Tag Archives: Plants

Preschool Math Flower Power

 Here’s a quick one I’m quite sure you can take and improve on!  For your flower theme, create an interactive bulletin board or flannel board activity by creating flower centers with the written numeral and corresponding number of dots.  Then provide flower petals for the children to count out and place around the center, matching the dots in a one-to-one ratio.  This activity supports preschool math skills like numeral recognition, counting, color recognition, and even patterning if they choose to use it that way!

*Update 5-14-10

I told you I was sure you would improve on this!  Check out a twist on this at another site.  Don’t worry if you don’t speak Portuguese; you can click the translate button, or just trust that a picture is worth a thousand words!

For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.


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Preschoolers Planting

Here’s a quick sensory table idea for your unit on plants, seeds, flowers, or gardens.  Fill your sensory bin with soil – either right out of the bag, or right out of the ground.  Add some pansy pony packs, some hand tools, some magnifiers, a few small containers with water, gloves, and even worms if you’re feeling extra organic!  Let the children plant the flowers in the bin, examining the roots as they go.  If they want to pull the flowers apart, examining their parts, that’s OK too!  It’s the sensory table – it’s a time to explore!

You could substitute an actual planter box for your sensory bin and use it in your window or on your front step once the children have finished!  You could also supply seeds for the children to plant in the bin, and then scatter the soil in your flower beds where they could grow!  If you haven’t used worms or seeds, you can also head right over to the bin to fill up planter containers for any of the seed sprouting activities here, with less of the mess than if you tried to have little hands fill their pots and cups by scooping directly out of a bag of soil.  Of course, you can also skip the bin and head right outside and do all these activities in your own gardens too!

Planting activities reinforce science concepts such as the plant life cycle, the needs of plants, and the parts of plants.  It also encourages motor development and provides a sensory experience as the children dig in the dirt and mud.  Oh, and bonus sensory points for playing with the worms!

For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.

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The Empty Pot Seed Experiment

I just wanted to share some photos from the experiment we did after reading The Empty Pot (details on the experiment here).   I used pea seeds since they’re nice and large…..and because I already had them on hand, seeing as how I’m way behind on actually getting them in the ground.   Here’s the difference between the two samples after about a week’s time.

The uncooked specimen.  Sprouting roots and green leaves.  Have the children gently tug at the tiny sprouts and feel how the roots hold on to the paper towel.  Then talk about the role of roots as they hold plants in the ground so they don’t blow away, in addition to their job of seeking out water to suck up into the plant.

The cooked guys.  They’re much better in person!  A bit squishy and slimy, and they even smell a little bit.  As I mentioned in that original post, the first time I tried this, I apparently didn’t cook the seeds long enough, because they still sprouted!  This year, I cooked them for a very long time in a glass measuring cup full of water in the microwave.  I made sure it was boiling and then added a few more minutes.

Talk it out.  As you examine the seeds each day, perhaps during your circle time or large group time, you can review the story, thereby increasing comprehension.  (Page through the book and have the children describe what happened…..and what happened next.)  Another day, as you check progress, you can review the scientific process that you followed for this seed experiment.  (We wanted to see if a cooked seed would really grow.  So we tried sprouting regular seeds and cooked seeds so we can compare how they grow.  Let’s look very closely now and see what we can observe.  What  do you think?  Are they the same or different?  What do you see that is different?)  You could also just very quickly point out the picture cues on each bag to reinforce symbolic writing.  Pull out some magnifying glasses and set them by the baggies so the children can examine them.  Every day that you examine these seeds, you are not only making a scientific discovery, but you can reinforce other concepts as well.

Reread the story again at the end of your experiment and ask the children which seeds Ping had in his pot.  This again connects the science concept and to the story, and shows their comprehension of both.  Ask the children if seeds can grow if they’ve been cooked.  Looking at their experiment they will almost certainly say no.  Question – Investigate – Observe – Communicate.  You’ve effectively followed the entire scientific process with preschool children!  Who says science is too hard?

For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.


Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

Book Activity: Planting a Rainbow

Planting a Rainbow: Lap-Sized Board Book

Planting a Rainbow is one of my many favorites by Lois Ehlert.  Her illustrations are striking and her text is simplistic yet descriptive.  Planting a Rainbow follows the story of a mother and child as they plant a rainbow of colors in their garden.  It follows the process of planting bulbs, seeds, and seedlings, and tending them as they grow, and grow, and grow.  Finally they can gather a rainbow bouquet, knowing they can grow another rainbow the following year!

