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the garden classroom

52 kids gardening activities

art, craft, science, math, literacy, and play

Cathy James

the garden classroom

Text and images copyright 2012 Cathy James
All Rights Reserved
For more kids gardening, art, play and activity ideas
visit Nurturestore.co.uk
Join Cathy at facebook.com/NurtureStore

Im passionate about children and gardening. From my own children, my work with preschoolers, and the school gardening club that I run Ive seen many times the benefits kids
get from being close to nature. Your garden is an outdoor classroom waiting to be explored
and this book is bursting with ideas you can use to make the most of the science, art and
learning thats waiting for you outside your own back door.
My own garden is a tiny city space. We have no lawn but beautiful Victorian walls giving us
a sheltered spot. With limited space we need to maximise everything we have and we manage to combine areas for play, relaxing and learning along with over thirty different varieties
of fruit, vegetables and herbs. If youre not much of a gardener yourself, or even if you
have no garden at all, this book still has lots ideas for you to try so your children can reap
the benefits of a garden classroom, whether its your own or the local park or woodland.
All the ideas in this book have been tried, tested and approved by children. A few are more
suited to toddlers and some are better for older children but the majority are adaptable to
your childs age, stage and interests. The Garden Classroom brings you fifty-two activities,
giving you a whole years worth of garden projects. Come rain or shine, and whatever the
season, there are ideas you can use to give your children a connection to nature all year
round. You can group ideas together if youre home-schooling or looking for ideas for the
summer break, or dip into the book and try a different idea each week. Youll find tips on
what to grow with children and how to get started, and suggestions for science studies you
can try. There are lots of art and craft projects, and ideas to take math, literacy and imaginary play outside.
I hope you and your children enjoy the ideas in The Garden Classroom.


what to grow with children

how to plant a seed


plant pot seed starters


diy watering can


egg heads


quirky eco planters


grow your own meadow


write a garden journal


take literacy outside


nature treasure bag



science and math

growing seeds experiment :: part one


growing seeds experiment :: part two


growing seeds experiment :: part three


mini beast bingo


lady bird number line


one potato, two potato


fruit cocktail math


sunflower height chart


sunflower number game


sunflower sundial


arts and craft

handprint sunflowers


cement tile art


garden bunting


tin can flower pots


sand and pebble art


garden jewellery


leaf collages


daffodil bunting


daffodil pinwheels


large scale landscape art


printing with flowers


spring flower bouquet


painted flower pots


sticky pictures


jello jar candle holders


tin can votives


finger knit a flower


pavement art


birds and bugs

bird cafe


bug hotel


snail races




symmetry butterflies


clothes-peg butterflies


creatures close up



play and recipes

pretend play potting shed


fairy garden


dinosaur land


miniature garden


how to build a den


garden recipes :: basil pesto


garden recipes :: customised soup


garden recipes :: chop salad


what to grow with


The quick answer to the question what to grow with children? is anything! One of the important lessons to be learnt from gardening, as a child or an adult, is that were not in total
charge. We can pick seeds, design a planting scheme and water correctly but Mother Nature,
as well as a whole host of garden bugs, also have a say. Theres an element of risk taking: trying something new to see if it works and picking yourself up again when, after weeks of nurturing, a cheeky snail munches straight through the stem of your prized sunflower. Dont be
deterred though. Use these tips to get your garden off to a great start.

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Play to your strengths

Get to know your garden: How much sunlight do you

get? Which areas are always in shade? Whats the climate like in your part of the world and
when does the growing season fall? Take a peek at neighboring gardens and see whats growing
well there. Once youve done a little recognisance, play to your advantages. Every garden has
great things to offer. A tiny town garden might benefit from the shelter of the surrounding
houses and wall. A damp and boggy garden can grow an amazing swamp garden.

Create a riot for the senses

Children are sensory creatures and using the

garden to full effect gives them a paradise to explore. Include lots of flowers for colour. Add
herbs for scent. Grow fruit and vegetables so they can taste things straight from the plant.
Combine a variety of trees, plants and landscaping so the garden is good to touch. And make
wind chimes or include running water for sound.

Invite in wildlife

A garden thrives when it becomes a mini-ecosystem so do all

you can to encourage beneficial bugs and birds into your yard. These creatures also give your
children a living zoo to investigate and learn about. Flowers with open blooms, such as cosmos
and sunflowers, attract pollinating insects. Butterflies love nasturtiums and buddleia. Bird feeders welcome feathered friends.

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Grow for quick results

Young children like to see things happening, so pick

some plants which are quick to produce results. Cress, grass seeds, beans, and peas are quick to
germinate and grow. A cut-and-come-again variety of salad and radishes provide a tasty harvest
without a long wait.

Try something from seed

You might buy some established plants, such as

tomatoes and strawberries that are ready to go, but try and grow something from seed each
year too. This lets your children follow the cycle of growth and gives them tremendous satisfaction. Harvesting your own seeds from plants such as nicotiana and sunflowers teaches children about sustainability.

Go for crowd pleasers

Grow the things your children like to eat! You could set
up a pizza garden and grow tomatoes, basil and oregano to make your own toppings. Or try a
thorn-less raspberry, cherry tomatoes or some sugarsnap peas so your kids can pick and snack
as they play. Add in some extras too and you might find picky eaters are much more adventurous when theyve grown their own veggies.

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Throw in a wild card

Mix things up a little each year by growing something

unexpected. Maybe a melon or a grape vine? Perhaps some rainbow coloured carrots or yellow
tomatoes. Or see if you can raise your own Halloween pumpkin.

Let kids be hands on

Let the kids have their very own allotment or run the
garden as a family affair to suit your preference, but give the children the opportunity to be
hands on. Some seeds will be dropped and some plants will be over-watered, but take comfort
from the knowledge that by letting children join in, you are giving them a beneficial experience
that compensates by far for any minor losses. You might like to use the ideas in this book for a
fairy garden (page 100 ), indoor meadow (page 20), and a play potting shed (page 98) to give
them a hands-on space of their own.


Things dont always germinate. Slugs will always nibble leaves. Children will often
get covered in mud. Relax! The benefits of time in the garden with your children are plentiful.
The garden classroom gives space for running around, fresh air for physical and mental health,
a wealth of creative, play and learning opportunities. So, choose some ideas from this book to
try and go and enjoy the garden with your children.
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how to plant a seed

The basic essentials for planting a seed are pretty much the
same whatever you are growing. Check the packet details of
your seeds for any specific instructions and then follow
these steps to start your garden growing.

So many things can be used as a container to plant your seeds, and you can recycle lots of things you have
around your home. You could use plastic, card or coir plant pots bought from a nursery, tin cans, toilet roll
tubes, egg boxes or even egg shells, newspaper rolled into tubes or even plant the seeds straight into the soil.
Take a look at page 12 for some more ideas on what you can use as plant pots. Whatever you decide to use,
make sure there are some drainage holes in the bottom of your container so the soil doesnt get water logged.

Use a good quality, peat-free, potting compost
to give your seeds the best start.

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Water the compost before you plant your
seeds. This prepares the ground and encourages root growth down into the soil. It will
also prevent the seeds being washed away or
out of place in a flood of eager watering.

Take a look at page 8 for ideas on good plants
to choose for young gardeners. Check the individual instructions on the packet for details
about the particular plant youre growing to
see how deep to plant the seeds and any other
special growing details. As a general rule the
bigger the seed the deeper you plant them.
Plant larger seeds further apart to allow room
for the plants to spread.

