Hibernation Unit

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Our preschool science curriculum features both season and animal units, so with winter here it’s the perfect time to study the change in the season and animals who are either greatly effected by the winter weather or are cold climate animals. We started out this winter season with a hibernation unit.

Hibernation Unit

It’s amazing the things that I have learned while homeschooling my son. I was doing research and learned that bears don’t “technically” hibernate under the original definition of hibernation. Animals who truly hibernate go into a very deep sleep and cannot be disturbed. They can be moved without even being aware of it. Bears however sleep for weeks at a time and can be disturbed. Animals who hibernate include; badgers, bats, chipmunks, dormouse, ground squirrels, hamsters, groundhogs, hedgehogs, nighthawks, prairie dogs, raccoons, and skunks.


I started by reading Big B lots of books about bears and hibernation. Our library has an entire section of science children books on animals. I got a few books that teach about bears and other animals who generally hibernate. I also got a few story books where the animals (mostly bears) are preparing to hibernate.


Hibernating animals build up fat reserves (and in some cases store foods) to sustain themselves through the winter. They will eat things like berries, nuts and other vegetation. Offer some of these foods to your child as snack (considering allergies) and talk to them about how these foods help the hibernating animals make it through the winter.

Cave Building

We talked about how animals build or seek out shelter to protect themselves while they are hibernating. Big B and his dad built a cave for him play bear and act like he was hibernating.

Preschool Hibernation Unit

Fat Storing Experiment

I ran across this Animals in Winter science experiment from Preschool – What Fun We Have. I felt like it was the perfect way to show Big B how animals store fat to help them stay warm during the winter.

I started out with two bags, shortening, and ice.

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

I covered Big B’s hand with one of the bags and then handed him a few pieces of ice

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

I then liberally covered his hand with the shortening and covered it with the second bag. I handed him the ice again.

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

The shortening represents the additional fat that helps protects the animal from the cold weather.

Hibernation and Cold Climate Animal Activity

Big B now has a better idea of how and why animals hibernate.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

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One of the great things about winter is all of the new seed catalogs. These colorful magazines start coming in the mail around the end December!

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Ok, I’ll admit I don’t have much of a green thumb, but when it comes to research and planning I’m a professional. This year we are giving a garden a real try. The last time I had a real garden I was a kid. As an adult I’ve had herbs and that’s about it. I have great memories from my childhood sitting in my garden eating right off the plants. I want my children to have those same memories. I have spent the last year searching seed catalogs and researching gardening techniques, and this spring I think I am actually ready.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Our first catalog of 2013 came in the mail Friday and Big B and I have had a blast looking through it already. Big B really loves looking through seed catalogs. He points to all of the fruits and vegetables that he wants to try and it’s hard not to allow our order to get completely out of hand in hopes that maybe he will actually try them if we grew them. He looks at the beautiful photographs and asks what each plant is and what it tastes like. We talk about the colors, shapes, flavors, and different recipes we can make with each. It’s amazing how much value one can find in a free catalog that comes in the mail.

Growing up on The Freckled Farm: Seed Catalogs

Our Winter Window Display: Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

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Well, it is time to take down our fall leaves window display and put up something more winter themed. I have plans for several window displays for our classroom/dinning room this winter. Today we are starting with popsicle stick snowflakes. If there is anything I have learned during my time as an art teacher it’s that you can’t go wrong with glitter!

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes


  • Wood popsicle sticks
  • Glue
  • Paint (we used blue and white)
  • Glitter (again, we used blue and white)
  • String or yarn

It’s an easy enough craft with really great results.

Start by gluing several popsicle sticks into a snowflake shape. We used 4 sticks and I made 4 snowflakes for each of us.

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Paint one side of the snowflake:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

While the paint is still wet sprinkle the snowflake with glitter:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Set aside to dry overnight:

My snowflakes:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

Big B’s Snowflakes, which I think are MUCH better than mine. The mix of the two colors on the one snowflake had a really beautiful result:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

On day 2 turn the snowflakes over, and paint and glitter the backside. Once again allow them to dry completely:

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

We glued a strand of white yarn to the back of the snowflake, but you could also poke a hole through the stick and tie the yarn or string off.

