August and September are big Sunflower months around here. If you happen to put sunflowers in your bird feeders, you likely have sunflowers all over, even some in strange places.I like to let most of my sunflowers live their long lives, but every once in awhile one pops up somewhere and I have to pluck it out. Also, at some point they all die off, and they can be quite unsightly. Instead of just composting the giants, I try to use these opportunities as teachable moments. Here are a few activities you can do with sunflowers.
Weeding/ Ages 3-99
Engage children in assisting in the removal process. Weeding requires a lot of gross motor skills. Using several muscles in unison, and stimulating brain activity. Children enjoy the satisfaction of pulling as hard as they can, and it’s great for them to see the progress of their efforts. Once pulled, help them remove the stem, the leaves, and the flower, and place the different parts into labeled bins to explore next.
Sunflower exploration/ Ages 0 – 99 / Fine motor skills, Scientific knowledge/ Math
Offer sunflowers to children with a variety of tools such as plastic knives, mallet, tweezers, water, different containers. Encourage the children to explore the sunflowers using the tools. Offer some safety guidelines if necessary. Then, let them go at it! As they are exploring you can scaffold their learning by asking questions or offering new techniques.
Sunflower painting / Ages 1 – 99 / Fine motor skills/ Creative Arts/ Early Math / Science
Create the art area by laying down an old sheet on the grass. Offer each child a canvas and a sunflower. Squirt desired colors of paint on canvas and encourage children to use their sunflower or hands to paint.
Seed counting / 2 -99 / Math
Use tweezers or fingers to extract seeds from flower head. This process alone is really cool! The textures of the sunflower are varied and interesting. Count seeds by 1’s, 5’s, and 10’s! Make up a recipe “We need 30 seeds to bake our bread!”
Cooking! / 2 -99
After you have counted, painted, smashed, and tweezed the sunflower pieces, cook with them! Flower petals look gorgeous on a mud pie, and children will love having new textures to work with.