Plants are everywhere during the holidays. Many Christian and secular families trim Christmas trees and hang wreaths. Jewish families bring home arrangements of blue and white flowers—delphiniums and lilies are favorites. Families who celebrate Kwanzaa honor seven principles, including “Mazao,” the crops that represent collective labor, and “Muhindi,” the corn that represents youth and the promise of the future.
This season provides an opportunity to help your family explore the role of plants both in our holiday celebrations and in our everyday lives. FWBG | BRIT recently hosted a members-only Holiday Celebration with Bella and Carlos that was packed with crafts and activities intended to help young children learn about the role of plants while building STEM skills—and having a lot of fun.
“We want to share these activities so that everyone can enjoy learning together this December,” says Early Childhood Program Manager Cheryl Potemkin.
Crafting Cinnamon Ornaments
Cinnamon ornaments are crafted out of no more than cinnamon, applesauce and ribbon, but they add a cozy touch to holiday decorations and wonderful scents to your home. They are also quick and easy to make, and once again rely on a plant, cinnamon.
Detailed directions are available online. Dig up your Christmas cookie cutters to shape the flattened dough into trees, stars and other shapes.
“This craft also presents opportunities to talk about plants, practice measuring and use fine motor skills,” says Potemkin. “You can also learn about new shapes. And when you’re finished, you’ll have special holiday decorations that will last for years.”
Make Mulling Spices
Mixing together mulling spices is an easy activity to enjoy with young children, and the end product makes a great gift for grandparents, aunts and uncles or family friends.
Mulling spices are simply a mix of spices including cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, dried orange peels, whole cloves and peppercorns. You can find directions online to guide you and your children through mixing the spices. The dried spices last for months and can be mixed with apple juice and served hot for a yummy, warming drink that fills the whole house with delicious scents.
“We used this craft to talk to children about how all of these spices come from plants,” says Potemkin. “It’s also a great opportunity to work on counting and measuring skills and to help your child use all of their senses. Ask your child how these spices look, feel and smell. When you’ve used the mix to make mulled apple cider, talk about how the spices taste.”
Exploring Holiday Plants
We think of the holidays as a special time for children, but nevertheless they hear a lot of “no!”, especially when it comes to holiday plants. “Families naturally don’t want their Christmas trees knocked over by over-eager young hands, but kids are naturally curious,” says Potemkin. “So we gave children the opportunity to touch and explore common Christmas plants in a safe, supervised environment.”
You can do the same at home. Collect stray Christmas tree branches and the leaves and stems of other holiday plants. Then, with your child, look at these plants up close. See how they smell and feel. Notice the stickiness of pine twigs and their scent. Feel the rough edges of pine cones.
“You’ll be amazed at what your child sees—and probably come away with some observations yourself,” says Potemkin.
More Members-Only Events Coming Soon
Storytimes with Bella Begonia and Carlos Cactus are beloved traditions at FWBG | BRIT—and programs hit hard by the pandemic. Restrictions limiting the number of participants have been in place through fall 2021 to protect our youngest, most vulnerable guests.
The members-only holiday celebration, held Dec. 4, was intended to welcome back many families who have been unable to attend the monthly story times. We intend to host a second members-only event in the spring, and the registration limits for our monthly early childhood programs will be expanded as soon as the organization believes it is safe to do so.
“Our first priority remains the health of our guests, volunteers and staff,” says Potemkin. “But we miss all of the smiling faces at storytime and hope to welcome more guests soon.”