Jun 16, 2021

Nature Play Activities

Sweet, sweet summertime. With the lifting of Ohio's health mandates and the gorgeous weather we've been having, we're really enjoying our summer of Tails and Tales. To join the fun, download the Beanstack Tracker app on your mobile device or visit the Library's Beanstack URL here. Create an account listing all your readers and join the 2021 reading and recreation challenge that fits your needs best. With challenges for babies and toddlers, children, teens, adults, and even families this year, everyone can learn and explore. 

This summer, we're giving budding scientists and animal lovers the chance to explore nature closeup with our Nature Play Series. Since the series is full, we'll be sharing some of the activities we're doing so you can explore at home. Check out the details below for pollinator gardens, butterfly feeders, bug hotels, and papier mache wasp nests.

We received 37 caterpillars from Insect Lore around May 7. Miss Maggie and Miss Kari named all the caterpillars, set up their special food, and watched them eat for about a week. Once they had their fill of food and grew to be fluffy and chubby, they formed chrysalides. It took another week or so for the caterpillars to emerge as Painted Lady Butterflies. 27 of the caterpillars successfully metamorphosed. One caterpillar made his chrysalis in his food so when he emerged, his wings were curved and wouldn't fully open. We fed the butterflies fresh fruit until June 8 when we released them outside.    

About 75% of the world's flowering plants need to be pollinated so they can reproduce. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators carry pollen from plant to plant when they eat nectar. You can make a pollinator garden to attract these helpful critters and encourage the work they do.

Cardboard egg carton
Potting soil
Seeds that attract pollinators, such as Milkweed, Black-Eyed Susan, Lavender, Mint, Aster, or Zinnia
Spray bottle

Cut the lid off your cardboard egg carton. Fill each individual egg cup with soil. Use one finger to create a hole in the center of each cup. Place one or two seeds in each hole and cover. 

Use a spray bottle to water the newly planted seeds. Place the egg carton in a warm, indoor location with plenty of sunlight until the seeds begin to sprout. Keep the soil very moist. 

Once the seeds have sprouted into small seedlings, you can transfer them outside. Move them into a large pot or plant the whole pollinator garden, egg carton included, into your backyard. 

You can also make a simple feeder to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Thanks to PBS Kids for Parents for this awesome project! 

Plastic bottle with lid. We used 16 oz. Pepsi bottles.
Cotton ball
Rubber band
Flowers (optional)

If you'd like, you can decorate your plastic bottle with sharpies, washi tape, stickers, or more. When you're ready, slide the rubber band around the middle of the bottle.

Tie a piece of yarn to the rubber band on both sides of the bottle. This will create the feeder's handle. If you'd like, you can place flowers under the rubber band to help attract butterflies to your feeder.  

With help from a grownup, cut a small hole in the plastic lid. Place the cotton ball through the hole. Dissolve 1/4 cup of sugar in 1 cup of warm water to make butterfly food. Pour the butterfly food into the bottle and screw the cap back on. The mixture will saturate the cotton ball so butterflies and hummingbirds can drink it. Change the butterfly food, cotton ball, and flowers every few days. You can also use a sponge instead of a cotton ball.  

Bugs need warm, safe places to rest just like humans. Bug hotels are a fantastic project because they can be as simple or elaborate as you desire. They attract healthy bugs to your garden, such as bees, ladybugs, and ants, and provide plenty of closeup observation opportunities for your little ones. Find out how we constructed ours at the Library below.

2 liter plastic bottles or gallon milk cartons
Toilet paper rolls  
Paper or plastic straws
Cupcake liners
Glue or tape
Lots of leaves, sticks, rocks, acorns, pinecones, flowers, and more

Cut an opening in your plastic bottle or milk carton to serve as the entrance of your bug hotel. 

Fill your hotel with a variety of recyclable materials and items collected from outside. We walked the Library's Trail Tale and we collected plenty of fallen leaves, sticks, rocks, acorns, and more goodies to place in our bug hotels. We rolled newspaper into tubes and placed them inside along with straws and toilet paper rolls. Let your imagination run wild and create a home that you think would be perfectly comfy for bugs! 

Paper wasps bite pieces of old wood from houses or fences, and chew them with water until they make a pulpy kind of paste. The paste is then layered until they create a colony for a home. Here's what you need to create a papier mache wasp nest.

String or yarn 
Paint and brushes

Mix equal parts of water and flour to make a papier mache paste. We did a 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water. Add more flour if the paste is too thin. Add more water if the paste is too thick. 

Blow up the balloon and tie a long piece of yarn or string at the end. Use the string to hang the balloon in an area where you can work. Dip newspaper strips in the paste and stick them onto the balloon. Cover the whole balloon, overlapping the newspaper strips in a variety of directions. 

Let your papier mache nest dry overnight. Once it is dry, gently pop the balloon and pull it out of the wasp nest. Use paint, stickers, or more to decorate the outside of your nest.