two kombucha tea jars with scobies

How to Make Kombucha

Kombucha is a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a living culture of yeast and bacteria. The health benefits are numerous and may be your motivation for wanting to drink it every day, but my husband and I enjoy a bottle or two every day/night as a treat because it tastes so good and makes us feel great!

Health Benefits of Kombucha:

  1. Detoxifies Your Body – Because it is rich in enzymes and bacterial aids, it gives your pancreas and liver a break.
  2. Prevents Cancer – It is high in Glucaric acid which studies show can help prevent cancer.
  3. Prevents and Treats Arthritis – It contains glucasamines which increases synovial hyaluronic acid production that preserves the cartilage structures which prevents arthritic pain and enables connective tissue bind moisture which increases lubrication and flexibility.
  4. Aids Digestion and Gut Health – Because it is a probiotic beverage it has such benefits as improved digestion, fighting candida (which is an overgrowth of harmful yeast), mental clarity, and mood stability by basically crowding out the bad bacteria in your intestinal tract.
  5. Boosts the Immune System – It is rich in anti-oxidants which boost your immune system and energy levels.

Ok, so you’re convinced. Drinking kombucha is great, and you want to do it! But where do you get it? Well, if you’re fortunate enough to live near some eclectic health stores, you should be able to buy some off the shelf. But at $3.50 a bottle at the store or $42/case of 12 with a $28 shipping fee from Amazon, you might just be better off making it yourself! It sounds a little daunting to set up, but once you get a system going, it’s easy to maintain and you can tailor your kombucha to your specific liking. Here’s how we do it.

Ingredients/Materials

  • Brewing Jars – You will need glass jars for the first fermentation. I like doing two jars at a time for a continuous brew for both my husband and I who have different brews, so we use a total of four gallon sized jars. This is the perfect system that allows each of us to drink one (if not two) bottles a day. I like to find glass iced tea jars with a spigot during the summer when they are on sale at our local grocery store for like $6.99. This is the best I could find on Amazon, but it’s 2 gallons. Or you can use just a straight up plain glass gallon size jar.
  • Tea Pot – I picked up my tea pot at a thrift store ages ago and I love it’s wide mouth that enables me to add my loose leaf tea and sugar. You can find something similar on Amazon, or just make do with what you have.
  • Strainer – After brewing your loose leaf tea, you’ll want to strain it as you pour it into your container with something like these.
  • Filtered Water – If you’re lucky enough to have well water, great! Use that. We have city water with no flouride (Yeah!) so we just get a basic filter that we add to our kitchen water spout. But while flouride isn’t good for you, it won’t really affect your brew (just your health). What you DO really want to watch our for is the chlorine. Chlorine may kill bad bacteria, but it also kills good bacteria, and it can kill your scoby. Chlorine is a gas and it will evaporate if you leave your water to sit out for 24 hours. You can also boil your water for 10 minutes to do the trick.
  • Bottles – If you choose to do a second ferment (which I highly recommend because it creates a bubbly and slightly alcoholic – like less than a nonalcoholic beer, but still nice – beverage) then you’ll need a glass jar that can be sealed tightly. While kind of expensive, I really like using these bottles. I purchased 2 cases because I brew two gallon sized jars for both my husband and I (four all together) and this number of bottles works well with that. You can also just pour the kombucha directly from the spigot and drink it that way too. This bottle brush is great for cleaning out the bottles.
  • Tea – I started out buying tea from the grocery store, but there so many chemical contaminants in commercial tea that I find it’s better (and cheaper) to buy bulk organic tea on Amazon. There are many different types of tea to get, but it’s best to start with black tea to activate your kombucha. This is what I use to brew my hunsband’s kombucha. Once it gets going, you can choose different kinds of tea based on your preferences. I seem to be constantly pregnant around here, and with red raspberry leaf tea having so many wonderful benefits and me trying to avoid caffeine, that’s what I brew with.
  • Sugar – If you’ve got the money, go ahead and buy the organic sugar, but being on a budget, I just get the cheapest kind from our local grocery store. I go through one 10 pound bag of sugar about once every six weeks or so.
  • Scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast)- A scoby is the mushroom looking culture made up of bacteria and yeast that makes kombucha. The best thing to do is to find a friend who brews kombucha and to get one of their scobies. The scoby, or “mother” as it is so creepily called (Don’t tell your friends, “I kept my mother in a dark closet with filtered water, but she still died,” or you’ll really freak them out!) can be purchased online as well.

