Thursday

Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft

It is the time of year when many nuts and seeds are starting to show their faces and, if your kids are anything like mine they are always collecting them. Right now I am just trying to get them to carry the items in their pockets instead of always handing them off to me. Can you relate? I love watching them collect but this year I thought I would take it a step further by sneaking some learning into their outdoor play? After all, our kids should experience the fun of learning.

One aspect of collecting is helping our kids notice differences; but, there are reasons why seeds and nuts have their specific shapes, sizes and colors. These simple activities are designed to help you and your kids understand some of those differences. Except for the craft, you don't need any special equipment.
Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft

Activity 1: How many different types of seeds and nuts can you find?

This activity is pretty straight forward and very easy for kids. Bring a bag for collection or a camera to take pictures of the different seeds and nuts. Remember that some nature centers do not allow the collection of plants.

Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
Here are some of the nuts & seeds we found at the park closest to our home.

Activity 2: How is the seed or nut dispersed?

I can think of 6 ways seeds and nuts are "dispersed". Can you and your kids guess which methods are used by the seeds you find? Keep in mind that some seeds/nuts require two forms of dispersion; a primary and secondary. Descriptions and examples are below.
  • Wind - What characteristics do seeds need to be carried by the wind? They need to be light and have a wing or feathery bristle with which to catch the wind. Think dandelion or maple. 
    Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
  • Water - Obviously these plants need to be living on or near the water and, not surprisingly, most are water plants. A couple terrestrial examples are coconuts, bald/pond cypress (theses can/do live in flooded areas) and mangroves. 
    Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
    Cypress Cone
  • Force - Some seeds are "spring loaded". Or, in other words, as their pods dry they create tension. When the tension becomes too great the pod pops open and flings the seed away from them parent. Some examples of this are Jewelweed and the Fabacea (legumes) family.
  • Animals - These seeds relay on animals and humans to disperse their seeds, sometimes willingly and other times not. So what characteristics make them desirable to animals? Generally bright colors and some sort of tasty flesh. Most obvious are fruit bearing plants. But there are plenty of seeds that stick to us whether we like it or not. How many times have you walked through the grass and come out with stickers all over your shoes?
    Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
  • Fire - Plants cannot flee a fire so some have developed seeds that can withstand fire. There are even some species of pine whose cones will not open until heated by fire. Sandpine in Florida and a majority of Lodgepole Pine cones in the Rocky Mountains need fire for their cones to open. 
  • Gravity - These seeds just drop from the parents. Although many rely on further dispersal as animals store them for the winter or as they are scattered as animals run along the forest floor. Think squirrels stashing nuts and seeds for the winter. 
    Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft

Activity 3: Which tree or plant did the seed or nut come from?

Try to match the seeds on the ground with ones on the trees or plants. Don't forget the binoculars if you have them. They will make it easier if the seeds are high up in the trees.
Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
Acorns were the easiest for my kids to match. 

Activity 4: Nut and Seed Wreath

Materials:

  • Gather as many different types of nuts and seeds as you can. We used acorns as they were the most abundant this time of year.
  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Glue - we used Elmers and hot glue. If you use Elmers, use a generous amount for gluing acorns or other heavy seeds/nuts. 
  • Ribbon

Instructions:

  • Make sure there is no water on the outside of the seeds and nuts. 
  • Cut center out of paper plate.
  • Glue nuts and seeds onto the paper plate. 
    Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
  • Allow to dry. This may take quite some time depending on the type of glue you use. We stuck ours under a ceiling fan for the night and they were dry in the morning.
  • Glue a loop of ribbon onto the back of the wreath. Decorate with a bow if desired. 
    Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft
Hope you enjoy getting outdoors and exploring with our kids!

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