“The plants that are closest to you are those from your childhood; those are the ones you truly love…” ~V.S. Naipaul
Childhood is the perfect time for children to play in a garden. For centuries, children of all ages have amused themselves with the leaves, flowers, roots, stems, seeds, and the fruits of plants. All the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of a garden remain in memory, long into adulthood.
I’ve gathered my favorite activities and adventures below, to share with you and your children or grandchildren.
- Horns – Pick dandelions that have 12″-16″ stems, and remove the flower head. Make a 1/4″ slit in the narrower end of the stem, then put this part in your mouth and blow. The two flaps of the stem will vibrate, creating a variety of sounds. Make dandelion horns using different lengths of stems; the longer the stem, the deeper the note. You might even want to cut a few small holes in the side of the stem and play different notes by covering various combinations of the holes. Get together with your kids and form a dandelion band!
- Flickers – Hold a dandelion flower beheading contest with your kids! Hold a dandelion in your hand, then flick the top of the dandelion flower with your thumb. See who can flick their flower the furthest. A fun chant for this activity is “A lady had a baby, and its head popped off!”
- Butter Tester – Hold a dandelion flower under a friends chin and ask “Do you like butter?” If their chin glows yellow, it means they do like butter.
- Wish Fairies – When the dandelion flower has gone to seed, blow on the fuzzy ball and make a wish while the “wish fairies” take flight.
- Fortune Teller – Dandelion seeds can predict your future! Blow hard on the seed head with one great big puff, then count the seeds that remain – this is how many children you will have. Or… if you can blow all the seeds off in one puff, your sweetheart loves you very much; if a few are left, your sweetheart is not faithful; if many are left, your sweetheart is completely indifferent to you.
- Poppers – Pick a foxglove flower and close the large end of the flower between your thumb and forefinger. Blow into the small end of the flower like a balloon. When the flower is full of air, suddenly strike it with your other hand to hear a pop! You can make flower poppers like this with Morning Glory flowers and Canterbury Bells, as well.
- Petal Poppers – Pick a large petal from a rose and center it over your lips. Take a quick, deep breath and the petal pops, making a unique sound. Soft leaves will also work for this type of popper.
- Clover Chains – Gather clover blossoms that have a 2″ to 3″ stem. Carefully split the stem about 1/2″ from the end of the stem and thread another clover stem through this opening – pulling the blossom down to the stem. Split this second stem the same way, and thread another blossom through the opening. Continue adding clover blossoms until your chain is the length you want. Use your clover chain to make a crown, a necklace, or a belt. The clover chains also make a beautiful decoration for a garden tea party table. Make chains of daisies or other flowers for variety.
- Nectar Dew – Carefully pick a honeysuckle blossom, then pinch off the green receptacle at the base of the trumpet-shaped flower. Grasp this end of the flower firmly between your thumb and forefinger. Slowly pull down through the tubular blossom until a tiny drop of honeysuckle dew comes out of the flower. Put this drop of dew on your tongue for an amazingly sweet treat!
- Violet Wars – Two players pick an equal number of violet flowers on their stems. Each player holds one violet in their hand and hooks the head of their flower under the head of their opponent’s flower. Violet flowers have a small “spur” under the curved part of the stem and it acts as a hook. When both flowers are clinched together, each player pulls their flower until one of the flower heads is pulled off. The conqueror keeps the flower head of the opponent. Play continues until both players are out of fresh violets. The winner is the one who accumulates the most flower heads.
- Puffer Bellies – Carefully pinch and squeeze the fleshy sedum leaf between your thumb and forefinger until it becomes dark green. This loosens the outer skin and separates it from the inner leaf tissue, forming a bladder. Gently blow up the bladder until it bursts with a delightful POP! Make sure to squeeze the leaf gently, as sedum leaves can tear easily.
- Horns – Cut a stem of a pumpkin (or squash) with the leaf attached. The cut end of the stem will be hollow, and will be used to form a horn. Cut the leaf off the stem, making sure to cut it high enough up from the stalk so the opening is hollow. Make a 1″ slit in the leaf end of the stalk. Scrape off the prickles around the slit, and blow! Longer stems will make a deep tone that sounds a lot like a cow mooing.
- Whistles – Pick a broad blade of grass and hold it taut between your thumbs, held side-by-side. Blow through the small space between your thumbs to make a wonderful whistle sound! This takes a bit of practice, but once you can whistle on a blade of grass, you can make a large range of fun sounds!
Grasses with Seeds
- Basket Prank – Tell a friend you want to show them how to build a basket, and ask them for their help. Take two long stalks of grass with the seeds on the top and hold them facing in the opposite direction. Ask your friend to clamp their teeth over the middle of the stalks, and tell them “this is how we start the basket”. Quickly pull both ends of the stalks out of your friends mouth, and your friend will be left with a mouthful of seeds! This is a fun prank to play, and results in lots of laughter! (Thanks Mom!)
- Earrings – Pry open the full seed end of a fresh maple seed and put them on your earlobes for a fashionable pair of earrings!
- Glasses – Split the seed end of a maple seed, then place the seed on the bridge of your nose for a unique pair of eye glasses.
- Whistles – Want to make a lot of noise? Make a whistle out of a maple seed! Rip off one wing and the seed, then place the remaining wing (the tail) of the maple seed on top of your tongue with the thicker edge facing back. Lift the seed up behind your front teeth and blow. This takes a little practice, but the sounds made by this whistle are worth the effort!
- Boats – Cut a walnut seed in half and hollow it out. Float the walnut boat in a creek or stream. Add flower passengers and make up stories that go along with your sailing ships. Put a little bit of melted birthday candle in the bottom of the walnut seed, then quickly insert the birthday candle in the wax. Light the candle and float your boat on a pond at night.
What garden games do you remember from your youth? Share them in a comment below!