Directions

  1. Brew the Tea – Boil a kettle of water and add a handful of the loose leaf tea (roughly the equivalent of 8 tea bags) and one cup of sugar per gallon size batch. When we encounter times when our kombucha turns out too vinegary (which means that all of the sugar has been consumed and it starts to lose it’s health benefits and also that we’re not drinking it fast enough) I’ll add an extra half a cup (or more as needed) of sugar.

    gunpowder green tea, sugar, red raspberry leaf tea, and a tea pot

    Ingredients for Making the Kombucha Tea

  2. Let it Sit – The tea needs to steep and you don’t want to add hot water to your scoby because it can kill it, so let it sit for a bit (an hour?). Most times, I just brew the tea the night before and set it aside. You can also remove the scoby, add cold filtered water, add your hot water, make sure the temperature is just luke warm, and then add your scoby back in if you’re in a time crunch.
  3. Bottling – If you’ve got your continuous batch going, this is when you’d pour your fermented kombucha into bottles. I’ll talk more about bottling in step #8.
  4. Scoby and Liquid – If you get a scoby online or from a friend, it should come with about a cup of liquid from it’s original brine. If you’re brewing a continuous batch, you’ll want to leave at least a cup of the fermented kombucha in your glass jar. So, you should have a gallon size glass jar (spigot or not) with a scoby and one cup of kombucha.
  5. Add the Tea and Water – Pour in your tea. This is where I use a mesh filter to filter out my loose leaf tea. Then fill to the top with filtered water.
  6. Cover – The kombucha needs to breathe, so cover it with a folded paper towel or cheese cloth and put a rubber band over it to keep it sealed up. This will help to keep out fruit flies who just LOVE to lay eggs and produce maggots in your lovely scoby. (If you do have a problem with fruit flies, I have found it helpful to make a fruit fly trap by putting apple cider vinegar, soap, and a bit of water in a mason jar, covering it with plastic wrap and a rubber band, and poking holes in it so that the fruit flies fly in, but can’t fly out, get trapped and drown. Then put this near your kombucha jars.)

    kombucha tea jar with paper towel and rubber band

    Kombucha Tea Jar

  7. Store in a Dark Place – Now the kombucha needs to “brew” for 5-7 days. It does best in a dark place where it won’t get disturbed. We brew four gallon sized jars in a rotational schedule at once, so I’ve set aside a nice cupboard just for them. You’ll want to check the scobies periodically to make sure they haven’t risen out of the kombucha. If so, just push it back down.

    four kombucha tea jars ready for fermentation in a cupboard

    Storing the Kombucha Tea Jars for Fermentation

  8. Bottling – So after your gallon sized jar has fermented for about a week, you can taste test it to see if it is ready to bottle. The scoby essentially “eats” the sugar, but if the sugar is completely gone it will taste vinegary. If it gets too vinegary, it will start to lose its health benefits. If this is happening, you’ll want to bottle your kombucha sooner or add more sugar. If it tastes super sweet and not very carbonated, you might want to leave it to ferment for a few more days. These batches of kombucha below are ready to go!
    two kombucha jars with scobies

    Two Kombucha Jars with Scobies

    When bottling, you can pour right from the spigot into the bottle. Now, for some reason, I find that some spigots work better than others, so with some batches, I put a pouring lid on my glass jar and use a funnel to pour the kombucha into bottles. (You would also do this if you’re just using glass mason jars that don’t have spigots.)

    Lid and Funnel for Pouring Kombucha

    Lid and Funnel for Pouring Kombucha

    You just want to leave about an inch or so for the carbonation to accumulate. The bottling is where the second fermentation happens, and it takes another 5-7 days.

