Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fun with Nature!

Summer is in full swing and the little ones are looking for things to do.  Get outside and connect with nature.  Here are some ideas for learning and appreciating all that nature has to offer - many in your own back yard!

Baking with seeds

Discuss how plants come from seeds. Open a bean seed and show the tiny plant inside. Explain that there are some seeds that we plant to grow food and other seeds that can be eaten just as they are (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and caraway seeds).

Make some muffins and top them with seeds.

(Sample recipe – Mix one package of dried yeast with 1 cup warm water. Mix 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp sugar together. Add yeast mixture. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface. Break into balls and put into greased muffin tins. Sprinkle with poppy and sesame seeds on top and let the dough rise. Then bake at 350F for twenty minutes).

Sweet Potato Plant

Fill a small jar 2/3 with water and place a sweet potato (narrow end down) into jar. Secure the potato in place with toothpicks. Place jar in a warm, dark place and add water when necessary. When a stem appears, place the jar in a sunny window and observe the growth occurring each day. Can record the growth in a small book by drawing pictures, pasting cutouts, or colouring in the number of leaves on a sweet potato picture.

Making Rain

Bring a pot of water to a boil. (Caution – keep children away from heat.) Place several ice cubes on a chilled plate and using potholders, hold the plate above the steam rising from the boiling water. Notice the droplets that form on the bottom of the plate and fall back into the pot. Explain that the steam is warm air rising. When it meets the cool air around the plate, droplets are formed. This is similar to the moisture in a cloud that causes rain.

Windy Day Fun

Construct and paint box kites to fly outdoors to observe the effects of wind.

Using a large paper bag, fold a two-inch lip around the rim of the bag. Open the bag and have child decorate it on all four sides. Add streamers for fun. When the bag is dry, cut off the bottom, leaving the four sides attached. Punch a hole along the folded rim and tie a length of fishing line through it. Fly the kite in the wind on a windy day.

Pocket Plot

Take a lid off a tub or jar and sow some seeds in it. Create a tiny home for all your tiny toys.

- Take a clean lid – the bigger the better

- Lay down some damp tissue

- Sprinkle on seeds – use a mixture of mustard and cress seeds. Place seeds only in the areas that you want covered.

- Cover them up – place a piece of cardboard over the lid.

- Let them grow - if you water your pocket plot regularly, it will last longer.

- Decorate – add small rocks and a small toy.

- Enjoy – you can even pick some stalks to put in a sandwich.

Lost World

Discover a place that time has forgotten, where creatures roam freely among the lush foliage. In the forgotten world, anything goes – from the smallest man to the biggest animal. Watch the tiny people hide under the plants, threatened by the terrifying monsters. Create a world of your own and live your own world adventures.

- Prepare the land – using a large tray (example 16 inches x10 inches and 4 inches deep). Spread a layer of gravel, about 3/4 inches deep over the bottom of the tray. Cover the gravel with a thick layer of compost, almost to the top.

- Plant the landscape – using small, young houseplants (ferns and palms are ideal). Make a hole in the soil – about the size of the plant's roots. Pop the plant into the hole and lightly press it down. Place some soil around the edges to level it out. Use some big stones or small pebbles to add to your landscape. Use gravel to make a winding path.

- Remember to water your world about once a week. Add some plant food every so often to keep the plants healthy. Your world should stay indoors, out of direct sunlight – although of course you can take it outside to play with. If your plants grow too big, you may have to replant them, or simple make a bigger kingdom. Spraying your plants every two days, will keep them fresh.

Visit the zoo.

Walk in the forest. Many local and state parks offer guided tours and look into group outings.

Gather twigs and sticks and leaves in the forest, and have each child design and make a "fairy house".

Gather fresh pine needles and make a pine pillow sachet. (cut 2 matching pieces of fabric, stitch around 3 sides and turn inside out, put in the pine needles, tuck in raw edges and whipstitch closed.)

Get permission to use a section of the garden for a children's garden, let the children pick flower or veggie seeds, and follow the directions on the packet to raise their choice plant throughout the summer.

Have a backyard scavenger hunt of nature items you know are there (one live ant, specific leaves, clover leaf, smooth stone, baggie of sand, 3 pieces of human-produced trash, a blade of grass, a forked twig, etc.) . Serve snack of "bug juice" (sweet juice) and "ants on a log" (raisins on a celery stick stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter). Lunch: "Sticks and Trees" (penne or ziti and broccoli crowns)

Roll down a hill.

Keep a journal/sketchbook of live wild creatures (animals and bugs) the children see during the week.

See how many they can collect.

Get some celery stalks, fresh from the store. Trim the bottoms off until even, however, do not trim the leaves at the top. Get a few glasses and fill half way with water, add a few drops of food coloring to each glass, all different colors. Mix the coloring well and then place on stalk of celery in each glass. Wait a day or two and watch the leaves of the celery change colors! If you have older kids you can talk about why and how this happens. Younger kids will be amazed regardless.

Get a white carnation and submerge in water dyed with food coloring, watch how the flower turns colors.

Seed art:

Glue a bean on the bottom of a paper and have the child draw what they think will come out of it. then plant it and watch to see how true the drawing is.

Use a paper plate and color the outside yellow or make petals with yellow construction paper and fill in the inside with sunflower seeds.

Make a paper garden with tissue flowers & pipe cleaner stems or with paper muffin cups.

