Looking for something to do with the kids while staying Safe At Home?

 

Watercolor Crayon Leaf Rubbing

Springtime is a perfect time to gather some leaves and examine the shape and textures of different plants.  Leaf rubbings are also a fun way to learn different types of trees and other plants, by matching the shape and style of the leaf to the tree or plant it came from!

 
Materials:
  • Leaves (leaves with unique shapes or with prominent veins work very well)
  • Crayons
  • White Paper (copy paper is perfect)
  • Watercolors
  • Paint Brush
 

Step 1 – Find a Leaf

Head outside and find some good leaves to make a rubbing.  
 
Look for unique shapes and large veins, though any leaves will work.  
 
Leaves with large veins provide a better contrast and stand out more as a rubbing.  
 

Step 2 – Cover the Leaf

  • Place the leaf flat on a table or other flat surface.  The underside (vein-side) should face up.  
  • Place a sheet of white copy paper over the leaf.  
  • If you have a delicate, smoother leaf and a light touch, you could also try using tissue paper!
 

Step 3 – Rub

Using a crayon, rub over the area of the paper where the leaf is placed.  
 
Rubbing with the side of the crayon will give a different look than using the point.  
 
Try using a white crayon for a really unique look!
 

 

Step 4 – Watercolor

Once you’re done rubbing with the crayon, it’s time to paint!  
 
Use watercolors and paint over your leaf.  The watercolor paint will not stick to the crayon leaf outline, giving your rubbing a special look. 
 
Be careful when painting; since we’re using regular white paper it may easily “rip” by brushing an area too much.  
 
Absorb excess water with paper towels to prevent an accident!
 
 

 

Step 5 – Dry and Admire!

Let your leaf rubbing dry for a bit and admire your work!  
 
The outline of the leaf is contrasted with the watercolors, helping it really stand out and look amazing!

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!  

Let’s have a little fun this week and make some tissue paper flowers for mom!  

 
Materials:
  • Tissue Paper (at least 3 sheets per flower)
  • Fuzzy stick pipe cleaner (1 per flower)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Green paper (optional)
 

Step 1 – Measure and Cut 

Cut 3 (or more) sheets of tissue paper into a 12 inch by 6 inch rectangle.
 
Tip #1:
If you want a big, bushy flower, use a few more sheets of tissue paper.
Tip #2:
If you want a layered look to your flower cut some tissue paper shorter than 6 inches or cut some wider than 6 inches.
 

Step 2 – Layer

Layer your tissue paper sheets. 
If you’re using multiple colors, the color on the bottom will be the outside edge of the finished flower.
If you’re using different sized tissue paper, the widest piece should be at the bottom and the shortest piece should be on top. 
 

Step 3 – Fold

Accordion fold – fold forward and backward – all of the tissue paper sheets.  

Make a fold about every inch.  
 

Step 4 – Cut

Cut and trim the edges of your accordion folded tissue paper. 
You can round the edges, cut fringe, make a point, or choose any design you want.  
This will form your petal shape in the finished flower!
 
 
 

Step 5 – Add the Stem

Wrap a fuzzy stick tightly around the middle of the tissue paper. 
 
To make sure it’s centered try folding the tissue paper in half first, then wrapping the fuzzy stick around the fold.  
 
The fuzzy stick will form the stem of your finished flower!
 
Tip:  If you don’t have a fuzzy stick, you can wrap floral wire around the tissue paper or even just staple it!
 
 
 

Step 6 – Open the Folds!

Gently open the folds to form a circle around the stem.  
 
Spread each half of your tissue paper folds to make each half of the circle.
 
 

Step 7 – Pull!

Starting with the top layer of tissue paper, gently pull up and separate it from the rest of the folds. 
 
 Repeat this with the other layers of tissue paper, separating each layer from each other.
 
 

Step 8 – Add Leaves (optional)

Cut out some small leaves on green paper, and glue them to bottom of your flower or directly to your stem! 

 

Fossils

A fossil is a trace or record of ancient life. Much of our plant knowledge from the times of the dinosaurs comes from fossils. 
 