  9. *Cleaning Your Glass Jars – You should be fine just reusing the same jars over and over again for awhile, but if you notice an accumulation of sediment (which is just a build up of the extra yeast) you might want to clean your jars out. For this, I remove the scoby, but it in a glass bowl, and cover it with a cup of kombucha. When cleaning out the glass jar, don’t use soap, just hot water and a scrub brush. You can rinse with white vinegar if you’re extra picky, although I never do. Then, put everything back in.
  10. Store the Bottles – Once you seal up your bottles, you’ll want to store them for the second fermentation in a dark place where they will be undisturbed for another 5-7 days. Since my husband and I drink two different brews, I label his bottles “Scott”. If I have old bottles in here by the time I put new ones in, I move the old ones to the center so that they will get used first.

    storing kombucha in a cupboard

    Storing Kombucha Bottles in a Cupboard

  11. Move to the Refrigerator – Once you put the bottles in the refrigerator, it will stop the second fermentation process, so make sure they have been allowed enough time for this. I like to keep two bottles for both my husband and I in the door of the refrigerator at all times.
  12. Store Your Empties – I know this might not really seem like part of the process, but the more you can create a streamlined system that everybody is aware of, the easier it will be to maintain the entire process. We have decided that it’s easiest to store the used bottles under the sink until it is time to brew again. To clean the bottles out, we just rinse them out with hot water. (Stay away from the soap.)

    empty kombucha bottles

    We Store Our Empty Bottles Under the Sink

  13. Enjoy! – Some people like to drink a kombucha first thing in the morning, others enjoy one after a nice meal, and some may enjoy sipping on one throughout the day. I personally enjoy saving it until the end of the day and savoring it with a handful of dark chocolate chips. Due to its slightly alcoholic nature, I feel like it helps me to relax at the end of the day and has been a good substitute for keeping alcohol in our home (which we have eliminated for several reasons, but that’s a whole other blog post!).
  14. Warning – If you brew it right, your kombucha bottles will form their own little mothers. We call this the “goober”. You might be tempted to spit it out, but it is literally the best part of the kombucha and FULL of probiotics. So, bottom’s up!
  15. Caution – If you are just starting to drink kombucha for the first time, go slow and watch how it effects you. It is detoxifying your body, so you’ll want to beware of that, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. I know that when my husband starting drinking it, it would give him stomach aches if he drank one after eating a salad, and I have gotten a stomach ache from drinking one too fast on an empty stomach. I think it’s best to slowly sip on one or limit yourself to one cup at a time if you are just starting out and gradually work up to being able to consume an entire bottle in one sitting.

Notes: You will notice that after about 2-4 weeks, that there’s another scoby that has grown on top of your original scoby. You can leave it there and it should be fine. If you notice your tea is getting too vinegary, it might be time to lop it off. If you do, you can store it in the fridge in a covered glass jar with some of kombucha liquid for a pretty indefinite time. Then, when a friend comes over and loves your home brewed kombucha, you can share your mother with them and guide them on their way to making their own kombucha.

Variations: If you’re just not into the kombucha flavor, you can cut it with some tart cranberry juice and it will taste just great.

In Conclusion

It may seem overwhelming at first to get a system going, but I promise you that it’s not that hard to maintain and the benefits FAR outweigh the efforts. I usually spend about 20-30 minutes a couple times a week on the entire process. And once you get the initial start up costs out of the way, buying the tea and sugar is a nominal fee to keep up with. So what are you waiting for? Go start making that kombucha already!

Here’s a great place if you have any troubleshooting questions along the way.

 

