The days are finally warming up, the grass is green, the flowers are blooming… ACHOOO! Spring allergy season is here! My kids and I are sneezing every time we go out to play.
My son likes to proudly announce to anyone who will listen, “I have allergies!” But when his allergies are really acting up and he feels miserable, he asks me between sniffles, “Mommy, why do I keep sneezing?” Poor little guy!
It can be frustrating to deal with irritating allergies, but it’s always easier if you can at least explain why. Here are 2 fun activities you can you with your kids to help explain what causes spring allergies!
LEARN SCIENCE VOCABULARY:
Pollen – a fine powder produced by plants (usually found in flowers) to help them make other plants
Pollinator – insects, birds or other animals that help spread pollen from one plant to another
Allergic Reaction – sneezing, coughing, runny nose, or itchy eyes that happens as a result of our bodies’ response to something like pollen, pet hair, dust, etc.
Immune System – the parts in our bodies that work to fight off germs and keep us healthy (made up of white blood cells, antibodies, tonsils, lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, and several other chemicals and proteins in our bodies!)
Why do I have allergies in the spring?
Flowers produce POLLEN to help them reproduce, and they count on POLLINATORS, like bees, to spread their POLLEN to other flowers. POLLEN is such a fine powder that it floats in the air and easily gets into our noses and mouths when we breathe. You can see the pollen in flowers if you look closely. Or if you rub a dandelion on your chin you will turn yellow (not because you like butter, as the old kids rhyme says, but because the pollen is rubbing off on your skin!). For more information on flower parts, check out Flower Exploration and Bookmark Craft.
Most spring allergies (or ‘hay fever,’ as many people say) come from an immune system response to POLLEN. Our immune system helps us by fighting off bad germs like viruses and bacteria, but sometimes it mistakes pollen for one of these germs! The result is an ALLERGIC REACTION, like sneezing, coughing, or watery eyes.
2 fun and easy ways to learn about pollen:
- Craft: Painting pollinating flowers (inspired by Happy Toddler Playtime and Crafty Morning)
- All you need is: finger paint, glitter, plastic fork, wine corks, caps (or anything else to make a stamp) and white paper.
- Dip the stamps in the paint and use it to make flower blossom shapes. Let the kids be as creative as they want – flower blossoms come in all shapes and colors!
- When their masterpiece is done, draw in some green stems and sprinkle glitter on the blossoms to represent pollen!
- Activity: Be a Pollinator! (modified from Little Kinder Warriors)
- For this activity you will need: a brown paper bag, white paper, crayons or makers, Cheetos (or a similar powder-covered snack) and some sticky kid fingers.
- Draw a flower on the paper bag and put a handful of Cheetos inside. The Cheetos represent the parts of the flower that hold the POLLEN (called the stamen and pistil…for more information on flower parts, check out Flower Exploration and Bookmark Craft).
- Draw another flower on the white paper.
- Have your child with the sticky fingers reach into the bag and eat some Cheetos. Make sure they DO NOT lick or wipe their fingers! They should have quite a bit of ‘POLLEN’ on their fingers. Their fingers are acting as the POLLINATOR, and will carry the POLLEN from the paper bag flower to the white paper flower.
- Now have them walk their fingers over the flower drawn on the white paper. Were they an effective POLLINATOR? Did they carry POLLEN from one flower to another?
- Next time you see a bee, butterfly or other insect land on a flower, look closely at them. Can you see the yellow pollen collected there just like the Cheetos powder was on your sticky fingers?