Make a label for your seeds so you can remember what youve planted, especially if
youre planting several different varieties at
once. Use felt tip pens on lollipop sticks to
make labels, with a coat of varnish on top to
make them weatherproof

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plant pot seed

You can have lots of fun trying out different plant pots to start seeds and seedlings off in. Go on a scavenger
hunt around the house and garden and see what you can find.
Take care to choose containers with no sharp edges and make sure you add in some drainage holes in the bottom so the young plants dont get waterlogged. Some plant pots such as toilet roll tubes and egg cartons will
allow strong roots to grow through them and will also degrade in the soil, so you dont even need to take the
seedling outjust plant the whole pot straight in the soil.
Plant pots to try :
Toilet roll tubes with one end folded in to create the base :: comics and newspapers rolled up into a pouch ::
tin cans :: egg cartons :: egg shells :: yoghurt pots :: juice cartons :: silicone cupcake cases :: the empty skin of
half an avocado, orange, grapefruit, melon, pumpkin, coconut shell :: ziplock bag :: storage boxes

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diy watering can

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Children love to water plants. Generally this is good news and watering is a helpful chore the children can take
on in the garden. Sometimes though over enthusiastic watering can be bad newsplants can become water
logged and seedlings can rot away. Sometimes seedlings can be damaged in a deluge and sometimes, especially
in a class garden, you simply dont have enough watering cans to go round. This d.i.y. watering can with a rose
head could be the ideal solution. Made from a plastic milk bottle or similar carton its free and a great way to up
-cycle your junk into something practical. Its easy to make and holds just the right amount of water so its not
too heavy for young children, and everyone can take a turn at watering without causing a flood.

Make a diy
watering can
Start by washing out your milk bottle. We
use a 4 pint sized bottle, which gives
enough room to fill with a good amount of
water without the bottle being too heavy.
Use a knife or pair of scissors to make small
holes in the bottle top. Give the knife a little wiggle to create a hole rather than a slit,
to allow the water to come out freely. Always consider safety: this might be a job for
the adult.
Take off the bottle top to fill your new watering can, pop the lid back on and you are
ready to go. The handle in the bottle makes
it comfortable to hold and if necessary a
gentle squeeze can help the water to come
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You will need:
empty egg shells (try to just break off the top to empty them, so you
have a good size shell left to use)
felt pens
stick-on googly eyes (optional but fun)
cotton wool, cress seeds
an empty egg carton
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to make your crazy eggheads

Step 1

Wash out the egg shells and sit them in the egg box
to keep them steady (on a cotton wool cushion to raise them up
a bit if you need to).

Step 2

Draw on some crazy faces, using the googly eyes if

youve got some. You could do self-portraits or funny faces.

Step 3

Put some cotton wool inside the shells and dampen

them with some water.

Step 4

Sprinkle cress seeds all over the cotton wool good

coverage will give you a full head of hair. (As an alternative you
could use grass seeds and then youll be able to give your
eggheads a haircut as the grass grows.)

Step 5

Pop them on a windowsill and wait for the hair to

sprout. Itll only take a couple of days.

Step 6

Add a little bit of water if the cotton wool dries out,

but not too much. As the hair grows you could add ribbons to
create fancy hairstyles.

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quirky eco planters

It s amazing just what you can find to transform into a

plant pot. Re-use and up-cycle what you already have , are
about to throw out or can find in charity shops and create
some quirky eco planters.
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Make sure every planter you are using has drainage holes in the bottom. Scissors or a craft knife do the job
well in most of the containers, but you might need to use a drill for some of the metal items.
Fill each planter with a good compost and then add your plants. Choose small plants such as pansies, trailing
plants such as nasturtium, or spring and summer flowering bulbs. Herbs and salad plants can grow well in the
planters too. Use cable ties to fasten the planters to a fence, with some ribbon here and there to add some
extra colour. Or line your planters in a row for a burst of quirky colour.

What to use
:: Wellington / rain boots :: soccer boots :: tin cans :: colanders :: bread bins ::
clogs :: tea pots :: plastic bottles :: saucepans :: buckets :: pocket shoe organisers ::
fabric shopping bags :: burlap sacks :: tires :: wine barrels :: wheel barrows :: woollen
socks :: plastic bottles :: or even a bath tub!

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grow your own

Even if you have a small urban garden , theres no reason
why you cant grow your own meadow. A moveable patch of
lawn creates a beautiful play space for your children
inside or out!

Take a seed tray which is big enough to be a

good play space for your children but small
enough to move around easily.
Fill it with compost and water the soil.

Measure out some grass seeds (according to the

seed packet instructions) and sprinkle them over
the compost, casting them in horizontal and vertical lines to ensure good coverage.
Place your seed tray in a safe spot and leave for
the seeds to germinate. Within a week or two
your meadow should begin to growand grow
and grow and grow until...

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...you have a beautiful, verdant meadow, ready for play. Is it a farm, a jungle, a fairy land or a dinosaur world?
Move it inside and you have a natural, sensory play scene, bringing the beauty of the outdoors right inside your
home. And when your meadow grows so much it needs a haircut, use a pair of scissors to give the lawn a trim.

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write a garden

A garden journal is a great way to bring literacy

outside into your garden and give children the
opportunity to write with a practical purpose ..
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A garden journal can be a collaborative project, with everyone adding notes and drawings, or each child can
create their own.
Keeping your journal in easy reach, rather than stored away on a bookcase, encourages your children to add
notes whenever they see something interesting outside.
Mix in photos, sketches and writing so children of any age can contribute.
At the end of the growing year youll have created a beautiful record of all the fun youve had in the garden that

Items to include in your garden journal

:: diary entries of your progress - what you planted, when things began to grow, what youve been enjoying outside. You might like to keep a tally of your total food harvest for the year.
:: photos and drawings of the plants and animals you observe
:: treasures stuck on to the pages such as seeds, dried leaves, seed packets and labels
:: scientific and mathematical data showing how high plants are growing and what conditions they like

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take literacy outside

Idea 1

Go inside out

Set up a writing station in the garden. A tub of pencils on a picnic table. An easel in the shade of a tree.
A roll of paper fastened against a wall. Pretty much any way you promote writing inside works out of
doors too.

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Idea 2
Plain old water
Paint with a bucket of water and a paintbrush on the patio floor. Using paint pots
with lids helps to avoid spills and providing
paint brushes in an assortment of sizes, including big decorators paint brushes, invites
different styles of drawing and writing. You
could write out letters or messages in chalk
and invite the children to paint over the top
of each letter with water to trace over the
letter shapes.

Idea 3

Idea 4
Paint a
A pot of blackboard paint is a worthwhile investment and can transform a plain old garden
gate or shed door into a place children can
make their mark.
You could start them off by drawing a tree
trunk or some flower stems and seeing what
pictures they add. Or make it an observation
station and ask the kids to draw some of the
bugs and butterflies they spot around the garden.

Chalk works just as well on walls or the floor of

course, and is easily washed away with rain or
watering cans, leaving a fresh canvas for the
next days drawings.

Make a story tent

As youll be thinking of providing
somewhere shady for the children
to keep cool, why not transform
your shelter into a story tent?
Add some big cushions for
lounging on and a pile of books.
Choose some great outdoor
themed stories and add in
information books on plants and
animals, so the young scientists can
read up on the nature they observe

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Idea 5
A practical way to promote literacy outside is to
have a stash of clipboards and pencils piled up near
the door, ready for action. The boards provide a
sturdy base for writing and are easily taken out and
about in the garden, to the beach, the woods or
wherever youre playing outside.

