Pressing plants

For a long time I’ve wanted to learn how to press plants.  I like the idea of creating beautiful framed works of art using pressed flowers and herbs.  I had saved two large squares of cardboard for the project, and today I begged some newspaper from my mother-in-law’s recycling bin.  I attempted to entice both the boys in collecting specimens with me, and only succeeded in gaining Summer’s help.  So we happily trudged out back with a basket, scissors, notecards and a pen, to collect some samples.

The concept is very simple, and has been utilized by naturalists and scientists for hundreds of years to dry and preserve specimens for safe travel across vast continents and turbulent seas.  Plant presses are an important scientific tool, without them specimens would wither and perish before researchers have adequate time to study and deliberate over them.

Presses can be small, just big enough to fit in your hiking pack, ideal for collecting herbaceous plant leaves, roots and flowers as you wander; or they can be large enough to press an entire plant, from root to flower.  To avoid wilting, press your plants as soon as possible after picking them.  You should also make note of the plant’s common name, Latin name, location, height, habitat, abundance, date, and other valuable information that can fade from memory and leave you blank when you’re finally ready to make use of your pressings.

Not only will the pressed plants make great gifts this holiday season, but we could even start our own herbarium, by simply arranging the specimens on acid-free paper with all of the relevant harvesting information, and glue or cover them with contact paper to easily catalog them.

Check out this video from Barb’s blog “Handbook of Nature Study”where she posts all sorts of great information and lesson plans for nature studies.

Summer and I ended up collecting nearly a dozen different plant specimens–and even though he’s only four, I use the appropriate terminology with him–there’s no reason not to.  We found some daisies, clover, Queen-Anee’s Lace, buttercup, a couple of things I’ll have to look up in the guide books, and we picked a couple of herb specimens from the garden-such as a sprig of sage, and a couple sprigs of parsley.

Having never pressed anything before, this will take a bit of experimenting; we’ll see how well the specimens turn out.  For now they’ll be sitting at the far end of our dinning room table under Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary for the next few weeks.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Have you ever pressed plants with your kids?  Got any tips or hints for us?

Homemade Playdough for Multisensory Learning

I make a lot of things from scratch in my home.  A lot of our food is made the old fashioned way, from scratch–without the aid of a boxed or packaged-mix.  I do this partly to prevent ingestion of preservatives, dyes, and other harmful chemicals, and partly to stretch our budget.  I also make a lot of our school supplies by hand; a little creativity goes a long way, and since kids are generally less particular than adults, it doesn’t take much sometimes to make something that thrills kids.

I’ve been making our playdough myself since Winter was two.  The recipe was given to me by the developmental therapist who was coming to see us regularly at that time.  I’ve since given up the assistance of professionals regarding Winter’s possible autism-spectrum disorders, but we still make good use of the playdough recipe that I’ve deemed “Really Great Homemade Playdough”.

Playdough is a terrific manipulative for any child, but especially for children who might be struggling with some sensory issues.  It’s calming to sit working with the dough; it can help children to clear their mind, focus–I like to use it before school-sessions sometimes, to help Winter prepare himself for what’s expected of him during lessons.  Play dough is also a great tool to use if your child struggles with fine-motor skills.  Winter has difficulty with handwriting, and with using scissors (basically anything that requires more nimble hand-action), so again, playdough is a benefit to help him strengthen and practice using those muscles that he has less control over.

This recipe is very soft, and smooth, so it’s pleasant to use.  The kool-aid fragrance is invigorating, but we’ve also used cinnamon and cloves in dough, particularly in the fall season and around Thanksgiving.  The fragrances only add to the sensory experience, which makes it an enjoyable experience and easy to entice a reluctant learner into participating.

REALLY GREAT HOMEMADE PLAYDOUGH

1) Sift in a Large Bowl:
2-1/2cups flour
1/2cups salt
2packages kool-aid(for color)

2) Bring to a boil 2cups water.
Have ready 3tablespoons any oil.

3) Add boiling water to sifted mixture; stir with wooden spoon until well combined.  Allow to cool until you can handle it to knead the dough smooth.

4)  Store in 1gallon ziplock baggie.

I have not had good luck using food colorings on this recipe, but kids and parents alike typically like the dough, as it is soft and smooth.  I’ve even given the playdough out for Christmas gifts and birthdays, and it is an easy fix for a group activity when cousins and friends visit.  And with so many benefits it’s hard to judge such a versatile manipulative by it’s clean-up alone.