Fun Friday activities are quick-and-simple ways to explore nature in your own backyard.
This idea was actually sparked by a fun display I saw when we visited the California Science Center last month. We found this giant sunflower puzzle. The goal is for kids to put the pieces together to see the sunflower “bloom.”
I loved the idea of identifying the various parts of the flower and seeing how they all work together to create beautiful blooms. Which got me thinking it might be fun to take a closer look at the flowers in our own garden.
Our notes from the field
When we planted our first vegetable garden this spring, we also planted four sunflower seeds. It’s taken several months, but the first finally opened up recently. What a treat!
With our backyard field guide in hand, The Big Explorer and I headed outside to check it out. First, we talked about how the sunflower had grown. The Big Explorer pointed out the long stem (which reaches far above his head), the leaves, flower and seeds.
We looked closely at the two sunflowers that haven’t bloomed yet and talked about what would happen next.
Then The Big Explorer sat down and wrote up our findings in our backyard field guide.
When he finished, we decided to take a closer look at each of the flowers in our recently planted flower garden. There were cool things to see when you looked up close, like the rich color in the center of this hibiscus.
The Big Explorer was anxious to touch this succulent, which he says “looks spiny but doesn’t hurt like cactus.”
There were also some very fuzzy-looking celosia “kimono mix” beauties he says weren’t nearly as plush as they appeared.
Besides exploring flowers with our hands and eyes, we had to smell them all, too! The Big Explorer always says they smell wonderful, even though none of them are fragrant!
But our favorite things to look for in and around our flowers are butterflies and bees. We’ve discovered they’re quick and not very cooperative when we want to get a close-up look!
We visit our flowers every day and have now taken our exploring skills out in the field, stopping to look closely at flowers we see wherever our outdoor adventures take us. I’m glad The Big Explorer has learned that there is much to discover if you’re willing to stop and take a look.
Flowers are easy to find, making this nature activity extra fun to try anywhere. For best results:
- Plant your own & watch them grow. Our experience of watching the sunflowers grow from seed into blooms was much more rewarding than I’d ever anticipated.
- Explore with multiple senses. Read about flowers in a book, watch them grow, smell them, touch them, even taste them (provided they’re edible). The more senses involved in the exploring, the more vivid the learning experience.
More ideas for outdoor fun
We still have more than a month of summer vacation left here in Los Angeles, but I’m guessing many of you are already getting ready for school. Make the most of your remaining summer days by heading outside with your kiddos. This weekend:
- Go mud surfing – seriously, doesn’t it just sound fun?!
- Host a garden tour and let the kids show off what’s growing in your backyard
- Enjoy delicious strawberry shortcake outside, with fresh berries of course!
- Try one of these 10 ideas to get outside and play!
@Crystal: For a toddler version of a field guide, try putting photos of things in your backyard with words underneath on index cards held together with a binder ring.
I'll second the suggestion of reading "The Tiny Seed" with your boys — that's a great book for teaching about the life cycle of flowers! <br /><br />The backyard field guide is such a great idea! I've got to file this one away for when Shane's a bit older. We used to do something along those lines w/ my preschoolers at the school I taught at. We had a "class
@Dawn: I'm learning to be thankful for the many animal visitors we DON'T have here in the city. It definitely allows us to enjoy our veggies & flowers!
Boys who love flowers are awesome… I have a little flower lover here and I love it!<br />So great to see him next to the flower he planted! Fionna's sunflowers just got munched by the deer… 🙁 Hoping at least one will flower for her.
@Bethe: I take pride in the fact that my BOYS love flowers … have a great weekend, my friend!<br /><br />@Angela: Great idea to tie in both a book and then a planting. Isn't it exciting to see the seeds start to grow! Good luck with your backyard field guide! :)<br /><br />@Marghanita: Thank YOU for being a continual source of inspiration for connecting kids and nature. I will treasure
Marghanita Hughes says
Wonderful post Debi, lovely to see your son drawing his sunflowers-his journal will be such a treasure to look back on. Our sunflowers are just beginning to burst into colour -they always make me smile.<br />Yes, bees and butterflies don't like to hang around to be inspected -such a joy when you do get to see them, even for the briefest moment.<br /><br />Thank you for the mention-my little
I love this! You obviously have a beautiful garden, and your little explorer is definitely enjoying every bit of it! I also love the parts of a plant science lesson. I did this too with my daughter and a handful of her friends. I read to them the book by Eric Carle "The Tiny Seed", and then gave them a lesson about the parts of a plant and the process of photosynthesis. At the end of it
LOVE it, Debi. Flowers are so amazing — so much more than just a pretty face! Thanks for the link love, too! Hugs- Bethe @balmeras