This page has moved to a new address.

Natural Kids

Natural Kids: October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Feature with Birchleaf Designs

Tell us little about yourself!

We are Mojo, Wendy, Kiah, Milo, and Zora the wonder dog...Benji's lesser known twin sister. I bet you didn't know Benji even had a twin sister! Yah, we live 2 miles back dere in da woods, eh? Up dere in da Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We live off the grid and use solar power for all our operations. We homeschool, live, love, work and learn nestled amongst the hemlocks. This may sound a bit weird, but we love to meet new folks and encourage visitors! If you ever need to 'get away' from the crazy hubbub, be sure to give us a jingle.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?

We like to make piles of wood in the woods...all kinds of wood; fire wood, slab wood, sauna wood, hot tub fire wood, bonfire wood, cookstove wood, heating stove wood, rotton wood, and oh and we make lots of sawdust in the workshop. We make a lot of ski tracks in the wintertime and a lot of syrup and snowshoe tracks in the springtime and we do lots of festivals and art shows in the summertime. But when we are not working with our firewood or bees or maple syrup, we are making buttloads of swords and shields and steamers and other natural playthings for children and adults. It was all Kiah's idea to "set up a booth at blissfest ( and sell stuff". After much discussion it was decided that we make children's toys. At the time, Kiah was 5 1/2, she's now 9.

What inspires you?

The thing that inspires us most is the burning fire that comes from inside our very souls! Also, Laughter. Love. Nature. Teachers. Elders. and Kiah really wanted to add "being funny".

What got you started working with --------?

Well, we don't work with --------, but we do work with wood, silk, wool, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve (, some leather, our bees, we work with the tractor every know and then, and we work with a chainsaw a lot (see answer #2). It was all Kiah's fault to work with the children's toys (see answer #2)!

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?

Our love affair with Etsy began back in December 2007. Etsy's just great, I tell you, just great! It brings in a much needed income that allows us to be right were we want to be...home.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?

Like, list what you got and, like, don't list things you are out of. Because, then, like, you get an order for, like. something you don't have and, like, you have to make it like, right then and there and still, like, ship it out the like, next day. OMG!

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the NaturalKids Team?

When I joined NaturalKids, I thought I was supposed to get a pair of *in your best infomercial voice*..."fabulous indestructable, kitchen shears! So strong, so sharp!"

You know, the ones where you can cut through a pop can or a quarter, and still be able to cut through grandmas finest linen with ease. No, really, a fierce sense of camaraderie! Being a part of Etsy's NaturalKids group is amazing! I feel like we have created a tight bond, as tight as a dread lock, between our natty sisters and brothers! We can bounce ideas off each other and support each other in ways that not only support our businesses, but our new-found friendships as well.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?

You can't get any more natural than nature. Being outside is the most important natural toy you can give your children! Even over our products! Yep. We admit it. But if you really want to replace that stick with a cool sword, we got one.

Your items can be found where:

You can find us on Etsy

But more of us can be found at festivals throughout Michigan and locally at our home or farmer's marquette. It is at these places (or by phone) that you can find the stuff we don't have listed online.

We have to tell you that this interview was so fun to answer! It was an entire family affair...all uf us gathered around the computer, our faces a-glow, trying to come up with the most goofiest answers. Much giggling and laughter was had by all! Thanks for the fun! But if you want to read our more standard, serious BirchLeaf Designs side, please go here: Thanks for reading!

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Team Blog Challenge Winners

To the NaturalKids Team Member's blog that brings in the most view to our website,, will receive a item from there shop feature on the Team Member Page!
Drum Roll........
And the winners are:

1st place: 25

2nd place: / referral 20

3rd place:

 / referral 14

Great job Everyone!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mini Monday - Little Elfs Toyshop

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Meet Kelly of Little Elfs Toyshop:

My name is Kelley and I make waldorf style dolls and toys and needle felted figurines. I do my best to use natural materials whenever possible, though some of my items do have materials that are synthetic. I love kids and making kids happy and have wanted to be a toy maker ever since I was a little girl. All of my toys are double sewn for best quality and are made with lots of love and care. I want these toys to last a long time so they can be loved for many, many moons.

