and the imaginative play options are endless!

Do you have a child who would love to learn the medival art of caligraphy and illustration?  This combination would inspire her and equip her.

Inspire your girl {or boy} by giving them the inspiration and tools to explore the medieval art of illustration and calligraphy!
Marguerite Makes a Book – This luciously illustrated book gives you a peek into the process of illuminating manuscripts.
Quill Writing Set
Learn Caligraphy: The Complete Book of Lettering and Design


Whew.  Tomorrow I’ll give you a tour of some fabulous toy castles as we round out our exploration of gift ideas for the Middle Ages.

Here are a few blog posts from our medieval adventures:

Knights-in-Training {free chivalry printable}
10 Adventure Books to Inspire a Boy’s Faith



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To check out the whole series, click here.31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

Birthday Balloon Surprises and C.H.A.N.G.E.S. Coming!


Last month my niece turned FIVE!  To celebrate her birthday, we set to work writing special birthday notes and pictures that we tucked inside tiny balloons.  In honor of her 5 years, we also tucked in 5 one dollar bills.  I had seen a similar idea on pinterest and decided that this would be the perfect way to celebrate her birthday.  The boys were thrilled to put the gift together, popping balloons to retrieve treasures on the other end eagerly carried out.  As a bonus, mailing that big box didn’t break the bank.

Knowing how fixated my kids are when they earn or receive dollar bills, I figured that would be the highlight.  When I asked my sister if the money gift was a hit, she told me that my precious niece actually valued the copious amount of rolled up notes and pictures.  She carried them around as ‘treasure’ for several days.  I just love the hearts of young children…

Oh the joy of planning little surprises.



Speaking of surprises, I’m excited to let you know that big C.H.A.N.G.E.S. are coming to the blog!  As in BIG.  I won’t be here in a few weeks.  I’m moving! {to a new blog address}  Similar heart and content, but with a renewed focus and a new home! I’m so excited for the direction the Lord is leading with this and can’t wait to bring you all with me for the big moving party!  So be sure to check in, or better yet subscribe via email so you won’t miss a thing!

Guess Who? President’s Edition

Download this FREE Printable and play a rousing game of Guess Who: President's Edition. Pictures, fact sheets to help with asking questions.
 ** UPDATED 2017 **

“Who is the 12th president, Mommy?”

“Millard Fillmore?”

{snickers…} “No Mommy, it’s Zachary Taylor.”

Nothing like getting drilled from the back seat while running errands.  Even the four year old has memorized most of the presidents by face and can recognize their numbers in our little flip book that we keep in the car…

As the presidential election nears, we’ve been learning about our nations’ presidents.  What better way to test our new-found knowledge of these presidents than with a game!

I’ll be honest up front and let you know that it isn’t perfect.  After spending HOURS working on this, I printed it out the night before our cabin getaway and discovered up there that they were a bit too small.  Thankfully, we were able to slip the cards under the prongs on one end which actually makes it easier to swap out as we mix and match the different presidents to make an always changing game board.

Because we aren’t total presidential trivia experts, I put together some information pages to aid in asking and answering questions.  We did not allow questions on appearance, but focused on facts.  Something along the lines of “Is your president a Republican?” is usually one of the first questions, followed by “Did he serve in the military?” or “Did he die in office?” or “Was he a vice-president first?” “Does he appear on a US coin or currency?”

It is nice having the answers handy!

We borrowed Guess Who from a friend and set up to play! We are hooked and need to now buy our own Guess Who? game!

Here is how we play it:

  • Print President cards –  1 large set and 2 small sets. Laminating or using contact paper will help these last longer
  • Cut out cards.  We colored the back of one set to help keep the two sets differentiated.  If I had thought about it, I would have printed this on scrapbooking paper that was white on one side…
  • Print the info sheets (included with the download for the small set) for help with narrowing down the field.
  • Select 24 presidents for each board and slide them into place.  Gather 24 corresponding large cards.
  • Each player selects a president.
  • The questions begin.
    • Must be a question that can be answered with a yes or no.
    • No questions based on appearance as in the original “Guess Who” game.
    • No guessing of presidents.  Must narrow it down to one by asking questions based on what you know about that president.
  • Be prepared to play over and over and over again!

{As a courtesy, please do not link directly to the download files.  Feel free to pin or link to this tutorial if you want to recommend it.}

Ok, I’m off to bed.  My poor little girl is trying to cut those first teeth and it’s been keeping her up at night…

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For more fun:


Learn to Play –> Play to Learn!

Any guesses as to what we’ve been reading about lately???
I just love how they bring it into their everyday play!

Boston Tea Party Time!

Creativity Inspiring


We’ve recently come under the spell of this incredibly creative book.  It is always a good sign when an adult is just as captivated by a children’s book as they are.  Rich and Greta inspected this book for a good part of the morning a few weeks back.
We found ourselves chuckling at the ingenuity and inspecting each page to see what everyday items were used to create the pictures!  I love books like this because it encourages us to think outside of the box and use objects we have around the home in open-ended ways.

Of course sometimes this creative ‘out of the box’ kind of thinking backfires.  For instance, last week my three year old took the baby Jesus doll that he made in Sunday School out of a nylon and was using it as a slingshot and/or lasso.  For some reason that just seemed a wee bit disturbing to see him whipping it around and racing to attack his brothers…

What everyday objects do your children play with and transform into something else?

Mayflower Nut – a tutorial

Fabulous tutorial on how to make a Mayflower boat out of a walnut shell.

I’ll be the first to admit that we are a little nutty over here!  But that’s just how we roll…

In preparation and anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I always love to review a little history.  We’ve pulled a few of our favorite Thanksgiving books together and I couldn’t help squeezing in a few fun projects before we leave to visit family.

So here’s our homemade miniature Mayflower ships and a quick tutorial so you all can make this super easy craft too!

Here’s a quick inventory of what you will need for this project:

  • playdough (we used our favorite recipe and I added cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to capture that scrumptious ‘fall’ smell.)  Clay would probably work better, but I don’t keep any of that around.
  • walnuts (I bought three in case I ruined any of them.  I knew I needed at least three ‘good’ boats.)
  • toothpicks
  • paper
  • pencil and scissors not pictured, but needed to draw and cut out sails

FIRST: Using a butter knife, carefully separate the walnut into two halves.  In hindsight, I wish I had bought a couple of extra walnuts.  I think the boys would have enjoyed trying to do this.  Since I was afraid of ruining all of them, I did this step.  Gut the walnut shell halves and have a snack!

SECOND: Trace three rectancles (with sides angled inward) in graduated sizes.  Cut them out.  Depending on the age of the child this can be a you job, a them job or both (and then let them pick what set of sails they want to use.

THIRD: Let them place a line of glue down the center of each sail and place toothpick with at least two centimeters of space at the bottom of the toothpick blank.

FOURTH: Allow to dry.  Go play with the playdough! Pinch off small bits of playdough to stick inside the walnut shells.

FIFTH: Place your sails and embark!

Up Next: Playful learning with our new Mayflower ships!

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