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Leave a May Day Surprise

  • Age: 0 to 8+
  • Time: <30 min
  • Materials: paper, stapler, fresh flowers

May Day Basket Activity for Kids

May 1st is May Day—a day that many cultures have celebrated for centuries as the arrival of warmer times, of planting and of prosperity to come. Although the first day of the fifth month is not a holiday, per se, some of its sweetest traditions, like the giving of a May basket, are super ways to spread love and hook kids on kindness.

Grab some paper and follow easy steps to make a simple, looks-like-you-and-a-child-under-8 made-it basket. Then, fill the little basket with flowers and, if you like, a treat or two. The flowers can be wild or even paper and child-like, too—the goal is to spread some spring cheer and to delight your neighbor. The best part is on May Day morning, when you sneak over and leave the basket on your neighbor’s porch, stoop or doorstep. It’s a family act of random kindness for which we get no immediate credit—but a great deal of joy.

The Guide

Make a basket: As inspired by Eric Carle, use crayons, markers or paint to add flair to sheets of 8 ½ x 11” paper. Cut a 1" strip off the side. Cut the 7 1/2" x 11" that remains into a flattened cone shape (see photos). Roll it into a cone and staple it. Cut around the opening of the cone so it is level. Then, staple on the strip as a handle. No time to be crafty? Use an empty jar or can and just tape or glue the pretty paper to the outside.

Make your list:Consider who might love a basket to put inside. Wonder about the people in your neighborhood and to whom to give your May Day surprise baskets. Who do you know well? Who loves to garden or be outdoors? Who might live on their own or might especially love a May Day surprise?

Gather flowers: Flowers feature prominently in both May and May baskets, though the specific flowers you have in bloom vary around the country (even our families in Arizona have some wildflowers still blooming!). If you don’t have any growing nearby, hit up the farmer’s market or the store.

Fill the baskets: Cut a few flowers so they fit in each basket. If you can, wrap fresh cut stems in foil or wax paper. Place the flowers gently in the basket. Add a simple "Happy May Day" note and a touch of love, too.

Deliver the baskets: This is, by far, the best part! Take the basket to your friend's or neighbor's home and try to leave it without them seeing it to preserve the surprise. We leave ours hanging on the doorknob or in the walkway, then just tiptoe away and delight in the secrecy and excitement of this part! We also like to wonder a few times during the day about what our neighbors thought of their baskets, a nice chance to think even more about another person.

A few alternative baskets:

  • Wrap colorful paper or kids’ artwork around an empty can. Secure it with glue, tape or a piece of ribbon or raffia. Use that as a holder for May Day flowers.
  • Recycle a glass jar into a vase. If you have a mason jar, tie some twine around two points on the outer ring of the lid, then screw it back on to create a handle for a hanging vase. Want to make it really colorful? Decorate the jar with tissue paper and a 1:1 water/glue mixture (find out how on our Lantern Making DIY activity).

Why is this activity great for kids?

As you walk through each step, talk with kids of all ages about what your neighbors might like or how getting your basket might make them feel. Thinking about and acting on another person’s point of view develops empathy, a skill kids will need to form strong relationships and navigate social dynamics. Quite simply, it also connects kids to their neighbors, making those adults more familiar and creating a sense of community that we so often lack these days. Even if you have a very young one, he or she can participate in the process by picking or holding flowers, a marvelous sensory experience, and observing you take time to give something lovely to someone else. What better modeling can we do for kids? If your family is like ours, you’ll gain a new tradition too!

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