Directions for Tissue paper flowers


1 package of multicolored tissue or crepe paper

1 package of green pipe cleaners


Take four to five sheets of the tissue paper and layer them (if you want multicolored flowers, use different colors). Cut into 8-inch squares. Keeping the sheets layered, take one set of squares and fold it like an accordion so it looks like a thin rectangle. At the center of the rectangle, cut a small v-shaped notch on both sides. Take the end of a pipe cleaner and twist it around the notch. With the stem pointing straight down, gently pull up one layer of tissue into the center. Pull up the remaining layers, one by one. Repeat for the other side of the flower. Once all the layers are pulled up, fluff them in place to look natural. Continue making more flowers with the remaining stacks of squares.

Tips and variations: For sturdier stems, wrap two pipe cleaners together. Cut smaller or larger squares to change the size of your flowers. Add more layers for thicker flowers or less layers for thinner ones. For a shiny effect, dip the top edges in white glue and then dip in loose glitter. Glue a pin on the back of a flower for a fluffy lapel decoration. Make smaller flowers and string them together as garland.

Go pick blueberries/strawberries/apples, etc

Grow a potato or carrot top, grass, beans, flower garden

Make a rock garden

Visit your local japanese/rose garden

Make pressed flower art

Make your own Miniature Garden.

You will need:

• Scissors

• Ruler

• Cardboard box - shoe boxes are great

• brown paint

• small mirror

• bits and pieces from the garden such as moss, soil, gravel, ivy, twigs etc

• shells

• plasticine

1. With a pair of scissors cut the cardboard box so that it is just 1 1/2 in deep and paint in brown. Allow to dry.

2. For the pond, place the mirror in the bottom of the box. ( Could also use tin foil)

3. For the garden, arrange the magazine pictures, moss, and shells inside the box.

4. For the trees, stick the twigs into a piece of plasticine and place them among the moss and shells.

5. Scatter the gravel and soil to cover any bare patches.

6. Finish odd the garden by decorating it with pieces of ivy.

Check out Magic Cabin for kids gardening and nature products

Discuss the importance of bugs in a garden.

With older kids you can start a compost pile.

Bird Watching:

Go out with some binoculars and find a particular kind of bird. Once you find one that the kids like, do some research, what do they eat, where do they live, what colors are the male and female, what color are their eggs? Take some pictures and make your own bird book.

Stan Tekiela has a wonderful series of books that are field guides to birds and trees of most states. The ones for Birds are called “Birds of Missouri” and he has them for most every state in the United States.

You can find them on his website http://www.stantekiela.com/

They are less than $15.00 and definitely worth the money. Mine is worn out from all the times I have searched through it trying to find that bird at my bird feeder. Every house needs one.

Plant easy flowers like Zinnia's , sunflowers they grow fast with little help.

Go to a garden center and talk about what you see.

Look on the internet about the flowers you found.

Go on a plant hunt with a notebook drawing and write the details of what you find.

You can do the old bean trick in the damp paper towel, it will sprout after just about 5 days

Weed your garden, or weed a elderly neighbors ( great for older kids)

Grow grass hair

You will need:

• Containers (pots, cups)

• Soil, grass seed

• Craft materials (such as wiggly eyes, paint, markers) to decorate a face on the front of containers

Have children discuss how they could grow grass "hair." Decorate pots and give them names. Next, prepare to plant by scooping soil into containers (remember to count!) and adding grass seed (cover with a light layer of soil). Water (mist) and place near a window.

Children will learn:

• How to care for something

• To observe, measure, and chart the growth of seed to grass

• How many days it took to grow (pull out those garden journals!)

• Fine motor skills by cutting the grass hair (this would be a good time to discuss not cutting their own hair or their friends





http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0328jack.html (Different variations of Jack and the Beanstalk on line)

http://www.stonesoup.com/main2/StoneSoup.html (Story on line)



Songs and Poems:

Grow Little Seed (poem)

I'm a little seed in the deep dark soil. (Children kneel on their knees, covering eyes)

The warm breezes blow. (Fan the kneeling children)

The gentle rains fall. (Lightly spray water over the children – use a spray bottle of water)

The hot sun calls the seeds to rise. (Children slowly get to their feet)

The blue sky waits for the surprise. (Children stretch their arms high over their heads)

Happy plants grow from seeds. (Children smile)

We Planted a Little Seed
(sung to the tune "I'm a Little Teapot")

We planted a little seed in the dark, dark ground. (Kneel and pat the floor)

Out comes the warm sun, big and round. (Circle arms over head)

Down comes the gentle rain, soft and slow. (Wiggle fingers for rain)

Up comes the little seed, grow, seed, grow! (Stand with arms stretched high.)

Picking Some Big Ears
(sung to the tune "Skip to My Lou")

Standing in the corn field out in the sun,

Picking some big ears one by one.

Cooking up the yellow corn, oh what fun!

Munching on sweet corn, yum, yum, yum!


Eric Carles the Tiny Seed

Your First Garden by Marc Brown

Mrs. Spitzer's Garden by Edith Pattou

Jack & The Beanstalk

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Jack's Garden by Henry Cole

Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens

'Growing Vegetable Soup' & 'Planting a Rainbow 'by Lois Elhert

Mary Mary Quite Contrary


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It takes all kinds to make a world.............................................................

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