May Day Family Zone

a painting of a bouquet of flowers

William H. Johnson, Flowers, 1939-1940, oil on plywood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.602

Celebrate spring and May Day with the Smithsonian America Art Museum. Enjoy fun family crafts, videos, and activities in our May Day Family Zone!

May Day (May 1) has historically been a time to mark the start of spring and is still celebrated in much of Europe, particularly in England. May baskets full of flowers were left on doorsteps as a symbol of friendship, kindness, and to spread joy. Today in the museum world, May Day is a time to focus on the importance of artwork conservation and ensure we are protecting our collections to share with future generations. With its proximity to Earth Day, it's also an opportunity to focus on ways to conserve art in a sustainable manner.

Family Zone Activities

Crafting

May Day Basket

a basket made from paper

Supplies Needed

  • Paper (thicker paper, like construction paper, is recommended)
  • Markers, paint, or crayons to decorate the paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Cut a strip of paper off of one of the narrow ends and set it aside. This will be your handle.
  2. Decorate your paper with a spring design. The paper will be cut into 6 sections and the center of the paper will be the bottom, so keep that in mind when you design. You can color both sides and have an inside and outside decoration.
  3. Fold the paper into thirds, like a business letter, short sides toward the middle. Open up, turn the paper so the long sides are facing you, and fold into thirds again.
  4. Make four small cuts, two on each long side, evenly spaced along the center lines created by your folds. Do not cut into the center square of the paper.
  5. Curve two of the outside flaps toward the center and glue them to the center rectangle. Repeat on the other side.
  6. Glue the cut strip to the long sides for your handle and your basket is done.

Upcycled Windchime

a wind chime made from a pool noodle and spoons

Supplies Needed

  • Dowel rod, popsicle stick, or branch
  • Old Keys or silverware
  • String or cord
  • Scissors
  • Beads, buttons, or decorative elements with holes
  • Paint (optional)

Directions

  1. If desired, paint your dowel rod or stick.
  2. Tie one end of the string to your keys or silverware. (Keys are easier to use because of the hole, but use what you have!)
  3. Add beads or other decorations to the string. Tie knots in the string to hold them in place up off the metal pieces. These can help keep the strings from tangling when blown in the wind.
  4. Tie the completed strings to the dowel rod, spacing them evenly.
  5. Add a hanger by tying a string to each end and hang from the center.

Upcycled Planter

a plant potted in a milk carton

Supplies Needed

  • Clean plastic milk or juice jug
  • Ruler marker
  • Scissors or Exacto knife
  • Waterproof paint
  • Paint brushes

Directions

  1. Using the ruler and marker, make a straight line all the way around the jug. I made mine 3.5 inches from the bottom.
  2. Using sharp scissors or an Exacto knife, cut the top off the jug, taking care not to leave sharp or jagged edges.
  3. Using the scissors or Exacto, carefully pierce 2 to 4 holes in the bottom for drainage.
  4. Paint the planter.
  5. Add a plant.

Coloring

Enjoy coloring pages featuring beautiful springtime artworks from SAAM’s collection. Since we can not admire your creativity in person, please share a picture of your completed creations by using #SAAMFamilyZone on social media.

Videos

Learn more about environmental conservation and sustainability with our colleagues from across the Smithsonian Institution.

Discover the benefits of filling your home with plants and how to use sustainable practices in your daily life with Smithsonian Gardens.

Join the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and learn more about the tiny creatures in this ecosystem that can make a big impact.

Learn how art conservators from across the Smithsonian preserve and protect musical works of art from our collections in a sustainable way. Then try your hand at crafting your own musical instrument from supplies you likely have at home.