Hang and Enjoy!!

Popsicle Stick Snowflakes

I was a big fan of our fall window display, but I am already loving our winter themed ones so much more. I can’t wait to share our other ideas!

The Huge Family Holiday Gift Guide: Top 10 Educational Toys for Preschoolers

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The wonderful blogging network (Kid Blogger Network) that I am a part of has put together a holiday gift idea series. There is something for everyone! Links to all of the other gift guides can be found at the bottom of this post.

Top 10 Educational Toys for Preschoolers

For my part of the Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids series I have compiled my top 10 favorite educational toys for preschool children. These toys are favorites of my son Big B. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we have.


    1. Melissa & Doug Jumbo ABC Chunky Puzzle: This puzzle played a large role in teaching Big B the order of the ABC’s. He received this toy for his 1st birthday and still plays with it 2 years later.
    2. LEGO Duplo My First Set (5416): This was one of my husband’s picks. Big B loves blocks of all kinds. He spent a year and half playing with mega blocks, and we have now moved on to duplos. These are great for developing mechanical skills.
    3. Battat Take Apart Airplane: This awesome little plane allows your child to put it together and take it apart using little nuts, bolts and a drill. There are several different vehicles to choose from.
    4. Melissa & Doug Band in a Box: I am a huge fan of Melissa & Doug. The quality of these instruments are great and they are wonderful for helping children build an interest in music.
    5. Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Binoculars: These are a great addition to your nature walks. Big B has a pair of binoculars that he loves to carry around with him so he can “see the birds.”
    6. eeboo Pre-School NUMBERS MEMORY GAME: We have several different memory games. This particular one also teaches numbers.
    7. Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Digital Camera – Blue: This is one of Big B’s favorite toys of all time. Educationally we use it for photo scavenger hunts (like our fall scavenger hunt) and documenting nature walks.
    8. LeapFrog TAG Reading System, Green: Don’t say anything, but this is one of Big B’s Christmas presents for us this year. We opted for the Tag Reading System rather than the Tag Junior because you can use the Tag Reader on both Tag and Tag Junior books. It’s a great way to get kids interested in reading and there are other educational games that you can purchase for use with this system.
    9. Playskool Alphie: I had an Alphie growing up, and Big B got one from his Papa for Christmas last year. He has really started getting into it in the last few months, and he has learned so much. You can purchase different booster packs to expand the learning.
    10. LeapFrog My Own Leaptop: This toy was one of the best tools when it came to teaching Big B his alphabet. In the “animal” mode I would ask him to find a particular animal and tell him what letter it started with, he would then search the keyboard for that letter and the animal would appear on the screen when he pressed the key. You can also program the toy to say the child’s name and enter personalized emails for them to check.

All of these toys are big hits in our house! I hope you enjoy them as well!

Fun Gifts Beyond Toys by No Twiddle Twaddle

Book + Toy Companion Gifts by What Do We Do All Day?

Best Art Supplies for Kids by To Train Up a Child

Gifts to Inspire the Imagination by The Pleasantest Thing 

Gifts for Your Backyard Explorer/ Gifts for Your Animal Lover by Blog Me Mom

Educational Games by True Aim Education

Basic/Traditional Toys by Creative Playhouse

Therapeutic and Fun Gift Ideas for Child Development by Creative Learning Fun

Top Toys for Babies by B-InspiredMama

Top Toys for Curious Kids by KC Edventures

Educational/ Headache Free Toys for Christmas and Hanukkah by CAUTION: Twins at Play

4 Gift Ideas for Everyone: Want, Wear, Need, and Read by Home Learning Journey

Gifts that Inspire Pretend Play by Connecting Family and Seoul

My Favorite Books and Toys for Preschoolers by Mama Miss

Educational Toys for Preschoolers by The Freckled Homeschooler

Montessori Inspired Toys by Smiling Like Sunshine

Gift Ideas for Older Kids (9-12) by Kitchen Counter Chronicles

Toys for the Classroom by Teach Preschool

Gift Ideas for Budding Readers by Mom 2 to Posh Lil Dives

Stocking Stuffers: A Teacher’s Top 10 by Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers

Book Ideas for Everyone on Your List by Pragmatic Mom

Toys that Stand the Test of Time by Mamas Like Me

Top Board Games for Kids and Families by Coffee Cups and Crayons

Home Made Gifts Children Can Make by How to Run a Home Daycare

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Painting with Kitchen Utensils

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Last week I mentioned that I was going to be doing a series of different painting techniques with Big B. Painting with kitchen utensils is the second project in that series. Big B loves to paint, and I am trying to expand his creativity and imagination when it comes to his art.

