Shrunken Heads and other Halloween Decor

IMG_2317My oldest son Matthew is really into Halloween this year. Creating and buying decorations, making our yard into a spooky spectacle. He has always enjoyed Halloween and gotten quite excited about it, but for some reason this year he is really into the decorations.

He has asked me a few times if he could get on the internet to google homemade Halloween decorations, and has created some of his own. He’s done things such as buy a small plastic skeleton from the dollar store and build it’s own paper coffin for it. He’s taken an exercise band and made it into scary caution tape by writing and drawing on it with black marker. Yes he also went to the Halloween store on the weekend with his Dad and bought a cemetery set, some yellow caution tape and a few other things but the thing I love is that he is willing and happy to do both, buy some and create his own.

IMG_2319I have always loved decorating for Halloween and often thought that we should add to our collection of decorations. We have had pumpkin and skeleton lights for years, as well as the ghosts that you hang in the tree and spider webs. But Matthew really likes to go to town, in fact every time I turn around at the moment he is making something new to add to the decor.

IMG_2328The thing that I have found the most unique though is the apple shrunken heads. I am not sure where he got the idea from but it is pretty cool and very easy to do. They take about 2 weeks to complete, simply because you need to let them dry, but they are very easy to do.

IMG_2321Even Luke and Chloe are quite excited about Halloween this year and they are counting down the days like their older brother. I think that it’s going to be a pretty fun Halloween this year and I have to say that I do like that the amount of work that I have actually had to do so far has been quite small.

Shrunken Heads


Lemon juice

Peel apples, using as many as you like (we did 5). With a butter knife carve out eyes and mouth into apple. Dip apple in lemon juice so that it is completely covered. Set apple on platter or plate and let dry. Best to put apples in a place that is cool and out of direct sunlight. After 1 week dip in lemon juice again. Takes about 2 weeks for apples to shrink and wrinkle. Display shrunken heads in amongst your Halloween decor.

Matthew and his shrunken heads

Matthew and his shrunken heads

A Preschool for Luke and Chloe

I can hardly believe that the twins are going to be 3 next week! Walking, talking, running and playing they are truly little people now with their own distinct personalities! Luke is very sensitive, quiet and observant, while Chloe is more robust, energetic and fiesty! They are both cute as buttons of course and are very good kids.

With the approach of their third birthday it was time for me to start considering preschool for them. I know some people don’t believe in preschool -and they say why should I pay to have my kids go do crafts and games when I can do that with them. The reality is, for most of us, do we actually do the crafts and games on a regular basis? The other thing is is preschool is more than crafts and games and has a variety of benefits for your child from promoting social and emotional development, learning to share, making choices, learning how to function in a structured environment and preparing them for kindergarten. And these days there is lots of choice in what preschool you can register your child in.

When we registered Matthew in preschool I just went down to the local one closest to us, looked around, felt happy and registered him. Only now do I wish that I had looked around a bit more and learned more about the different preschools that were available as I feel that there was a better choice and fit for Matthew due to his learning ability. But hind sight is 20/20 and he was my first child etc. So this time, not only did I know when to start looking/ registering for preschool, I took my time checking out a few preschools in the area and touring them all.

I kept it reasonable and looked at 3; and after googling preschools in Calgary selected Leap n Learn, Montessori and Apple Tree to go and take a look. Luke and Chloe got to come with me each time which I feel is very valuable when selecting a preschool for your child. It is important to see how they take to the environment and if they like it there. Also children have a strong intuitive sense, so if the energy is off or negative then they would pick up on and display it right away.

Luke discovering animals

Preschools have really changed now too with many offering 3 hour classes up to 5 days a week. You now provide your own snacks for your children, where as the school used to provide this, but I believe that with the growing number of people requiring special dietary needs that this was the best way to address this. There are specialty programs such as French Immersion or a strong music component, some are more academic (believe it or not) while others are your traditional beginning learning and getting them ready for school. All have their benefits and all have their place and it all depends on the child. The best fit for one child may not be the best fit for another.

One of the things I really liked about Matthew’s preschool is that we could walk to it. I found this to be a great benefit and we walked all through the winter to and from. Being more particular this time, this was one benefit I had to give up if I truly wanted the best fit.

Leap n Learn has a great program, they offer 3 hour classes and a French Immersion option. They also have a great music component.

Montessori is a great program for children who are self motivated and individual learners. The montessori approach is a wonderful one but is not for all children. Their philosophy is that they provide a solid foundation for children as they enter kindergarten. They do not offer music per se, and only a little bit of beginner French once a week.

Apple Tree is what I would describe as a regular preschool. Though it has been voted one of the best preschools in Calgary by Calgary’s Child, I did not find that it stood out. It was just a regular preschool in what I considered a fairly stark environment actually. I don’t believe French was offered here at all. But they do have Sonata Yamaha School of Music come in to do their music component.


Needless to say we did not go with Apple Tree, though it was the one we could walk to! For us I felt that Leap n Learn and Montessori were the best choices, and were very close, but ended up choosing Montessori. I felt that it would be a better fit for Chloe especially and that Luke could thrive there as well. I did though choose the Montessori preschool that was a little bit further from us – as there was one 5 minutes away. I caution parents if you are going to do Montessori to still check out a few Montessori schools. Though the program and philosophy is the same, with all teachers being Montessori trained, they are individually owned and run, so vary slightly. We toured the one closest to us and though outwardly there was nothing wrong with it, it was not as bright as the other one, the energy was not as good and overall something just did not feel right. So I went with my gut and we are going a little bit further (15 minute drive) to one that I like and feel better about.

