Activities to Engage Your Budding Botanists
We love taking the kids to see California’s remarkable spring wildflowers. But the kids? They may not be nearly as thrilled. For them, it could just be a long drive to some empty field full of boring plants.
But take heart. We’ve got three tips to help sprout your budding botanist and spark their interest in plants and nature.
Develop Observation Skills Early
Ask them what they see with each flower. Color is the most obvious, so start there. Move to shapes next. Which are bell-shaped? Which look like daisies or wheels? What about the petal and leaf shapes? How about textures and scents? There are no wrong answers here. We’re simply sharing what we’ve observed.
Create a Field Notebook
Bring field notebooks and pencils for each kid. You can even make them out of recycled scratch paper! Get them drawing what they’re observing. Start with just a single petal to encourage success. Remind them there’s no such thing as a bad drawing when it comes to field sketching. If they don’t like what they’ve drawn, move on to another flower, another sketch.
Who’s Pollinating What?
Ask the kids to construct a hypothesis about which animal is pollinating a particular flower. Here’s your parental cheat sheet on “pollination syndromes”:
Flowers attract animals with a promise of nectar. The hungry visitor gets dusted with pollen while feasting and then moves the pollen from flower to flower as it flies to and from each plant. Once a plant is pollinated, a seed forms. Inside that seed is a baby plant waiting to grow. No pollination, no new plant.
- Flowers evolved colors, shapes and scents to attract specific pollinators.
- Bees see yellow and blue colors best and are attracted to sweet fragrances.
- Hummingbirds love the color red and need a long floral tube for their long, thin beaks.
- Butterflies are fond of brightly colored flowers that are flat or disk-like so they can stand to eat.
- Moths are nocturnal critters that need white flowers with a strong scent, which are easily detected at night.
- Beetles adore bowl-shaped flowers they can crawl into.