Let’s recreate the process of plant fossils with this activity!
  • In order to make fossils, we’ll need two things:
  • air dry clay and
  • a plant part!

If you don’t already have air-dry clay, you can make a simple homemade version!

Homemade Clay Materials:
  • 2 Cups Baking Soda (1 box)
  • Cornstarch
  • Water

Step 1 – Mix

In a pot, mix all three ingredients together.

Step 2 – Heat

Heat the mixture on a stovetop at medium-low to medium heat, stirring constantly.
 
When the mixture looks like mashed potatoes and all the water has been absorbed, remove from heat!

Step 3 – Let It Cool

 
Make a dough ball and wrap it in a damp towel.  
 
Let it cool for about 10-15 minutes.

Step 4 – Knead

 
Knead your dough until it’s smooth and silky.  
 
It’s now ready to use!
 
Keep this clay in an airtight container if you plan on using it later!

Fossil Imprints

Materials:
  • Air-dry Clay
  • Plant Parts

Step 1 – Gather Plant Parts

Head outside and find some small leaves, flowers, or other interesting plant parts in fun shapes!  
 
At this time of year, ferns are just starting to emerge and they make excellent imprints!  
 
Pine branches, birch catkins, even bird feathers work well if you’re feeling adventurous!
 

Step 2 – Make a Clay Cookie

 
Take a small ball of clay and flatten it to make a cookie shape. 
 
 

Step 3 – Press

 
Take your plant part and press it into the clay cookie. 
 
If you’re using a leaf, press the vein (back) side of the leaf into the clay.
 
 

Step 4 –

Remove Leaf (optional)

 

You can remove the leaf or plant part to just have the imprint, or leave the plant part in the clay to decompose and dry out naturally.  
 
It will fall out of the clay imprint just like a natural fossil process!
 

Step 5 – Dry

 
Let the clay sit for at least 24 hours to dry.  
 
Quick tip: To prevent cracking, loosely wrap the clay in a plastic bag to slow down the drying process!

Step 6 (Optional) –

Color

 
Your can color your new fossils with markers or paint for a fun and creative touch!
 
 

Leaf Pounding

This week: leaf pigments and natural fabric dyes….

  • The different parts of a plant can be found in a surprising variety of colors, from beet red roots, green leaves, blueberries, and yellow flowers.
  • Many of those colors and plant parts have been used historically to color fabric!
  • One technique to transfer color and patterns to fabric is to simply pound and crush the plant parts with a hammer or mallet to separate the plant pigments and transfer them to a piece of fabric. 
  • This activity is a great way to learn about the pigments found in plants.

Materials:

  • Hammer – any small hammer or mallet with a flat metal face (You can also use a small flat rock!)
  • Masking tape
  • Cloth – unbleached cotton muslin works the best; synthetic fabrics will not absorb the dye.  
  • Alternatively, you can also try thicker absorbent paper – like watercolor paper.  
  • Leaves or flowers – Find some leaves or flowers that you want to use!  

Aim for darker leaves; dark green and red transfer very well. 

 Another tip – look for sturdier leaves with prominent veins. Very soft leaves (like most vegetable leaves) won’t hold up as well to being hammered.

 
   
Step 1 – Tape Leaf to Fabric
 
Flatten and tape down your leaf or flower to the fabric.  Completely cover the leaf with tape.

Step 2 – Flip and Place

Flip the fabric over so the tape side is down and set the fabric on a hard flat surface.  A small board would work well, or any other smooth hard surface.
 
 
   

Step 3 – Pound It!

Gently but firmly pound the leaf or flower with your hammer or rock!  
 
You don’t need big swings, just repeated small, firm strikes.  
 
 
Continue pounding until you’re happy with the color transfer!

Step 4 –

Peel Away the Leaf

Once you’re done pounding, flip the fabric over and carefully remove the tape and your leaf from the fabric.  
 
Admire your work!
 

Step 5 (Optional) –

Set the Dye

You can set the dye using a 1:8 vinegar: water solution.  
 
