Forest kindergarten

Imagine being at a school where you look up and see, not a ceiling, but a canopy of leaves and branches high above you.


Or being told you can shout all you want – just shout out into the forest. Where you can climb trees, use a saw or pocket knife to cut wood, fashion your own seesaw out of a rope and logs, and watch the lifecycle of bugs and birds in real time.

That's what it's like for children at a "forest kindergarten," where I spent a serene morning one day last week when I visited Germany. 


The way into the forest was magical, with birds singing everywhere. The trees were high, stately, and utterly humbling. I really felt as though there is practically no better way to spend your days as a child than this. 


I was in Europe because I got a book deal (hence the recent silence on this blog – I have been busy!) to write a book about parenting around the world. I went to Germany and also visited Finland, where I met friends, spoke with children of all ages, and was able to speak at length with many teachers. I also enjoyed the food (berries! bread! porridge!) and the beautiful Nordic summer sunlight.


Visiting schools gave me a fresh perspective on how different children live all around the world. For instance, the primary school students I spoke with in Finland told me that they have only four hours of school on Fridays, and that they get a LOT of recess.

I enjoyed seeing the children's artwork as well. Below are a few pictures of primary school art from the schools I visited in both Germany and Finland. I love the birch tree representations below – they bring back memories of the beautiful birches I saw in Finland. 



I took my two little girls with me on this trip, and while my schedule was really busy, we had time to take long walks.



If you have something to share about what life is like for parents and children where you live, let me know via email or a comment – I'd really love to hear from you!



Blue, blue hat

Oh….has it been this long since I've posted? Over two months? I can't believe it! A computer crash, camera problems, another international move, six family members felled one by one by winter colds…'s been quite a hectic last few months. But here I am again.

I'll keep this brief for now, but want to share this hat – another one of those fun, gratifying, one-day projects I love so much.


Anna is modeling the hat (and just like the toddler she is, she moves so quickly I can barely capture her on camera), but it's actually sized for a six or seven year old child. I made it for a friend's little girl, who is going through chemotherapy right now and needs something warm to wear on her head. She loves blue, blue in all shades but navy.


I'd been looking for the perfect yarn for a few months now, and was thrilled to find this at a local yarn shop yesterday because it combines so many beautiful shades of blue. Cornflower blue, sky blue, even a bit of lavender. The yarn is Cascade Bulky Alpaca Paints – and I used less than one skein – casting on 60 stitches on a size 10 needle. Perfect project for these snowy snowy days!

The last first birthday

Anna is our last baby, so it was a poignant thing to celebrate her first birthday. First birthdays are big in Korean culture, and all our other children had a dol, or Korean first birthday ceremony, where they sit in front of a low table piled high with fruit, rice cakes, and symbolic items. Everyone watches while they choose one item which, according to tradition, predicts their future life. Noodles or thread: longevity. A calligraphy brush: a writer. Pencil: a scholar. Knitting needles or scissors: nimble with the hands, perhaps a career involving handwork. Money: a head for business. And so forth.

I wrote this post for Mothering's community blog on why we almost didn't do this ceremony for Anna, but are glad we did. More pictures from our day are below. Tell me how you celebrate birthdays in your family!







The sight of a little person in muddy rainboots never fails to cheer me up immensely. It's even better when the little person is stomping around in actual mud puddles in actual rain, but I've yet to figure out how to take my beloved camera out in the rain. Any suggestions?

There are, really, so many moments in life I am unable to capture, because I'm too busy living them instead. But I'm trying my best to learn to take snapshots in my head – to frame a scene and capture a fleeting moment in memory. These images are impossible to share. Perhaps they're not meant to be shared? The historian in me (yes, that's what I was in years past) longs to do something with them though – write about them, document them, archive them, sketch them, capture them in a poem; somehow and in some way I just want to mark the significance of small moments.

The stamp giveaway winner is….

Ana, of I Made It So, according to  (Check out her latest blog post, which includes a free PDF of her own craft supply labels). Congratulations! And thanks everyone for the comments – it was really interesting for me to see what kinds of crafts you'd like to learn. I'd like to get better at sewing, perhaps pick up quilting, and do more papercutting. Glass etching and woodcarving would be pretty interesting, too!

Malabrigo hat pattern

Here's a super quick pattern for a child's hat made of Malabrigo worsted yarn, or any other worsted yarn that will get you 4.5 stitches to the inch. 