Choosing a preschool is very much an individual decision and I would strongly encourage you to tour a few of them so that you can see and make an informed decision that best fits your child. In summary here are things to keep in mind when choosing a preschool:

  1. Tour more than one school
  2. Tour each school – make an appointment where you can go and see the rooms, talk with someone about the program and able to answer any questions you have. Make sure that the kids can come with you
  3. Consider things like fees, monthly and registration, if there is a discount for a second child, etc.
  4. Is it clean? Bright and with natural light. Do you get a good vibe there? do the kids like it?
  5. What options do they have? 2 or 3 hour programs? French or other language, music
  6. Teacher training – what are their requirements for staff/teachers

Regardless of which preschool you choose for your child it should be one that is the best fit for you and your child. Make sure they are ready, gather all the information you need to make a sound informed decision, use a little intuition and take your time. Don’t dilly dally but don’t rush into it either. You want your child to have a positive experience in a positive environment.

Are you planning on registering your child for preschool this fall? What preschool have you chosen? Please comment and share below.


Fall Activities for Kids

Fall is my favorite time of year. The vibrant colors, the leaves changing on the trees. I often find a sense of renewal and excitement in the fall. Change and new beginnings, an expectation of things to come. Now I know that spring is typically the time for renewal and new things but for some reason this applies more to me in the Fall. There is just something about the energy, the way the warm sun glints through the trees, the crisp cool mornings, and the cozy afternoons. It’s magical, inviting and I look forward to it every year.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

I also enjoy all the activities that you can do in the Fall with the kids, the Fall recipes like warms hearty stews, specialty coffees like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the bonfires, the festivals. It creates a warmth, a coziness and welcoming feeling that I love. It’s the time of year that I start to light more candles and fill my house with scents of pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves. It’s also a great time of year to be outside enjoying the warm sunny autumn afternoons.

One of my favorite things to do in Fall is to just go for a walk, letting the kids explore and play in the leaves. The leaves are the best part of Fall. Whether we are kicking them up and dancing with them as they blow in the wind or gathering them for crafts and decorations for later. And I still love jumping in them! When I was growing up my sisters and I would love raking up the leaves, piling them high and jumping in them. Now as a parent and adult I love to jump in the leaves with my kids.

Taking the kids out for a walk is a great opportunity for them to not only have some fun but to teach them to learn about and appreciate their natural environment. There are lots of simple activities you can do while you’re out with very little equipment. If you bring a few items with you such as a magnifying glass, some paper, crayons, pencils and a cloth bag, this will get you started.

Many of these activities will engage kids of all ages. Here are some of my favorites:

Tree & Leaf Rubbings

Leaf Rubbings

Have the children pick a tree, then take a piece of paper and a crayon. Put the paper up against the bark of the tree and then gently rub over the paper with their crayon. Younger children may need assistance holding their paper. Once they are finished they can leave the tree rubbing on it’s own or then add to it and make it part of another picture. They can also do leaf rubbings with leaves they have found on the ground, but will need a flat surface to do the rubbing. If there is nothing close by then take the leaves home and they  can do the leaf rubbings there.

More Leaf Fun…

Have the kids gather a variety of leaves, different shapes, sizes and colors. (Please note to get the children to take the leaves off the ground not off the trees!) The kids will love gathering them and it is an easy way for them to explore and teach them about the different kinds of trees. Take a moment to help them figure out which leaves belong to which trees. If you aren’t familiar with which trees are which, you can get a tree identification book from the library. With young children only talk about one or two, with older more.

With their gathered leaves they can also make a bouquet to put in a vase and use as a centerpiece on your table, or cut a circle out of cardboard and glue the leaves on to make a  leaf wreath.

They can trace their leaves on construction paper using different colors, cut them out then decorate their room or a part of the house. Also using construction paper they could make their own Autumn tree by cutting out a trunk and glueing the leaves on the branches or creating leaf people out of their leaves. Younger children may need help with cutting.

Find a Tree

This is an environmental game that I do with all ages of children, from my 2 year old twins to the Leaders in Training who are 12-14. You can adjust it accordingly depending on the age of the children but the premise is the same. In partners, one is blindfolded and the other leads their partner to a tree. While blindfolded they explore the tree using their other senses. Touch, smell, etc. Once they feel that they have explored the tree thoroughly then the partner takes them back to where they started, removes the blindfold. The blindfolded partner then goes and sees if they can find their tree. With younger children use a small area with only a few trees to choose from with older you can use a larger area to make it more challlenging.

Fall Festivals

On the Jumping Pillow at the Calgary Corn Maze

Many communities Fall Festival celebrations, from pumpkin patches to hayrides, corn mazes and barbeques. We have a variety here in Calgary, from the Calgary Corn Maze, where they have a petting zoo, jumping pillow and corn cannons; to events at Heritage Park such as the Harvest Sale and Railway Days. Check out your local community events to find something that speaks to you.

Other Crafts and Activities

Twig Fairy

There are so many materials in the natural environment, especially in the Fall, to create all kinds of wonderful crafts and activities. When gathering materials for crafts please encourage the children to take things from the ground (whether it be leaves, pine cones, etc.) and not from the live trees and plants as this could damage or kill them. There are great crafts such as twig fairies, autumn looms (to display all the natural treasures they find), word searches and coloring pages. Just GoogleFall Activities and Crafts’ and all kinds of great websites will come up. Some of my favorite sites are Enchanted Learning and Family Fun.

Fall is a beautiful season, so get out and explore it, let the kids fill a bag of goodies (natural items) and then come home and see what you can do with them. Encourage the kids to create their own crafts and games from what they have found. It is a wonderful time to be creative and use their imagination and they’ll be learning about the natural world and all she has to offer at the same time!