We've got three oak trees in the front yard, as well as a dogwood, a maple, and one tree I haven't identified yet. It's really beautiful in the autumn, but we get a LOT of leaves on the front yard.
This weekend my husband used our mulching mower to chop up a bunch of them for the yard and the compost pile, but then he and Olivia got out the big rake and the little rake and made a big pile of leaves for her to play in. She loves crunchy leaves.
After a while she started playing in other parts of the yard though, which I was happy about. It's not very often that my daughter does undirected, self-play outside. She had noticed our "burning bush" had a bunch of pretty red berries on it and was absorbed for about twenty minutes in picking them. She got a whole bunch and brought them up to the front step.
I looked at them, so vivid and bright, and said we should smash them up and color with the juice. They didn't end up smashing very well because the berry is mostly a big seed covered with a thin red skin. But we did figure out we could treat each one like a little crayon and use it to color lines and squiggles. We colored on the front step and also on a piece of paper. Instead of making red ink it made more of an reddish-orange color.
After a while I looked at my hands, covered with sticky berry juice, and it hit me: Why hadn't the birds and squirrels been eating the berries? And of course from there I remembered all the stories about poisonous red berries. I came in and googled it, and yes, my late instincts were right.
So yes, I was the mother that let her preschooler color with poison berries this weekend. But we sure had a good time!