Spring is here! Although the calendar marks March 21st as the first day of spring, already the birds are nesting, the grass is greening, and everywhere people seem to be walking with a bit of spring in their step. Here are ten activities to help you share the joy of spring with your young child.
1. Go for a Nature Walk
This activity can be repeated every season. This time you’ll help your child find signs of spring. Point out how small the snowbanks are, if any still remain in your area. Is there a stream now swollen with winter’s melt? Ask your child if he can remember how it looked last month, when ice and snow still covered it. Go down and look for minnows or tadpoles. If you can, scoop up a few tadpoles to watch at home. They are exciting for children to see, as they mature. Look for shoots of fresh, green grass. Look for birds, see if you can find any that are building a nest. Watch carefully, you might find birds primping and preening for one another in the rite of spring. Look for buds on tress and bushes. Look for pussy willows. Bring your camera, and take pictures of your child with each sign of spring, to make your own picture book.
2. Raise a Tadpole
This can be a fun and exciting science project for kids of any age! If you do not find tadpoles on your nature hike, you can often buy them at a pet store or online. There are detailed directions on how to raise your tadpole here. Realize that if you do this project with a preschooler, you are the one responsible to feed and care for it. You can supervise your child if you allow him to help, but he is too young to do this on his own. Spend many happy moments together as you watch the tadpole transform into a frog or toad. Encourage your child to draw pictures of the tadpole at various stages. Be sure to include releasing your mature frog into the wild at the end of your project.
3. Watch Plants Grow
If it is still too cold where you live for flowers, take your child to a greenhouse to see the Easter lilies and other spring flowers they raise. Perhaps buy a few potted flowers to bring some spring into your home. Show your child how to water the flower, but be prepared to mop up spills. Plant some seeds and watch them grow. There are several fun ways to do this with preschoolers. One of my favorites is to draw a happy face on the side of a styrofoam cup, fill it with potting soil and scatter grass seed on top. Lightly rake over the grass seed with your finger to just barely cover it with soil, then spray it lightly with water. Set it in a warm, sunny window and watch it grow. When the grass is about five inches tall, your preschooler can give his happy person a “haircut” with a pair of child-safe scissors.
4. Make a Flower Collage
This simple art project is fun and will add a touch of color to your refrigerator. Day one, let your child paint clouds on sky blue construction paper with white tempra paint. Give him several sheets of paper, or he may completely cover the blue with white paint. Set the pages aside to dry. Day two, glue pastel-colored cupcake papers to the dried pictures, about four or five to each sheet. Draw a green stem coming down from the paper “blossom” with a bold green marker. Add a leaf or two. Cut a narrow strip of green construction paper, and fringe the long edge with little snips of the scissors. Then glue the green grass to the bottom of the blue paper. When the picture is dry, hang it on your wall or fridge. Let your child feel pride in his work. Show him you value his artwork by displaying it, framing it, or giving it to a grandparent.
5. Air Painting
Place a sheet of paper in the bottom of a cake pan. Drop some spots of paint on the paper, then blow the paint around by blowing through a straw. Watch how the paint moves! Discuss with your child how the wind outside moved things around. Go outside and feel the wind. Look for something blowing around in the wind. Drop a bird feather, or craft feather, in the wind and watch it dance about.
6. Listen to a Thunderstorm
Young children are often afraid of thunderstorms. Help your child learn about storms in a warm, caring environment. Get a recording of a storm through your library or purchase one online. Get one that is just nature sounds, not with soothing mood music in the background. Tell your child that you are going to pretend to have a thunderstorm. You can both put on raincoats and rainboots, or hold up an umbrella (although walking in a thunderstorm with a metal umbrella isn’t really smart). Or just snuggle on the sofa under a security blanket with a stuffed friend or two. Then play the recording. Talk with your child about where the rain comes from, how important it is for all of the plants to get rain. Describe what causes the thunder in terms your child can understand. (Lightning makes a little hole in the air. When the light is gone, then air rushes back in very loudly.) Teach your child that thunderstorms are dangerous when you are outside, but if you come inside, then you are safe.
7. Fly a Kite
The preschool child’s attention span is generally too short to get a kite up in the air. If you wish to do this activity with your youngster, you may want to find an open field away from power lines that is also close to a playground. Otherwise, bring along your own toys – a picnic basket filled with snacks, a pinwheel, some small cars and trucks should do the trick. Teach your child how the air will lift your kite. Let him help hold the string. Once the kite is high, lie down on the ground beside your child to watch it float and soar.
8. Watch Birds Nest
Read a story to your child about birds and nests. A really good one is “No Roses for Harry”, by Gene Zion. Talk about how some birds use grass, string,feathers, and fluff to make make their nests. Find things around your house for the birds. Gather the hair wads from your hairbrush, dryer lint, yarn scraps, bright colored craft feathers, and such. Put the items loosely in a mesh bag, like an onion bag. Tie the bag to a fence post or where the birds can find it. If you can see it from inside your home, you and your child might be able to see a bird take something in his beak and fly away with it. Later, when all the materials are gone, go for a walk with binoculars, and see if you can find any nests with your bright feathers.
9. Make Birds Nest Cookies
This simple recipe is something you and your child can make together. You will need 12 oz. of chips – either chocolate or butterscotch will work. 5 oz. of chow mein noodles, 1/3 cup peanut butter (may omit if your child is allergic) and a small bag of either M&M or chocolate bird-egg candies. Melt the chips in a microwave (or in a double boiler). Stir until smooth – do not overcook the chips! Stir in peanut butter, then the chow mein noodles until thoroughly covered. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto wax paper. Make a small indentation in the center with your thumb, and place two or three egg candies inside. Cool until firm. Eat and enjoy!
10. Some Great Picture Books for Spring
Read good books to your child. Here are some that parents have rated with five-stars. Check them out from your library first, then purchase the ones your child loves best.
- Spring is Here by Lois Lenski
- Everything Spring by Jill Esbaum
- How Robin Saved Spring by Debbie Ouellet
- Spring is Here, Corduroy! by Don Freeman
- Robins: Songbirds of Spring by Mia Posada
- It’s Spring by Linda Glaser
- Splish, Splash, Spring by Jan Carr
- Flower Fairies of the Spring by Cicely Mary Barker
- Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur