Many years ago, I took a college class called “The Natural Environment in Winter.” It was January, and we met outdoors for about three hours—regardless of the temperature. I showed up at the first class wearing jeans, a medium-heavy jacket, a sweat shirt, gym shoes, cotton socks, and gloves, but no hat or scarf. (Hey, I was a city kid.) The ink in my pen froze and I couldn’t take notes. We spent a lot of time standing still to observe birds, twigs, moss, ice crystals, and seed heads while the wind sent bone-chilling blasts through my clothes.
My 2-year-old son is a little too young to carve or paint his own pumpkin this year, so creating a “pump-cano” was the perfect fall fun activity for him. This is an entertaining and simple activity for children of all ages and a great way to extend Halloween celebrations during the first week of November with leftover jack-o’-lanterns. It’s also a great time to remind kids that pumpkins are plants that grow as a vine. Along with squash and cucumbers, pumpkins are part of the plant family Cucurbita.
Have you noticed anyone foraging mushrooms lately? Building campfires? Baking bread? In these disorienting times, there’s a growing movement to embrace such pursuits as a way to get centered, to lead a more simple, slower life. It has been called #cottagecore, but really it is more than that. It’s a throwback to a rustic aesthetic. That could mean thrifting, DIY, or repurposing gently used items. Here at the Chicago Botanic Garden, we’re all about fuss-free pursuits—plants, nature crafts, plant-based meals...we had you at plants, right?
The bright blooms of summer never last long enough for me—but I’ve found an easy way to preserve the color and beauty of favorites. Lately, I’ve been pressing flowers to give them a second chance to be appreciated—ranunculus, chamomile, and more. The process is straightforward, using things you have around your home. And it’s easy enough that you can do it with kids.
The world could use a little more beauty right now. Why not help create some in nature? Try your hand at ephemeral nature art. It’s simple and relaxing, and something the whole family can do. Ephemeral art uses found materials and is created and left in the environment. It is temporary and evolving. The materials can include anything you find outside, such as sticks, bark, leaves, flowers, sand, shells, etc.
My Great Aunt Lila used to say that plants bring out the goodness in people. Her house in the Hudson Valley was full of exotic tropicals and orchids that she cared for meticulously. And yet she was always ready to give them away when anyone showed an interest in one, which for me was every visit. She would carefully divide an established plant that she had nurtured for decades, wrap up a chunk of the roots in a wet paper towel, and send me home on the five-hour drive holding a new precious plant in my lap.
Add a little brightness to your family's day—play with food, make rainbow dough—and get in some nature play, too. Ready to turn ☹️ into☺?
Nature Rainbow Scavenger Hunt
What better way to celebrate spring and keep kids busy than with mud?
All you need is a muddy buddy, a few basic supplies, and a sprinkling of imagination to try these fun, nature-based ideas at home. Mud Cupcakes
What’s not to love about a Shrek-like sprout head? This DIY project connects young kids to plants and the magic of sprouting seeds.