Gardening With Kids: 5 activities to spark imagination and creativity

DSCN4372

Gardening can be a wonderful activity for children to spend time outdoors, learn about how plants grow, and experience the interconnectedness of nature. With a little bit of planning, gardens can also be a magical place where children can use their imaginations and be inspired by the beauty that surrounds them. Here are some ideas for making a children’s garden that doubles as a place of learning and a place of magic.

  1. Build a sunflower house. Plant sunflowers in a horseshoe shape, and as the flowers grow tall a great hideout is created.
  2. Build a bean tepee. Use long branches and/or small saplings to build a tepee frame. Wrap the tepee with garden twine horizontally. Be sure to leave a side unwrapped and open as an entrance. Plant pole beans around the outside of the tepee. As the beans creep up the trellis, the tepee becomes a fort that also provides a yummy snack.
  3. Create a story-themed garden. Plant a garden that follows the story of a garden from a favorite book. For example, in The Carrot Seed  by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, a young boy plants a carrot seed and patiently cares for the plant until it becomes a humongous carrot. For your related story garden, plant carrots, watch them grow, and see if they become giant carrots just like what happened in the story. Check out this month’s Garden Nature Book List to find other stories for garden inspiration.
  4. Plant a meal-themed garden. A salad garden could include various types of lettuce, spinach, kale, radish, carrots, and peas. A pizza garden might have tomatoes, basil, spinach, garlic, pepper, and onion growing. A soup garden could be made up of potatoes, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, and kale. Use your culinary imagination to create a fun, meal-themed garden!
  5. Create a fairy garden. Build fairy houses or even a fairy village. Grow flowers and herbs and ferns and other interesting plants in the garden space around the fairy community. Check this out for some amazing fairy garden village inspiration!

Nature Book List: May (Gardening!)

Nature Book List- May

Happy May! At the beginning of each month I put together a book list related to learning about nature that is influenced by the season and natural wonders that occur during that month. This month’s book list features books related to gardening. The books make great reads both in the classroom and at home. If you’re teaching a theme related to the gardening or planting a garden with children, I suggest you check these out.

May is the month where gardens begin to flourish and grow. Planting a garden with children is a wonderful way to engage them in the outdoor world and teach them the science of how seeds change to plants and eventually create new seeds (the life cycle of a plant). The following books will share facts and information and tell beautiful stories about gardening. This month, I’ve included ten children’s stories about growing gardens and two books for parents and teachers, filled with ideas for activities in the garden. I hope you find the resources useful. Check them out from your local library, or click on the picture below to find out more information about the book and to follow a link for purchase.

Jack’s Garden
by Henry Cole

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
by Kate Messner

Planting a Rainbow
by Lois Ehlert

The Tiny Seed
by Eric Carle

Two Little Gardeners (Little Golden Book)
by Margaret Wise Brown

The Curious Garden
by Peter Brown

Lola Plants a Garden
by Anna McQuinn

From Seed to Plant
by Gail Gibbons

Zinnia’s Flower Garden
by Monica Wellington

The Gardener
by Sarah Stewart

Gardening Projects for Kids: Fantastic ideas for making things, growing plants and flowers, and attracting wildlife to the garden, with 60 practical projects and 500 photographs
by Jenny Hendy

Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden (Hands-On Family)
by Renata Fossen Brown

7 Outdoor Rainy Day Activities

Let’s face it. Getting outside on a rainy day can be tough. The rain can be cold and damp, and outdoor play isn’t any fun when you’re wet. But with some good rain gear and rain boots, lots of fun can be had outside in the rainy weather. (Rain or Shine Mamma has some great tips for being prepared for rainy day outdoor play.)

Here are 7 outdoor rainy day activities to encourage children to have some fun in the rain and explore nature even when the weather isn’t so perfect.

  1. Listen to the rain. Listen to how it falls on the natural objects around you. Bring a variety of items from the recycling (plastic containers, cardboard boxes, tin cans, etc.) and listen how the sound of the rain changes on each.
  2. Stomp in puddles. Make different sized splashes. Watch the patterns that are created by the different foot movements and splashes.
  3. Build a rain gauge to measure the amount of rainfall. Here is a simple tutorial.
  4. Create a rainstorm with your hands and feet. This activity works best with a large group. It would be a lot of fun to do this as a class. If you listen carefully you can hear the rainstorm move in and then get further away.
  5. Go on a rainy day nature quest. Flip over rocks and logs, and look under leaves to search for bugs and worms. Some creatures love the rain and can easily be found enjoying the extra wet weather, while others are taking shelter from the rain.
  6. Make boats and rafts out of leaves, sticks, and bark. Float them in a puddle or down a stream.
  7. Build a rain shelter. Use sticks and leaves and other objects from the forest floor to build a rain-proof shelter that would keep you completely dry.

