Spring is a beautiful time to be outside with the kids. It is an important time to take advantage of the learning that can be incorporated with nature. Being outside for unstructured time is important for all ages. Early learners especially benefit from the rich sensory experiences they encounter outdoors. With new things to experience, language development is promoted. With new things to manipulate, math, science and reasoning skills are enhanced. A whole morning of learning and fun can be accomplished just from the seed pods from a maple tree. Here are some educational activities that we did with the seeds and a fun butterfly craft to follow.
TIP: Children learn best and assimilate more when they are encouraged to do their own thinking rather than an adult giving them the answers. And, the “right” answer is not as important to young learners as is going through the stages of discovery and making connections. Ask children a lot of open ended questions and listen to what they have to say. Encouring engagement and generating ideas are key.
Encourage children to investigate the seed pods. Questions to ask. . . What do the seed pods look like, feel like, smell like, sound like. . .
Talk about the features of the seed pod and its function.
Try tossing the seedpods up and watching them spin down (This is how they got their nickname, helicopters).Or take a pile on top of a play structure and drop them over the side.
Collect piles of the seed pods and count them. Arrange them in different order, patterns, shapes. Encourage your child to do simple math problems by asking them how much they have and how much is left when you add or take away different amounts.
At some point in your conversations you may have discussed how the seed pods look very much like an insect wing. You can also encourage this line of thinking by showing pictures of, or actual insects to compare the shape and veins, etc. This leads into the craft of creating butterflies on a paper.
How to Do the Butterfly Craft
What you will need:
- maple helicopter seed pods
- white glue (or Modge Podge)
1.) Have child group together and position their maple helicopter seed pods on their craft paper in the shapes of butterflies.
2.) Using a crayon, have the child draw the body and antennae of the butterfly in the center of the “wings”.
3.) Using the paintbrushes, the child will dip and paint the white glue onto the paper where the seed pods are placed to create the butterflies. Have child press the seed pods down to secure and let dry.