Inside: Here is an educational (and surprisingly meditative) activity to do around Thanksgiving to feel like an early settler: weave a nutting basket, i.e. a basket for gathering nuts.
A few hundred years ago, fall was the time of the year when kids headed for the forest (probably unsupervised, lol 🙂 to collect acorns, beechnuts, black walnuts, chestnuts, and butternuts. No surprise, this was called nutting.
They carried nutting baskets made of honeysuckle vines and willow wands. And when they returned with their wild harvest, they roasted the chestnuts, pulped beechnuts for the oil used in cooking and lamps, and grounded acorns into a flour to be used in place of wheat. Those contributions were essential to bolstering the total food supply.
So we thought it might be fun to be like the early settlers and make ourselves nutting baskets. But, of course, instead of honeysuckle vines and willow wands, we selected to use modern supplies we already had in the house – pipe cleaners and yarn.
After you are done, you can use the baskets to pass each other love notes because what’s thanksgiving is for if not for expressing love for the people we have in our lives?
While weaving nutting baskets, your kids will:
- Practice fine motor skills,
- Improve hand-eye coordination,
- Enhance mental and physical focus,
- Boost curiosity, creativity, and engagement, and
- Develop higher-level thinking skills like visualization, problem-solving, and getting the big picture.
You may also, as we did, discover that weaving is incredibly meditative and relaxing. It’s a fun activity to do when things get hectic and you need a bit of zen in your life. This meditative element is also a wonderful lesson in self-calming to pass on to your kids.
How to Weave a Nutting Basket
What you need
Twine or yarn (we used a variety of colors)
Five 12-in (30-cm) pipe cleaners (per basket)
(Optional) A grapefruit, apple, lemon or a small ball (it helps to make it even)
What to do
Step 1: Preparing pine cleaners for weaving
(1) Make a letter X shape with three pipe cleaners on one side and two on the other.
Weave a twine around the center of the cross to lash them together.
(3) Cut one spoke off and keep it to make a handle.
(4) Spread the remaining nine spokes an even distance apart and keep them flat.
Step 2: Weaving
(5) Begin weaving the twine, alternating under and over, under and over, continuing until you have a circle about 2-inches in diameter. This is the foundation of the basket.
(6) Bend the spokes up, leaving the foundation flat, and keep weaving.
We found that it helps to use something round (like a pomegranate) and weave around it. A round object prevents pulling the twine too tightly or letting it get too loose while sticking to the rounded shape of a basket.
Note on colors:
Feel free to change the color of the twine or yarn at any point. Simply snip it off, tie a different thread to the end, and keep going. The possibilities are endless
Step 3: Attach a Handle
(7) Keep weaving until your basket is your desired size, and then leave two spokes up for the handle, and bend the rest inward.
(8) Cut the twine and tuck the tail under the nearest pressed-down spoke.
(9) Take the handle piece (from #3 in the Step 1 above) and twist one end of it with one of the handle stubs. Repeat with the other hand and the remaining handle stub.
We enjoyed this project so much that we ended up making more and more baskets. Now we have quite a selection! Once kids make one of these, they’ll be able to visualize the process and might have lots of ideas about color schemes and even different shapes.
P.S. If you have little kids who are not ready for weaving, print out our Thanksgiving color-by-number to keep them busy while you are working on your baskets.
The Science of Early Settlers
We started this new school year by learning more about the Early Settlers in America. I don’t know about you, but I find the whole topic utterly fascinating. Nothing boosts the appreciation of modern life comforts more than imagining, for just a minute, the daily grind of colonial life 🙂
We failed to find one good book to discuss science in colonial times, but after some research, I realized there was a lot of science under the surface of colonial living. For example, they had to understand the physical and chemical changes of matter to figure out a way to make soap, butter, candles, and bread. It may seem simple now, but it took humans thousands of years to perfect these skills.
Here are some experiments that will go well with your Colonial exploration:
The Science of Repetitive Motion
Just like yoga, walking, meditation, knitting, and Tai chi, the act of weaving is a repetitive physical act that allows us to enter a meditative state. This works in several ways.
As we weave, our minds easily and naturally slip into a passive, calm mode. There’s a decreased activity in the areas of the brain involved in self-referential thinking, such as rumination, judgment, worrying, and self-criticism.
Instead, the passive, repetitive motion stimulates your brain to release mood-enhancing neurochemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which in turn lead to feelings of relaxation and contentedness.
It all reminds me of my grandma, who used to knit for hours. The needles went click-click-clicking late into the night as she worked on yet another oversized Scandinavian sweater for a long winter ahead. And as I lay in bed next to her knitting chair, I slipped gently into the land of dreams, lulled by the comforting rhythm.
I didn’t know at the time that my Grandma, and early settlers, had actually discovered a healthier alternative to Prozac 🙂
Are you looking for more Mindfulness activities?
Check out mindfulness jars, the most important reasons to practice mindfulness with your kids, a guide to mindful parenting, and a ton of mindfulness printables like Mindfulness Scavenger Hunts for Inside and Outside, a simple yoga game, and a rainbow breathing exercise.