A diorama is a hand-built scene constructed in a small area such as a shoe box or small cardboard box. Select then research the habitat of a mammal, amphibian or insect. Cover the inside of the box with brown or green construction paper to represent the land and blue construction paper to represent the sky or water. Another possibility is to paint the background of the diorama. Add correct scenery from construction paper cutouts, small toys or hand-built clay items.
Construct a living habitat in the form of a terrarium. Make a terrarium using a large glass jar, soil and small plants. Place the jar so the opening is on the top or on the side. Depending on the size of the jar, one area may be larger than the other. Position the jar on a flat work surface. Fill the bottom 1/8th of the jar with growing soil. Plant several small plants within the terrarium to represent the foliage of the animal's habitat. Add other elements to the environment such as rocks, sticks and small plastic/rubber animals. Use tongs or wooden skewers if you need help placing the plants or other items in the bottom or back of a deep jar. Place in a filtered sun location to promote plant growth.
The availability of large sheets of paper at the elementary level makes a poster the most accessible to create different habitats. Draw the specific habitat and animal on the poster paper. Color in each area with colored pencils, markers or paint. An alternative for poster creation is to cut and glue habitat objects from construction paper, magazines or photographs.
Found Object Sculpture
Reinforce recycling through the use of a habitat made from found objects. Upper elementary students find found object sculptures fairly easy to complete. Make the base from a flat object such as a pizza box, discarded board game or old cookie sheet. A paper mache base creates the terrain. Make trees and shrubs from old pencils, crayons or markers. Connect leaves made from such things as bundles of yarn, pompoms, cotton balls or curly ribbon. Add plastic or rubber animals to the habitat to complete.
Help your child to create a traditional shoebox diorama that features an alligator and its habitat. Alligators live in freshwater areas such as rivers, swamps and lakes. Take the lid off of an old shoebox and turn it on its side. Your child can draw a marshy type of background on the inside of the box and then paint it. Add plants by gluing on crumpled green tissue paper to the bottom of the box and put an alligator front and center. Your child can use a small-sized plastic toy alligator or make his own by modeling one out of clay.
Why buy brand-new art materials when you can reuse household objects and save the planet at the same time? To build an alligator out of materials you have in your house, start with an old shoebox, attaching the lid to the bottom with masking tape. Cover the box with green construction paper. Create a face by gluing a Styrofoam cone -- reused from a faux flower arrangement -- or cardboard triangles -- from the side of a cereal or cracker box -- to the front, short end of the box. Add two googly eyes to the top and white fabric scrap triangles -- as teeth -- to the triangle part. Finish the craft by adding green paper squares to the bottom corners of the box as arms and legs.
Alligators -- according to the experts at the Smithsonian -- are typically between 8.2 and 11.2 feet. Your child can use shoeboxes to make her own life-sized alligator. Paint eight or nine shoeboxes green. Line them up in a row and glue them together. Use long, thin green paper triangles to make the alligator's pointed snout and create eyes with white and black paint. Add another thin green paper triangle to the end of the boxes as a tail.
Inspire creative play with a shoebox alligator mask project. Choose the biggest shoebox that you have on hand, and turn it over so that the bottom is facing up. Have your child draw an alligator mask on the flat bottom of the box or trace a template. If you don't want to buy a stencil, print a free downloadable version from a website such as Masketeers. Help your young artist cut out the mask. Paint the alligator mask or color it with markers. When it is completely dry, punch one hole on each side of the mask and tie it to your child's head with ribbon. Watch as your child turns into an imaginative animal character for a day of fun-filled pretend play.
Large cardboard boxes create the basic structure of the rocket. A large refrigerator box standing on its end makes a tall rocket structure. As an alternative, use the largest box you can find as the bottom and progressively smaller cardboard boxes to build a tall, tapered structure. Hot gluing or duct taping the boxes together secures the basic structure. Use a knife to cut a hole where the boxes meet so your preschooler has more vertical space inside.
The details you add to the outside make the structure look less like a box and more like a rocket. The rocket tail fins are easily made from triangles of cardboard. Add one to each corner at the base of the rocket. A cone made from a large sheet of poster board and attached to the top adds to the rocket look. Painting and decorating the outside of the box rounds out the exterior details. Any colors you like will do. Let your preschooler help out with the decorating to make the rocket hers.
The interior details make the cardboard rocket a place your preschooler will want to play. A wall full of buttons creates the look of a rocket ship control panel. The cups from old egg cartons or bottle lids work well as the rocket buttons. Pictures of outer space taped to the walls make your preschooler feel like she's looking out of the rocket windows into space. Your preschooler's drawings on the inside of the box also work to decorate the rocket's interior.
A box of space-themed props inside the cardboard rocket encourages your child's imagination even further. Snow pants, boots, a puffy coat and a football helmet work as a makeshift space suit. Two plastic bottles taped together with straps make an oxygen tank for your space explorer. Printed constellation maps serve as a guide for his space flight. Binoculars, a camera and an American flag are useful for her space walks.