And, when you are ready to come in from all that outdoor rainy day fun, cozy up with some of these reads all about rainy weather from the April Nature Book List!

Nature Book List: April (Rain!)

Nature Book List-April

I’ve fallen a little behind on the monthly themes. Life has a way of getting a little full at times, and that is just what happened to April for me. I’ve had this list in my drafts folder for several weeks, but haven’t found a moment to finish it. So, here it is, the April monthly nature book list. The theme for that month was rain, and I suppose it is fitting that I publish it today (at the beginning of May) as it is currently raining outside my window, and has been raining all week. This is rain that was very much needed in my part of the world as April proved to be a dangerously dry month. I chose this theme based on the old saying, April showers bring May flowers. And, it looks like the rain, too, is running a little behind schedule. Stay tuned in the next few days for a few rainy day activity  ideas and for the May nature book list!

Rain!
by Linda Ashman

Water Dance
by Thomas Locker

Down Comes the Rain (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)

It’s Raining!
by Gail Gibbons

Water Can Be . . .
by Laura Purdie Salas

Listen to the Rain
by Bill Martin, Jr.

Let It Rain
by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Worm Weather
by Jean Taft

Splish! Splash!: A Book About Rain (Amazing Science: Weather)
by Josepha Sherman

Raindrop, Plop!
by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

 

Signs of Spring Nature Walk (free printable!)

Spring is here, and sure enough signs of the season will be found everywhere. I created this fun checklist to bring along on a nature walk in search of signs of spring. Children can bring this colorful handout with them as they explore nature and use their senses to investigate the changes of the season. Not only can they search for the items on the handout, but they can be inspired to search for their own signs of spring as well. Laminate the print-out, and it will stand up to any weather. Use the handout several times throughout the spring season to see how the natural world changes as it gets closer and closer to summer. Are there more flowers? Are the flowers in bloom different? How does the grass change? What happens to the leaves on the trees? Do birds still visit their nests at the end of the season? What happens to the mud?

filename-1 (2)

CLICK HERE for the Signs of Spring Nature Walk (free printable)

Snowdrops::Nature Photo Field Guide

Welcome to the Nature Photo Field Guide. Here I will share photographs of plants, animals, fungi, weather events, and any other special findings of the natural world. This will be a place to document the various environments that I encounter through my nature explorations (mainly in New England), and to share what I learn about the world around me.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Common Name: Snowdrops

Latin Name: Galanthus nivalis

About: Snowdrops are a bulbous perennial. They can be planted in gardens, but can also be found growing naturally in along woodland edges and streams (having escaped garden plantings and naturalized with the nearby environment). These flowers provide one of the first signs of spring, blooming from late February to late March. And can often be found poking up through the snow. Flowers are white, with six petals: 3 outer ones which are larger and 3 inner ones which are marked with green. The flowers are said to resemble drops of snow. The plant grows approximately 4-6 inches tall, and can be found in clusters.

 

What is the Vernal Equinox & 5 Ways to Celebrate it

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

This year the vernal equinox will occur Sunday, March 20 in the northern hemisphere. On the equinox, the sun passes over the celestial equator (the invisible line in the sky above the earth’s equator), making the length of daylight and night nearly equal. The term equinox is derived from a Latin term meaning “equal night”. The nearly equal lengths of day and night on the equinox are a result of the tilt of the earth’s axis being perpendicular to the sun on this day. Earth Sky has good information describing the science of the upcoming vernal equinox, along with a video (about halfway down the page) explaining the seasons.

The vernal equinox also marks the first day of spring. This has long been celebrated as a time of renew. Many cultures mark the arrival of spring around the vernal equinox emphasizing fertility, birth, and growth. Celebrations can take form in a number of ways. Here are a few ideas to connect with nature on this special celestial day, and observe the changing of the season:

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

  • Set up a spring nature table. Bring a bit of nature in to display in a beautiful arrangement. Collect rocks, feathers, twigs, and maybe even some flowers from a nature walk. Take cuttings from budding flowering shrubs, place them in a vase of water, and force them to bloom indoors. This small alter for the season provides a place to connect with the natural world even while indoors.
  • Try to balance an egg. There is an old anecdote that asserts an egg can be balanced on end only twice a year (on the equinoxes). Whether or not this is scientifically accurate, it is still a fun activity to try!
  • Go for a nature walk and spot signs of spring. There are many tell-tale changes in nature as spring draws near. Birds become more abundant as many return from their winter habitats and their songs can once again be heard all around. Other animals become more active, like the chipmunks and squirrels who come out of their winter dens. Buds form on trees. Flowers begin to grow, with snowdrops and crocuses being the first flowers to pop up around here. Explore the world around you, and see how many changes you can find.
  • Have a picnic outside. The arrival of spring means warmer weather and more sunlight. Why not celebrate the nicer weather by having a picnic in the fresh air. Set up a blanket in the grass or on a deck or patio and enjoy a simple picnic lunch or snack.
  • Plant seeds. Since spring signals a time of growth, what could be a more fitting activity than to plant and grow seeds? Find a sunny window of your house. Fill some small peat pots with a seed-starting soil. Plant a few sunflower seeds and watch the seedlings grow. When the weather warms up enough, transplant the flowers outside to enjoy through the summer and into the fall. Perhaps, even, use these seedlings to build your own sunflower house.

