Get the kids out into nature with these simple garden crafts.
“If you hit my precious Crown Lynn swan with that light saber, you won’t get Christmas or birthday presents for the next three years,” I’ve been known to say several times during this latest lockdown. This is when I know that my kids desperately need some time outside, and that I desperately need them to be outside.
We all require time outdoors for our physical and mental health. Different studies suggest varying magic numbers, but around 60 minutes a day, which you can all “green hour”, seems to be the average recommended for kids.
Here are some simple activities you can do to lure your kids outside and make sure they get their daily nature fix.
1. Cardboard vases
It’s a vase of flowers, but it’s flat! Well, kind of. Find some cardboard (I cut up an old microwave box I found in the garage) and have the kids draw a vessel on it – my threatened Crown Lynn swan provided inspiration. Make holes above the vase using kebab sticks or some kind of pointy metal object, then send the kids off around the garden to pick flowers to poke through the holes and “fill” their vase. Flowerheads with a flatish underside, such as daisies, pansies and miniature daffodils will sit nicely, but let them experiment – make sure they know which flowers they aren’t allowed to pick!
2. Bug hotel
Make up for a decline in your social life by inviting spiders, slaters, solitary bees and other creepy crawlies into your bubble. A bug hotel is a cute name for a structure that provides habitat for insects, and is a great way to teach children about the importance of ecosystems and how every creature has a part to play (even snails – which I relocate to my fence for the blackbirds to help the ecosystem along).
Use anything you have on hand, but try to provide a range of materials with different-sized holes for bugs to shelter in. Gather together bricks, logs, twigs and piles of leaves (stuff them in a flower pot), bamboo with holes in it, pine cones and bark. Choose a suitable building site (underneath a tree is good), have fun stacking it all together, then wait a few weeks for the insects to check in.
3. Nature cuffs
Just like Wonder Woman’s gold cuffs give her power, these nature cuffs will give kids flower power. To make the cuff, wrap a piece of tape around your child’s wrist with the sticky side facing outwards, or for a more durable cuff, cut a cardboard tube to size, make a slit down the middle of the long end so it will slot onto a wrist, then cover this with double-sided tape or regular tape doubled over.
Now go for a walk around your garden or neighbourhood and see what you can find to stick onto it. Don’t just limit it to flowers either – you might like to add small stones, sticks or shells.
4. Ready, set, sow!
It’s spring don’t you know, and a great time to get crops growing. Radishes are one of my favourite crops to grow with kids because they’re ready to harvest in five to eight weeks, and the variety ‘Easter Egg Mix’ is the most fun because you don’t know which colour – red, orange, yellow or purple – you’re going to harvest. Other edibles you can sow outside in your garden right now include lettuces, peas and carrots. Or set a challenge for kids to grow a flower that’s taller than them. Sunflowers ‘Ginormous FlowerZilla’ and ‘Skyscraper’ can reach 5m high (purchase online if you can’t get to the shops). Sow seeds direct into the garden now or, if it’s still frosty, start them off in a yoghurt pot on a windowsill, then plant them out in mid-spring.
5. Egg heads
If you’ve got a packet of seeds lying around, why not have a go at sowing an egg head on a sunny windowsill. Remove the top third from an egg (use the insides to bake something delicious), and wash out the shell. Once dry, carefully decorate the egg shells – my favourite is always a pirate with an eye patch. Then fill your shells with seed-raising mix or wet cotton wool, and sprinkle your seeds on top.
Mustard seeds are always quick to germinate, or you might like to grow microgreens. Stabilise your eggs in an egg carton or cup, place on a sunny windowsill and wait for green leafy hair to sprout. Eggshells can be too fragile for some little hands, in which case you can use an egg carton instead.
Te reo Māori gardening words
Try introducing these te reo terms to your gardening vocabulary during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week), which runs from September 13-19. Whare pī (beehive) is a favourite in our house
- māra – garden
- kākano – seed
- rākau – tree
- putiputi – flower
- ipu putiputi – vase
- whakatō – to plant
- kāheru – spade
- huripara – wheelbarrow
- noke, toke – worm
- ngārara – insect