Decoupaged Treasure Box
Make a small treasure box from a cigar box. The lid fits flush with the sides of the box which provides a flat surface easy for decorating. Select a group of pictures or photographs from your favorite photos or magazines. Cover one side of the cigar box at a time until all sides are covered. Attach the pictures to the surface with white glue. Brush three coats of decoupage solution over the entire surface. Allow ample dry time between layers.
Fabric-Covered Treasure Box
Make a fabric-covered treasure box from a shoe box. Select a cotton or denim type fabric for easy manipulation. Measure each area and cut a piece of fabric to fit. Cover the back of the fabric and the box with spray adhesive. Allow the adhesive to rest three minutes. Press the fabric pieces to the shoe box. Allow the adhesive to dry 15 minutes. Attach gold roping around the edges. Add other adornments if desired.
Distressed Treasure Box
Make a distressed treasure box from a new or old wood box. To distress the box, place such items as small chains, nails, screws, nuts and bolts on the surface. Tap the item with a hammer to create an imprint in the wood. Continue the process over the entire surface. Paint or stain the box. While the paint or stain is still wet, wipe the surface of the box to create an antique look. Hot glue flat rhinestones to the surface.
Sparkling Treasure Box
Make a sparkling treasure box with any type of box. Glue flat-backed rhinestones, mirror tiles or glass beads over the entire surface. Create a design with different colored rhinestones or glass beads.
Translucent Treasure Box
Make a translucent treasure box from a clear plastic box. Paint the entire outer surface of the clear plastic container with acrylic glass paint. Place the painted container in a sunny window for two days. The heat from the sun will harden the paint so it will not flake off the container. Hot glue flat rhinestones to the surface.
Help your child come up with a science fair project that has her exploring the roots of plants. One idea is to do a science project on whether plant roots always grow straight down, no matter what position you try to put the seeds in. Another idea is to compare the root structures of various types of plants. Your child could also do a project exploring the lesser-known plant roots that we can eat.
Explore how plants start from seeds with your child. One project with plant seeds is to test how well plants can grow without soil, using water gel crystals. Your child can compare by planting the same type of seed in both soil and in the gel. She could also do a science project to determine whether bigger seeds result in bigger plants. Another idea is to test how fast seeds will begin to sprout based on different temperature extremes.
How Plants Grow
Test different factors that affect the rate and quality of plant growth. One idea is to test how plants grow that are exposed daily to natural sunlight compare to those grown under a plant light. You could also help your child study how different environmental factors affect the photosynthesis process in plants. Another idea is to do a project on why plants in greenhouses grow so well compared to regular plants. You can help her create a homemade greenhouse using a milk carton or a soda bottle.
Plants and Soil
Help your child do an experiment to determine which types of soil works best for certain types of plants, such as vegetables, flowers and and other types of plants. You can also help your child determine what materials make for the most effective compost soil, by using a few methods to create her own compost bins such as hot and cold composting. Another idea is to test how much water different types of soil can absorb at a time.
An interesting summer activity is an indoor garden, also known as a terrarium. You can make a terrarium in a large clear plastic or glass container with a lid. One-gallon large-mouth jars work well for this project. Fill the bottom of the container with 1 inch of pea gravel, 1/2 inch of activated charcoal, 1/2 inch of sphagnum moss and 2 inches of potting soil. Select and plant small mosses, lichens, ferns, miniature violets, pilea (baby tears) and other small plants. Mist the inside of the container and soil with 10 sprays. Secure the lid and place in a sunny location. Mist once a week.
Make a magnetic chalkboard from an old pizza pan or cookie sheet. Ask your child to paint the back of the pan with chalkboard paint. Allow the paint to dry and give it a second coat. Turn a piece of chalk on its side and cover the entire surface. Wipe the chalk off with a clean towel and hang. Write notes with chalk or use magnets to hold papers and photos.
Feed your child's curiosity with a homemade treasure box. Make the treasure box from a shoe box or cigar box. Talk to your child about how he would like to decorate his treasure box. Cover ideas include paint, construction paper or decoupage. Jazz up the box with glitter, gems, decorative stones, beads, metallic roping, ribbon or lace.
Paper Mache Lantern
A paper mache lantern uses a 6- to 8-inch balloon. Ask your child to tear newspaper and tissue paper into 1-inch strips. Blow up the balloon, then dip the strips of paper in paper mache paste made from one part flour to two parts water. Cover the balloon with three layers of criss-crossed paper strips. Allow the project to dry, then cover with two layers of 1-inch strips of tissue paper. Cut a 3-inch hole somewhere on the balloon to create the base. Poke holes through the paper mache with a wooden skewer. Light the lantern with a battery-operated candle.