I want to thank everyone for looking and for all your interest and support. If I can bring a smile to your face than I feel I'm doing my job well.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tutorial Thursday - Sweet Little White Ghosts.

Hi, I'm Donni of Fairyfolk. My blog is The Magic Onions. Today I'm going to show you how we made sweet little ghosts for Halloween.
Both my children love to play with my wool roving. I think they enjoy the feel of it... it's smoothness, it's lightness in their fingers. Wool is so wonderfully tactile and I find it soothes them. So, today, when the tensions from being stuck inside from the rain started to fray our nerves, I decided it was a good time for us to make Little White Ghosts...
 Make a sweet little white wool roving Halloween ghost with your children
It's a wonderfully simple activity, needing only white wool roving, a needle felting needle for me and some google eyes for fun.
Supplies needed to make a wool roving Halloween ghost
To make our ghosts, I gave each child a small tuft of wool about the size of a golf ball. They rolled the wool softly in their hands until a rough ball was formed. Then I used my needle felting needle to 'catch' the wool, securing it in place so that it kept it's round shape.
Needle felting a white wool roving Halloween ghost
Then I gave each child a tuft of wool about 3 times as long as the ball. They stroked this tuft flat, gently smoothing all the fibers in one direction (you don't really need to do this as the fibers are generally in the right direction, but it is a wonderfully soothing and calming action and children like this step immensely.)

Then the children held the long tuft in one hand and placed their ball in the center. They gently closed their hand, folding the longer tuft of wool over the ball.

With my needle felting needle, I once again secured the shape by poking it gently just a few times, smoothing around the 'head' of the ghost and leaving the 'tufty' bottom of the ghost free.

The children gave their ghosts eyes (the google eyes we have are self-adhesive but you would use a little glue if yours aren't)

I used a needle and thread to hang the ghosts and we found just the right spot for them on our porch. (You might notice that K didn't want hers to be scary like the others, yea right!, so I needle felted a smile onto his face).
Cute hanging wool roving needle felted Halloween ghostsThey are just wonderful little ghosts... they spin around happily in the breeze. We were all enchanted by them when we arrived home from a trip to the post office this afternoon. They were clearly excited to see us... twirling as if to say 'welcome, welcome... yay, you are home!'

Blessings and magic.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Ads for

Please note that you may vote for as many as you like and we will use a selection of the ones that get the highest votes. Do not focus on the font, that can be changed after we have our logo. You are just voting for the feel of the ad, the style.








Thursday, October 15, 2009

How to get crafty at snack time

It is Thursday and time for a tutorial, and I am Joshua the Dad of Dad's Wooden Toys. I could talk about woodworking and tools that you are unlikely to have in your home. But instead I would like to teach you something simple that has brought me a lot of joy since I was a little boy. This craft has now become a favorite activity of my own kids. With this craft you stand a good chance of having everything you need already in your kitchen.

Some of the fondest memories can be surprisingly easy to make. I still remember how excited I would get over 20 years ago when my mom would announce that we were going to have ants on a log. Perhaps many of you are familiar with the traditional recipe which is just celery, peanut butter, and raisins. My mom who always had more than her fair share of creativity didn't just make "ants on a log" we had "ants on a car" ,or "ants on a dragster". Now that I am a dad I have added "ants on a plane".

Here is what we will need:
  • Celery
  • Raisins (for passengers)
  • Peanut butter (to hold the passengers in place and for protein)
  • Carrots (preferably full size)
  • wooden tooth picks. (or uncooked spaghetti)
  • knife
  • Scissors

For the simplest of vehicles all we need is to add 4 wheels to the celery "frame". Wheels of course are made by cutting cross sections of your carrot. Take a tooth pick and run it through the first carrot then through the celery and out the other side where the second wheel is put on. Then using the scissors cut off any part of the toothpick that sticks out beyond the wheel. repeat this for the back wheels. I like to put an extra small wheel on the top as a steering wheel. Viola, you have an edible car! It recently occurred to me that if you wanted the creation to be total edible you could use raw spaghetti instead of the tooth picks however since the spaghetti is more fragile you may still want a tooth pick around to make the initial hole in the hard carrot and celery, you could then hopefully get the spaghetti into the carrot without it breaking.

