I saw this idea on Still Parenting and immediately wanted to try it. ASIDE: I think the name of the site refers to being still, not as in, “OMG, am I STILL parenting?!?!” I love this site and I aspire to have this life!! END OF ASIDE. Arianne posts great instructions on how to do this but I wanted to share with you my experience of how to make nature slides. Although I’m happy with the finished product, I think it went a little differently (and perhaps not so still) for us.
Step 1: Wait for a gorgeous, sunny, seventy-degree day and go for a walk. Last weekend we went for a stroll up to the observatory at Ethel Walker School in Simsbury. It’s amazing up there — you have a great view of the horses in their pastures and the Heublein Tower across the way.
Step 2: Collect pretty leaves and flowers that can be pressed flat. Yeah, we kinda messed up on this one. The boys and I collected an entire meadow of flowers along with anything else we could find — sticks, rocks, pinecones, whatever. It was a fun scavenger hunt and we discovered lots of cool textures but most of the items we collected did not work well in the nature slides. More on the assembly part later, but I forgot during the hunt that everything was going to be pressed flat. If you want to just have a wonderful outing, enjoy the weather, and bask in the sight of two little boys with butterfly nets bounding in the sunshine like puppies (which is the definition of pure happiness in my book), then do it our way. If you want to actually make nature slides, adjust your technique appropriately. Next time I think I’ll save this activity for the fall and restrict our collecting to only leaves as they seemed to work the best. Also make sure to pay attention to the rules on picking flowers wherever you go; I’d assume that fallen leaves are probably fair game anywhere, but many of our most picturesque locations have rules about removing anything from nature.
Step 3: Roll down a big hill on your way home. This step is optional but TOTALLY FUN.
Step 4: Make sure your kids are still around to actually help assemble the slides. Unless you yourself love doing stuff like this (which luckily I do), trust me on this one. Little went down for a nap and Big got bored by the time I pulled the flowers out of the bag so I was left to my own devices.
Step 5: Stick ’em down. Although I think Still Parenting mentions using sheets of contact paper, I could find it only in a roll. This worked great for the bottom/front layer. I rolled out the paper across the length of the kitchen table, tacked the edges down with masking tape, and then peeled off the backing. I then pressed the fronts of the flowers and leaves down to the sticky contact paper, making sure to spread out the petals and uncurl the leaves. The sooner you press them down, the better; our flowers were getting a little limp by the time I got to this step, so some of the leaves were really hard to uncurl.
Step 6: Seal ’em in. This was by far the hardest part for several reasons. As I mentioned before, I didn’t really pay attention to how flat the plant specimens were. In the above picture, the blue hydrangeas and the leaves worked great, while those bushy green grassy things (can you tell I’m a botanist?) didn’t work very well at all. This is also where I highly recommend that you track down those individual sheets of contact paper. While the roll worked great for the bottom, I couldn’t figure out how to roll a huge sheet of sticky paper across the tops of the flowers without getting myself all caught up like a giant fly in flypaper, let alone smooth out all of the wrinkles and bubbles as I went along. I ended up having to cut the roll into smaller, individual shapes to fit over each of the flower groupings, which was a nightmare. Not only that, but I had to peel the backing off of every. single. little. sheet, which took forever. Seriously, folks, don’t do this part my way or you’ll need to commit like three hours to just this step of the project. Those of you who know me will realize the gravity of this situation by noticing that I have no photographs of this step (actually, there are no more process photos at all because I was so frustrated). Yeah, it was that bad. This was probably the step during which I was the least still. Another tip here: cut down on the number of specimens you use; you’ll thank me later.
Step 7: Cut ’em out. Use sharp scissors to cut around your sealed-in plant specimens. This is actually an easy step because the sharp edge of your scissor blade goes smoothly through the two layers of contact paper.
Step 8: Use masking tape to seal around the edges. I happened to have several rolls of tape and that was a good thing because it took more than a whole roll. I went around the front side of each slide with four pieces of tape, then flipped it over and did the same on the back to make a frame. I then snipped the corners to make them look a little neater.
Step 9: Display ’em! Assuming you’ve finished your project during daylight hours (and if you have not heeded my warnings, that may be a false assumption), they look fantastic taped up to the windows. I even kept the hall light on and the inside door open after dark so that people driving by could see our flowers lit from inside the house. I had enough nature slides to cover our front and back doors with them!
Step 10: Be a still parent. Keep your mouth shut when your kids proudly announce to all visitors to your home, “Look at the flower slides that WE made!!!”
Thanks again to Still Parenting for the idea; we don’t know each other, I’m just a new (and big!) fan. Any criticisms of the project are with my execution of it, not with Arianne’s instructions.