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treasure bag

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This idea combines art, literacy and nature in a

treasure hunting adventure .
To make your nature treasure bag you will need:
:: two pieces of paper or card :: decorators tape :: paint :: laminating machine or contact paper :: hole punch ::
ribbon or thread :: stickers and coloured pencils
Mark each childs initial with tape in the centre of one of their pieces of paper.
Paint a design on one side of each piece of paper. When the paint is dry, peel off the tape to reveal the artists
You can add in some language learning by talking about all the things your might find on your nature walk.
Include ideas for colours and textures you might discover too. Write or draw your answers on some stickers
and add them to one side of your bag.
Laminate each piece of card or cover them in contact paper/sticky backed plastic to protect them. Then use a
hole punch to make holes around three sides of the sheets (the two sides and the bottom edge). More holes,
close together, will mean none of the treasures will fall out.
Using ribbon or string thread through the holes, lacing the two pieces of card together, leaving some extra
thread to make a handle. Tie the loose threads with a knot and your bag is ready to go.
Set off on a nature walk to see how many things you can find to match the words on your treasure bag. You
might like to use the treasures you find to make a Sticky Picture (page 72) or a Leaf Collage (page 56)

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growing seeds experiment

:: part one

Growing plants from seed is a perfect way for children to see science in action and to conduct
hands-on experiments. Pick a reliable seed that will germinate quite quickly, such as beans or
sunflowers, and follow these ideas as you plant to discover what a seed really needs to be able
to grow.
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Start by taking a good look at the seeds

and taking a photograph or drawing
them to add to your garden journal
(page 22) How big are they? What color?
Take a look at the compost or soil too
and talk about how it feels in your
hand. Note down the words your children think of to describe the soil: is it
warm, heavy, crumbly, thick?
Use a seed tray or several small plant
pots to plant your seeds. Follow the
planting guide on page 10 for tips, and
count your seeds as you plant. Add in
some writing practise by making plant
labels. Its good for young children to
understand that writing has a very practical purpose - and making sure you
remember what youve planted where is
very important. With older children you
might like to talk about how the plant
gets its scientific name. However young
your child is, let them have a go at writing the plants name on the label.

Now for some experimenting.

Ask your children what they think
a seed needs to grow - and test
out their ideas.
Try growing some of your seeds
in the dark. Try growing some
without any water. Will they grow
in the freezer? Or in a warm spot?
See if a few seeds will grow just in
a pot of water, without any compost. Use your garden journal to
record your results and see if you
can discover the very best place
to grow a seed.

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growing seeds experiment

:: part two

Its interesting for children to understand that not all plants grow in the same way. This experiment takes a
closer look at germination and compares two different types of seed, measuring and charting their growing
progress. It puts the children in charge of designing the experiment and includes lots of opportunity for math
and literacy work.
Bean and pea seeds work well for this experiment. Theyre big sized seeds which makes them easy to handle
and the different shapes make them an interesting contrast. They germinate quickly too, giving the children
something interesting to see without having to wait too long.
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Fill a glass with cotton wool to act as the soil and dampen the cotton wool with water. Pop the seeds inside,
placing them at the edge of the glass to get a good view of them as they beginn to grow.
Ask the children to decide what they would like to measure. You might choose to chart:
:: how long it takes for the seeds to begin to grow
:: how long before there is a leaf
:: how long before there is a flower
:: which seed variety grows to 10cm first
:: how long it takes until you have something you can eat!
Ask the children to predict the answers to their questions. Then decide how to record your results. You might
like to use your garden journal (page 22) to keep photographs or draw the changes each day. You might like to
record the days in a tally or bar chart. Having two different types of seeds in the experiment lets you compare

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growing seeds experiment

:: part three
When youre a young gardener it can be hard to understand
what s going on under all that soil . Growing seeds in an
observation pot gives children a window into the underground world so they can really see how a seed starts to grow
A clear plastic container makes a great garden observatory. Make some holes in the
bottom for drainage and pick a seed to
grow. A large seed such as a pea or a bean is
ideal as it will germinate quickly and the
roots and shoots will be clear for the children to see.
You can fill your observatory with soil, but
using cotton wool or tissue can give an even
clearer picture. Just be sure to transfer your
seed to some compost once its got its first
leaves appearing, as it will need the nutrients
in the soil to develop into a healthy plant.
Check your seed each day to see its progress.
Keep the pot moist but not too soggy, and
watch as the roots begin to grow. How do
they know to grow downwards? What happens to the roots if you turn your seed upside down?
Next come the first leaves, not actually true
leaves but cotyledon, which will wither and
die as the real leaves appear. Turn your observatory away from the sunlight and see
what happens to the stem of your plant.
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You can also grow cuttings

from plants in your observatory
to see how they root and become a whole new plant. Spider
plants Chlorophytum cocosum are
great for this experiment and
you can start cuttings successfully in just a glass of water, giving you the opportunity to see
the roots clearly.

What about trying potatoes in

an observatory? A tall plastic
bottle is a good shape and size
for this. Place some compost at
the bottom and sit your seed
potato on top. Watch how the
eyes begin to sprout and leaves
appear. Keep watching and
roots will grow from the bottom of your potato. As the
leaves grow up inside your observatory, keep filling it up with
more compost, covering right
over all the leaves until theyve
grown up to the very top of the
bottle. Then watch and you
might spot brand new potatoes
appearing inside the bottle.
(Note: The potatoes used in this
experiment are not suitable for
eating, as they have been exposed to daylight and may develop green patches, making
them harmful to eat. Plant another crop of potatoes outside
in the soil and keep these observatory ones just for your experiment.)
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mini beast bingo

Garden creatures are fascinating to young children,
often stopping them in their tracks as they pause to
peer at an ant trail or spider web. This idea for mini
beast bingo encourages children to carefully observe and chart all the different inhabitants of their
Begin by talking about what animals you might expect to see in your habitat and then draw pictures
of them. Everyone can join in with this, drawing
from memory, imagination or copying from reference books.
Stick all your animal pictures on a big piece of card
and write the creatures names underneath each
one. Every time you spot an animal in the garden
you can tick it off your chart. You might like to go
on a mini beast hunt, or look out for them as you
garden and play.
Take time to have a good look at each animal as
you find them. Observe their shape, colour and
patterns and count their legs. Talk about their role
in the garden ecosystem and decide if they are
goodies or baddies.
If you like a competition you could make each person a slightly different bingo card to see who can
spot all their creatures first to get a full house. Or
promote harmony in the garden with one big bingo
card to complete all together.

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ladybird number line

This set of counting ladybirds makes a perfect number line

for young children
Ladybirds with their spots lend themselves to counting games really well and the addition of stickers makes
math even more fun.
To start your ladybird counting line first make your ladybirds.
1. Cut out some ladybird shapes from card.
2. Write on them numbers one to ten.
3. Peg them on to a washing line and youre ready to count.
You can hang your number line indoors or in the garden. Laminating each ladybird will help protect them if
theyre going outside.
Let the children play with the ladybirds and use them for some counting games.
:: Can you find the ladybird with a number one?
:: Can you add the right number of stickers to match the number?
:: Which ladybird has got the most stickers?
:: Can you line up the ladybirds from one to ten, or from ten to one.
:: This ladybird has two spots can you find a ladybird with one spot more?
:: How old are you? Can you find a ladybird with the same number of spots?
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one potato, two potato

One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more

Its easy to include some math in your garden if youve been growing your own
fruit and vegetables.
You could

Count how many potatoes you have. Draw up a chart to record the
harvest from your garden and add up the grand total of what youve grown.

Rank your produce by size from biggest to smallest

Measure your veg and graph their sizes
Weigh your produce and see how heavy a pumpkin or marrow you
can grow.

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fruit cocktail math

Math activities for young children work best when they are fun and practical, using real objects that children
can feel, rather than abstract numbers on a worksheet.
There are many fruits which are easy to grow yourself including strawberries, thornless raspberries, blackberries
and cherries. Try this fruit cocktail math activity, using fruits from your own garden, for some tasty number
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How to make a counting garden fruit


1. Talk about the fruits that would be great in a fruit cocktail, and have the
children write or draw a list of possible ingredients.
2. Go harvesting in the garden (adding in extras from the shop or pickyour-own farm if necessary) to find your ingredients and wash, peel and
chop the fruit into pieces.
3. Recipe time. Have the children create their own fruit cocktail recipe and
write or draw them out on a recipe card.

