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Leave a May Day Surprise

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

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 part our girls like best comes on May Day morning, when you sneak over and leave the basket on your neighbor’s porch, stoop or doorstep. The part I like best is conducting 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 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.
  • 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 your own garden, hit up the farmer’s market or the store for some fresh flowers.
  • 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 (If not, no worries). Place the flowers gently in the basket. Add a simple "Happy May Day" note and a touch of love, too.
  • Give to your neighbor: Walk it over to your neighbor's home. Being mindful of both the element of surprise and the need for social distancing, try to leave it without them seeing it. We leave ours hanging on the doorknob or in the walkway, then just tiptoe away. My girls 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.
  • Why is this activity great for kids?

    As you walk through each step, talk with kids, even 1-2 year olds, about what your neighbors might like or how getting your basket might make them feel. This practice with 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 just 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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