Soak the fabric in the vinegar solution for about an hour, then hand wash and air dry! 
 
If you used paper, try using a spray on acrylic sealant instead! 

 

 

Make some homemade suet for your backyard birds!

Late winter and early Spring are especially tough on some birds as food sources run low.
Nature is still warming up and natural food sources like insects, flowers, and berries aren’t quite ready yet! We’ll make a suet using household ingredients!
Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup Solid Cooking Fat (such as lard, vegetable shortening, coconut oil)
  • 1 cup Peanut or Other Nut Butter (chunky preferred)
  • 3 Cups Cornmeal or Oatmeal
  • 1/2 cups Flour
Optional additions to make your birds even happier!
(Toss a handful of any or all these into the mix)
  • Birdseed
  • Chopped raw unsalted nuts
  • Dried fruits and berries (chopped into small pieces)
  • Dried insects (mealworms)
Directions:
In a large pot on your stovetop, heat the cooking fat and peanut butter on low heat. As the fat and peanut butter melt, mix them together until fully combined. Remove pot from heat, and mix in the flour and cornmeal (or oatmeal).  Once that is fully mixed, now is the time to add in your optional ingredients!
Let your mixture cool slightly and pour into molds or a flat container to use.  You can even fill a hollowed out orange or grapefruit!
 

Convert your toilet paper tubes into biodegradable planters!

Recycle your toilet paper rolls…use the cardboard rolls to make seed starter pots! 

These pots are easy to make, and can be planted directly into the ground outside to naturally decompose – this also prevents root or plant damage when planting your young seedlings!

This is a great project for kids because they can track their new plant’s growth over the next few weeks while the weather warms up to plant it outside! 

 
   

Step 1 Fold!

Fold your toilet paper into a square. Flatten it, then flatten in half the other way to make a square!
 
 
 

Step 2 (for small plants only) Cut in Half!

If you’re planting large seeds – like sunflowers, for example, keep the tube full size to give the new plant lots of room for their large roots. 
For smaller seeds, cut the tube in half!
 
   

Step 3 Cut Flaps!

Cut along the corners on one side.
Using a scissors, cut ¾ inch along each of the 4 corners. You should have 4 cuts on the corners of one side.
 
   

​Step 4 Fold!

Crease and fold the flaps
Fold down each flap to crease it, then fold it cardboard box style (over/under flaps).
 

Step 5 Plant!

Add potting soil and your seeds, give it some water and sun and watch it grow!
Water carefully, remember this is paper/cardboard so too much water will decompose the tube quicker. You want enough water for the seed but not too much that the cardboard starts breaking down.

Make a Sticky Nature Bracelet

 
Take a length of masking or scotch tape and make a large loop around your child’s wrist.  
 
Keep the sticky side out and make the loop large enough so you can remove the bracelet without tearing it!
Go for a walk outdoors… 
 
As you walk, look around and add leaves, flower petals and sticks to your bracelet!  
 
Make a design or just let your creativity flow!

 

Wild Weaving

Create a mosaic and a natural loom using sticks, some yarn, and nature itself!

Step 1 – FIND SOME STICKS!

The easiest way to create your nature loom is by finding a “Y” shaped stick.  
However, you can also lash sticks together to create nearly any shape you want! 
 Try a triangle, rectangle, or even a hexagon!  
To lash sticks together, just overlap the sticks and wrap yarn or string around them in a “x” pattern.
 
 

Step 2 – CREATE THE LOOM

Tie the yarn to one side of the stick and wrap the yarn back and forth to create your loom.  
 
Wrapping the yarn twice around the stick will help prevent the yarn sliding and will also help keep the yarn as taut as possible.
 
 

Step 3 – FIND NATURE ITEMS AND WEAVE!

Go outside into your yard, your neighborhood, or even to a nearby park or nature area.  
 
Collect interesting grasses, leaves, seeds, bark, flowers, or anything else you find on the ground.  
Weave those items through the strings of your loom, in an out between the strings.  
   
Be creative!  
 
The more items you weave, the tighter the strings will become – making it easier to hold bigger items like acorns or pinecones.