Thursday, 6 June 2013
Painting with flowers
On the face of it this is a really straightforward activity. The time it takes will depend on how long your flower foraging lasts, but expect no longer than 10 minutes attention time from small children when doing the actual sticking. The foraging part is a handy botany lesson in which things they can touch or should avoid and helps with pattern recognition. The sticking is a lovely creative activity that encourages them to think about colours and composition and breaks any ideas that may be forming that art is just drawing and painting. In addition, this is a wonderful sensory activity, feeling the different textures of the leaves, seeing the colours and smelling the flowers. The scent of the wallflower petals is still permeating my kitchen now, despite us having made the pictures hours ago. The language skills being developed are an added benefit as you can get your little one to describe what they're making, and the colours, textures and smells. Older children may like to use the petals to form a picture of something, perhaps a flower made of flowers and leaves, or a circular mandala. This kind of activity is also a really good mixture of activity and quiet(ish) concentration time, with the sticking part being a nice break in between running around on our walk and running around on the patio playing with the sand and water trays.
This is only a very rough guide, but here's a sort of risk assessment/ suggestions of things to watch out for. I let Ollie start collecting hedgerow things under close supervision at about two and a half, when he could reliably follow instructions to keep his hands off certain things and not put everything in his mouth, but this varies from child to child so if in doubt, perhaps instigate a rule where they pick only what you point to. Toby was only let loose picking in the garden as I know that I haven't got any poisonous or harmful plants there. Teaching kids some basic plant identification skills for things to avoid is really useful. In the UK that includes stinging nettles, brambles and other prickly things, ivy (probably fine for them to hold, but I'm never 100% confident it's not going to get nibbled), daffodils, buttercups and arum lily. There's plenty of others that are not nice, but they're our most common local things. We used cow parsley in our picture, but if in doubt avoid as it has nasty cousins such as hogweed. We've all been drilled in this country not to pick wild flowers, but common sense will tell you that common and abundant weedy species in public spaces (e.g. dandelions) will not cause any raised eyebrows. Stick to edible flowers and leaves such as pansies, nasturtiums, dandelions and daisies if you're doing this with toddlers or older kids who still put everything in their mouths.