Homemade Continuous Brew Kombucha
Recipe Type: Beverage
Cuisine: Kombucha
Author: Stacey Maaser
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 batches
Enjoy the health benefits of kombucha without the cost by making your own!
Ingredients
  • Brewing Jars – 2 to 4 gallon size glass jars, iced tea jars with spigots, or gallon sized mason jars
  • Tea Pot – A teapot with a wide mouth top so you can easily throw in your tea and sugar
  • Strainer – A mesh strainer for straining out the loose leaf tea
  • Filtered Water – Use a good water source because your scoby is alive and needs a healthy source of water
  • Bottles – 12 to 24 grolsh style flip top bottles for an airtight seal
  • Tea – Black, organic, loose leaf tea is best, use different teas (like red raspberry leaf) once your kombucha is established (about 4-6 weeks)
  • Sugar – Whatever sugar tickles your fancy, you’ll go through a lot of it, but you just need one cup per batch to get started
  • Scoby – Buy a scoby online or get one from a friend
Instructions
  1. Brew the Tea – Boil water, add a handful of loose leaf tea (or 8 tea bags), add one cup of sugar
  2. Let it Sit – Let the tea steep and then cool
  3. Scoby and Liquid – Put the scoby and the liquid it came with in your gallon sized jar
  4. Add the Tea and Water – Use the wire mesh strainer to filter out the loose tea
  5. Cover – Cover the glass jar with a folded paper towel or cheesecloth and a rubber band to let it breathe and keep out the bugs
  6. Store in a Dark Place – Let it sit undisturbed for 5-7 days
  7. Bottling – Pour the kombucha from your gallon glass jars into individual bottles
  8. Store the Bottles – Keep undisturbed for another 5-7 days for the second fermentation
  9. Move to the Refrigerator – Move the bottles you want to drink to the refrigerator

 


Embracing Motherhood How to Create an Environment that Encourages Independence, Creativity, and Learning

How to Create an Environment that Encourages Independence, Creativity, and Learning

When I was an elementary school teacher and now as a parent of four young children, I have always believed that creating an environment conducive to learning was one of the most important things I could do (after making my students and children feel loved that is.)

quote-i-never-teach-my-pupils-i-only-attempt-to-provide-the-conditions-in-which-they-can-learn-albert-einstein-282667

Before I became a stay at home mom, I taught at an I.B. school that focused on backwards design and the inquiry model of instruction. These are two things that I believe in strongly and have carried over into my parenting philosophy. In my classroom, I worked very hard to create an environment and a system that could almost run itself. We would spend the beginning of the year going over rules and expectations, and then I would gradually release responsibility and encourage them to become independent learners as I guided them to find their individual intrinsic motivators. In the pictures below, notice the cooperative learning modules, the comfortable little nooks and learning areas, the use of the wall space, the vibrant colors, the plants, and the clean, organized, and warm environment.

third grade classroom

Front of the Room Teacher Station

third grade classroom

Looking Out the Windows in My Classroom

third grade classroom

Looking Towards the Back of My Classroom

third grade classroom

The Back Corner of My Classroom

third grade classroom

Chalkboard Area in My Classroom

third grade classroom

Learning Wall

IMG_0506

Vocabulary Wall and Plants

third grade classroom

My Students Learning with Laptops

third grade classroom

Kids Working with Pattern Blocks

third grade classroom

My Mom Dissecting Hearts with My Students

third grade classroom

Dressing Up for a Reader’s Theater Play

In my home, I have tried to create the same warm, nurturing, organized, creative, and stimulating environment that will promote independent learning at every turn. Don’t get me wrong, I love cuddling with my kids and finding teachable moments to help guide them towards new understandings, it’s just that I don’t see them as empty vessels that need to be filled with whatever wisdom I can pour into them. I believe that they are embarking on a journey of self discovery and I see myself as their guide; the one who will shepherd them along and help them to find the right path. Listed below are the things I like to do in my home that help to create and facilitate an environment that promotes and encourages independent learning.

1. Organization Behind the Scenes

As the facilitator of my children’s learning, I need to have everything ready to go at a moment’s notice. Whenever one of them is inspired to paint, I want to be able to pull out all of the painting supplies lickety split. Or whenever I see the need to improvise a new learning station, I want to be able to quickly pull out materials and create something. I don’t have the luxury of lunch breaks and planning time anymore, I need to be able to guide, create, build, facilitate, and enjoy at a moment’s notice.

kids playing with creative manipulatives at a moments notice

Creative Play at a Moment’s Notice

That is why I love, love, love my cupboards that came with this house. I have my flashcards, construction paper, extra crayons and markers, board games, teaching tubs, craft supplies, and more neatly boxed, labeled, and organized so that I can get to what I need at a moment’s notice. (See my Amazon Store for my recommended Best Teaching Items.) The other day my parents spent the night so that my husband and I could have a Valentine’s date, and the next day my Mom and I spent the entire day reorganizing my cupboards. In doing so, it gave me the ability to continue creating at a moment’s notice in the future. I need times like that to completely reorganize everything. It feels so good!