For some great reads about spring, take a look at this month’s Nature Book List.

And, check out these other links for more spring-welcoming activities:

 

Nature Book List: March (Spring!)

Nature book

Happy March! At the beginning of each month I put together a book list related to learning about nature that will be influenced by the season and natural wonders that occur during that month. This month’s book list will feature books related to spring. The books make great reads both in the classroom and at home. If you’re teaching a theme related to the arrival of spring and the vernal equinox, I suggest you check these out.

The arrival of spring brings so many changes to the natural world. Plants and flowers grow, animals become more active after their winter survival, baby animals are born, and the amount of sunlight continues to increase. The following books will share facts and information and tell beautiful stories about the arrival of spring. I hope you find the resources useful. Check them out from your local library, or click on the picture below the title to find out more information about the book and to follow a link for purchase.

A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox by Wendy Pfeffer and Linda Beck – A newly released book that explains signs of spring through simple science, cultural history, and hands-on activities.

The Spring Equinox: The Greening Of The Earth by Ellen Jackson and Jan Davey Ellis – A detailed look at the history and celebrations of the vernal equinox. The book also includes some season-related activity ideas.

It’s Spring by Susan Swan and Linda Glaser – In this story a child observes the wonders of spring, and inspires readers to take part in their own observations of nature.

Everything Spring (Picture the Seasons) by Jill Esbaum – Beautiful photographs of spring inspire children to get outside as the weather warms to discover what nature has to offer during this beautiful season.

When Spring Comes by Kevin Henkes and Laura Dronzek – A story that describes the beauty that arrives as spring takes hold, bringing leaves, flowers, raindrops, mud, chirping birds, and buzzing bees.

Spring (Seasons) by Sian Smith and Rebecca Rissman – This book uses simple text and pictures to describe what the weather is like in spring. Children will learn about the new life and growth that comes with this season.

Plants in Spring (All about Spring) by Martha Rustad and John Krenz – See how plants come to be as seeds are planted, sprouts pop up, and flowers bloom.

Spring is Here! by Heidi Pross Gray – Discover what happens as the earth comes out of winter and nature appears to come to life.

And Then It’s Spring  by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead – A story about a boy and his dog who, after a long winter, decide to plant a garden to show that spring has arrived.

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb by Marion Dane Bauer and Emily Arnold McCully – Following the old proverb, the story personifies March as a lion entering a child’s home, leaving a trail of snow and mud, and follows the lion until a lamb appears with a sneeze of the lion, and the lamb brings all things spring.

Nature Explorers Club

filename-1NatureExplorersClub

Local Folks: Starting next week, I will be leading two different 8-week nature programs at The Orchard School in Alstead, NH. The parent-child program begins March 1, and the homeschool program begins March 3. Registration is still open. Contact The Orchard School to register.

The programs will focus on exploring and learning about nature. We will spend our time outside, on the trails of The Orchard School. Children will have the opportunity to observe, investigate, and make discoveries about different nature themes related to the natural rhythm of the seasons. The Nature Explorers Club is a wonderful way for children in the Monadnock region to spend time outdoors and connect with the natural world.

::Nature Photo Friday::

Each Friday I will post a nature photo (or two…) from our adventures of the week. The photo will represent a moment that I want to remember, to take in the feelings of that outdoor experience. If you are inspired to do the same, share a link to your nature photo in the comments. There is so much beauty in the natural world to share, I hope you will join me!

stream exploration

{With spring-like temperatures upon us, the small seasonal stream in our backyard in now flowing. This has been a cause for much exploration. The kids don their rain gear and literally spend hours digging, splashing, observing, and pretending in the stream. The littlest likes to spend time throwing snow and sticks into the water and watching what happens. The middle one conducts her “research,” using a stick as her preferred tool to dig through the leaves, rocks, and silt at the bottom of the flowing water. An the oldest, enjoys working to build up the banks, hauling fallen sticks and branches to line the edges and digging with his garden shovel. Do they get muddy? Yep. Is it worth it? Yes. Every speck of dirt. Why? They’re having fun, using their imaginations, getting exercise, practicing observation and exploration skills, and learning about the world around them. And, really, what is one extra load of laundry?!}