You could use a 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5 recipe, where the children must pick one of
some kind of fruit, two of another, three of another, and so on.
Or use an Adds up to ten recipe, where the children can pick any combination of fruits they like so long as they total ten pieces all together.
If youre interested in colours, you could make the rule that they need five
different colours in their cocktail.
If youre interested in letters you could require that all the fruits in the
recipe start with a different sound.
4. Eat and enjoy your bowl full of numbers.

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sunflower height chart

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Sunflowers are a very suitable plant for children to

grow as the seeds are reliable, the plants grow very
quickly and can tower above childrens heads, and
the flower heads are so beautiful. Combining them
with this height chart invites your children to observe their growth carefully, measure, count and
compare progress, and then graph the results: great
math practise. Start by drawing a leaf for each member of the family or class, colouring them in, and
writing on your names.

Then its the sunflowers turn. Measure one of your

seedlings with a ruler to find out how tall it is. Over
on the sunflower height chart measure out the
height of your seedling and colour in the stalk up to
that level. You can add the date if you like.

Take a long roll of paper and stick it up on the wall,

door, or side of the fridge. Draw a tall sunflower stalk
up the roll of paper. Have every member of the family
or class stand against it and use the leaves to mark off
how tall everyone is. Talk about who is big, small and
medium and about how children ~ and plants ~ grow
taller but grown-ups do not.

Over time, keep on measuring your sunflowers as

they grow and grow and charting their progress on
your height chart. Will they grow bigger than the
tallest person? At the end of the summer be sure to
measure the children again, to see if theyve grown
over the summer too.
The handprint sunflower art on page 46 works well
in combination with the height chart, giving you a
grand finale to add on top of your stalk.

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A fun preschool
counting game

First make a number spinner. Take a 10cm

square of card and draw lines across and diagonally.

Mark 5cm along each line.

Join up the 5cm marks to make an octagon.

Cut out, then number the segments 1 to 8 and

colour them in.

Put a little sticky tack in the centre and poke

through a wooden skewer

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Then make the sunflower petals. Cut out 8

petals per player and number them 1 to 8.

Use a paper plate to make your seed head and add

the numbers 1 to 8. Make one for each player.

Then its time to play. Take turns to spin the

spinner and win a petal with a matching number.

The first person to get all their petals is the winner.

This game give you lots of math

concepts and numbers
to talk about..
:: How many petals have you got so far?
:: Can you find a 3 to match the spinner?
:: How many more petals do you need?
:: Whos got the most petals?
:: Which number is the biggest?
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sunflower sundial
Sunflowers love sunshine and turn their flower heads to follow the path of the sun throughout the
day. Take inspiration from them, add a dash of horology and learn about the science of measuring
time by making a sunflower sundial.
Materials: a stick, a flowerpot filled with soil (or something else to hold the stick upright), a clock timer, yellow chalk,
a patio / driveway /yard and sunshine!
Place the stick in the flowerpot so it stands upright, and then place the pot in an area of the patio or
yard which gets the sun all day.
This stick will be the gnomon (the hand of the dial) which is going to cast a shadow on the clock.
Use the yellow chalk to draw sunflower petals on the floor to mark out each hour of the day. The
clock in the picture runs from 8am to 8pm.
At 8 oclock use the chalk to draw a petal on the ground, with the tip of the petal marking where
the shadow of the gnomon falls. Add a number 8 to the tip of the petal.
Set the clock timer for 9 oclock. When the alarm goes off, its time to mark out the location of the
9 oclock petal. Continue setting the timer and marking off your petals throughout the day until the
clock is complete. Use the clock to chart out your routine the next day.

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Making a handprint sunflower is a wonderful

collaborative project as you can use the
handprints of a whole class or family to make
the petals. The finished sunflower looks beautiful as a work of art and also makes a great topper for the sunflower height chart on page 40.

To make your sunflower, begin by making lots

of handprints using yellow paint.
Cut them out and then staple them around a
paper plate.

Scrunch up some black tissue paper, or use

some real sunflower seeds, and glue them into
the centre of your handprint flower.

Sunflowers are a wonderful plant

for children to grow. They germinate reliably, grow super fast and
look great towering over childrens
heads. They also attract lots of beneficial insects into the garden. The
seeds provide a good source of
food for birds in the winter months,
or you can harvest some so you can
grow more sunflowers the following
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cement tile art

Cement tiles create a beautiful, long lasting art display in the garden. You can combine them with a variety of
materials to make unique designs. The ones in these photographs were made by the members of a school gardening club and use a collection of recycled materials. You could also gather souvenirs from a woodland walk
or a trip to the beach and use them to make a keepsake work of art to remember your visit.

To make your cement tile art

:: use an old shoe box lid as a mold and line with an old plastic bag
:: mix up the cement according to its instructions, to a fairly thick consistency, fill the shoe box lid and smooth
down the surface
:: insert pasta tubes to create holes to hang the tiles in a gallery when youre finished. Leave the pasta in place
for about two hours and then gently pull them out to create the hanging holes
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:: embellish your tiles with found items, natural materials and recycled items. Push them gently into the wet cement and they will fix in place
:: Try driftwood :: twigs :: shells :: slate :: beads from broken necklaces :: buttons :: bottle tops :: pen lids ::
smooth glass :: feathers
:: leave your tiles exactly where they are for a few days to dry out and set hard. Then add garden twine or ribbon to hang your art in an outside gallery
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garden bunting

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Bunting is a beautiful addition to a garden bringing a party atmosphere and adding colour all year round, even
when there are few plants growing. You can make your bunting in different ways depending on whether it will
be under cover or out in the elements. Its great as a group project for a family or a class as everyone can contribute a panel to add to the chain of flags.
If your bunting is going to be under cover, or youre just decking out the garden for a party or special occasion, you can make your bunting from card. Simply cut out triangles or rectangles, decorate and fasten on to
lengths of string or ribbon using staples, for instant garden style.
To make bunting that can be out in the garden whatever the weather use fabric. A thick calico will give you
robust flags whereas a thinner cotton will give more movement in the breeze, so pick your fabric to suit your
needs. You might like to use fabric all in one colour to unify your design, or mix and match colours and patterns along your chain. Using your childrens old clothes makes a beautiful keepsake set of bunting.
To make each flag, cut out a triangle or rectangle of fabric, then fold over a seam at the top and sew in place
with a simple running stitch. This gives you a tube at the top where you can thread through the string or ribbon to attach your flags to the bunting.
Then decide on your style and decorate your flags. You might like to paint, with handprints, paint brushes or
sponges. Use fabric paint if youre making bunting on cloth. You could also cut the flags from art your children have already made.
Or take inspiration from the garden itself and make leaf prints along your bunting. Choose leaves of different
shapes and sizes and paint a layer of paint on
bunting, then peel off the leaf to reveal your
Create a letter on each flag to spell out a message or welcome.
Use fabric scraps to make collages, adding
buttons and sequins for extra embellishments.
You can stitch the fabric in place or use fabric
glue for a quicker option.
Once all paint and glue is dry deck your garden with your bunting, hanging across walls,
gates or wigwams, or from trees and parasols.
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tin can flowerpots

Tin cans make great flower pots, to start off seeds before planting them out in the garden or made into pretty
vases with extra embellishments. Using cans is a great way to encourage children to use what you have available and up-cycle some of your household waste. These pots are inexpensive to put together and super quick
and easy to make. Theyre great for gifts or fundraising sales.
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Prepare the tin cans before the children plant and decorate them. Wash
out any remaining contents and make
sure there are no sharp rims around
the top of the can. Knock the rim
down with a hammer or cover it with
layers of tape if necessary. Use a pair
of scissors or a bradawl to carefully
poke a few drainage holes in the base
of the cans.
The children can then fill the cans
with compost and plant seeds or

To decorate your pots you could go for a classic parcel packaging, with brown paper tied up with string.

