Crafts with plants provide a wide variety of ways to engage children's curiosity about nature. Changes in the natural world itself provide cues for craft projects for each season. Spring is all about growing, summer is a riot of shapes and colors, fall brings the harvest in, and winter adds new takes on crafting.
In many nurseries, grass seed is available year round. If not, save a bit of your garage stash. Bring the outdoors in by growing grass indoors. A small clay pot with a saucer is ideal, but even a plastic cup will work. Put a couple of inches of potting soil in your container and sprinkle grass seed on top. Keep the cup on a sunny windowsill and keep the soil damp--grass will sprout within a couple of weeks. Paint a funny face on your cup before planting, and once it sprouts, trim, braid or tie grassy hair into silly hairdos. Indoor cats, bunnies, guinea pigs and hamsters will be happy to help "cut the grass."
Summer is a great time to learn to press flowers. Pick small flowers and dry any moisture out of them between layers of paper towel. Place flowers between sheets of drawing paper, sandwich the paper-covered flowers with waxed paper, and press for several days between two heavy books. Dried flowers will be delicate but can be used to decorate cards, make collages, or embellish a special gift. Place colorful dried flowers between two sheets of clear self-adhesive paper, trim with pinking shears and add a ribbon hanger--your summer sun-catcher will enliven a dull view from a winter window. Dried summer flowers can also be turned into bookmarks or place cards for a special party.
Fall is a great season for setting up an indoor garden. Use a large, wide-mouth jar to make a beginning terrarium. A little damp soil and peat moss will be hospitable to little nursery plants. Turn the jungle-like landscape into a dinosaur park or rain forest with small play-figures.
A large shallow saucer makes a fine receptacle for a indoor desert garden, again with little nursery plants and a mixture of soil and sand. Add farm- or ranch-playset critters and fencing for a desert landscape, or make it a bit scarier with spiders and snakes in among the plants. By spring, plants in an indoor mini-garden are often ready to move to larger pots, so you can start a new indoor landscape the following year.
A low bowl filled with water and pebbles or a chunk of flower-foam can present your children with a wonderful challenge: find what's growing when "nothing is growing." On a slow winter walk, kids are likely to find a wealth of vines like ivy, bushes with berries, and interesting seed pods, in addition to evergreens in a huge spectrum of colors and textures. Your table decoration will change bit by bit, all winter, reminding adults and children alike that winter, too, is a season of growth.
Bring in an interesting branch once the Christmas tree is down. Get out colored paper, stickers and everything else your kids need to make "winter tree" decorations. Save one branch to paint with peanut butter and coat with popcorn and bird-seed. Hang it outside for hungry birds and squirrels. When it's empty, add more of everything--apple chunks and raisins are welcome, too.