Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

I’m sure you’ll be lichen these a-moss-ing ideas! 

Okay, okay. No more puns from me. 

Winter is approaching and everything will soon be covered in a white blanket of snow. We took advantage of the recent blast of warmer weather to discover the unique world of MOSS and LICHEN!

Activity Sneak Peak:

  • Outdoor moss and lichen hunt 
  • Magnifying fun
  • Lichen sea turtle art 
  • Mossy emotion rock activity 
  • Making a mossarium 

Amelia has been fascinated with moss, even before we studied it this past week. The brilliant colours and spongy textures make moss super interesting to little hands.

Mosses are very primitive plants and are unique because instead of producing seeds and growing flowers like other plants, they release spores to reproduce. How cool! 

Exploring lichen on a rock
Exploring lichen on a rock

What do you get when you combine fungus with algae?

Lichen! The two organisms function as a single unit to create this weird and wonderful life form. Lichen is an excellent indicator of air quality in the environment. Neat! 

I’ve always been interested in lichen, but this was the first time we really explored it with our children. Amelia has found it to be interesting too and likes to point it out on the trees and rocks on our property now. 

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

In the nature study we are following, Exploring Nature with Children– moss and lichen are split into two separate weekly themes. The beauty of this nature-based curriculum is that you can switch it up to fit your family’s schedule and needs! We are following casually with our 3 year old and 11 month old. You’re never too young to explore nature!

We combined moss and lichen into one spectacular week of playful exploration and truly enjoyed our time discovering both. 

Exploring moss on a rock.
Exploring moss on a rock.

If you’re new to my blog- Welcome! Be sure to check out my previous post The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones. 

So how did we learn about moss and lichen with our toddler and baby and have fun doing so? Let me share what we did this week! 

Moss and Lichen: How to Make Learning Fun!

Explore the Outdoors with a Moss and Lichen Hunt

The first thing we did was go outside and discover the moss and lichen on our property and surrounding area. Amelia is already a pro at finding moss, and after I showed her what lichen looked like, she was excited to run around and look for that too.

Orange moss on a tree.
Orange moss on a tree.

We discovered a great diversity of colour and texture and we located moss and lichen on the rocks, ground and trees- oftentimes right next to each other! 

Exploring moss and lichen.
Exploring moss and lichen.

While out on our hunt for moss and lichen, we brought a spoon with us to collect small samples of the treasures we found. Amelia really enjoyed using the spoon and also her hands to collect bits of moss and lichen to bring home for further examination. 

Collection of moss from our nature walk.
Collection of moss from our nature walk.

Try out a Magnifying Glass 

I recently picked up a magnifying glass for our nature studies and thought that looking at moss and lichen would be the perfect introduction to using this tool! 

Examining moss under a magnifying glass.
Examining moss under a magnifying glass.

After collecting a variety of moss and lichen, we compared each and examined them under the magnifying glass. Amelia really liked discovering how the organisms looked under the magnifying glass compared to how they looked without it. 

I highly recommend getting a magnifying glass for your child to use. I wish I had thought of picking one up for our bug week- 8 Absolutely Awesome Ways to Discover Bugs with Toddlers. 

Examining moss.
Examining moss.

I’m sure we will be using it quite often as we continue to explore nature! 

Create a Lichen Masterpiece! 

Once we finished examining the treasures we found on our nature walk, we had a beautiful pile of crispy lichen in shades of blue and green. 

Like glitter… only natural! (And it didn’t remain on our floors, couches and cats for days following)

Lichen sea turtle art.
Lichen sea turtle art.

We decided to create lichen sea turtles! 

What you need:

  • Lichen
  • A piece of cardstock
  • A marker
  • White glue 

I drew the outline of the sea turtles onto the piece of cardstock with the marker. Amelia helped squeeze the glue onto the turtles and we spread it around to cover the surface of the turtles. 

Then I had Amelia sprinkle the lichen over the turtles until the glue was completely covered with lichen. We gently tapped the cardstock over a bowl to release any loose lichen. 