Or for added sparkle use stick-on gem stones and shiny ribbon. Using stickers rather than glue is great for last
minute presents, as you can give them as soon as youre done without waiting for anything to dry.

If youd like to add a touch of spring, use a flower design.

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sand and
pebble art
Combine some
natural materials
to enjoy some sensory art play

First draw a design on a pebble

or other surface using a little water. You could use a twig or paint
brush to mark out your design.
Then sprinkle sand over the wet

Shake off the excess and watch

your masterpiece appear. As the
water dries the sand can be
brushed or blown away, leaving
you with a clean surface to
make some more sand pictures.

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Celebrate the natural beauty of the

outdoors by making some garden jewelry.

Take some lengths of yarn or ribbon

with you and head out on a jewel hunt.
Collect some leaves and flowers and
look at the variety of shapes, sizes and
colors. Pick a few favourites from your
treasures and tie them into brooches
for your coats and crowns for your
head, transforming you into garden
pixies off to a party in your finest jewels.
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leaf collage
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Creating leaf collages lets children explore

the shape, textures and colours of natural
materials and use them in imaginative ways.
Go for a walk around the garden, collect
some natural goodies and see what you can
Spread out a sheet of contact paper / sticky
backed plastic and use that as the canvass to
place your leaves on and create your art. You
could make animals, garden pictures or layered patterns. Using contact paper lets the
children place and change the materials. You
could fix a large sheet of contact paper over
the outside of a window pane so the children
can add to the picture over time as they find
more materials in the garden.
Alternatively use colored card with glue or
sticky tape to fix your pictures in place.

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Welcome the spring into your home and create some
cheery daffodil bunting

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Start by looking at some real daffodils with your children, counting the petals and talking about the shapes
and patterns.
Draw out some daffodil star shapes onto card, either freehand or by using a template.
Paint your daffodils yellow. You could use a sponge, paint brush or even fingers to apply the paint. Cut out
your daffodils once the paint has dried. If you use a fairly thin card, the wet paint can make the card bend a
little as it dries, giving the daffodils a more 3D shape.

Cut out the centre part of some egg boxes to make the trumpets for the daffodil centres and paint them yellow
or orange. Paint them inside and out.
Once the trumpets are a dry, glue one into the middle of each daffodil star using craft glue and leave the daffodils to lie flat until the glue dries.

Then attach the daffodils to ribbon, string or yarn using staples or sticky tape and hang up your bunting to
deck your home and welcome the spring.
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Youll need:
yellow card (or card
and yellow paint), green
card , an egg box, a split
pin paper fastener,
yellow and/or orange
paint, a small paint
brush , a stapler,
a ruler, a pencil ,
a pair of scissors,
a craft knife (optional)
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Start with a square of yellow card. If you are going to

paint your card you will need to cover both sides.

Once any paint is dry, draw lines on the card as shown

above and cut along them.
Fold in four of the edges, as shown. Fasten them in
place with a little sticky tape.
Make a stalk for the flower by rolling a piece of the
green card into a tube.
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Cut out the cup part of the egg box this is going to
be the trumpet of your daffodil. Paint it either yellow
or orange to be the centre of your flower.

Use a split pin paper fastener to join the egg box trumpet, the daffodil and the stalk all together. The paper
fastener should poke straight through the center of the
card but it might be easier to make a hole with either a
pencil or craft knife first. The hole needs to be loose
enough for the daffodil to twirl around to give the
windmill effect. Then give a gentle blow and watch
your daffodil twirl.
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large scale
landscape art

Go big and go bold and try some large scale garden landscape art. The extra space the outdoors offers can
translate into art projects too. Take inspiration from the garden and create a huge flower meadow painting.
Roll out a long piece of paper - lining paper or the reverse side of some wallpaper - and provide a range painting materials. You can also use a sheet of material and fabric paints to create some art you can hang outside in
the garden.
You can do your painting indoors, but if the weather permits its a wonderful project to take outdoors so you
can paint some of the trees and plants you can see around you. The finished art work is beautiful to display and
can also be used as the backdrop for an imaginary play area or puppet theater.
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The large scale of this project lends itself well to collaboration and a family or class can work together, each
adding elements to the design.
You might use sponges cut into grass and leaf shapes or use real leaves to make prints.
Paint brushes can add stalks.
Pencils can sketch flowers before using paint to add colour.
Use real flowers from the garden to copy or let your imagination go free.

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printing with

Ever tried printing with flowers?

Dip and print it couldnt be easier. The flower stalks are
like little fairy wands, dabbing paint onto the paper. Little
finger prints make great stems too ~ and who can resist
putting their hands in the paint?
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spring flower bouquet

Make a mixed bouquet of everlasting flowers to brighten up your table. Grab your craft box, gather your children and set them a-crafting.
Here are four design ideas suitable for all ages, so you can pick your favourite or make them all. The designs
use egg boxes, cake cases and tissue paper for the flowers. For the stems, bendy drinking straws are perfect as
you can tilt the flower heads in the vase, and pipe cleaners work well too.
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Egg box flowers

These are super simple and great for
toddlers and pre-schoolers who love
to paint and sprinkle glitter.
To make them: Cut out some flower
shapes from egg boxes. Mix a little
glue in with your paint and then put
the paint on your flowers. Sprinkle on
some glitter and leave them to dry.
Make a little hole in the center of your
flower and poke through a bendy
drinking straw or pipe cleaner to make
your stem.

Cake case flowers

These are good for younger children
too, especially fans of glue and glitter.
To make them: Glue a mini cake case
inside a bigger one. Choose some coloured or patterned cake cases, or decorate some plain ones. Turn the cake cases inside out to show off the colors and
patterns. Add a blob of glue in the centre of each flower and around the outer
edge, then sprinkle on some glitter.
Once they are dry, stick a pipe cleaner
or drinking straw on the back with glue
or sticky tape to make the stalk.

Simple tissue paper

This design is better suited to slightly older children, as toddlers can find it quite tricky to use a
finger and thumb pincer grip to scrunch up the
To make them: Layer three to five squares or circles of tissue paper, in matching or contrasting
colours. Pinch the centre of the tissue paper and
scrunch a little to make a flower shape. Use sticky
tape to fasten the flower around a bendy drinking
straw or pipe cleaner.

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Opulent tissue paper flowers

This design creates beautiful, full blooms but is a little tricky for younger children who might
find the folding one way and then the other to make the concertina shape a little difficult.
To make the opulent flowers: Layer four rectangular pieces of tissue paper (approx. 10cm by
30cm sizes). Fold them in a zigzag concertina shape. Fasten in the centre with a piece of
thread or yarn (or wrap with your pipe cleaner stalk). Open out the concertina on each side
and ruffle up the tissue paper to create your petals.

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painted plant pots

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These painted plant pots are a fun way to add some extra colour to your garden. Theyre also perfect to give as
gifts for birthdays or Mothers Day, especially with a home-grown plant inside.
First, a clever way to hold the plant pot in place while you decorate: Poke a wooden skewer into an egg box,
then sit the plant pot on top, poking the skewer through the pots drainage hole. The pot is held in place but
can still rotate, so the children can decorate all the way round.
Draw on your design using a pencil to begin with - and anything goes: flowers, spots, stripes, a word, a name, a
pattern. Then use acrylic paint to add color, combining colors to get extra shades. Use fine paint brushes, cotton buds or fingers to apply the paint.
To finish, add a layer of watered-down PVA/ craft glue over the top when all the paint is dry, to help preserve
the design.

