Eileen Straiton shares some wonderful projects for young children to celebrate the coming of Spring
Lima Beans and New Growth
Clear plastic cups
Fill cup 2/3 full with potting soil. Drop in one Lima Bean and cover with more soil. Water lightly. Make sure the cups are placed in a warm, sunny area. Wait for sprouts to show.
Grow Your Own Corn
Kernels of popcorn
Place some dirt in a Ziploc bag, add some water and a few kernels of popcorn.Seal the bag and place it in a sunny window. You should see some growth within a week.
“In the old Roman Empire, the faithful kept a very strict fast all through Lent: no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and no meat. They made small breads of water, flour and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer. They shaped these breads in the form of crossed arms for in those days they crossed their arms over the breast while praying. Therefore they called the breads “little arms” (bracellae). From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term “pretzel.”
1 1/4 cups water (85º)
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 1/2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 teaspoons water
Let yeast and sugar dissolve in water for one hour. Add flour to yeast mixture and beat until smooth. Knead mixture for seven to eight minutes. Place in a greased, covered bowl and let the dough rise until double in size. Divide the dough in half; then divide each half into smaller pieces of equal size. Roll each piece in your hands to make pencil shapes twelve (12) to fifteen (15) inches long. Shape each length of dough into pretzels (see the diagram). Place on a greased baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk and water mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 325 degrees until lightly browned on top.
Cloth or Newspaper
Let the sun shine through your home and classroom by ensuring your windows are clear of debris and streaks. Using a solution of vinegar and water, have children help you spray and wipe each window and mirror you can find. Giving each child his or her own spray bottle and cloth will add to the fun.
Elemental Nature Space
Today add the four elements to your nature space with the children to celebrate our Earth Day theme. Following are some ideas for each of them:
Earth: A small bowl of soil from your garden, a potted plant, brown or tan silks, a rock, moss or root
Air: A handmade pinwheel, a small hand fan, a white silk hanging above your nature space, a watercolor painting of ‘the wind’, a whistle or kite
Water: A small pan of water, jar of rainbow water, blue silk, a small fish tank or tiny umbrella
Fire: Beeswax candle, red or orange tissue paper in a cup, red or orange silks, jar of red beads or incense
Recycled Bird Feeder
Empty Orange Juice or Milk Jug Containers
Paint or Fabric Decoupage Material
Wire or String
Box Cutter or Sharp Knife
Ask each child to bring in an empty orange juice or milk jug container. Have an adult cut two medium sized holes on each side of the container. Punch two holes in the top of the container and use wire or string to make a hanger on top. Have children paint or use decoupage material to decorate their bird feeder. Make two slits underneath both holes just large enough to slie popsicle sticks through. Before doing so, add a little hot glue to the slits to hold the stick for the birds to perch on. Fill with birdseed and hang these feeders near a window where the children can see them from indoors.
Nature Notebooks or Large Poster Board
Colored Pencils or Photos of Birds
String, Yarn or Raffia
Field Guide (optional)
This week, spend time creating a bird chart with your children. You can do this activity inside your nature notebooks or create a large chart that you hang on a wall. Chart the most common birds in your area by drawing or pasting a picture of them on your chart. Leave room next to each bird to put tally marks and dates of when the visitor has been spotted. You may also like to keep track of how often you hear the bird’s song. Use your field guide to help with the drawings and identification of birds that you see. Leave extra room for new visitors that show themselves in the upcoming weeks.
Natural Easter Egg Coloring
Natural Dyes to Experiment With:
Beets, Cranberries, Tumeric, Cumin, Cherries, Cranberries, Blueberries, Ground Coffee, Red Cabbage, Spinach, Kool Aid, Etc.
Gently place eggs on the bottom of your pan – do not stack eggs on top of each other (you may have to do a few pots).
Cover eggs with water so they are fully covered with an additional ½” on top. Add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar to pot. Add 1 tablespoon of alum to pot.
Add natural dye material to your pot. Experiment with different amounts to see the colors you can create. Bring pot to a boil and let simmer 25-30 minutes. With tongs or large scooper, bring eggs out of pot gently and transfer onto paper toweling or newspaper lined bowl. Let cool.
Have children use colored pencils to sketch eggs into their nature notebooks. Next to each egg, have them journal about the materials used for dye, color achieved and success.
Egg Shell Garden
**this is a great activity to do with broken colored Easter Egg shells after you eat them or crack a few by accident!
Eggshells (colored or plain)
Pieces of Sponge
Place a piece of sponge inside of the broken eggshell. Add a small amount of water to the sponge to make it moist. Sprinkle grass seed on top of the sponge. Each day water the seed lightly. In approximately one week you should see the grass growing.
Large Flower Pot
Large Plastic Bag
Food Scraps (no meat or dairy products)
Fill your pot ¼ full with dirt. Add food scraps until it reaches the half way point of your pot. Cover the food with a light layer of dirt on top. Keep the pot outdoors and place plastic bag over it. Add a small amount of water every few days to keep it moist. Stir the mixture when you add the water. After a few weeks the food will turn into soil and the compost can be used to add to your garden or you can plant a flower directly into your pot.
Braided Egg Bread
This bread taste great and looks stunning on the Easter breakfast table. It is best eaten the day it is baked.
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour, divided
1/8 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (or 1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
5 whole eggs, dyed if desired, but not boiled
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, honey, salt and yeast; stir well. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.
Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly. Add two eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Dough should be a bit sticky, but if it is too sticky to knead, add a little more flour. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 10 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal size rounds; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each round into a long roll about 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Using the two long pieces of dough, form a loosely braided ring, leaving spaces for the five colored eggs. Seal the ends of the ring together and use your fingers to slide the eggs between the braids of dough. Make sure the eggs are nestled deeply in the dough or they might be pushed out during rising. If you colored the eggs, make sure to rinse them well or the color may bleed into the dough
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place loaf on a buttered baking sheet and cover loosely with a damp towel. Place loaf in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Brush risen loaf with melted butter.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until golden.
Eileen is a work-at-home mother to four daughters. She writes and publishes monthly nature guides for parents and caregivers of young children at Little Acorn Learning and has many ideas and activities for parents on her blog at Eileen’s Place