Now that we all know we could make an easy car that is sure to be a hit with the kids, we can begin to add some pizzaz. Give your creativity a chance to really shine. With a few extra raisins your car turns into a bus. Cut a carrot length wise into a board and and with a toothpick in each corner to suspend it you now have a roof for your car. There are so many possibilities. The plane is made much the same way. We start with the celery stick and cut a couple of carrots into slices length wise. Find two that can be trimmed to the same size and then round the ends . These are our wings. We will need a few more flat carrot boards for the tail wings, and some skinny long slices for the propeller. Remember that the wing slices must be thick enough to receive the toothpick. You will be sticking the tooth pick into the flat end of the carrot wing deep enough to stay put, then trim the toothpick short enough that it won't stick out the far side of the celery which is the body of the plane, and stick it in, repeat for the other wing. I put my propellers onto another carrot coin and one toothpick stabbed through them all sticks the propellers to the front of the plane. The wheels for the plane are not difficult but they are probably the most challenging part of this simple creation. After sticking a wheel on each end of an appropriately sized toothpick to create what looks like a dumbbell, stick two more toothpicks into the wheels each pointing up and inward almost completing a triangle. Those two upper points then push into the bottom of the plane and you have attached the wheels . There you have it an edible aircraft. Add peanut butter and raisins to suit.I guarantee the kids will enjoy it. I do suggest that you take a picture or two of your creation especially if you decide to get elaborate since in the end all the evidence will be eaten!! If your kids are older than mine, perhaps they would enjoy it if you just cut the materials for them and then let them build their own custom machines. I should give fair warning to those of you who enjoy crafts not be surprised if you get a little carried away. There is so much that can be done with other veggies and fruit like radishes, and apples to increase your possibilities. Radishes make great wheels or a small slice of the side of a round radish makes a neat red hubcap for a carrot wheel. Go have fun playing with your food! If you get inspired and do this with your kids or on your own, we would love to see a link to the happy kids and creative vehicles in the comments section.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Natural Family Living Wednesday- Nature Corner

When I was asked to write this week's Natural family Living post I started pondering what exactly that term meant to me. It's hard for me to put into words the hodgepodge of feelings that term conjures up. I want my children to respect the earth, learn about nature and appreciate its beauty. I also want them to be able to grow and develop naturally and have a nice long childhood full of imagination, learning and play. Hoping to encourage these ideals we decided to create a nature corner in our home. It seemed a very simple thing-to just dedicate a shelf or corner somewhere to display items from the season, but it has enriched our lives more than I anticipated.
We started by creating a little "tree" from a fallen branch. We decorated the tree with wool according to the season, and place all sorts of found objects from our walks around the base. It has been a wonderful reminder for us to pay attention and appreciate the little things. Children already have a natural inclination to gather things on walks-almost like they want to capture the feeling of being outdoors. My kids loved to find the perfect acorn and prettiest leaves to bring in, and having a nature corner made the gathering even more fun. We always liked to have a creature such as a gnome or squirrel in our nature corner. Sometimes that creature would leave presents for my kids. Sometimes my kids would leave presents for their creature. I started making new characters and items out of wool or other natural materials to surprise my kids. As my kids got older they wanted to do the making and creating. Having a nature corner has truly been a blessing for us. It has encouraged us to get outside, to slow down and celebrate the changing of the seasons. It has helped to nurture my kids' imaginations and encouraged us all to create.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mini Monday - Down In the Meadow Market

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Meet Suzanne of Down In the Meadow Market:

My name is Suzanne. If you are a treasure finder, a lover of pure wool then down in the meadow market is the place for you to browse. Here you will find treasures made with pure wools, mohair, angora and merino. It will leave you feeling like you have just walked through a country fair....


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tutorial Thursday


A wonderful way to dye with low impact on the earth is to use natural plant materials, this works well on wool and natural fibers like cotton or hemp. Plants vary widely so plant dyeing can be a test of time and amounts, gently adjusting your concoctions to get the results you want. If your dye bath turns out too light check the amount of fixative you're using or up the ratio of plant matter to water and remember every plant is different!