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sticky pictures

Contact paper or sticky backed plastic is a great material to use for childrens art as it allows the children to easily stick their design in place and swap and change things to create new pictures any time they like. Displayed
within a twig frame, you could make a gallery of these sticky pictures to hang in your garden, against a wall or
from the branches of a tree, so the children have a canvass ready and waiting for when they find some beautiful
leaves and petals to add.
To make a sticky picture:
Gather four twigs, all of similar length.
Position them in a rectangle and bind the joints with yarn or string.
Take a piece of contact paper and fix it to the back of the frame with drawing pins, pushing the pins into the
Use this as your canvass to create your art. Add leaves and petals from the garden or items from your craft box
to create your picture.
Finish off with a ribbon at the top of the frame, so you can hang your picture on display.

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These glass jam jar candle holders can be used to mark out a garden
pathway or as lighting for an evening picnic
To make them you will need: clean jam jars, PVA / craft glue, water, a paint brush and some embellishments
this design uses sequins but autumn leaves, petals or tissue paper are great alternatives
Try to find jars that have a wide neck, so its easier to place the candles inside and light them.
Start by thinning the glue with a little water, mixing it all together with a paintbrush. Then paint this mix over
the outside of the jar. Add your chosen embellishments and paint an extra layer of the watered down glue on
top to hold everything in place and provide a protective finish. Once the glue is completely dry, pop a candle
inside, and then place them out around the garden and sit back and enjoy the warm glow.

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jello jar candle holder

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tin can votives

Heres an alternative idea for garden lighting ~

up-cycling tin cans into metal votives.
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Take some clean tin cans and fill them with water. Take care with the rim of the cans, using a hammer to
knock down the edge if necessary. Place the water-filled cans in the freezer until the water has frozen solid.
Remove the tin cans and place them on a tea towel. This helps to hold them in place and mop up any water as
the ice melts.
Plan out your design: a scattered array of holes, a pattern or letters to spell out a word.
Create a design of holes in the can using a bradawl or screwdriver. Position the tool where you want to make a
hole and give it a few taps with a hammer to punch through the can. The frozen water inside helps to keep the
cans shape and gives resistance, making it easier and safer to punch the holes. The more holes you make, the
more candle light will shine though your finished design.
When youve completed your pattern let the ice melt and pour it out of the can. Burn a candle inside and let
the light glow out and show off your design.

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knit a
Ever tried finger knitting? Its a simple technique and a suitable introduction to knitting for young children
who find needles a little difficult to handle. Its very good fine-motor practise for nimble fingers and produces
a satisfyingly quick chain of stitches. Follow these simple steps and you can make a pretty flower brooch so
you can carry a memento of your garden with you, wherever you go.

How to finger knit

The index finger of one hand is the needle. Your
other hand (whichever one youd use to write with)
is going to wrap the wool around and make the

Use your other hand to wrap the wool around your

finger to make a second loop.

Start by making a looped knot in the wool and place

this first loop over your index finger.
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Pull the first loop over the second loop to knock it

off and youve created your first stitch.

Make another loop around your finger. Pull the first

loop over the second and youve made your next
stitch. Keep looping and knocking off and watch
your chain grown. You might like to wrap the wool
twice around your finger for each stitch to produce a
thicker chain and a chunkier brooch.
The thickness of your wool and the length of your
chain will determine how big your brooch is going to
be. This 22cm long chain turned into a brooch that
is 5cm in diameter.

When you have finger knitted your chain you need

to roll it up like a snail shell to make your brooch.
Then use a needle and thread (in a matching colour
to your wool) to sew a few stitches through the
brooch to hold it all together. You can sew so that
all the stitches are on the back of the brooch, or sew
them on the front and thread on a tiny bead every so
often to give your brooch some extra sparkle.

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Finally, on the reverse side, stitch on a brooch pin

and youre done. The brooch looks good fastened
on to a piece of card or in a gift box if youre giving
it as a gift, and is great for brightening up coats, hats,
scarves and bags.

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pavement art
Chalks in the garden are the ideal writing and drawing material. They can be used on walls, doors, patios, driveways and even tree trunks - and all be washed away by rain or a watering can when youve finished.
Keep a pot of chalks by the backdoor or hung from the handle of the shed and your children can grab them
any time they choose.
:: use them to copy the shapes of creatures you discover
:: lie down and draw around yourself

:: write out messages for others to read

:: mark out a street map and create a town in your garden

:: draw shapes with numbers or sight words in and see if you can toss a bean bag to hit a target
:: free-style patchworks, swirls and patterns to create some pavement art

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:: draw a grid and play hopscotch

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bird cafe
Encourage birds
into your garden
with these ideas to
create a bird caf .
String up some popcorn chains to wind
around a tree and deck your garden out with
bird-friendly bunting.
To make a chain:
:: pop some corn kernels (with no added salt
or sugar)
:: use a needle to put them on to some
:: thread the chain on a tree or bush in your
garden, tying on each end so your chain
doesnt blow away
:: you can add in raisins and dried cranberries to give the birds an extra treat

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Make a seed caf bar

Take a small plastic pot and use a craft knife to make a
small hole in the bottom. Find two sticks to make
perches twigs, lollipop sticks or kebab skewers all
work well. Cross them over and secure with a little
sticky tape.
Use some string to thread through the hole in your pot,
around the sticks and back through the hole again. This
holds the sticks in place and gives you a handle at the
top of your feeder to tie to the tree.
Make your bird feed using the seed cake recipe below.
Pack the seed mix into your plastic pot and press it
down well.
Let it chill and harden in the fridge for an hour or so.
Hang your seed caf bar from the branch of a tree in
your garden where you can see it clearly from while you
play. Then sit and watch the birds come and feed. You
could keep a record of which birds visit by taking photographs or drawing sketches to add to your garden
journal, and use reference books to learn facts about
each species.

Seed cake recipe

Mix one part lard with two parts bird seed. You can
also add in raisins, peanuts, dried cranberries, or
grated cheese . You can use a spoon or get stuck in
and squish it all together with your hands. Do not
melt the lard (or it will run out through the hole in
your plastic pot) but have it at room temperature so
its easy to combine with the seeds.

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bug hotel

Create a cosy habitat for insects to shelter

in over the winter by making a bug hotel .
You can make a bug hotel structure for over-wintering insects from planks of wood layered up on bricks, pallets or crates. A small shelving unit or a storage box with the base removed work well too. Stapling a plastic
mesh on the back will stop the materials slipping out as the hotel is filled but will still allow the bugs access to
their new home.

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Once youve made your structure you need to fill the hotel with insect-friendly material, suitable for making
nests and sheltering. Talk with your children about the kinds of creatures that are likely to be living in your garden and why they are important. Ask the children to imagine they are a bee or a beetle and think about what
theyd use to make a cosy bedroom. Try and use ingredients for your bug hotel that are recycled or natural materials, so it costs nothing to make and is eco-friendly. Items to include could be:
bamboo canes :: moss :: dry leaves :: logs :: pebbles :: slates :: twigs :: feathers :: pinecones :: bark :: grasses such
as pampas :: shredded paper
Using paper tubes and flower pots to make small chambers means every child can make their own and add it to
the bug hotel. When the bug hotel is filled, place it outside in a sheltered spot, ready and waiting for its first
guests to check in. You might notice some of the bamboo canes get sealed up with a leaf stopper, as hibernating bees make a home inside and close the door behind themselves.

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snail races

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:: Holding a snail race lets you have a good close-up look at these garden
creatures. Watch how they move and look around. See if all their shells
look exactly the same.
:: Remember to treat the snails responsibly and handle them very carefully.
:: Use chalk to draw out your race track. You could try traditional lanes but
your snails might not race in a straight line. Alternatively make a circular
bulls-eye race course and start all the snails in the centre. Whoever gets to
the outside circumference first is the winner!

