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Greening up: Let spring bring learning, light, and laughter

Buds are bursting, birds are migrating, and the days are growing warmer and longer. There is no “shelter in place” order for nature. It’s all-systems-go, so help kids enjoy and explore this beautiful seasonal show!

We always eagerly anticipate spring, but this year the season of new beginnings presents an extra-special opportunity to take a break from non-stop challenges, marvel in awakenings, and invite kids to explore and discover. A few years back, The Imagination Tree, in a post by Anna Ranson titled, “15+ Spring Activities for Kids,” gets kids doing just that with activities such as Exploring How Water Travels Through a Leaf, a Free Printable Birdwatching Book, and a link to a Very Hungry Caterpillar Necklace from Buggy.

Of course, not every spring day is warm, sunny, and inviting. But indoor activities also abound. Just a few days ago Good Housekeeping posted a compilation of “23 Easy Science Experiments You Can Do at Home with Everyday Items” by Marisa Lascala, for grades 1st through 8th. One fun and easy activity culled from Living Life and Learning is “Magic Milk.” It directs: “Put a few drops of food coloring in a shallow bowl of milk, and they’ll stay that way—as self-contained blobs. But add a little dish soap to a toothpick or a Q-tip and touch the food coloring, and the colors will swirl around on their own like magic.” It’s an issue of surface tension!

Or check out Discover Explore Learn’s “Spring Science Experiments for Kids.” They include making shaving cream rain clouds, dissecting a flower, making a sugar water density rainbow, and growing beans on cotton balls!

If your part of the country is allowing outdoor work—or will be soon—planting beans on more than cotton balls might be a great option. Getting kids involved in gardening builds lots of different skills. Two years ago, Kittie Butcher, Michigan State University Extension, and Janet Pletcher, Lansing Community College, wrote “Gardening with Young Children Helps Their Development.” They suggest that “Young children can practice locomotor skills, body management skills, and object control skills while they move from one place to the other carrying tools, soil, and water.”

Sensory stimulation gets a workout too, by feeling soil, water, and plant leaves, not to mention seeing the explosion of color when planting flowers. Butcher and Pletcher note that reading names of plants and their growth requirements builds literacy skills and mapping your garden or yard and labeling the plants in it is another reading/writing activity. They suggest that asking open-ended questions about what to do next gets them thinking, and as still another gardening bonus, they also point out that “Children are often more willing to try a new food if they have been involved in the process of growing it.”

Spring sometimes brings dramatic weather. In fact, Mark Twain once dryly noted, “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” Weather Wiz Kids has some cool weather experiments for kids to try. Let them swirl together a tornado in a jar, bend water, whip up a baking soda volcano, or make a windsock.

Whatever the weather forecast or the calendar date, it’s far from business as usual this spring, and unusual times call for creativity. A couple weeks ago Mommy Poppins posted, “20 Ways Kids and Teens Can Help Each Other During Coronavirus Outbreak,” by Kelly Heyworth. It includes both practical and playful ideas for lending a hand or bringing a smile. One clever suggestion is to “Chalk your walk.” The article says, “From Connecticut to Colorado to California, kids are taking their chalk to the sidewalk (and driveways and cul-de-sacs). Heartfelt messages include ‘thank yous’ to first responders, handwashing reminders, and more.” They call it, “graffiti for the greater good!”

Another idea on the list is to “Inspire passersby from a window or balcony.” This trend started in Italy earlier this spring and has spread to the US, “as children decorate windows and balconies with cheerful pictures and messages.” The article urges to “Think rainbows, motivational messages, or patriotic flags.”

To help with that, here’s one “window paint” recipe for kids from Coffee Cups and Crayons and a DIY Washable Window Paint Tutorial on YouTube.

Spring, by its very nature, is a season of growth and creativity. Share the joy of that with kids!