backyard fun: dissecting, examining, and learning about flowers

easy backyard fun with flowers

Dissecting flowers–totally pulling them apart–is a little bit funny for some kids.

At least it was for mine.

We tell them they can’t pick the flowers in our gardens unless they have permission; we teach them to care for and nurture our plants by watering and weeding.  We give flowers to loved ones for gifts and put fancy flowers in vases and ooooh and ahhhh over them for days on end.

So when I placed a bunch of flowers on our back porch and gave Maddy, Owen, and Cora permission to dissect them, they all balked.

My kids have always loved playing with flowers–really I can give them any excuse to pick them and pull them apart, they’re totally game.

Whether we’re painting flower pots, painting with flowers, making backyard rainbows, changing flowers’ colors, or conducting fragrance experiments, it doesn’t matter. Flower free-for-all’s mean F-U-N for Maddy, Owen, and Cora. Most days, at least.

But I suppose that the open-ended invitation to pull them apart–to look closely at how they were made–was just a little too strange for them.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Dissecting Flowers, Examining, and Learning: When I told the kids after lunch one day that we were going to look a little more closely at flowers today and that we were going to pull petals off and look at the parts of a flower, Maddy froze.

She said that what we were doing wasn’t ‘being kind to nature’ and that it wasn’t okay.  I assured her that what we were using were fine–most of the flowers were older and were on their way out anyway and that it was totally okay.  We were learning a little bit about flowers–the parts of them and how they work–so it was not like we were pulling out every flower in the garden.


My kids had a hard time dissecting flowers. . . at first.


She bought it–hesitantly–in the name of science.

But it reminded me that maybe I need to give my kiddos a little more leeway, let them run through mud more, finger paint, dance around in the rain, and live a little more on the edge. Or maybe it was just a sign that right now my little ones are conscious and careful around pretty things, that they love–or at least respect–nature’s creations.  Who knows?

I’m probably just thinking too much about it because I’ve caught Maddy’s cold and have been totally under the weather lately. I do have to say that this was a really easy, relaxing, and worthwhile activity once we got started.

And looking at pretty flower parts is always a good reason to smile–even when you’re all congested and haven’t stopped coughing for three days.



The parts of a few flowers. . .


I wanted to keep this activity simple. I wanted it to be free, open-ended, and fun.

I thought about trying to have the kids identify parts of a flower, and I even printed out a teacher’s guide to parts of a flower and a child’s sheet for identifying parts of a flower.  But we didn’t use them.


  . . . before they became a part of Cora’s flower salad.

 Instead, our focus was:

  • talking about how the petals felt;
  • estimating how many petals each flower had;
  • figuring out which parts of the flowers were alike and which parts were different;
  • talking about the shapes of each petal, leaf, and stem;
  • deciding which petals were our favorites;
  • assessing which flowers were our favorites;
  • making pictures on plates with flower petals;
  • pretending that the flowers were microphones and their petals were salads;
  • enjoying the day, our time together, and conversation.

Really. That’s it.

I had the parts of a flower sheets there in case anyone asked me what the official names were of the parts, but no one did, and I totally know they’ll cover that in science class down the road.

That wasn’t all that important to me.

I just hope that on that day when their teacher hits them with the news that they’re going to learn about the parts of a flower, that Maddy, Owen, and Cora can recall a teeny, tiny, distant–but fond–memory of a warm summer day on the back porch when their mom let them pull apart flowers.

Just for the fun of it.

 Flower salads don’t get much more beautiful than this. . .


We’re still rockin’ and rollin’ through week 3 of the Smart Summer Challenge--a 6 week campaign that Candace of Naturally Educational, MaryLea of Pink and Green Mama, and I are hosting to show all parents how important it is for parents to make summer learning fun! 

Summer learning can be simple–even 5 or 10 minutes a day in the span of a read-aloud, and anything and everything counts. All we ask is that you link up here on Fridays and share what you’ve done (meaning: share one way you participated). Each Friday for the duration of the challenge, we’ll choose one participant to receive an awesome (and I mean totally worth your time awesome) prize.

Our goal is to show all parents that if we can do it, anyone can do it. And if we want our kids meet with success in school and to enjoy learning about the world around them, it’s our job to create a lifestyle of learning for our families.  Join us!




  1. says

    I love all this free explorations of the flowers. This free play leads to learning at the same time and is the approach I use too for our own explorations of nature. If they your children ever do re-explore the parts and do ask you for the names of parts I made a flower chart for our children here:

    I just stumbled upon your site today and look forward to future visits!


  1. […] This outside activity is perfect for children who love treasure hunts and can work with multiple ages since there are no words to read ( although you could add them). My goal with this project was to familiarize my son with his new yard and what better way to do that than make it a game. You could build on this activity by returning inside and researching some of the plants, painting with the flowers or even dissecting them. […]

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