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Leave a May Day Surprise

  • Children icon Age: 0 to 8+
  • Clock icon Time: <30 min
  • Leaf icon 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. And, May Day surprises are a highlight of our family's year!

Grab some paper, jars or cans and follow easy steps to make a simple, looks-like-you-and-a-child-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 neighbors and friends. 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 your baskets: There are several ways to make a May Day basket! Here are a few favorites:
  • Decorated jar basket: Start with a recycled glass jar or mason jar. You can leave it plain or use cut tissue paper and apply tissue to the glass using a 1:1 glue:water mixture to make it beautiful (see how on our Lantern Making DIY activity)!
  • Paper cone 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. 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. 
  • Recycled can basket: Take a recycled can and remove the label. Tie decorated paper and/or ribbon around it to add a little flair. Then, add water—voila!
Make your list: Consider who you could surprise. Wonder about the people in your neighborhood, extended friend group or family. Who loves to garden or be outdoors? Who might live on their own or might especially love/need a May Day surprise this year? 

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 are making paper baskets, wrap fresh cut stems in foil or wax paper. Place the flowers gently in each 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. 

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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