One of the books from my childhood that has left the deepest impression is 'Miss Happiness and Miss Flower' by Rumer Godden. I read and reread it on damp chilly autumnal evenings, and remember being enchanted by descriptions of tiny Japanese dolls, how to make a house for them, sewing miniature futons, creating a tiny weeny living garden. How I longed to have an elegant dolly home with sliding paper doors, and how my own two little girls would now love to have the same.
Well, tiny Japanese houses may not be on the agenda, but we have found out how to make the tiny paper flowers Nona has for the pond in her Japanese garden, that unfold when you put them in water; and more than that, we know how they work too. Yes, it's the return of kiddie science!
Left to right, top to bottom:
1. Take a square of pretty paper
2. Fold it in half with the pretty side in
3. With the fold at the bottom, bring the bottom right corner up and across to make a squashed diamond shape - you don't need to be absolutely accurate here!
4. Bring the bottom left corner up too.
5. Keeping the bottom point towards you, draw a petal shape but make sure you don;t cut through the point!
6.Cut your petal.
7. Unfold the flower and admire your dexterity.
8. Start folding the petals over, bringing each petal tip to the centre of the flower.
Now you're ready to drop the flower into water and ooh and aah. And make some more, and spend the rest of the day clearing up bits of soggy paper.
The science is pretty simple - as the paper absorbs water the fibres that make it up expand and force the petals open. But simple explanations notwithstanding, these were a lot of fun.
The inspiration for this comes from Usborne's Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do, but we branched out from their four petalled flowers. We experimented a lot with various folding patterns, putting one flower inside another, rolling the petals instead of folding them, refolding soggy flowers. Both girls took extra flowers to school for Show & Tell, apparently with great success.