Plant Materials For Dyeing

Try beets for pink, English Ivy for a nice green, Blackberries make an excellent purple, Onion skins make a fabulous harvest yellow, the indigo plant is the surefire blue (not that I have one in my backyard...) Walnut husks are a dark black, Coffee grounds make a great brown with a lot of rinsing thereafter.... try blends of these plant materials, see what you like, see what you can come up with!

Ratios and Fixatives (sounds fancy, huh?)

I have heard varying suggestions for plant matter to water ratio but I would say what works best for me is one part plant matter to two parts water. Salt and vinegar both make nice dye fixatives but the traditional stand by is vinegar for vegetables, salt for berries.
In all honesty I must say I dump in what I think looks right, about a quarter cup salt and or vineagar per average medium boiling pot - trust yourself and have fun above all!

Prepare your plant matter with a rough chop or mash depending on what you are using (for onion skins I have mine drying in a net while I collect them, those I do not chop or mash) bring water to a boil and add plant matter. I let it boil for a minute or three and then turn it down to a simmer for about twenty. Then with a strainer I scoop out the plant material add vineagar and immerse my fabric/fiber in the colored water. I let my material 'cook' at a low to medium low heat for about thirty minutes, remove fiber with a strainer, rinse in cool water, squeeze with a towel and hang to dry. I have mostly been dyeing wool lately and am enjoying needle felting and spinning with what I have dyed. I have also recently tried the koolaid dye instructions from a recent Tutorial Thursday by natty kids member Fairy Folk , you should check it out, especially if you are reading this because you are interested in dyeing, it is great fun!

Every piece you come up with intended or not is your own art form, it is different then anything else anyone could make becasue every plant is different from every other, every blend or splash of vinegar is your own creative expression and every effort put forth is an education to furthering your development and learning...So Don't forget! The big rule is Trust Yourself and above all Have Fun!!! Happy Plant Dyeing Natty Kids Tribe!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mini Monday - Tumbleberry Toys

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Meet Jen of Tumbleberry Toys:

I am a busy, home schooling mother of four. I love to make things.

I used to always beg my mother when I was little to let me make things, but always got frustrated with the finished junky "craft."

When I was older and had my own money to buy materials, I discovered how much funner it was to make things of high quality, all natural, albeit expensive, materials.

Knitting and doll making remain my two favorite crafting outlets. Years ago I started a quest to create the perfect doll, some results turning out better that others. When I discovered the Waldorf style of doll making, I was immediately hooked. The sweet faces, lovely yarn hair, wool stuffing, and playable finished product, and exciting creative process keeps me wanting to make more.

On top of that, my children, and all the other children I have met and made things for, are the most delightful recipients of handmade gifts. It feels so good to give a lovingly created item to those special little ones in your life.



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Friday Feature with Rumpos

Tell us little about yourself!
My name is Mary Ann Hudson. I have been married for over 10 years to a nerd with horn-rimmed glasses and have a funny red-haired little boy named Gus. I have an MFA in poetry and am in school to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. I live for when the mail comes and for stolen time where I can read for pleasure.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?
I make playscapes from a variety of natural materials--wool, linen, cotton, and vintage. The construction is similar to quilts--except with 3D elements. I also make quilts, bags, and housewares (for a "grown-ups" shop, and lots of the stuff we need at home (clothes , housewares, and utility items). We're the original "make do and mend" family and are highly resistant to buying anything new when we can thrift or make it. I also make poetry, which is necessary to life. I've been writing since I could, and I've been sewing for a few years (but have always had my hands in some kind of making).

What inspires you?
Nature, and how people and, especially, kids use things.

