Spring has sprung here in the Midwestern United States and flowers are everywhere! Take advantage of all the spring blooms to practice colors, investigate flower parts, and make a fun floral bookmark craft. In this activity, kids will be using sorting skills, identifying similarities and differences, and practicing fine motor skills.
LEARN SCIENCE VOCABULARY:
Petals – brightly colored leaves (that’s right, petals are just modified leaves!) on a flower. Their purpose is to attract pollinators, likes bees and butterflies, which help the flower reproduce.
Stem – the stalk that holds up the flower. It’s purpose is to support the weight of the flower and to provide water and nutrients to the flower. (Have your child observe that larger flowers will have thicker stems!)
Pollen – (disclaimer: this definition is toddler-friendly, so you don’t have to go into the whole ‘how babies are made’ thing today!) Powdery stuff produced by the flower that helps to make more flowers. Pollinators like bees and butterflies carry pollen from one flower to another.
- Paper bowls or plates
- Colored construction paper
- Phone book (I know this is old school, but some communities still hand them out! You could also use some newspaper pressed between any large book or flat object.)
- Cardstock (you can also use an old cereal box)
- Contact paper (clear packing tape would work too, but won’t hold up as long)
- Hole punch
- Yarn, raffia, or twine
- A park path or greenspace with lots of spring flowers!
HOW TO DO IT:
- I constructed color-coded bowls on my own before our nature walk. Just trace a circle on a stack of colored paper (Choose colors that will match the blossoms you might find). Cut out the circles to fit the bottom of the bowl or plate and glue them down. You may also want to keep one plain since a lot of spring flowers are white!
- Go on a nature walk in a park or greenspace (even your own backyard) and collect flowers and buds that you see. Have kids observe that flowers can be found in trees, bushes and even in the grass!
- Once you are home, let the kids categorize the flowers by placing them into the matching bowl/plate of the same color. Ask them to observe how each flower is similar and how they are different. (Older kids may want to recategorize the flowers by type of plant, shape of blossom, etc. Encourage this! It is through a similar method of categorizing and recategorizing that scientists have determined the evolutionary family trees of animals and plants.)
- Choose the flowers you will use for the bookmark craft and press them between the pages of a phone book. Stack several other heavy books or objects on top and let it sit for a day or two. Keep a couple of flowers out for dissection (see below).
HOW TO MAKE THE BOOKMARK CRAFT:
- Cut the cardstock or cereal box into a bookmark shape.
- Arrange the pressed flowers on top.
- Cover with contact paper and press down. Trim the edges.
- Use the hole punch to make a hole in the top of the bookmark. Tie a tassel through the hole with the yarn or raffia.
- Optional – Punch holes around the outside. Kids can practice fine motor skills by threading the yarn or raffia through the the holes.
These would make great gifts for Grandma on Mother’s Day!
- Let the kids tear up the extra blooms you set aside (use safety scissors if they are old enough) and observe the parts of the flower.
- Identify the PETALS and STEM. Find similarities and differences between the petals of the different flowers. See if they can find evidence of the pollen coming off on their hands. For more information and activities about pollen, check out Answering the “WHYs”: Spring Allergies. (Older children can take it a step further and identify the STAMEN, PISTIL, [both male parts] and OVULES [female parts] of the flower.)
THE SCIENCE BEHIND IT:
Putting things into categories based on similarities is not only a blossoming skill for toddlers, but also a fundamental part of the biological sciences! Taxonomy is the science of naming and categorizing all living things – this is where we get the scientific names for everything from humans to bacteria, for example Homo sapiens or Escherichia coli (better known as E. coli). Carl Linnaeus first developed this scientific system for classification in the 18th century, and biologists still use it (with several changes) today. You may remember the Linnaean system from Bio class – Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species (or known by students cramming for exams as the mnemonic device “Kids Prefer Candy Over Fancy Green Salad”.)