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

This past weekend I collected a bunch of kitchen utensils that I thought would make fun painting tools and I laid them in a pile in front of Big B. He frowned his brow and gave me look like “what am I suppose to do with this?” I simply told him that he needed to use them to paint, nothing more. I wanted to see what he did on his own.

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

He picked up the pasta cutter first and rolled it in the paint, then he said “now what?” I told him he needed to use the tools to get the paint onto the paper, like with a paint brush

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

Some of the utensils required more imagination than others, but in the end he was able to come up with a way to use each one.

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

Painting with Kitchen Utensils

Big B completed two paintings, then asked for his paint brushes. I think the project was a success, but apparently the paint brush is still the painting tool of choice in our house.


Cooking With Your Kids: Apple Crumble

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To me the holidays are all about family and food, and the number one food item that is a must at every holiday event is apple pie. I’ve made apple pie from scratch before, but that’s a little to much to expect from a three year old. I found this simple recipe for apple crumble on the side of Kroger brand granola cereal box. It has the feel of apple pie, but is easy enough for a three year old to do.

Apple Crumble Recipe


  • 4 Medium Apples
  • 1 Cup of Granola
  • 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Melted Butter

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

Peel and core 4 medium apples, and line them in a 8-inch square baking dish.

Apple Crumble Recipe

Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl

Apple Crumble Recipe

Apple Crumble Recipe

Apple Crumble Recipe

Layer the granola mixture over the apples

Apple Crumble Recipe

Cook the apple crumble for 30 minutes or until the apples are tender. Serve with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

We made this the night before Thanksgiving in hopes that it would make it to Thanksgiving dinner. The three of us each had a small bowl that night, but every time I turned around my husband was sneaking a spoonful. Only a little bit made it to Thanksgiving dessert, enough to give everyone a taste of Big B’s cooking. It was so good!

Corn Craft

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We are finishing up our nutrition unit and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so I decided that I needed to come up with a craft that could fit into both. I thought up this corn craft this afternoon:

This craft can work for several different age levels and promotes fine motor skills. In the image above I created the corn cob on the right and Big B created the one on the left.

I started by cutting a corn cob and husk out of construction paper. Then I glued them together.

I completed my example during the children’s nap time this afternoon and had all the materials waiting for Big B when he woke up. I left a few corn kernel spaces so I could demonstrate the process for him. I explain that he needed to tear small pieces out of the tissue paper, ball it up in his hand, then glue it to the corn cob.

He even used the glue all by himself and did a very good job!

 He was very happy with the outcome of his corn cob!

This cute, simple craft was a big hit and required minimal supplies!

Growing up on The Freckled Farm – Benefits of Raising Children on a Farm

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First… I am sorry for the lack of posts last week. We had a really terrible cold run through this house. It hit Little B and me the hardest. Of course Big B, with his immune system of steel, simply got the sniffles. When your sick, with sick kids, it pretty much takes all of your energy just to get through the day, but I did give a lot of thought to what today’s installment of “Growing up the Freckled Farm” would be, and it became very clear after the weekend that we have had… The benefits of raising children on a farm.

Benefits of raising children on a farm

My mother-in-law came into town this weekend to watch the kids while my husband and I finished the goat fencing and prepared for the goats to move in next weekend. Nothing makes you realize how different your life is in the country than to have someone from the city come and visit for a while. Things that you just take for granted as just a part of life is likely completely foreign to them.