You can make this part of an author study by pointing out other books by Lois Ehlert (with one particular group, we had read Growing Vegetable Soup in conjunction with this seed activity, so I was able to hold the two up and make comparisons.)  Talk about how Lois Ehlert is unique in that she doesn’t do her illustrations using crayons or markers or paint.  She makes her pictures by cutting paper and gluing the shapes to make a picture.  Go through the book a few pages and look at some of the shapes she uses to make different images.  (Some children may be a little confused, since they can only see one smooth picture in the book.  It may help to make a similar picture yourself so that the children can see the paper pieces put together.  Then explain that Ehlert’s pictures are copied onto one flat paper that they see in their book.)

After reading the story, Planting a Rainbow,  show the children how to make their own rainbow garden by using paper to create a picture.  Please be careful here!  Do not show them a model of what to create, but do demonstrate some techniques they can use if they wish.  After the demonstration, they should be able to use the materials as they see fit.  (Read more about my thoughts on the Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts.)

As supplies, gather background paper, colored crepe paper or tissue paper cut into small squares (about 2 inches square), glue, and unsharpened pencils.  Tell them that the different colors can be used to make a picture of a rainbow garden, similar to the one they read about in the book. 

Show them that they can glue the colored paper onto their background paper.  They can glue it right on, they can crumple it a little and glue it on, or they can wrap their colored paper onto a pencil and dip it in the glue and stick it on that way.  Ask if they have any other ideas about how to use the materials to make a garden picture.  Tell them to let you know if they get any new ideas as they’re working!  Let them know that they can also use the crayons to add to the picture if they need to (markers don’t fare so well in the glue).  Then set them loose!

Some will experiment with different ways to apply the colored paper.

Others will know exactly what they want to do.

This is the way I learned to do this technique way back when I was a child.

However, I’ve also seen it done this way, which may be easier for younger children.

Either way, the children are building fine motor skills as well as creativity.  As you talk about the pictures and make connections to the book, the children are also building language and literacy skills and becoming more familiar with names of colors.

Enjoy watching your rainbows grow!

For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.

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Out and About – Field Trip Ideas for a Garden Theme

If you’re exploring seeds, plants, and flowers with your preschoolers this spring, it’s always great to get out and discover some applications within that theme on a field trip!  Field trips don’t have to be elaborate.  Most often, I would say that knowing that the host can connect with your children and offer them hands-on opportunities at their level is worth far more than an extravagant locale.  Finding everyday, familiar places and then exploring them in-depth, allows the children to make more connections with their previous knowledge, and helps them to reconnect that knowledge again as they visit in the future.   Here are some field trip ideas within the garden theme. 

Florists- Invite a florist to show your children some of the tricks of the trade.  Children will be in awe of the tools that are used, the variety of flowers, and the arrangements that can be created.  Ask the florist to create a simple arrangement while the children watch, thinking out loud all the while, simply narrating the process of making an arrangement.  Some florists may even be willing to help a few children at a time make small arrangements using flowers left over from an event or those that have just passed their prime.  Having an experience like this would certainly enhance a floral shop themed dramatic play area!

Nurseries and Greenhouses-  This is a great option, particularly if spring is a little late in coming to your area!  Have someone show you around the greenhouse, showing how plants are started and cared for even in the cold!  Many nurseries will also have a garden center where you can have your host show the children seeds, tools, and other supplies used for growing a garden.  You may want contact your local extension office or a nearby university or college for some great greenhouse experiences.

Visit a “Famous” Garden – Most areas have some kind of green space, notorious for its gardens.  Whether it’s a park, a community garden, a professional botanical garden, or an accomplished hobbyist in your neighborhood with a backyard botanical display, take advantage of a great garden that your children are familiar with.  See if you can get a gardener to show you around and talk about how the plants have been cared for.

Neighborhood Garden Tour – I recently took my boys on a short, slow drive through our neighborhood (as a means of soothing a tantrum that had exploded as we were leaving another location).  With the windows rolled down and the cool spring air flowing in, we took turns pointing out vibrant yellow forsythia bushes, talked about how grape hyacinths got their name, and kept our eyes out for puffy white trees in bloom.  You could do the same on a family drive or as a walking field trip through your school’s neighborhood. 

