To celebrate the end of the school year, a spring birthday, or just a warm and sunny afternoon, a garden party is the perfect way for kids to delight in the beauty of the season. A flower-filled celebration offers children creative ways to use plant materials, from decorating pots and filling them with fresh blossoms to crafting beautiful floral head wreaths.
"Kids are naturals at working with flowers because they don't worry about whether they're doing it right," says Jen Stone, co-owner of Stonekelly Events and Florals in New York City, who assembled blooms and grasses for a group of 5-year-olds, including her daughter, Sophie. A former painter, Jen points out that flowers have a sculptural quality kids find appealing. "A garden party is terrific because they can be outside having fun with colorful, tactile materials," she says.
Planning the party is as simple as setting up a picnic table in the backyard and gathering a bucket of seasonal flowers, a flat of wheatgrass, and craft supplies. Pick a few hardy varieties of similar size that look pretty together -- we chose marigolds, zinnias, and ranunculuses -- and buy enough so that each child has two generous bunches to work with.
Begin by letting guests decorate a small vase, plain or glazed terra-cotta pot, or wood planter that they'll later fill with flowers or grass. (Containers used for flower arranging should not have drainage holes.) Set out washable paint pens and glitter glue sticks, along with stencils in shapes like bugs and butterflies. After the pots dry, kids can grab their favorite blossoms, trim the stems with an adult's help, and arrange a tight bouquet. Some guests may prefer to pull apart squares of wheatgrass to fit in pots or shallow planters. Remind the kids to add water when they get home.
In addition to playing florist, little girls will love working with a grown-up to make festive flower wreaths to wear in their hair. It's surprisingly easy: Measure a length of florist wire long enough to circle a child's head plus about two inches. Break off the stems of small flowers and thread the wire through the base of the flower tops, making sure blooms face in the same direction. When the wire is almost filled, twist the ends together to form a circle. "At this party, it's fine to tear into the flowers and try new things," says Jen, who suggests art projects to make with leftover materials: "Fill a bowl with petals, then let kids drip glue onto colored paper and sprinkle petals on top," she says. "Dip flower tops in poster paint and press them on paper to make prints. Or glue tops and stems on paper for a collage. The kids should feel free to experiment."
For refreshments, try a garden-theme menu of crudites and roasted red pepper dip displayed in a tray of wheatgrass, tiny flower-shaped jelly-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, and bite-size stuffed cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, accompanied by iced tea garnished with edible flowers such as pansies and nasturtium. Cupcakes topped with spun-sugar flowers end the party on a sweet note.
As the guests departed, they bubbled with enthusiasm about their creations."I'm giving my flowers to my mommy," one little girl said proudly. "And then I can plant something in my pot." As Jen predicted, the party awakened in the kids an appreciation of nature that will last for many seasons to come.