Friday evening after dinner we were all sitting in the den settling down for the evening. I was on the couch looking through a goat supplies catalog, trying to figure out what we would need to purchase over the next year. The discussion of the farm costs came up and my mother-in-law voiced concerns about vet bills. I explained that over the next few years that we would learn to do most of the minor vet procedures ourselves, like drawing blood for tests, deworming and vaccinations. There were also a few topics that came up while looking through the catalog that obviously, and rightfully so, made my mother-in-law uncomfortable, like castration and artificial insemination. I know the necessity of these things on a farm, and they don’t really bother me, but for someone who hasn’t been exposed to it, it’s a lot to take in. Then the conversation of all the skills that “country children” learn during their childhood came up. They are exposed to such a different world and leave home with a completely different set of skills than children who grow up in the suburbs or city.

Before they are teenagers our children will know how to care for animals from infancy, through pregnancy, and into old age. They will administer minor vet procedures, and care for animals when they are sick. They will learn how diet and nutrition affects their production, and they will be responsible to help maintain a balanced diet for the animals on the farm. They will witness life coming into this world, as well as leaving. They will milk our goats, and learn to create products like cheese, butter, and soaps. They will grow their own food from seed, and have to figure out how to balance soil PH in order to ensure the best crop. They will need to figure out how to preserve crops, so we are able to benefit from them long after the season is over. They will understand problem solving, responsibility and patience in a very different way. All of these skills can be translated into life outside the farm in some way. There is so much to learn and experience and the greatest part of all of this is that my husband and I will be experiencing it right along with them.

Already our children, at 3 years old and 7 months old, have experienced something very special. Something most children have no exposure to… They have watch the building of this farm. Big B aided in the construction of the chicken coop, then watch the chickens grow from day old chicks, he watch as the barn and fencing was constructed, he visited many farms, and has already gotten to milk a goat. I see the pride and excitement in his face as he talks about our progress on the farm and it often hits me how this must look like through the eyes of a three year old, it’s huge for me, even as an adult.

I hope all of this gives my children a better appreciation for life, for the food they eat, and for hard work. I want them to leave this farm with skills. Maybe they wont choose to be farmers, or vets, but they will understand hard work and can translate many of the skills learned on the farm into life outside of the farm. The benefits of raising children on a farm are truly endless.

Our Field Trip to Vote!!

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Every year I take Big B to vote with me.

Big B was one month old when he took his first field trip to the polling place and it has become a tradition that we do every year. I want him to grow up knowing the importance of voting… even in the smaller elections, as they affect you in a more direct way.

Last night Little B started to come down with something. She went to bed with a 101.8 fever, and I woke up at some point during the evening suffering from the same sickness. Luckily my husband was able to stay home with us today, otherwise it would have been a rough day. Sick or not I was going to make it to my polling place (my apologies to the polling place people for spreading my germs). We went as a family, but took turns going in so Little B could stay in the car. Big B and I went in together. While waiting in our short line (the benefit of living in the middle of no where) we talked about how important it is to vote. I voted with him on my hip so he could see what was going on and he was given a sticker on our way out. I hope each year that we do this that he understands more and more the importance of voting.

I don’t care who you vote for… just vote! 

Cooking With Your Kids: Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Oh this was so bad of me! Right in the middle of our health and nutrition unit I have Big B make cookies. When I saw this recipe for Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sugar Cooking come across my Pinterest dashboard I just couldn’t help myself! It was the most intensive recipe that Big B and I have ever done together but he did a great job. Days after making these cookies he was still telling everyone about them… somehow they were gone within three days

I made a slight variation to this recipe. We did not add the peanut butter chips because my husband is allergic to peanuts. Instead we just added extra chocolate chips. I will write up the recipe the way we did it, but if you would like to do them the original way go here.


  • 1.5 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of tight packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 of granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup broken up pretzel pieces
  • Pretzel salt or sea salt

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and baking soda.

In another bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Then slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract. This was Big B’s first time using the beater. I put my hand over his on the beater and held his free hand behind his back to he wouldn’t try to put it near the beaters.

Add in the flour mixture and beat

Add the chocolate chips and pretzels, then cover and refrigerate for an hour

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out tablespoon size balls, leaving 2 inches in between each cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with the pretzel salt. I did the salt. I didn’t want them to be over salted.

Bake for 10 minutes, then allow cookies to cool. ENJOY!!