Organized Cupboards Filled with Learning Supplies

Organized Cupboards Filled with Learning Supplies

2. Decide Which Supplies to Make Accessible

Depending on the age and “mess propensity” of my children, I keep different materials accessible at different levels. Our toddler has just discovered markers and loves coloring on the walls, refrigerator, tables, etc., so I’ve decided to keep those materials out of her reach. My oldest daughter and son, on the other hand, love being able to have the freedom to color and create on their own, so I have set up a table in my “homeschool room” that has coloring books, blank books, blank paper, colored paper, markers, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, tape and other odds and ends to allow them to have the freedom to create and design on their own.

organized table with craft supplies

Organized Homeschool Table

In my cupboards I keep the things that I want my older children to be able to access I keep on the lower shelves. That way, when inspiration strikes, they can take out what they need. I also have a bookshelf with book making supplies, reusable stickers, stamps, and more coloring books for them to use.

computer table and shelves organized with learning supplies for kids

Shelves Organized with Learning Supplies

Everything within reach of my toddler are things specifically designed for her. She can do the things that the older kids can do with guidance, but the things at her level are things that she can do independently.

3. Create Learning Stations at Tables

My “homeschool” table is the most versatile station that I have. It can be used for just about any project that we have in mind. We used to only have one table in our home, but I LOVE having this table set up just for arts and crafts. We have another table in our kitchen (it only seats three) that we use for eating and activities. On this table, I have a few coloring books, some crayons, markers, books, and some dry erase boards, books, and markers that the kids can do while I’m cooking or cleaning in the kitchen. In the kitchen we also have a little table with three little chairs. Sometimes my kids eat here, sometimes they do projects here, and sometimes I use it to set out some food for them to graze on. We do have a family dining table in the dining room that we keep cleared off and use just for family meal time.

kitchen table with learning placements and activity bins

Our Kitchen Table

kids using dry erase boards at the kitchen table

Kids Working at Our Kitchen Table

little kid table in the kitchen with learning strips and a cardboard bin of books

Little Kid Table in the Kitchen

I have a few others shorter coffee tables set up around the house as well. In our multipurpose room I have a coffee table set up that I rotate with different books and activities. Right now it has ABC blocks, a box with Basher books, a box with homemade books and cards, and a place for sheets that I’m working on with our toddler. I also made a short table by our homeschool table to house different activities. Right now it is winter, and our water pouring station has been an absolute favorite for our toddler. I have another table in our quiet room that has puzzles and ABC game boards. Even the coffee tables in our living room are learning stations. With posters on top, books underneath, and little chairs or a little couch to sit in, they are great for eating or doing projects.

kids using ABC learning tablets at a coffee table sitting on little stools

Coffee Table Learning Station

using little cutout figures for learning activities at a coffee table learning station

Coffee Table Learning Station

homemade table magnet learning station

Magnet Station at the Little Homemade Table

Play-Doh Station at a Little Homemade Table

Play-Doh Station at the Little Homemade Table

Write On Wipe Off Station at the Little Table

Write On Wipe Off Station at the Little Table

toddler pouring water using little fancy cups

Indoor Water Pouring Station

toddler stacking at a coffee table learning station

Ophelia Stacking Letters at a Coffee Table Learning Station

4. Tips for Creating Learning Stations

When I create learning stations around the house, I want them to be interactive, fun, engaging, and have some element of learning. The simplest learning station might be some ABC games on a coffee table, and a more complex learning station might be a box with dry beans, cups, and shovels for some fine motor skill work. I like to place small chairs or stools next to the table so that the children can sit if they’d like. I find that my older children like to sit and the younger one likes to stand. When she stands, it’s just the right height!

toddler standing and Coloring at a Little Coffee Table Learning Station

Ophelia is Standing and Coloring at this Little Coffee Table Learning Station

child Sitting and Writing at a Little Coffee Table Learning Station

Ruby is Sitting and Writing at this Little Coffee Table Learning Station

Some other things the kids have enjoyed as a learning station are puzzles, stacking cups, markers and coloring books, dry erase boards and markers, board games, themed books, and more. To help me organize materials for these stations, I save our Amazon boxes and label them with white stickers. Basically, anything I have a lot of can become a station. For example, we collect all birthday, Christmas, and any other type of cards we get in the mail and save them in a little box called “Cards”. The kids love reading through them all.