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Great for: exploring printing and

stamping, talking about circles, exploring colour shades and colour

Use different round objects to print with: potatoes (with a handle cut out to help little hands), carrots cut in
half and cotton reels.
Add several shades of green and some red for the face and stamp out a caterpillar, overlapping circles in different shades.
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Take The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle as a theme

and explore the caterpillar s shape and colours through art,
model making, and food .

junk model

Great for: using recycled materials, exploring colour shades, kids

who love painting, working with
3 dimensions, story telling with
models, and small world play

To make your junk-model caterpillar, cut out a body from an egg box. Provide different shades of green paint
and paint brushes and sponges. Let the children apply the paint to the caterpillar in any pattern they choose
(sticking your fingers in the paint is encouraged!)
Add a face and finger paint some eyes and a mouth.
Two bendy drinking straws make perfect antennae. You can use your model to act out The Very Hungry Caterpillar story or take it out to the garden for some small world play and find your caterpillar a nice green leaf to
munch on.

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Great for: fine motor
skills, kids who love tearing paper or using scissors, exploring texture,
and trying out glue

:: Spread glue in a caterpillar shaped arch and

add lots of different shades of green paper,
combining as many patterns and textures as you
:: Let the children choose which pieces they like
:: Add a red face to complete your collage.

to eat
Build an edible caterpillar from
cucumber and tomato slices with
red pepper antennae, and a bed
of salad leaves to sit on.

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symmetry butterflies
Creating butterfly art is a wonderful opportunity to explore symmetry with your children. Heres a classic childrens craft idea to bring some magic to your painting.
Take a piece of card and draw the outline of a butterfly. You can make lots of butterflies in different shapes
and sizes.
Fold the card in half and add some paint to just one side. This art is open to all children, even babies, as you
can finger paint, smear color around, make handprints or use brushes or sponges to apply your paint.
Now for the magic. Fold over your butterfly so the paint is on the inside of the card. Rub over the top of the
card to squish and spread the paint around. Gently peel open the folded card to reveal the magic pattern
across both the butterfly wings. You can add a shimmer of glitter while the paint is still wet.
Once the paint is dry, cut out your butterfly. Fix your butterfly on to a greetings card. Add a paperclip on the
back to create a bookmark. Glue on a mini clothes peg and you can pin your butterfly up. Add a pin to make a
brooch. Or string up your butterflies to create a mobile, in the house or from the branches of a tree.

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clothes-peg butterfly

Heres a different idea to make a butterfly, using a

collage of recycled materials to create the patterns
on the wings.
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Step One
Take a sheet of clear plastic and cut
out a butterfly shape. A piece of card
or paper would work just as well.

Step Two
Customise your butterfly, with liberal
amounts of glue, tissue paper, tin foil,
sequins and stickers. Talk about symmetry, and see if you can get your
butterflys wings to match each other.

Step Three
Add a line of strong glue down the centre of the butterfly and insert the wings
into the clothes-peg. If you want to
hang your butterfly you can tie a length
of string around the peg. Sitting the
butterfly on the side of a drinking glass
helps press the wings in place while the
glue dries.
Finally, twist a pipe-cleaner around to
make the antennae and draw on a face.
Once all the glue is dry you can hang
your butterfly up and watch as the
breeze makes it flutter around.
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creatures close up
Your garden offers children the chance to get up close to lots of wild animals: to study how they look and how
they move, to find out where they live and what they eat, and to begin to understand how the garden is one
whole community where they and the tiniest ladybird both have a home and a purpose. Take advantage of
your back-yard zoo and go on a beast hunt to observe these creatures close up.

create a wildlife
There are simple steps you can take to make your
garden a paradise for bugs and beasts.
Grow a wide variety of plants, to provide food
right through the year :: Include lots of nectarrich flowers, with large daisy-style blooms ::
Dont be too tidyleave piles of leaves to provide homes and shelter :: Include native plants
and wild flowers in your planting scheme :: Set up
a bug hotel (page 84) for over-wintering animals ::
Create a bird caf (page 82) to provide an important extra source of food for birds :: Set up a
small woodpile to provide food and shelter
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set a trap
Setting up a simple bug trap overnight lets you take a closer look at the creatures that come out after youve
gone to sleep.
Use a small plastic container such as a yoghurt pot and sit it down in the soil so the rim is level with the top of
your soil.
Prop a cover over the top of the trap, so animals can pass underneath but your trap will not fill up with any
Add few leaves or some grass clippings to the bottom of your trap, then leave it overnight.
In the morning you might be rewarded by some visitors. Use a magnifying glass to take a close look and see if
you can identify the creatures you have caught. Treat the animals very carefully and be sure to release them
back in to the wild as soon as you have had a look.

zoom in
Using a magnifying glass or the macro setting on
your camera gives you the tools to zoom right in
and take an extra close look at the creatures in
your garden. Look under logs, turn over leaves
or best of all see if you can find a bug crawling
up a window pane or inside a jam jar. What details of the animals can you see when you really
get close? Taking your camera off its manual setting and switching to a macro view can give you
amazing results and help your children to learn
about the animals in much more detail. Look at
the snails mouth on the picture on the right, and
see the intricate details on the wings on the previous page. You can also use your camera to
document changes in your garden journal recording how leaves unfurl or flower buds
open. The pictures at the top of this page show
Cabbage White butterfly eggs developing on the
leaf of a nasturtium plant and give the children a
view thats hard for them to see with just a human eye.
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pretend play
potting shed
To get all the benefits gardening offers its good to let children be as hands on as possible. Of course, some
seeds are precious and new plants are delicate and thats not always the best combination with a young child
who wants to plant and pick and poke! A solution to keep everyone happy is to set up a potting shed play area,
where the kids can role play being gardeners over and over again to their hearts contentgiving the real plants
in the garden a chance to get established while the kids are playing elsewhere.
Chose an area in the garden where your kids can potter and make a little mess. A shady spot under a canopy or
tree is ideal as the children can play as long as they like and still be sheltered from the sun.
Gather some materials to kit out your planting station. A raised sandpit makes a great potting table. Add in
plant pots, seed trays and small trowels and spades.
Youll need something to plant in but what you chose is
up to you and how much mess you enjoy. Compost is the
obvious choice but sand, rice, dried pasta or even play
dough are all good options that can be used to fill plant
pots and plant seeds and flowers into.

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Provide things for your children to

You could offer spare seeds, especially big ones such as beans, peas
or sunflowers, which children can
handle easily and reuse each time
they play.
Add artificial flowers too: bought
ones or homemade. The Spring
Flower Bouquet (page 66) has some
ideas for flowers you could make.
Include watering cans and spray
bottles to tend the plants, filled
with water or just imagination.

Never miss an opportunity to add in reading, writing, and math.

Provide some real seed packets and pages from garden catalogues to browse through, covering them in contact
paper / sticky backed plastic or laminating them if you want to help them last longer outdoors.
Keep a supply of plant labels and pencils so the children can write notes of what theyve planted.
Clipboards of paper or a blackboard are good ways to provide writing surfaces outside and the children can
chart what theyve planted or even set up a nursery and sell their wares.

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fairy garden
Every outdoor play space can benefit from the
addition of a place for fairies to live. This tiny
imaginary world can be created from bits and
pieces around the garden and adds a touch of
magic outdoors.
Start by choosing a location for your garden.
There are many possibilities: a patch of soil, plant
pot, half a water barrel, old wheel barrow, old
suitcase, wooden treasure chest, a large plastic
box. Make a few drainage holes in the base.
Next fill your container with soil and then create
your magical land. You might like to sow some
grass seeds or cover the surface with moss.
Gravel and tiny pebbles make good pathways.
Find somewhere for your fairies to live. A old
plant pot is perfect.
Add some trees and flowers. You might like to
transfer some from elsewhere in the garden or
sow some wild flower seeds.

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Shells can be used for pavements or decorative

Bark makes a good place to sit.
Twigs can be pushed in the soil, with twine woven through to make fences. Or bind some sticks
at the top to make a tent or archway.
You can make fairies from clothes pegs with doily wings and invite them to come and live in your
This kind of play stretches childrens imaginations away from everyday situations and encourages them to think creatively. Combining natural
materials lets them enjoy many different textures
and colours and work out inventive ways to use
them. Playing in a small world helps childrens
language skills too, as they think up characters
and conversations.

