Our garden provides lots of opportunities for children’s nature play. When we purchased our home ten years ago, I had two major missions to achieve in the garden.
- Plant a lemon tree.
- Plant a Mulberry tree.
I have fond memories from childhood of climbing a mulberry tree and feasting on big, fat, juicy mulberries amongst the branches. I remember purple stained fingers and mulberry juice stains on my clothes, much to my mothers dismay. For me the mulberry tree represents the ultimate in nature play, an unplugged childhood, a childhood I want for my own children.
Our original Mulberry tree was a sad little thing that never really took off. Each Spring it would make a show of leaves and then promptly lose them. Finally, my husband pulled it out of the ground and planted a new tree nearby. And it has flourished!
I love our Mulberry tree! Each spring it adorns itself with fresh juicy young leaves, perfect for a silkworm project, and it sprouts an abundance of green berries, that slowly over the Spring ripen into long, fat, juicy dark purple berries. And it is abundant!
Nature Play – Practical Life
Our Mulberry tree is creating the memories in children just as I dreamed it would. This week we visited the tree laden with ripe, plump berries and we feasted on a delicious harvest. We noticed there was left over mulberry juice at the bottom of our buckets and we wondered what we could do with it.
I had just made some plain play dough and the children thought we could make Mulberry Play Dough.
I poured the left over juice into a small glass bowl and provided an eye dropper for the children to use to add the juice to their play dough.
The children need to gently squeeze the top of the eye dropper using a pincer grip when it is immersed in the mulberry juice to fill the dropper. Then they need to squeeze the top again to release the juice onto the play dough. Some of the children needed several attempts to co-ordinate their squeezing and filling of the eye dropper, but no-one gave up, everyone was having fun and the concentration was remarkable!
The first essential for the child’s development is concentration
“Well, what else in the garden might add colour to our dough?” As the children worked we started to think about other natural possibilities for adding colour to our dough and with that a project was born, growing out of the children’s ideas. This is meaningful work.
Have you made dyes from plants in your garden? Please share your experiences in the comments!