5. Create Stations on the Floor That Facilitate Imaginative Play

Right now, all of our children are five and under, so they all pretty much can enjoy the same toys. One of their favorite things to do is to play with little houses and figurines. These are things I have picked up at garage sales and thrift stores over the years. They love using their imaginations to bring their characters to life and have them interact in these different scenarios. At times, I play with them to give them some ideas for what their characters could do, but this is something where their imaginations take over and they could play alone or with each other for hours. I like to organize the different baskets of characters that we have a lot of and keep them in different rooms. So for example, you’ll find baskets of dinosaurs, My Little Ponies, and big robots separate from the rest.

Little Bins of Toys Neatly Organized in Every Room

Little Bins of Toys Neatly Organized in Every Room

child playing with little figures and a batman house

Imaginative Play with a Housing Type Structure

Play Area with a Dollhouse and Little Figures

Play Area with a Dollhouse and Little Figures

road rug defines play space with bin of cars, train tracks, and little reading chair and books

A Road Rug Defines this Play Space

Our Living Room has a Little Toy Area in Front of the Fireplace

Our Living Room has a Little Toy Area in Front of the Fireplace

treehouse used for imaginative play

This Type of Housing Structure is Perfect for Imaginative Play

little toy figures used in imaginative play

A Bin of Little Figure Toys Perfect for Imaginative Play

6. Create a Dress Up Station for Role Playing

I also like to use closet spaces for stations as well. The kids LOVE our dress up station. I am always hitting up thrift stores around Halloween to get the best costumes for our collection. I’ve also found some pretty good garage sales that were getting rid of a lot of costumes for $1 each. The kids especially love this little nook in this closest where I’ve hung all of our hats. Being able to display things attractively makes them that much more fun to play with!

hats hanging on a wall in the corner of a closet for dress up

Little Hat Station Tucked in the Corner of a Closet

dress up costumes for a boy

Superhero Dress Up Clothes

7. Tips for Organizing Toys

Rather than having one big room for all of the toys, I like to spread them around the house. In doing so, part of each room is designated for both adults and children, and we can all enjoy ourselves no matter where we are! This also really helps with cleaning because I can get the kids distracted by a project in another room while I clean up the mess from the room they were just in! I very rarely buy anything new. I’m always looking for good baskets at thrift stores and garage sales to organize things and many things simply get housed in old Amazon boxes! When getting baskets for toys, make sure they are low. Kids only like to play with the toys they can see.

If things are buried, they will not get played with. Every toy has a home. I arrange all of the little houses and figurines in sets and keep them together. This requires a little sorting from time to time as things tend to migrate from room to room, but it is worth it.

little bin to organize little figure toys

Little Figures Organized in a Bin

baby toys organized in a box

Baby Toys Organized in a Box

8. Create Comfortable Reading Stations

Yes, we have a bookshelf, but it’s basically a storehouse for books. The baskets of books that I strategically place around the house are what actually gets used on a regular basis. I like to set up little chairs and baskets of books around the house to encourage reading at any given moment. I also like to put books by any beds in the house and near any couches. Whenever you sit down and get comfortable, it would just be the worst if you didn’t have something to read! I like to go through all of our books on a semi regular basis. This is a time when I can repair damaged books, re-shelf books that aren’t being read, arrange the books so they all neatly fit in the baskets with the covers facing out, and organize the books based on where the baskets are and who is reading them. (Check out my blogs How to Raise Children Who WANT to Read and How Children Really Learn to Read for more information about teaching children how to read. Also, check out my blog Oral Language Development…More Important Than You Think for some ideas about helping your child with one of the biggest precursors to reading.)

books being sorted into different baskets for kids to read

Reorganizing Kid Books into Various Baskets

little couch and table with map placemats in the living room with basket of books nearby

This Little Couch Gets a Lot of Use

toddler sitting in a chair and independently reading from a basket of books

Accessible Books get Read Independently

IMG_3982

Reading Before Bed is a Special Nightly Routine

These little chairs and basket of books make an instant reading station anywhere.