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make a dinosaur world

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If fairies arent your

thing, how about a miniature dinosaur land to
bring some imaginative
play to your garden?

As with the fairy garden, begin by selecting a container: a big plant pot, a plastic
storage box or an old suitcase. Make a few
drainage holes in the base and then fill it
with soil.
Add a few rocks of different shapes and
sizes to give the dinosaurs an interesting
Include plants for the dinosaurs to eat and
hide in. Grasses work well as they are fairly robust and can stand up to some play,
and can be trimmed when they start to get
A saucer or plant pot base full of water
can make swamp.
Then its over to the kids to get playing.

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miniature garden

A miniature garden makes a wonderful child-sized space for

some small world play. As a variation on the fairy and dinosaur gardens this miniature garden can be a dream garden for
little people to live in .

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Make a miniature garden of your own

Choose a container. An ice-cream tub, a big plant pot or an under-bed storage box
work well.

Prepare the ground. If youre going to grow real plants in your miniature garden
make some drainage holes in the bottom of your container, then fill your container
with soil. You can still bring your miniature garden inside to play with - just sit it on
a tray to catch any drips.

Add some landscaping. Use lollipop sticks and twigs to build fencing and make
wigwams for your plants to grow up. Gravel and shells can be used for paths. Lids
from food jars, tin foil or small mirrors can create a pond.

Get planting. Select plants which will stand up to some play and which will retain
a miniature size. We like using grasses, which are fun to give a haircut, and easy
maintenance plants such as houseleeks (semper vivum). For some prettiness you
can add tiny violas.

Add some embellishments. Borrow items from your dolls house to make a seating area, or make some chairs and a table using corks and pebbles. Use twigs or
wooden kitchen skewers and string to make a washing line or some bunting. Find
seeds to place in rows to make a vegetable garden. Let the children use their imagination and see what they can create.

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how to build a den

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Dens open up a world of imaginary play for children and there are a lot of creativity, design, problem solving
and construction skills being developed as they play. Most children dont need to be shown how to build a den,
it seems to come naturally, but making sure they have plenty of suitable materials available can really encourage
this kind of play. You might have a permanent play house structure but offering lots of loose parts lets children
work together to build a den from their imagination.

Essential ingredients for dens


Children can build a den anywhere: under a tree, over a washing line, in a shady corner of the garden or in a forest. Let your children have some freedom to choose the location of their den, perhaps agreeing
some safety and practical arrangements together first. How long can the construction can stay up and will they
agree to help tidy it away afterwards?


A list of great building materials includes big branches, garden parasols laid on their side,
garden chairs and tables, cushions and blankets, bed sheets and big pieces of fabric, crates and boxes. Scarves,
string and clothes pegs are useful to fasten things together. Big cardboard boxes make instant dens.


The addition of the right props can transform a den into a whole days worth of happy play. Have
dedicated outdoor items readily available or encourage the children to bring things from inside into the garden.
Props that spark great play include pots and pans and picnic items, torches, pillows and sleeping bags or blankets. Children will often camp out in a den and read and draw, so have a basket of books, clipboards and pencils ready for them to use.

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garden recipes ::
basil pesto
Its so satisfying to grow your own food, harvest it and eat it, right from outside your back door. However big
or small your garden theres always space for growing foodwhether its a raised bed full of vegetables, a pot
of herbs or a window box of salad. Theres something very special about involving children in each stage of
planting, growing, picking and cooking. Try this simple basil pesto as a great beginner recipe that children can
make themselves, with a little adult supervision. Its delicious spread on toasted bread or pizzas, with mashed
potatoes or stirred through pasta.

Basil pesto ingredients

4 child-sized handfuls of freshly picked basil leaves
1 handful of pinenut kernels
1 handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
A glug of olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
A little salt and pepper

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Start by toasting the pinenut kernels in a dry frying pan (no oil added) to give extra flavour.
Then simply pop the pinenuts, basil, cheese and oil in a blender and whizz it all up. You can make the pesto
with a pestle and mortar too if you dont want the children to use a blender.
Encourage the childrens confidence in the kitchen by letting them taste the result and decide for themselves if
the sauce needs tweaking with an extra slug of oil or squeeze of lemon.

Other ways to use herbs from your garden

Snip chives and mix with smoked mackerel and cream cheese to make a delicious pate.
Sage works perfectly with sausagestry some home made sausage rolls with puff pastry.
Oregano can be picked, washed and sprinkled straight on to your pizza.
Include some lavender stalk under the running water when you fill your bath.

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garden recipes ::
customised soup

Inviting kids in to the kitchen is about lots of things: developing a relationship with food, seeing how meals
are prepared, and learning lots of important skills. This recipe for vegetable soup is delicious and healthy but
it also gives children a chance to build their confidence in cooking because they are the ones who decide
which ingredients to use. It encourages them to use their own taste buds and try out making a recipe of their
very own. And if you are growing some of your own herbs and vegetables they can pick the ingredients right
from their own garden too.

customised soup recipe

The special thing about this vegetable soup recipe is that there isnt really a recipe at all - just suggestions for
children to help them create a signature dish of their own. Whatever combination of vegetables they choose,
a ratio of around 10 veggies to 2 pints stock is a rough guide - but have some extra stock ready just in case
you need it. A combination of 1 onion, 2 celery sticks, half a bulb of fennel, 3 carrots, 3 parsnips and 1 sweet
potato, together with 2 pints of chicken stock is a good starting point, which will make enough for eight
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garden soup
basic principles
Fry some base vegetables in oil in a really
big pan: onions, garlic, celery
Peel and chop some root vegetables and
add them to the pan: potato, carrots,
sweet potato, parsnips, swede, and fennel
are all good. Use a child-friendly peeler to
make it easier and dont worry too much
about all the vegetables being chopped to
the same size.
Add some herbs for extra flavour: take
your pick from cumin, coriander, oregano,
thyme, caraway, parsley, or rosemary.
Add chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock to
cover the vegetables and simmer away for
around 20-30 minutes.
Once the vegetables are soft you can
blend the soup, adding more stock or water if you like to get the thickness you prefer.
Serve your customised garden soup with
Parmesan cheese and pine nut kernels on
top. The soup freezes really well too.

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garden recipes ::
chop salad

With just a little forward planning you can easily grow all the ingredients for a salad in your own garden.
Choose a cut-and-come-again variety of lettuce and children can regularly pick leaves and watch more grow
back in their place. Add an outdoor cucumber to grow up a trellis and some cherry tomato plants and youre all
set for a healthy lunch.
You can continue this hands-on-learning in the kitchen too, giving your children the opportunity to learn some
cooking skills. This chop salad combines home-grown ingredients and teaches children how to use a kitchen
knife and put together their very own dish.
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To make a garden chop salad

:: Gather some fresh salad ingredients from the garden, trying to get a rainbow range of colours if you can
:: Try a selection of lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, celery, radish, and sugarsnap peas. Wash them, then
chop them all up. Sit carefully as you chop, holding the handle of the knife correctly and using a breadboard to
protect the table
:: Layer them on a plate and eat!
To add some extra twists to your garden chop salad
:: add some handfuls of sweetcorn and borlotti or black-eyed beans
:: Grate some cheese and sprinkle it on top
:: Serve with a few tortilla chips and a dollop of soured cream

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Join Cathy at
I hope youve enjoyed the ideas in the garden classroom
Please visit Nurturestore.co.uk where you can find many more kids gardening, art, play, and
activity ideas. You can sign up for a free Play Planner and Ill e-mail you play ideas for every
day of the week.

If you have any comments or questions,

please come and connect with me and the
Nurturestore community on facebook: facebook.com/NurtureStore

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