We are often asked by parents or teachers "where did you get THAT wonderful thing?" This blog posts seeks to answer those questions with links to the places where we gather our favourite tools and supplies. Enjoy!
(I am singing "raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens... brown paper packages tied up with strings... these are a few of our favourite things" right now... :)
Source: Spectrum Nasco Educational Supplies Product #SB43412M
We love these nets! They are hardy and sturdy and pick up lots of bugs and creatures from the pond and creek. Much better than dollar store ones, and they don't break the bank either.
Source: Spectrum Nasco Educational Supplies Product #730265
These binoculars are great for young ones ages 3-6. They are durable and don't easily break when they are dropped on the ground. There is even a little compass on top, which has led to interest and inquiry into direction and compass work in our groups.
Source: Boreal Science Product #470007-572
These nets are great for the summer and fall, sweeping through the meadows and getting a net full of damselflies, dragonflies, leaf hoppers, and more. Kids can easily learn the sweeping technique, and they love to see the variety of bugs in their nets. As you can see from the photos, butterfly nets also pair well with clipboards, mentioned below!
Source: Dollarama, recycling bins
We use these a lot! The bigger version is the one from Dollarama, and kids like the magnified top that they can look through. The bigger one also fits small brown snakes and bigger insects like praying mantids for a more close-up, careful, short look. :)
Source: dollar stores
Many children love to make graphs or keep track of data or draw using a clipboard. We have found mini ones as well as bigger ones at various dollar stores. They make writing and drawing in the forest much easier!
Source: Boreal Science Product #470163-772
Several groups have taken a keen interest in orienteering and directions. These particular ones are easy to use and come with a string to allow kids to carry them around their necks without losing them.
Source: Canadian Tire, paint section
This heavy canvas drop cloth is great for cutting into pieces and using in a variety of ways: to make flags or buntings, creatures for storytelling, and many other things!
Source: dollar stores, hardware stores
This is making me excited for spring, just writing about this. Kids love to dig in the dirt, plant things, and watch them grow. Gardening gloves ($ stores), trowels ($ stores, hardware stores), and watering cans ($ store, hardware) are essential tools to help them plant a garden. Ah... spring...
Source:University of Guelph Arboretum (scroll down to find "Biodiversity Identification Sheets")
I can't say enough good things about these. We use them ALL THE TIME. They are laminated, so can withstand a lot of weather and handling. Plus I can take them home and eat my meals on them like placemats! All the while learning naturalist info! The photos are gorgeous, and the types of flora and fauna are relevant to this place (Kitchener Waterloo) because the ID Sheets were created in Guelph, Ontario. I highly recommend getting a set of these! Plus the expander sheets too! You won't regret it!
Source: various sources
Nature journals have been a big part of our programs. Children use them during their quiet sit spot times, and also for recording information or questions about what they are seeing around them. We have made journals with recycled paper and cardboard and fabric, and we have bought them from dollar stores or office supply stores too. I don't think it matters as much what they look like, but some children prefer blank pages rather than lined. (I do too!)
Source: thrift stores, dollar stores
A portable mud kitchen is easy to stock - with a variety of tools (wooden spoons, flipper, spatula, tongs, etc.) and baking tins (metal bowls, pitchers, muffin tins, bread pans, etc.). I like to use metal things that are durable and withstand a lot of forest use. We've enjoyed using a mortar and pestle in our forest baking too - available at dollar stores. A SUPER book to use in your forest mud kitchen is Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow. It is delightful and inspiring!
Source: dollar stores
Easy to find, easy to use. They help children to pause and pay attention. It's not the quality of the glass that matters, but the training of the eye to look carefully at small things in nature.
Source: Dollarama, Canadian Tire
We use these mats almost every day in the forest. It often helps to have a layer between our bums and the wet forest floor, and comfort is key when we spend a long time outdoors! Dollarama sells these blue rubber mats in bigger sheets which I cut in half to make a size that is big enough for small bums. Canadian Tire sells this type of material in a big grey roll, so we cut it in square shapes for more ground coverage (bigger bums or just more space on the mat).
Source: Hardware stores
I sourced our pulleys at Home Depot and Canadian Tire, but I'm sure you could find them at any hardware store. Pulleys have revolutionized our play. No joke! They experiment with pulleys and ropes and buckets (we buy cheap metal buckets at the dollar store), making mail delivery systems, ziplines for squirrels, and more. Pulleys are usually a cooperative tool, and it's been wonderful to see the teamwork and ideas that have come from adding this piece of technology to their play.
Source: hardware stores, Mountain Equipment Coop
Ropes are such an imaginative and useful tool and toy. Sooooo much comes out of rope play! We have worked on knot-tying, and have built swings and pulley lines, dragged log, made artwork with stick frames, had a limbo contest, and tied up tarps for tents. Introducing ropes as a tool helps children with fine motor skills like tying knots, and visual-spatial skills when designing rope frames for tent/tarp structures. There is a lot of planning and thinking involved when ropes come out to play! Most of our ropes have come from Canadian Tire, but we have also invested in a couple of good climbing ropes from Mountain Equipment Coop.
Source: Spectrum Nasco Supplies Product #PE08635E
This is by no means a "must-have" item - it's been more of a luxury item. But it's been fun to bring out for groups that are working on balance. They take the skills of balancing on the slack line and apply them to big logs in the forest, watching their footwork, using their hands and arms for balance, watching and looking for the next best step in front of them. It's a great "challenge by choice" activity - to see how far children can go along the line, and then see if they can go further the next time.
Source: thrift stores
I am constantly amazed when I look at stuffed animals in thrift stores. The majority of them are animals we would call "exotic" - not native to Canada. So over the years, I have kept my eye out at thrift stores for stuffed animals that are indigenous to our landscape. We use these animals mostly for storytelling, sometimes for shelter and nest building, and sometimes for snuggling to keep warm on a cold day!
This is another tool that we use almost every day! In general, we use a talking stick or talking stone at our closing circle time together. This special stick/stone is passed around the circle, giving each person the chance to share about something that was meaningful to him/her while the rest of the group listens. It's a great time to hear about the interests and questions that children have, and this sharing time often helps us plan provocations and lines of inquiry for the following week.
Source: hardware stores
Tarps pair well with ropes for shelter building. We also use them as a big mat for doing larger art projects, and for covering up backpacks in the rain, and for playing games. So many uses!
Source: Green Toys Tea Set, Enamel Look Stoneware
This might seem like a funny thing to have on a supply list, but we use these quite often! Setting out a tray of tea is a warm and welcoming way to gather the group for our closing circle time. At the end of our seasonal forest school programs, we like to provide a tea party where we share some simple snacks and warm tea (usually mint, but we have made hemlock tea too). The tea warms our hands and bodies, and the sharing warms our hearts, making for an all-round cozy way to end our time together!
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Hammers, Huge Swings, and the Freedom to Play