Fun with Dandelions!
"A weed is just a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I love dandelions -- they are such a wonderful gift from Mother Nature! There is just something about them that makes me smile! When my sons were little we visited a meadow near their grandmother's house that was filled with dandelions. They romped in the field and picked the little yellow flowers that I turned into dandelion crowns for us to wear. I know dandelions are considered by most to be a pesky weed, but there is great beauty and utility in "daisy-lions" as my oldest son used to call them. Since dandelions are everywhere at this time of year, I thought I'd share some fun and educational ideas that you and your children may enjoy...
If your child has never seen a dandelion you will find pictures of them (in different stages of growth) [Dandelion on Wikipedia]
Go on a Dandelion Hunt!
Head out into the garden or take a walk around your neighborhood or a local park and try to find some dandelions. See if you can find dandelions with bright yellow flowers and dandelions that have gone to seed. Try to find some that are budding or closed tight. Try to find the biggest, tallest, shortest, smallest, brightest color, weirdest shape, etc. Compare and contrast and talk about the differences.
Look at the leaves of the dandelion plant. The leaves are long, with large, jagged edges or "teeth". Dandelions get their name from the big teeth in their leaves. In old French "dent-de-lion" means lion's tooth. Now, enjoy the rest of these activities...
"The Legend of the Dandelion" is designed for storytelling. You can read or print out a version of it at this website, and then paraphrase it as you tell it to your children.
"The Dandelion Seed" by Joseph P. Anthony and Cris Arbo tells the life-cycle story of one little dandelion seed. (Ages 4-8.)
"The Little Dandelion" is a wonderful poem by Helen Barron Bostwick. The original poem has some old-fashioned language, but you can easily update it so that your child will understand. Here's an excerpt:
Pale little dandelion, in her white shroud,
Heareth the angel-breeze call from the cloud.
Tiny plumes fluttering, make no delay,
Little winged dandelion, soareth away.
You can read the entire original poem and other dandelion-themed poetry here: [Dandelion Poetry]
Listen to the delightful children's song, "Dandelion" by Linda Allen -- scroll to the bottom and click on the song title and you can hear a sample of the "Dandelion" song from the album. Read or print out the lyrics to the song.
Legend has it that the tallest dandelion a child can find will be equivalent to the number of inches that child will grow in the coming year. Ask your child to find the tallest dandelion in a field or garden. Pick it and measure it. Write down the measurement along with the date, and post it on the wall or refrigerator. As you track your child's growth over the next year compare the number of inches to the length of the dandelion. Is the legend true?
Press A Dandelion: A nice addition to this activity would be to press the dandelion and save it. To press the dandelion you'll need a sheet of wax paper (about 8"x10"). Fold it in half. Place the dandelion on the inside fold of the sheet of wax paper so that there is wax paper on both sides of the flower. Open a large, heavy book like a dictionary or phone book and place the wax paper containing the dandelion in the middle of the book. Close the book and place 2-3 heavy books on top of it. Within a week or so the flower should be pressed and dry. Open the book, remove it carefully and then mount it on a piece of sturdy paper. Use it to track your child's growth all year long.
The dandelion is known as the "Shepherd's Clock." That's because its flowers always open about 5 A.M. and shut at about 8 P.M. Why not watch some dandelions and track what time they open and close to find out if the legend is true? If you don't have any dandelions close by -- then grow some! It's easy! Here's how...
Grow Your Own Dandelions!
Dandelions are hardy plants and grow successfully just about anywhere they are planted. Unlike some delicate flowers, if you transplant a dandelion, the slight trauma of digging it up and replanting it will usually cause the plant to produce more flowers. For this project you are going to transplant a dandelion from a garden or field into a pot that you can take home. Here's how to do it:
- Take a plant pot and place a few rocks at the bottom to help with drainage.
- Fill the pot half full with potting soil.
- Show your child how to dig up a dandelion. Be sure to get most of the long, main taproot or the plant will die.
- Place the uprooted plant into the pot, and add more potting soil so that it's firmly planted in the pot.
- Water the dandelion well and set it where it will get sunlight.
- Check the plant daily and keep the soil damp -- not too wet or too dry.
Within about 10-20 days the plant will grow buds and flowers should bloom. When the flowers die the seed puffs will form. You can explain that the wind usually blows the seed puffs and the individual seeds are released and fly with the wind. Wherever they settle is usually where they will grow to become brand new dandelions.