Little Chairs and a Basket of Books

9. Use Your Walls

It’s more than just slapping a poster on the wall, it’s about creating a space on the wall where kids can interact and learn. I am constantly rearranging my wall space based on what they kids are interested in and what they interact with. If I have an ABC poster on the wall, and I never see anyone using it to say the ABCs, I will move it to a better location or change it out with something else. Sometimes, kids need to see what it looks like to interact with the walls and so I’ll sit down with them from time to time and we’ll look at things together.

IMG_3897-e1415817528499-225x300

Letter Magnets on the Fridge get Used all the Time

Flashcards Taped on the Dresser and the Wall

Flashcards Taped on the Dresser and the Wall

hand made alphabet poster on the refrigerator

Using Chart Paper to Make My Own Posters

10. Rearrange As Needed

It’s not about getting the perfect set up and leaving it that way indefinitely, it’s about keeping things fresh, new, and engaging. When I see that an area or a station isn’t getting used anymore, I’ll rearrange it with something new. Sometimes just seeing things in a new configuration can be exciting. Especially during these long winter months, I know that I need to keep this indoor environment as exciting as possible. Every few weeks or so I like to find something to rearrange. It could be something simple like changing a learning station or moving some toys around, or it could be something drastic like moving the furniture from one room to another.

11. Why I Don’t Believe in “Playrooms”

I know that it can seem tempting to designate one room in the house as a “play room”, a place to keep all of the children’s things, a place where the door can be shut on the mess and hidden out of sight from company, and a place where the kids can go to create a mess. But there are several reasons why I disagree with this concept. First of all, part of creating an environment that stimulates learning is that I don’t need to be right there by my children’s sides as they play, learn, discover, and grow. But even though I don’t need to interact with them every single second, I like to be close by so that I can be there to give a gentle nudge when needed. I may need to solve a disagreement between siblings, help a child who is frustrated with a certain activity, be there at an opportune teachable moment to provide guidance, or assess what they are capable of doing independently as I think of new learning stations.

All Together in One Room

All Together in One Room

Having a playroom that is segregated from the other areas of the house may encourage you to be separated from your children more than you’d think. As much as it would be nice to just stay in the playroom and be with your children giving them your complete and undivided attention, I’m sure you’ve got stuff to do! As a busy momma with clothes to fold, dishes to do, a blog to write, and more stations to organize and create, I like to be near my children as they play, learn and discover while also tending to the things that I need to do. I love it when I can multitask by folding clothes while checking in on my toddler at her water station, putting the dishes away while helping my four year old with his Starfall game, and spelling words for my five year old as she writes a mini book while I prepare dinner. In addition, it’s not good for kids to hover over them constantly while they play. In order to learn how to be independent, they need to have independence in a guided situation.

In Conclusion

By creating an environment that stimulates learning and creative play, you will always have things to do at the drop of a hat. The other day, my oldest daughter’s school was suddenly canceled due to the weather. She had a blast staying at home going from one learning station to the next. It was so easy for me to keep her, my four year old, and my toddler all busy and engaged with different activities while I tended to the baby, prepared food, cleaned up, and guided each child along with their activities. To be honest, I was surprised at how much I got done and how engaged they were throughout the day. Putting in the time to create all of these learning and play stations really makes everything very manageable. With a little planning, a keen eye at garage sales and thrift stores, and some time set aside for organization, you’ll have your own independent learning and play stations ready to go, and you’ll be so glad you did!

Click here to read my blog about the importance of creative and imaginative play, and here to read my blog about Tools of the Mind, which is a preschool and kindergarten program that centers on play.

*Click here to see a video tour of our house. I’m always rearranging and changing things around, but you’ll notice all of the little play areas set up throughout the house.