Into the Wild-  Don’t overlook the unmanicured, more natural locations for exploring plant life.  Natural forests, woodlands, wetlands, deserts, canyons – whatever you have available!  Even an expedition into the empty lot, pasture, or backyard  – accompanied by a spade, a magnifying glass, and a camera – can yield great finds!

Don’t forget the parents!  You may have a parent in your class who is a master gardener, a landscaper, or a farmer.  Tap in to these resources, as they are often the most eager to help and the most apt to relate to the age group!  So often, when asking parents, you can simply say, “Show us what your child finds most interesting about what you do!”

Remember that many of the excursions listed above could be adapted for a class visitor experience as well.  Invite the florist or gardener to come to you.  Encourage them to bring some of the tools they use and some samples of their work.  It’s always fun to see what the children really zero in on.  (I’ll never forget how fascinated a group of preschoolers were with the stretchy green floral tape our florist visitor brought in!) 

Also remember that any visitor or excursion is a great opportunity to create a class book (similar to this activity).  You may want to take the pictures during the activity, or have each child in a small group take one picture of their favorite specimen or activity.  You can work together with the children to write the text in their own words to accompany the pictures.  Read it to them often and give it a spot in your library!  It’s sure to be one of their favorite books!

Enjoy a trip out and about with your little ones!

Photo by horizonaus.


Filed under Field Trips, Learning through Play and Experience

Spring Gardens – Get Growing!

In spite of the fact that Winter keeps shoving her snowy foot in the door around here, it is actually spring- even if only according to the calendar.  If I had to pick just one theme to study with children in the spring time, I think it would be seeds, plants, flowers, and gardens.  (OK, that didn’t really sound like just one theme, but they’re all interconnected, so I’ll let it go.)   

I love gardens.  I haven’t been blessed with an overly green thumb, but in spite of my skill deficiency, I am still filled with child-like awe and wonder and excitement as I think about planting and growing plants on my own.  Planting and growing plants with children is all that fun times two!  Watching them experience that same wonder is priceless!  Additionally, the concepts learned while exploring seeds and gardens are critical!  The experience teaches more than just the science concept of what plants need to grow, but connects children more with the sources of food (a concept that is becoming more and more fuzzy) and the stewardship of nature. 

I began this unit on seeds and gardens last year and hope to add to it this year.  So take a peek!  Hopefully, you will find some new ideas to get you growing this year!

Photo by watsOn

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The Tall and Short Tree Sort


















If you’re doing a study of trees, here’s a math activity to get your kids going.  It could be used as an independent game, at your working tables for example, or you could easily use it as an extension activity after any number of fantastic tree books.  Now, I’m going to share two things with you.  The first is this set of tree sorting cards.  Just click on the link below, and then click on the document icon to be connected to the PDF.  (The file is yours to use as an educational tool, not for sale or gain, of course.  And, as with other resources here on this site, please please share, but please please cite www.notjustcute.com as your source.) 

Tree Sort and Series Cards

 Now, I told you I was going to share TWO things with you.  The set of tree cards is the first.  The second, is the fact that I am not and never have been an art major!  So,  please excuse my quick drawings of trees.  I’m sure many of you could make a much better set, and you have my blessings to do so!  These do seem to do the job though.  So far, I haven’t had any children ask me what they’re supposed to do with the mushrooms!

These cards may seem self-explanatory, but I’ll explain anyway, because I’m known for stating the obvious.  Once these cards are printed, cut, and laminated if you wish, mix them up, providing one card of each set to a child to sort out and find all the trees that look similar and put them in a group.  (If you can’t tell, there’s an apple tree, a regular tree….you could call it Maple if you want to, a pine tree, and a palm tree.)  Once the cards are sorted into groups, have the children put them in ascending order, smallest to tallest.  Some children can do this right away, others need to be coached through it (“Which one is the smallest?  Put it here.  Which one is the biggest?  That goes over here. …..”)  If you’re working with very young children, you may want to omit one card from each set, so that you just have small, medium, and large.  That makes it easier to make comparisons.

 tree series

This activity could obviously be done at a table or on the floor, but if you have a pocket chart, the kiddos always love the chance to use the “teacher’s stuff”.

This activity builds math skills  as the children sort based on characteristics and compare the cards in order to place them in ascending order.  Vocabulary is expanded also as you use comparative words, such as big, bigger, biggest, and other words for size (small, short, tall, etc.).

You could also create a similar activity, using actual leaves from different types of trees.  Get a small, medium, and large sample of each one, and let your little ones sort them out and then arrange them in a series!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

Top photo by Izabelha.

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