Be sure to examine the dandelions at all stages of growth. Pick a flower and take it apart. Count the petals. Do the same thing with the seed-puff. Count all of the individual seeds in one tuft. There are lots!
Make Dandelion Chains!
Just like daisies, dandelions can be used to make chains, crowns, and necklaces. Be sure to have a supply of dandelions handy. Then, use your thumbnail or fingernail (or perhaps a plastic knife) to split a hole in the stem of a dandelion. You want it to be just large enough so that you can thread another dandelion stem through it. Take another dandelion and thread its stem through the hole in the first dandelion stem. Continue this procedure, adding dandelions until your dandelion chain is the desired length. Then, connect the ends to make dandelion crowns or necklaces.
More Dandelion Activities!
- Be sure to show your child how to blow on a dandelion and make a wish. If you can blow all of the seeds off the tuft in one breath -- it's said that your wish will come true!
- Spread some glue on paper and blow the dandelion seeds onto the paper -- it makes an interesting design!
- Use dandelion flowers as paintbrushes! Simply use the stem to gently dip the flower heads in paint. Then carefully apply the paint to paper in any way you desire.
- Blow dandelion seeds from a seed-puff and watch to see how far they go. Measure the distance they travel from the spot where you blew them to where they land.
- Free printable dandelion coloring page designed for little kids.
Make a Dandelion Snack!
Dandelions are edible! You can eat them -- they're nutritious and delicious. At one time, people used them for food and medicine - and in fact, some still do. They are rich in vitamins A, C, D, and B-complex and contain minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and manganese. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) ranks them among the top 4 green vegetables in overall nutritional value. The leafy greens are best to eat and less bitter tasting when young (before flower buds appear on the plant). If you gather your own dandelion greens, collect them from an area that is free from pesticides, car emissions, and other toxins. Then wash, dry, and chill until ready to use.
Remember never pick wild greens, unless you know what plants may be harmful. There are some poisonous plants that are easily mistaken for edible spring greens and can be deadly if eaten. At age 3, my youngest son picked harmless Miner's Lettuce from a field and ate it. The only problem is that it was growing in a patch of poison oak -- which he didn't see, but managed to pick and eat. As a result, he was a very sick little boy. If you're not sure - don't pick your own greens. Instead, find an organic farm that sells them, or purchase them at the grocery store when in season.
The dandelion flowers are also edible. In fact, my grandmother used to make Dandelion wine from the flowers. :)
Here are some recipes you may want to try using both flowers and greens:
- Make Dandelion Syrup for Pancakes!
- Make Dandelion Salad, A Dandelion Sauté, and Dandelion Fritters!
- Make Dandelion Soup for those chilly springtime evenings!
- Make Dandelion Jelly!
Note: Constant adult supervision required, or just let your kids watch.
- 4 cups packed dandelion flowers (just the yellow blossoms removed from green stems)
- 3 cups water
- 4 cups of sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 box powdered pectin (i.e., Sure-Jell)
- Strainer and cheesecloth
Put yellow dandelion blossoms and water in pan over high heat. Bring to boil and then immediately turn down heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the water and blossoms through a strainer, pressing on the blossoms to extract all of the liquid. Save the dandelion water and discard the used flowers. Strain the dandelion water through cheesecloth and put it in a pan. Add the lemon juice, sugar and pectin. Bring to rolling boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. At this point, it's optional to tint the jelly with yellow food coloring as desired. Pour into clean jelly jars and seal.
Final Dandelion Thought...
"To some the dandelion is a weed; but not to me, unless it takes more than its share of space, for I always miss these little earth stars when they are absent. They intensify the sunshine shimmering on the lawn, making one smile involuntarily when seeing them. Moreover, they awaken pleasant memories, for a childhood in which dandelions had no part is a defective experience." ~ Excerpted from "The Home Acre," by E. P. Roe
Have fun learning with Dandelions and give your little ones a hug for me,
More Springtime Fun!
- Fun, Springtime Learning Activities!
- Rainy Day Activities
- Alternatives to Television Viewing
- Discretionary Playtime Needed!
- Learning Calendar
- Celebrate May Day!
Dandelion photo copyright © by Andrew Arensburger