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A project of the Chicago Botanic Garden

Activities

For Families

Educational fun for the whole family

Nature is all around us. We invite you and your family to join Budburst and take time to be outdoors, to enjoy nature, and to observe how plants in your yard and community change with the seasons. Here you will find activities to do with your children and ways the whole family can become part of an ecological record. Spend time with Budburst, the outdoors, your family and with plants. After all, it’s the community scientist way. Enjoy!

Why Family Activities?

Watching nature together as a family puts learning in a social context. It makes facts more meaningful to the child and more likely to be remembered. In these activities, spending time together and talking to each other is more important than getting the facts all right. This is about having fun and enjoying nature all around you. While you’re at it, your child will be using STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) without even realizing he or she is learning.

  1. Pre-K-Kindergarten

    Budburst Buddies (story and activity)

    Follow the story of Lily and Sage as they learn what stories plants can tell from making observations about what plant parts they can see. Then, use the observation sheets to go outside and make your own observations to become a Budburst Buddy. This is especially fun in the spring, when you can find the first leaves and flowers.

  2. Pre-K-Kindergarten

    Crocus Counting

    Get outside and COUNT! See how many purple crocuses you can find in your yard or neighborhood. Exercise your body and your observation skills—both are essential for STEM learning. Writing down what you see as a record is a practice that all scientists do to study nature.

  3. Pre-K-Kindergarten

    Plant Parts in the Kitchen (recipe and activity)

    What plants are on your plate? Roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits! Learn about plants and plant parts by cooking with them and eating the result with this fun activity nourishing for body and mind. Use the recipe for plant-part stir fry to teach your kids about plants, while also encouraging them to help prepare and eat healthy, natural foods.

  4. Pre-K-Kindergarten

    Rooting for a Salad from Scraps

    Before discarding into the compost bin, see what plant parts can be reused to plant a new crop of vegetables. Save the plants you don’t eat to create a new garden full of vegetables that will fill your table all summer.

  5. Pre-K-Kindergarten

    Weather Dash

    Try this fun active game where the players change what they wear depending on the season using items found at home. Use “play” to instill awareness of the changing seasons and realization of what that means to us and other living things. Understanding how temperature and weather changes throughout the year provides a foundation for understanding life cycles of plants later.

  6. Grades 1-4

    Crazy Cactus Adventure (regional, desert ecosystem)

    Try this easy, active scavenger hunt for crazy-looking cacti that showcase the adaptability of desert plants. Noticing how desert plants are alike and different uses observation skills that are general STEM skills and reveals the diversity of plants. Children benefit from exposure to a variety of different plants because it builds appreciation for biodiversity and the wonder of nature.

  7. Grades 1-4

    Flower Power

    As a family, choose at least two different kinds of flowering plants and describe the parts they have in common and how each looks different. Noticing how flowers are alike and different uses observation skills that are general STEM skills and also reveal the diversity of plants. Looking at a variety of plants helps children understand the biodiversity of life.

  8. Grades 1-4

    How old is that tree?

    This fun family activity will engage you with nature and show you two ways to find out how long a tree has been growing. This activity uses basic math skills to understand how trees grow. You can do it once, but it’s even more interesting to take measurements of the same tree over time and compare and graph the results for real STEM learning.

  9. Grades 1-4

    Plant Parts in the Kitchen (recipe and activity)

    What plants are on your plate? Roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits! Learn about plants and plant parts by cooking with them and eating the result with this fun activity nourishing for body and mind. Use the recipe for plant-part stir fry to teach your kids about plants, while also encouraging them to help prepare and eat healthy, natural foods.

  10. Grades 1-4

    Rooting for a Salad from Scraps

    Before discarding into the compost bin, see what plant parts can be reused to plant a new crop of vegetables. Save the plants you don’t eat to create a new garden full of vegetables that will fill your table all summer.

  11. Grades 1-4

    Searching for Plant Prizes

    This nature-based scavenger hunt will have the whole family working together to find as many nature-based items outside as they can, for a reward of the plant prize! Get outdoors and check out some of the parts of plants that can be easily observed.

  12. Grades 5-8

    Backyard BioBlitz

    Try your hand at identifying plants and discover the great variety of plants (biodiversity), even in your own yard. You don’t know what’s there until you try to find out. This activity challenges kids to notice the biodiversity in their own environment, exercising a host of STEM practices while making them more aware of their surroundings.

  13. Grades 5-8

    How old is that tree?

    This fun family activity will engage you with nature and show you two ways to find out how long a tree has been growing. This activity uses basic math skills to understand how trees grow. You can do it once, but it’s even more interesting to take measurements of the same tree over time and compare and graph the results for real STEM learning.

  14. Grades 5-8

    Living, Breathing Plants

    Would placing petroleum jelly over your nostrils make it more difficult to breathe? (Don’t try it!). Discover how plants “breathe” by smearing petroleum jelly over different parts of a leaf. This activity has you working together as a family, planning an investigation, observing and recording results, and drawing conclusions like a real scientist. These are STEM skills that will carry over to school or other academic learning.

Check out the Plant Trackers Contest!*

Have any family members in Grades 3-6? They can observe, draw, and describe a plant to enter the Plant Trackers contest for a chance to win a $1000! Use the student guide developed by Scholastic to help your child complete their contest entry while they learn about plant life cycles and climate change. All contest information and materials are available in Spanish here.

Want to continue with Budburst after the contest? Set up a Budburst account using a parent/caretaker email so you can continue making plant observations all year as a family! See our Getting Started page for more information.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. For complete details view Official Rules.

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Budburst is a project of the
Chicago Botanic Garden

One of the treasures of the
Forest Preserves of Cook County

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