Skip to content


We have a lot of news today:

The good news this week is that the weather in many areas has begun to warm up. With the arrival of spring,  you may be thinking of gardening with children. The better news is Quarry Books has published Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden (Hands-On Family) by Renata Fossen Brown this month and it is just the book to have on hand to add enjoyment and depth to a child's gardening experience. The best news is that you have a chance to win a copy through our giveaway contest (see below)!

Before going any further, it is important to note that although the term "experiments" in the subtitle might suggest scientific trials or investigations, for this book "experiment" is actually used more in the sense of "to try something new."  Gardening Lab for Kids is a lovely collection of hands-on activities for children to do for every week of the year, from designing a garden and making seed tape, to planting a garden in a shoe, growing a pizza garden, and constructing a wind chime. In addition, children will certainly learn some science as they explore parts of plants, investigate soils, try out composting, and learn about watering.

Renata Fossen Brown is Vice President of Education at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and her experience and resources show in the quality of the book. Each "Lab" is accompanied by color photographs of children doing the activity, a list of materials, step-by-step procedures written for children, and suggestions for extensions ("Dig Deeper!") Each activity is designed so that it could stand alone or be used as a series. Many of the activities can be done with limited space and use readily-available materials.

Gardening is a wonderful hobby for children because, as Brown writes, it gets them active and outdoors. It has many benefits, such as it helps children connect with their food, learn about nature, and explore their creativity. Gardening is an especially good project for kinesthetic learners, who always reap extra rewards from hands-on activities. Brown also alludes to studies that have shown that getting outdoors helps children develop focus.

With all the benefits, are you ready to "try something new" and do some gardening?  Gardening Lab for Kids has the ideas and instructions to get started today!

leaf-borderGiveaway Contest

Would you like to try to win a copy of Gardening Lab for Kids? Simply leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address (U.S. mailing addresses only, please) by May 5, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A single winner will be selected at random from the comments and notified via e-mail. The giveaway contest is now closed.


Age Range: 5 - 12 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 6
Series: Hands-On Family
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Quarry Books (April 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1592539041
ISBN-13: 978-1592539048

For more ideas, visit our Gardening/Science Activities for Kids Pinterest board and our recent posts for Children's Garden Week.


Disclosures: This book was provided for review by the publisher. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon, and if you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

If you are interested in children's nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.



Monday starts out with a bang with a blog tour and giveaway (see below) for the exciting new picture book, Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher.


Do your children always want to grab fiction picture books? Weeds Find a Way is a perfect example of the kind of nonfiction that will entice them to give it a try. Jenson-Elliott's lyrical text paints vibrant, whimsical word pictures. For example, she says the bitter sap of a certain weed "...could turn a tongue inside out." Can't you visualize a plant bug with its beak puckered up?  As a perfect complement, Fisher's mixed media and digital collage illustrations are intriguing and playful.

You can get a feel for the book in this trailer:

The back matter includes a serious discussion of weeds, including why they are interesting and important. There is also a list and descriptions of some common weeds, from dandelions to wild oats.

Weeds Find a Way gently introduces young readers to the wonders of the natural world by exploring these tough, adaptable plants. Pick up a copy and you will find out, as the author says, "Weeds are amazing!"




Edit: Would like to try to win a copy of Weeds Find a Way? Simply leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address (U.S. mailing addresses only) by March 8, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A winner will be selected at random from the comments. The giveaway is now closed.


Related Activities to Learn More About Weeds:

1. Cindy Jenson-Elliott has a free curriculum guide to download at her website (currently you download it by clicking on the book cover image). As she correctly points out, weeds can make good subjects to study because they are common and easy to find. She includes art ideas such as doing a botanical drawing, math and science activities (including plant adaptations) and even a weed poetry lesson.

2. Botany - Getting to know your local weeds.

For adults:

Why figure out what kinds of weeds you have?

