I hear over and over from our Airbnb guests that the goats are great, the stars are beautiful, but the most rewarding part of their vacation is watching their children completely absorbed in nature play and never asking to look at a screen. Whether you are planning to spend time this weekend in the forest, at a park, or in your own backyard, it’s fun to do small projects that engage kids in exploring, collecting and learning about the world around us.
Paper (anything will do, but if you have something heavier like card stock, great)
Double sided tape
Nature provides all of the materials you need for wonderful headdresses. Even a simple adornment, such as a garland of flowers or a crown of autumn leaves, has the power to transform its wearer into a noble monarch, a woodland fairy or some other magical character. Acorns and pretty small stones can make beautiful jewels; leaves, flowers and feathers add color; lightweight twigs add height and stature. Running around to find these embellishments provides an outlet not only for energetic play, but also for imagination, creativity and artistic flair. Assessing all of these different natural objects sharpens powers of observation and encourages curiosity. The process of piecing together the headdress hones fine motor skills, while the end result of a valued and unique piece of art inspires role play and self-esteem. Talking through the creative decisions for each headdress encourages communication and can even lead to some quite sophisticated discussion about art and symbolism. All in all, making natural headdresses is a continuously inventive and fun process that unfolds into many magical performances.
Each participant chooses a strip of cardstock. Measure each strip to make sure it fits around the child’s head (or yours!) and trim off any excess beyond the overlap needed to secure it. Older children can do this measuring and trimming themselves.
Talk together about the sorts of decorative things the children might be able to find and attach with sticky tape to their headdresses. Remind everyone to try to use things that are already on the forest floor and to avoid any rare or poisonous plants that might be in the area.
Time to head into the forest and collect decorations! The children can either apply double stick tape to their headband to bring with them, attaching items as they are found, or head out with a basket to collect items to assemble onto the headdress when they return. Once the decorative items are attached to the headdress, the ends can be fastened together using tape or a staple.
Getting the most out of the activity
Talk about and admire each headdress in turn. Where did the natural items used as decorations come from and what was their role in the natural world? Do they symbolize anything now that they are part of the headdress? Which decoration is each child’s favorite? How do the children feel when they wear their headdresses? Who or what have they become?
These questions can lead to a discussion about how we use headwear to express many different things. For example, the feathers on the headdress of a Native American chief may have been awarded for good deeds or acts of courage. Can anyone think of animals that make beautiful works of art? Did you see any of these while collecting your decorations?
Adapted from Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton & Jane Worroll
Each of our accommodations is stocked with a copy of this great book so you can try out the activities during your ranch vacation.