What got you started working with playscapes?
A friend's magical daughter got me into playscape making. This little girl has the biggest imagination and sense of narrative play than anyone I've ever met (including some famous writers). She and her beautiful family are very inspiring, and my first playscape was created for her and in honor of her ideas for it. I think all the best things start with wanted to do something rad for someone you love.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?
I became a buyer in early summer 2007, looking for a handmade amber teething necklace for my son, and made my first sale shortly after I opened in February of 2009--so I'm not even a year-old business yet. As a buyer, etsy is the most accessible way possible to get my hands on handmade for gifts and living I can think of--it's that accessibility that has added a real stone to the foundation of this wonderful handmade movement we're all a part of. We all part of a long human history of making and the commerce of it, but after mega-industry took over the commercial world and somehow convinced us to adapt disposable lifestyles, making became relegated to county craft fairs and something your great aunt did instead of something you thought to do first before you ran to the closest big box store. Etsy creates ordinary accessibility to both extraordinary and everyday things. Fine art and reusable paper towels are all in the same place for anyone with an internet connection. It's something big that allows an individual to stay small enough to run an ethical, thoughtful, and sustainable business. I opened on etsy, in part, so I could participate in what it's trying to do. I've met some truly remarkable people, been able to grow a satisfying micro-business, stay busy and creative, and have the kind of freedom to be exactly the kind of business I could never be in a brick and mortar, or even in a stand-alone web business. I can barter and trade, change up my inventory at will, price fairly, and source my materials with other micro-businesses.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?

Be patient with organic business growth. I started with a single, well-thought out listing because I didn't have any other stock to photograph. When it sold, I had two sets of photographs and so another listing--and so on. Word of mouth (or word of blog) really does work, and often much better, than paid advertising, so treat every customer like they have the ability to communicate with 1,000 other eager buyers. Do only what you love, and would love to do for those who you love. Pay attention to what your people want--I realized, after creating a set of ready-to-ship stock that was slow selling (and so now, very much on sale in the shop), that what my customers really liked about what I offered was that it was so custom and could be created for them at a personal level.
That said, I did open a sister shop of housewares and bags that is all ready stock--but I did it to have fun and from a place and theme very dear to me. That experience is starting slow too, but it doesn't matter because the process has been so rewarding for me. I know that I have kindred spirits out there and they will find my shop in time. It really does have to be fun or you'll start thinking like a cigar-smoking, suit-y, business stiff. I don't think they have fun when they raze farmland, cripple local businesses, and build big box stores.

What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?
Some of the most loving and creative mentors I've ever had are business people in this co-op. I learn something everyday from the forums; I have changed inefficient business practices based on personal communications with partners in the co-op; I have improved my skills and products based on inspiration I have received looking at partners' products and trading and buying from partners; and I have, overall, become more professional and focused due to my membership in this group. I think it's important that like-minded people with similar values in the world of commerce support and network with each other--it's a kind of personal-level strength. I am always ahead of the curve in terms of practical considerations like labeling, sourcing, and documenting. My membership is utterly invaluable. More, the imaginative, kid-friendly, mama-positive vibe is perfect energy for creating.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?
Putting on my pediatrics hat, remember that when *you* think that a toy must be boring because it is gently colored with "only" the colors that come from nature, that children see a wider and much brighter spectrum of colors than adults. When you're confused by a toy that doesn't seem to *do* anything and doesn't have a place to stick a battery in, understand that children's sensory system is indescribably more sensitive than your own and that the grain of sanded bees-wax rubbed wood, and fuzz of felted trees, and the enigmatic face of a simple doll is incomprehensibly stimulating to the hands and face and mind of a child, who, after all, hasn't been here so long and never expected to have to encounter and process hard, stinky plastic that makes loud noises with crazy light shows for no conceivable reason.

We don't give children the credit and respect they deserve--their narrative understanding is deeply rich when given the barest of tools (a knitted donkey, a wooden boat), and has a greater reign when unconfined by pre-designed, corporate characters and specific uses for play. Natural toys have both breadth and depth--a well-made doll that feels good and warm in the hands is a companion, a co-pilot, a character to work out personal dramas, and a pillow. Honestly, kids don't really *need* toys when they have daily access to loving people and the outdoors, but toys can be an important tool as they play their way through the lessons that they need to grow. The best tools, we know, are well-made and no more complicated than needed for the job at hand. Toys are not magic, children are magic. Toys are not the source for entertainment and learning, we are, people are. The best toys celebrate the normal, everyday magic of children and are easy tools for play between people. And you know, kids are totally impressed by handmade, love to see and touch things they know someone has made themselves, and are encouraged to make things, too.

Your items can be found where:
"grown-ups" :

Interview by Beccijo of The Enchanted Cupboard