It's so fast to knit up – perfect for time-challenged, perpetually busy people like me. I'm using the same yarn in another colorway for a poncho I'm making for M, and it was starting to feel a bit never-ending, so I took a break and made this hat. It only took one day! If I can do it, you can surely do it too. You can embellish it any way you like: with a pom pom or tassels, with embroidery (which I think would be so pretty), or a simple crocheted flower like this one.

Here's the pattern. This hat is 10 inches across (20 inch circumference). It fits my almost 4 year old daughter's head with room to spare, so it could either be sized down by casting on 10 fewer stitches, or using a smaller needle for the rib to make it more snug. You can also size it up to fit an adult. 

Using a 16 inch number 9 circular needle, cast on 90 stitches. Being careful not to twist your stitches, join the stitches and use a stitch marker to mark the beginning of each new round.

Knit in 1×1 rib (knit one, purl one) for 8 rounds (or more if you want a folded up brim). After you finish the 8th row, knit in stockinette (all knit stitches) for 4 more inches (more if you are knitting for an adult).

Begin decreases at the beginning of the next round: Knit 8, then knit 2 together. Knit 8 more, and 2 together. Continue this way for the rest of the round.

Continue decreasing as follows (switch to double pointed needles as the hat gets smaller):

Next round: knit 7, and knit 2 together, knit 7, and 2 together for the rest of the round. 

Next round: knit 6, knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: knit 5, knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: knit 4, knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: knit 3, knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: knit 2, knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: knit 1, knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: knit 2 together, repeat until you reach the end of the round.

Next round: cut a 12 inch tail, thread onto a needle, gather up the remaining stitches with the thread, pull tight in the center, and weave in the loose end. 

Embellish as you like with a pom pom, embroidery, or felted or crocheted flowers. Here are two clear tutorials for crocheted flowers: this, or this

This is a good way to practice knitting in the round if you're a beginning knitter, and it would make a nice handmade holiday gift!

Knitting for babies

Last year, you may recall, I was infatuated – obsessed, really – with tiny knitting projects. Here's one I finished up a few days after A was born, which was the last good chunk of knitting I got done until just recently. At that time, it seemed long and impossibly big, but I took it out recently and now – she's just turned one –  it fits her just about perfectly. 


Knitting is so labor-intensive, you want whatever you're making to be wearable for as long as possible. But children grow, and grow, and grow, don't they?! When I knitted this (and by the way, the free pattern is here), I thought about the things I've learned over all the years of knitting for little people that I've done and made adjustments. These are some of the things I try to keep in mind when I'm doing a new project for little ones:

1) Dresses (if you're knitting for a girl), or long sweaters are great. They can turn into tunics or vests later on, so you can get two or three winters' worth of wear out of them. The sweater above is Knitting Pure and Simple's Easy Baby Cardigan, and I added at least an inch or two to the length when I knitted it. Conversely, a bolero-style (short) open cardigan would also work well for a girl and would definitely last for several years (M, almost 4, and A can both fit into the same sweater, especially if it's an unbuttoned bolero where length doesn't matter as much. There's not that much difference in width between a pudgy baby/toddler and a preschooler). 

2) Change the sleeves if necessary. Sleeves look great as bracelet or 3/4 length sleeves if the edge is straight and clean and not gathered or ribbed – a simple moss stitch, like the one in this sweater, or a picot edge or garter stitch trim would work well. This way your child can wear the sweater as a long sleeve one year and a three quarter sleeve the next.

3) Stick to top-down, raglan-sleeved sweaters if you can. I've knitted many things for my boys that turned out to be too boxy and wide; it turns out that part of the problem was that the sweaters had dropped shoulders, which ended up looking sloppy when I sewed the sleeves on. They were wide enough but not long enough to wear again the following year.  Knitting in the round eliminates having to do any sewing up, and most top-down sweaters have a long and lean look – which is perfect when you are trying to knit something that will last as long as possible. 

4) If you're knitting something top down, it's easy enough to leave the sleeves off entirely, leaving just little cap sleeves. You'll end up with a vest-style sweater which will keep your child warm and, as long as it's long enough, work for more than just one year. (Bonus – it's quicker to knit – leaving you more time for other projects!).

5) Knitting really small things for very tiny babies is a lot of fun, but if you mostly aim for a 1-2 year old size (and then make adjustments such as the ones I've mentioned) you'll get a lot more wear out of the garments you make, because toddlers don't grow as quickly as babies do. Besides, I happen to think sweaters look better on an upright, walking child than on a baby who can't sit up yet. They're easier to put on, too!

Are you working on any knitting projects right now? What are your tips for knitting for little children?