Drawing fish
Drawing fish

A lichen sea turtle masterpiece! Amelia added a finishing touch by drawing a school of fish around the turtles. 

Make Mossy Emotion Rocks 

Using the moss we collected on our moss and lichen hunt, we expressed ourselves by making these mossy emotion rocks! 

Mossy emotion rock activity
Mossy emotion rock activity

We’ve been working on naming different emotions in our home, so I thought this would be a fun, nature inspired twist to classic emotion rocks. 

What you need:

  • A variety of rocks
  • A permanent marker (or paint)
  • Moss 
  • White glue 

First we brainstormed different emotions to use for our rock faces- happy, sad, silly, angry, surprised etc…

Making emotion rocks
Making emotion rocks

Next I drew the faces onto the rocks with the marker. Your child can make the faces too, but Amelia requested I make the faces and she style their mossy hair. 

Once our rocks had faces, Amelia squeezed some glue on top of their heads and gave each rock a nice hairdo using the moss from our collection. 

Gluing moss "hair" onto the rocks
Gluing moss “hair” onto the rocks

And there you have it! A hands-on way to learn about emotions and feelings with mossy sensory fun! 

Showing emotions with our mossy emotion rocks.
Showing emotions with our mossy emotion rocks.

Assemble a Mossarium

For a final activity this week we made mini mossariums! 

A mossarium is a clear enclosure used specifically to grow moss. You can decorate them as you wish to make a unique indoor plant project. 

Mossariums
Mossariums

What you need:

  • Small glass jar with lid 
  • Stones 
  • Activated charcoal 
  • Soil 
  • Moss 

After going outside to collect the items needed, we added a layer of small stones for drainage in the bottom of the jar. Next, we added a thin layer of activated charcoal on top of the stones. The activated charcoal helps reduce bacterial growth and keeps your mossarium healthy. 

Making mossariums
Making mossariums

Then we added a thin layer of soil and put our moss on top of the soil. You can add other plants as well, but will require a little more soil for the plants to establish a root base. 

Amelia enjoyed decorating the mossarium with pebbles, tiny cedar cones and spruce needles. Keep your mossarium out of direct sunlight so it doesn’t dry out, and water lightly once a week. 

Looking at our mossariums.
Looking at our mossariums.

That sums up the past week exploring nature with my little ones. I hope you found inspiration with Moss and Lichen: How To Make Learning Fun! 

It brings me so much joy to share my knowledge of the natural world with my children- and also learn a few things myself! 

Finding lichen on a tree.
Finding lichen on a tree.

I’d love to hear from you! 

How have your children explored moss and lichen in nature? 

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest for more nature inspired play and activities!

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones- Are you ready for some fun-guys?!

I would never have imagined how exciting a week dedicated to discovering the world of fungi could be for my toddler, baby, and myself!

Going on a Fungi hunt
Going on a Fungi hunt

Activity Sneak Peak

  • Creating a mushroom log
  • Making spore print art
  • Cooking with mushrooms- Breakfast Omelet
  • DIY fungi puzzle
  • Mushroom hunt!

This past week in the Exploring Nature with Children nature study was Fungi Week, and as you may know, our family has been following this curriculum as a guide to creating our own adventures in learning about nature.

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones

If you are new here- Welcome! Be sure to check out my previous post One Full Week of Playful Pumpkin Perfection for pumpkin inspired play and activities.

So, how did we explore mushrooms with a three-year-old and ten-month-old? And more importantly, what did we determine as The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones?

Wild Fungi
Wild Fungi

Let me tell you what we did for Fungi Week!

Mushrooms on a Log

This is such a simple activity and I have to say, makes for a cute mushroom-inspired display for your home! Right now, it’s the centerpiece on our dining room table.

Mushrooms on a log activity
Mushrooms on a log activity

What you need:

  • A log or piece of driftwood
  • Wine corks (thanks, Nana!)
  • Mini cupcake papers
  • Paint and paint brushes
  • Hot glue gun

We started by gluing the wine corks onto the log. (I did the gluing as we used a hot glue gun). Then glue the cupcake papers onto the tops of the wine corks.

