Kid-Friendly Nature Crafts for Valentine’s Day

Guest post by Elizabeth Scholl

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with two crafts: Heart-shaped decorations that double as a feast for neighborhood birds and a nature-inspired Valentine card.

Valentines … For the Birds!

100_0632_1During midwinter, when food is scarce for wildlife, why not show some love for backyard birds while decorating your yard for Valentine’s Day?

These cheerful decorations can be eaten by birds and are made with ingredients you may already have or can easily pick up at your local supermarket.  They can even be made by young children, with a little help from an adult. Hang them up outside—it’s a great opportunity for bird-watching when your feathered friends come to snack on the treats!

What you need:

  • 1 ½ cups of oatmeal (instant is fine)
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening or suet
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 ½ cups cream of wheat cereal, uncooked
  • 1 ½ cups corn meal
  • red food coloring (optional)
  • large bowl
  • mixing spoon
  • measuring cups
  • heart-shaped cookie cutter
  • plate or shallow pan for birdseed
  • any kind of string, ribbon, or yarn, cut into 12 inch lengths
  • cookie sheet
  • sunflower or other bird seed
  • chopstick or pencil

What You Do:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook oatmeal according to package directions (microwave in large bowl). Add other ingredients in bowl, stirring first with spoon; you can use your hands when mixture gets too stiff.

3. Sprinkle some flour on your working surface and on your hands.  Take a tennis-ball sized handful of dough and place it on the floured surface.  Flatten the dough to about ½-inch thick.  Cut out as many heart shapes as you can.  You can dip the hearts into a dish of birdseed to coat them or press seeds into the heart to create a design.

4. Using a chopstick or pencil, make a hole through each heart (for where the string will go).

5. Place hearts on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until lightly brown.  Cool on pan.

6. When completely cool, tie strings through holes.  Hang outdoors from trees or shrubs.

7. See who comes to eat them!

Photo by Elizabeth Scholl

Valentine’s Day Mice

valentine-mouse-nancy-ostertag_300x214Parents: Help your kids make an adorable “mousy” Valentine’s Day card with materials gathered from the outdoors.

What You Need:

  • Paper (recycle a brown paper grocery bag or use white copy paper or construction paper)
  • Scissors
  • Pen, marker, or pencil for tracing the heart and writing your Valentine’s Day message
  • White or craft glue (Elmer’s, Sobo, or Tacky glue are all good)
  • Tape
  • Markers or crayons, if you want to color your mouse
  • Items gathered from outdoors to create the mouse’s body parts. (Examples: pine cones, tiny leaves, twigs, and pine needles. But explore and use your imagination. Your mouse can look any way you want it to!)
  • A bag or basket to carry the materials you have gathered home
  • Newspaper or something else to protect your work space from glue

What You Do:

valentine-mouse-inside-nancy-ostertag-175x2081. Take a walk outside to gather materials for your mouse’s eye, ear, nose, whiskers, paws, and tail. Put them in your bag or basket and bring them home.

2. Fold your paper in half. Along the folded edge, draw a half-heart shape. Cut along the line you have drawn. (Very young children may need some help with this.) You now have a mouse’s body. When you open the paper up, you have a Valentine heart!

3. Write or draw your Valentine’s Day message inside the mouse, on the heart. (Note:  It is easier to do this before you have glued parts onto the mouse.)

4. Choose something you have gathered to use for the mouse’s tail. Tape it along the fold of the heart, so it sticks out a few inches from the top of the heart.

5. Fold your heart closed and turn it sideways so you can see the mouse shape. The tail should be sticking out of the rounded end of the heart. The pointy end will become the mouse’s nose.

6. Glue your gathered materials onto your mouse to create an eye, ear, nose, whiskers, paws, and tail.

7. Give your mouse to someone special.

Photos by Nancy Ostertag; Mouse craft made by Michele Reyser

Elizabeth Scholl is a New Jersey-based writer of children’s books and magazine articles, with a background in elementary education. Specializing in nature and environmental topics, her books include Organic Gardening for KidsGrasshopper, Praying Mantis and Animals Attack: Wolves. When she isn’t writing, Elizabeth enjoys working in her garden, bicycling and and exploring nature in her neighborhood.