Inside: Dandelions have a reputation of being merely pesky weeds, but they are actually quite fascinating, and we can’t wait to share those remarkable dandelion experiments and activities with you.
For centuries, dandelions were widely admired for their medicinal properties. Ancient Romans and Greeks ate them regularly to aid digestion. Chinese used them to treat liver and kidney diseases. And Celts swore by their benefits against seasonal colds and drank them as dandelion wine.
But that’s not all: across many cultures, dandelions were an essential source of nutrition. That’s because dandelions are naturally rich in vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc. You might not know it but in fact, they are broadly used in skin and hair care products even today! What a thing to be growing outside our window!
You might be interested to learn that dandelions’ fall from favor came in about the 1500s. (I keep sharing this fascinating bit of history with everyone I know). At the time, common folk still ate and brewed dandelions, but people with money were more concerned with status than health benefits. Having enough money to pay gardeners to keep a lawn dandelion-free became a symbol of wealth, so out came dandelions.
Today, it seems that only honeybees, butterflies, and children still love them.
And us 🙂
We even think that the name is cool! Did you know that the word dandelion comes from the French dent-de-lion, meaning “lion’s tooth”? And no, they don’t creep out of your lawn during the full moon to attack unsuspecting humans (and dogs), although that could be an interesting story… I’m thinking something along the lines of How to Survive the Attack of a Man-Eating Lion’s Tooth. Anyway… lion’s tooth refers to the deeply toothed leaves.
Whenever we go for a walk, my kids bring home bunches and bunches of dandelions. If you are like me and like to put them to good use, here are some suggestions for you.
12 Dandelions Experiments and Activities
1. Make Land Art
Gather sticks, stones, and dandelions and arrange them in patterns. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Just try different arrangements and see what looks pleasing to your eye. Not only making land art is a great way to spend some time outside, as I discovered recently, it’s also a great workout
2. Dye Eggs with Dandelion Flowers
Go for a nice, long walk and gather lots of dandelion flowers. Bring them to the boil in a pot of water and simmer for 15 minutes. I recommend at least three dozen flowers for each cup of water. After that, add eggs and boil for another 15 minutes. If you want the color to be more intense, add a pinch of turmeric before adding the eggs to the pot.
What do you think of our eggs? Our friends were so impressed they kept asking, “and you colored them using dandelions?” After five minutes, “so just to make sure, you got this beautiful color from weeds, right?”
3. Make a Crown
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in fields of wildflowers making flower crowns. I have been out of flower fields for … uhm, a few decades, but I wanted to pass my skills on to my kids. In Chicago, the only wildflowers available for the task are dandelions, and lucky for us they make beautiful, happy, bright yellow crowns. There are tons of different ways to make the crown. We pick the dandelions with the longest stems and French braid them.
4. Extract Natural Pigments from Dandelions
Add the flowers to a jar along with a solvent (acetone-based nail polish remover, alcohol, or vodka). Let it stand about half-hour or more, then filter through cheesecloth or fine mesh. You can use the pigment to paint on paper, dye white fabric or yarn, make dandelion playdough, or add a few drops to a paper towel for a chromatography experiment. If you crush the flowers in the mortar and pestle before adding them to the glass, your color will be slightly more saturated.
5. Eat Dandelions
Dandelions are rich in Vitamin C, E, and A as well as calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron. In fact, just a cup of dandelion greens provides 112 percent of the daily requirement for Vitamin A (which is essential for your eyes, immune system, and bone health)!
Yep, dandelion greens are pretty magical, but they are also a bit bitter for my taste. So I like to pair them with something sweet. If you are using them raw in a salad, throw in a few raisins, or add honey to the dressing.
Otherwise, you may prefer to eat dandelions cooked; my favorite way to do it is to wilt them (so they retain all their nutrients). Saute onions and garlic in a bit of oil in a skillet along with a drizzle of maple syrup. Add dandelion greens and cook just until wilted (about 1 minute). Now you can use wilted dandelion greens as a side dish. Or, like me, add them to any salad you have going on today.
6. Paint with Dandelions
If you have access to the outdoors, line up your paints, and invite kids to dip dandelions into paints and stamp them on paper. The imprints look like flowers. Or fireworks? I’m not sure, but the kids had a blast. Plus, It was the least messiest art project we’ve done in a while.
7. Dandelion Sensory Bottle
Add dandelion flowers, water, and glitter to a bottle or mason jar with a lid. Voila, you are done. Surprisingly, it lasts for a few days. But I know a trick if you want your sensory bottle to keep longer. Mix clear glue with hot water first, stir until all the glue is dissolved in the water, and then use this glue-water mixture in place of plain water. It coats the flowers and prevents them from wilting.
8. Dandelion Mud Cake & Fairy Garden
My kids love finding new ways to combine dandelions, mud, and leaves. Mud has many health benefits, so go crazy making mud pies, mud cakes (dry it in the sun, so it keeps its shape), and dandelion tea (add water 🙂
But if mud play is not your thing, try making a fairy garden. Gather flowers, sticks, and anything else nature has to offer in your area, then put your imagination to work, combining them in ways that fairies would find attractive. My kids tell me that fairies are pretty easy-going, so they are not hard to please. That’s good news, right?!
9. Dandelion Science
We recently read that pennies can be used to preserve flowers, so we set out to test it. Do you have any questions about dandelions? Can you come up with an experiment to investigate it?
For example, did you know that the milky white sap in dandelion stems is latex, the building block of rubber? Hmmm, now what can you do with this information?
10. Dandelion Journal
Read poems and interesting facts about dandelions and then copy them to your notebook with watercolor drawings and pencil sketches. See our printable for interesting facts.
11. Dandelion Races
If you are lucky enough to live by a moving body of water (or can easily drive to one), my kids are highly recommending Dandelion Races. That’s when kids drop flowers in the water and then follow them along to see which one can go the furthest. This game can last for hours, and we only stop when we run out of dandelions.
12. Experiment with Dyes
Can dandelions be dyed red, green, or black with a food dye like daisies? What if you use more food coloring or less of it? Does it make a difference? Alright, I will tell you that no amount of food dye could change the color of our dandelions. Failure? Not so fast. Why didn’t that work? As I told my kids if you only do experiments in which you are certain of a positive outcome, how would you ever discover something new?
Take your kids outside and let them enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature. Gather some dandelions!
Which activity from this list looks most interesting to you?
Here is a 10-page FREE Dandelion Learning Kit. It includes dandelion fact page, history, vocabulary, biology, creative writing, art, dandelion crossword puzzle, word search, and dandelion vocabulary word scrambles. You can download it HERE.