Elva Etienne / Getty Images
Elva Etienne / Getty Images

Flower power: Combining science and art to get kids exploring

These tips will inspire kids to become flower-pressing pros.

We know. The phrase “flower pressing” likely conjures up visions of great-great-grandparents making a display to put next to a side-table doily. But these days, sometimes old-school is the way to go.

Gathering flowers gets kids outside and fosters exploration; arranging and pressing the blooms encourages curiosity and creativity. Plus, children just might learn a little about botanical and environmental sciences.

Convinced yet? Here’s how to bring some flower power into your family’s life.

Finding the right flowers

Wherever you search for flowers—your yard, a field, your neighbor’s lawn (with permission, of course)—look for thin, small, easy-to-press flowers like daisies, cosmos, poppies, or petunias. Thicker flowers like roses are harder to flatten and more likely to mold. Don’t overlook dandelions, white clover, or other flowers often considered weeds. Kids love them, they’re easy to find, and they press well.

A nice goal is no more than 12 flowers—that way they won’t take up too much space in your home while they press. But consider visiting a few different spots and picking two or three at each location. That helps protect habitats for bees, birds, and other animals, and the remaining plants will continue to produce fruit and reseed. (Parental win: You’ve just taught your kids about biodiversity.) Make sure to follow state or local laws for picking wildflowers.

Avoid rainy days, early mornings, or right after sprinkler time, as petals are prone to mold when a flower’s wet. Look for blooms with brightly colored petals rather than browning ones. (Once flowers start to wither, the colors aren’t as vivid.) Cut the stems with child-safe scissors; adults can use pruning shears.

Watch out for prickly or poisonous plants like poison oak and poison ivy. Kids should also be mindful of wildlife that might live on or eat plants—no need to disturb helpful ladybugs or potentially stinging bees.

Flower Pressing 101

Pressing flowers is as easy as, well, opening and closing a book. The only supplies you’ll need are a large, heavy book; six paper towels; and either newspaper or parchment paper.

Place the newspaper or parchment paper on the right page of the open book. Place two or three layers of paper towels on top of the newspaper or parchment paper.

Place a flower on top the paper towels and arrange it so everything faces out, meaning nothing is folded on top of itself. If the stem is flexible, add curves to make it look more interesting. Delicate petals or leaves can be arranged with tweezers or a toothpick.

Once the flower is arranged, carefully cover it with two or three additional layers of paper towels. Use tweezers or a cotton swab to hold the flower face in position as you set down the towels. Gently press and hold the flower in place as you add the same amount of parchment or newspaper on top that was used on the bottom. Then carefully close the book.

Pile books on top of this book, and let the stack sit for a week or two. This is when the science happens: As the flower dries, the paper towels help absorb the moisture from the plant and prevent it from decaying. The dried petals, stem, and leaves retain most of the flower’s pigments, or the substances that produce color.

Once the flower feels completely dry, carefully remove it from the press with tweezers.

Now what? Pressed flowers glued onto paper and put in a frame make great art, but here are some other ideas to help your kid’s creativity bloom.

Stained glass flower. Create a stained-glass effect by painting white liquid school glue onto two pieces of wax paper. Place the pressed flower on the painted side of one of the pieces; place the other piece painted-side down onto the flower. Gently press out any air bubbles. After it dries, make a frame out of card stock and hang it in a window.

Souvenir book. Collect flowers on vacations or special nature walks to put in a memory book. Note the kind of flower and where it was picked, add photos taken on the walk, and write down other details about the day.

Be a scientist. Record when, where, and how the flower was collected. Add its scientific name and the GPS coordinates of its location.

Petal postcards. Scan pressed flowers, print them on card stock, then mail the creations to friends and family. (Check out other ideas for DIY postcards.)

Personal stationery. Arrange and paste pressed flowers in a corner or around the edges of a sheet of paper. Then scan or photocopy it onto rice or parchment paper.

Botanist bookmark. Place pressed flowers onto card stock or paper, then cover it with clear packing tape. Punch a hole at the top and thread yarn through it to make a tassel.

Repurposed flowers. Use petals to create mosaic art. For example, dandelions can become a lion’s mane; overlapping purple flower petals can stand in as feathers.