Mushrooms on a log activity
Mushrooms on a log activity

Next, get your painting shirts on and decorate the mushroom tops! Amelia has been liking experimenting with water colour paints, so that’s what we used.

Making Spore Prints

Foragers use spore prints to document mushrooms they have found and help with identification. Making mushroom spore prints is easy and demonstrates how mushrooms release their spores naturally. We used mushrooms from our fridge, but you can also use wild picked mushrooms too.

Making mushroom spore prints
Making mushroom spore prints

What you need:

  • A piece of white paper or cardstock
  • Mushrooms
  • A sharp knife
  • Water
  • Eye dropper or syringe
  • Cardboard box

The first thing I did was cut the stem and bottom bit off of the mushrooms with a knife to expose the gills. Next, Amelia laid the mushrooms down on the white paper and using a syringe, dropped a few drops of water onto the tops of each mushroom.

Once the mushrooms were moistened, Amelia covered the paper and mushrooms with a cardboard box. We left the box on overnight. The next morning, we removed the box and mushrooms to expose the prints left by the thousands of spores that were released by each mushroom! Neat eh?

Mushroom spore print art
Mushroom spore print art

Amelia wanted to decorate the spore prints, so we decided to make a piece of artwork by incorporating them into a picture of flowers!

Cooking with Mushrooms

As you know, some species of mushrooms are edible while others are not. Although we spent a week learning about fungi, I have to say that I’m not a mushroom identifying expert! For this reason, we decided to cook with mushrooms we had in our fridge.

We decided to make a mushroom breakfast omelet!

Amelia helped pick out the ingredients- eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and cheese. She helped by cracking the eggs, breaking the mushrooms into small pieces, and stirring the mixture before it was cooked.

Our omelet made for a quick and tasty lunch!

Tasting the mushroom omelet!
Tasting the mushroom omelet!

DIY Fungi Puzzle

Puzzles are a favourite activity here. We have several word puzzles, but not one that relates to fungi… so we made one!

That’s right! You can make a word puzzle with a few objects that you likely already have around your home.

DIY Fungi Puzzle
DIY Fungi Puzzle

What you need:

  • A piece of cardboard
  • A marker
  • Alphabet letters

Just trace the letters onto the cardboard with your marker to create an instant word puzzle. We’ve been working on recognizing and naming the letters of the alphabet, so this FUNGI puzzle was a hit!

You can either set out the letters needed for the puzzle, or allow your child to search through all of the alphabet letters to find the ones that fit.

DIY Fungi Puzzle
DIY Fungi Puzzle

Okay, but what did we find to be The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones? After enjoying the activities, crafts and tasty sampling of mushrooms, here is what we found to be

The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones:

Go on a Fungi Hunt!

That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but I can’t tell you how much fun we had trudging through the woods in search of fungi. Amelia had a blast looking high in the trees and low on the forest floor for mushrooms.

Discovering fungi!
Discovering fungi!

We started our expedition as a casual stroll in search of fungi, but it quickly became an exciting scavenger hunt, and I have to say, Amelia is quite the mushroom hunter! There were many times where she found fungi that I had missed.

Discovering fungi on a fallen tree
Discovering fungi on a fallen tree

Our Fungi hunt opened our eyes to how diverse and prevalent mushrooms are on our own property. Now that we’ve finished Fungi Week, Amelia is still pointing out fungi on our nature walks and it makes me so happy (and proud) to see her showing such an interest in the natural world.

Discovering fungi!
Discovering fungi!

Remember that going on a nature walk doesn’t mean you have to haul your children to the deep woods. Go for a stroll through your neighbourhood park and I’m sure you’ll be able to find mushrooms.

Mushrooms are everywhere and make for a neat scavenger hunt- hidden under logs, up trees, and even in plain sight on the ground… that’s what makes them fun-guys!

I hope you found inspiration with The Best Way to Discover Fungi with Little Ones 

Let’s hear from you!

Have you explored fungi with your children?

Be sure to follow play and pinecones on Instagram and Pinterest for more nature inspired play and activities!