I'm sure you all have heard of stories of people who have pulled out "weeds," only to discover they were the seedlings of plants they were intending to grow. has an enlightening essay about the hows and whys of garden weed identification. As the author rightly points out, an accurate identification is the key to proper action. Spend some time getting to know your local weeds and you might also find they have something to offer.

For example:


What use is the common dandelion, which grows virtually everywhere? You may have heard, or even tried them yourself, that you can eat the young green leaves in the spring. How about dandelion tea? They also are an important source of nectar and pollen for honey bees because they are some of the latest plants to bloom in the fall and some of the earliest in the spring.


Children love to help disperse the seeds by blowing on them.


(Public domain photograph by Petr Kratochvil )

Besides, what is more beautiful than a sea of golden yellow flowers to run in?

Where to get help with weed identification?

A useful resource is your local Cooperative Extension office. They are like to have fact sheets about local weeds and Master Gardener volunteers to help.

Online resources, such as this key to weeds from the University of Minnesota Extension, can be helpful, too.

Your local library or bookstore carry books on weed identification, such as Weeds of the Northeast (Comstock books) by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal, and Joseph M. DiTomaso.

For children:

Weeds have many special ways to help them survive. Let's take a "walk" and see what we can find out.

a. If you were a deer, which would you rather eat:  one of these plants or a lettuce leaf?


Many weeds have prickles, thorns or spines to keep from being eaten by animals.  They also may contain chemicals that make them taste bad or might even be poisonous.

Do you know what this plant is? It is a teasel.

b. Look at this "flower" closely. Can you see that it actually is made up of many, many tiny flowers. How might that help a weed survive?


Each of the tiny flowers has the capability of becoming a seed. Weeds, such as this Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot), can make up to 350 seeds in one flower head!

c. Besides being too spiky to eat, how might the hooks on this plant help it?

budrock-burThe hooks on the burdock catch in an animal's fur or on your socks. If you don't notice, you carry the bur with its seeds inside to a new place. When you do take it off and throw it away, it might just be in a great new place to grow. Weeds have many tricky ways like this to spread their seeds.

d. Plants in the mustard genus (Brassica) are really good at racing. Any ideas why that might help them survive?


Mustards can germinate, grow and produce seeds very quickly. That means they can complete a life cycle in a short time compared to other plants.

Experiment idea:  Plant a known number of radish (which is a mustard relative) seeds and carrot seeds in containers under the same conditions. Record when you see the first radish sprouts and when you see the first carrots. Who won the race?

e. These heart-shaped seeds are extra hard and tough. How might that help the weed survive?


Velvet leaf seeds are so hard that they can stay alive in the soil up to 60 years. Many plants seeds stay viable (able to sprout) for only a few years.

Why don't you go on a real walk and see if you can spot other weedy secrets. Then read a great book like Weeds Find a Way to learn more.


Weeds Find a Way

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (February 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442412607
ISBN-13: 978-1442412606

Be sure to visit the upcoming stops on the Weeds Find a Way? blog tour:
Tues, Feb 25 - As They Grow Up
Wed, Feb 26 - Kid Lit Frenzy
Thurs, Feb 27 - Sharpread
Fri, Feb 28 - Children's Book Review
Mon, Mar 3 - Let's Go Chipper!
Tues, Mar 4 - Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Mar 5 - Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Mar 6 - 5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Mar 7- Archimedes Notebook


Interested in gardening? Have resources to share? Join us for Children's Garden Week this week.


Disclosures: This book was provided for review purposes via Blue Slip Media. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

If you are interested in children's nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.



Several exciting new science and nature-related picture books are coming out this spring. Frankly it was hard to decide which to share first, but today let's start with Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Junior Library Guild Selection) by Loree Griffin Burns and with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz.


Have you ever visited one of the many butterfly exhibits that seem to be popping up all over? The ones that allow you to enter a greenhouse or pavilion full of live butterflies?

Heliconius-sara- sara-longwing

Sara longwing

Isn't it a magical experience?

Have you ever wondered where all those colorful butterflies come from? Handle with Care answers that question.

