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See what this "grows" into...

Do you have small children that you need to entertain while finishing up holiday meal preparations?  Choose an adult who, despite their best intentions, is not as handy in the kitchen, and send them all out on a natural treasure hunt that will surely lead to a wonderful holiday memory.

The task:  find some bits and pieces of nature that can be used to fashion place cards at the dinner table.

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A little walk around The Beekman Farm gave me the idea for these miniature trees inspired equally by my childhood love of the landscapes surrounding model train sets and my adult love of bonsai.

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Find branches of trees or shrubs that have a shape similar to a full-grown tree.  (This is a great exercise for children in building observational skills).  Just like bonsai, members of the conifer family work well.

Next find something that can be used as a base into which you can insert the end of the twig and that has a flat surface to sit on the table.  I found beautiful acorn caps and used a low speed drill to create a hole.

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If the branches are on the heavy side, you may need to add a little extra weight to the base.  We used some Playdoh since it is non-toxic.

Either have kids write each family member’s name on a small white piece of cardstock  or do as we did and print them up on the computer beforehand.  Allow them to “place” the adults around the table.  They’ll get a big kick out of that!

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Share with us some of your ideas for keeping kids entertained with nature-inspired crafts.

by Josh and Brent

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Sherri Tucker Fyan

for Thanksgiving, have you tried using a fine point sharpie and writing names on fallen colorful leaves and then slip them into the napkin rings at each place….

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Lucia

Don't get me started! We've always used holidays to give kids' domestic skill levels a boost up. The children were always responsible for the table(s) starting 2 days early with ironing napkins (with supervision) and then polishing all the silver (a lovely, clean upable mess) with talk of who this piece belonged to and who they are or were.

The day before they would set the tables deciding which table cloths/napkins and where each person would sit etc. You'll find their thinking makes for a remarkable arrangement. Josh and Brent's place card idea would add greatly to this process.

Getting a room ready 1-2 days before the event verified my theory that no one messes up a room that is already set up for a party.

The children were even given the responsibility for placing the wine glasses, understanding that they had belonged to great grandma….or came from Tiffany's…They always gave themselves the most delicate wine glasses for their cider and you know what? They rarely broke a one. Our celebratory adult friends and family (ourselves included) broke plenty but not the kids.

If you really want to waste another minute I'll tell you about how when our kids reached double digits, we'd let them help with the canning. Kids can take great pride in a process which goes from pulling beans, tomatoes, corn or peaches in from the garden or Farmers' Market and goes right through to a beautiful jar cooling on the counter. Kids are amazed by the process even if they are just coming and going from the project.

Our now 30 year old daughter, a high power consultant, tells of canning dill beans in her apartment building in DC and realizing she'd made the entire building smell like pickles because of the elevator shifting air from floor to floor.

A month ago she took a jar of dill beans to a party and a young man from Kansas sought her out and, pointing to the beans exclaimed, "I know what these are! I know what this takes! Will you teach my wife to do this?"

Renewed respect for domestic skills has arrived. Don't leave your kids out. I always said I could tell if one of our kids were really serious about a new sweetheart if they revealed their domestic skills to them.

Even our son who used to say he was "really looking forward to liking to cook" now in his mid twenties has given two elegant parties this year; one on the rooftop of his apartment building and one at a local park, serving marinated salmon steamed in individual foil packets, turkey meatloaf with roasted vegies (including the scorned eggplant ?*&^$??) I wonder who he has his eye on??

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Carmen

What a nice idea, simple but effective and allows all to participate. As an artist and lover of nature, I welcome your idea, thanks.

Carmen

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weekendfarmer

Thats a great idea! I was going around the creek yestrerday and found these amazingly huge acorns that would make great conversation pieces around the table. The tree idea is wonderful!! Will give it a try for the next sit down meal.

Are acorns edible? I tried one roasting it on the pan….didnt seem like it had much taste : ).

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