It turns out it is an amazing journey. The book starts with a mysterious foil-covered package that arrives at the Butterfly Garden at the Museum of Science in Boston. Inside the box are nestled brightly colored pupae that will soon turn into butterflies for the exhibit. The package came from a butterfly farm far away in Costa Rica.

Author Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz traveled to the farm to research the story of how butterflies are raised. They found out that captive butterflies are mass raised like any other livestock, except they live in large greenhouses instead of in a pasture. Readers will likely enjoy the amazing photographs of the process and the people who make it happen.

Related activities:

1. Take a trip to a butterfly exhibit

Handle with Care is very likely to inspire a trip to a butterfly exhibit. Here in Arizona we have seasonal butterfly exhibitions at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and at the Tucson Botanical Garden, as well as Butterfly Wonderland year round in Scottsdale.

I hadn't been to the newly-opened Butterfly Wonderland, so I went this weekend.

Heliconius-hecale-tiger-longwing-111Tiger longwing

It was a photographer's dream.

paper-kite-Idea-leuconoe-111Paper kite

If you go, encourage your children to bring a camera, if allowed. Photographs are great ways to record the different kinds of butterflies and learn their names. Keep a digital or physical scrapbook to record your trip.

I found out that Butterfly Wonderland gets their butterflies from South America, Africa and all the way from Asia!

If you can't get to a butterfly exhibit in person, the Florida Museum's Butterfly Rainforest has a live feeding station webcam, rainforest canopy cam, and a chrysalis cam so you can watch the butterflies feed, fly and emerge in real time.

Before you go on a field trip note:  Even though butterflies are for the most part innocuous, be aware that some children (and adults) may fear or have a phobia about insects, including butterflies.

2. Learn about butterfly life cycles/metamorphosis

Children can explore the butterfly life cycle through the book, with photographs of all the stages and a complete description in the back, plus comparisons to the life cycles of some other insects.


Butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of the plants the caterpillars feed on.


The larval stage of butterflies, or caterpillars,  feed on plants, often only one or a few kinds.


The pupal stage for butterflies are often called chrysalids. The butterfly exhibits receive pupae for butterfly farms.


Some of the pupae are incredibly beautiful.


Many butterfly exhibits have an area where you can observe the adult butterflies emerge from the pupae.

See a related post about butterfly science

3. Butterfly behaviors

Butterfly exhibits and gardens are wonderful places to observe butterfly behaviors, such as basking, feeding, perching, puddling, and patrolling.


This postman butterfly is basking on a part of a sidewalk warmed by the sun. If it is cool out, it is not uncommon to see butterflies basking, particularly first thing in the morning.

at-top Cethosia biblis perakana (male)Butterfly exhibits offer many opportunities to watch butterflies feeding on various sweet solutions. This is a colorful butterfly feeder.


If you look closely, you may be able to see a butterfly using its proboscis to drink nectar from a flower.


Sometimes the butterflies appear to rest on plants, but often it is their way to "see and be seen," especially by rivals and potential mates. This behavior is called perching.


It would be easy to miss this tiny clearwing butterfly. It is puddling on a leaf by inserting its proboscis into a wet clump of dirt. Butterflies, particularly males, are thought to take up important minerals and nutrients this way. The behavior is called puddling because it is often observed around damp patches or puddles on the ground.

Male butterflies may actively fly around looking for mates or even guard territories against rival males. Patrolling isn't as easy to document via photographs, so here is an enchanting video showing an admiral butterfly patrolling. (Note: there is a pop-up ad.)


Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Junior Library Guild Selection) is a lovely book for youngsters that will surely inspire a trip to a butterfly exhibit. You will want to use it to accompany units on life cycles, farming, and insects, as well. Read it and watch children's imaginations take flight!

Age Range: 6 - 10
Series: Junior Library Guild Selection (Millbrook Press)
Library Binding: 32 pages
Publisher: Millbrook Pr Trade (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761393420
ISBN-13: 978-0761393429

Disclosures: The book was provided electronically for review via NetGalley. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

If you are interested in children's nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.