Bone up on botany and save some mementos of summer by pressing plant leaves and petals. The fun begins with collecting missions in the yard or another nearby nature spot; kids then preserve their finds by drying them in a press. We made our own press from craft wood, newsprint, and cardboard, but you can also use a dictionary or phone book. The pressed materials can be used to create sweet notecards, as shown here. Rubber bands keep the pressure on, and layers of paper soak up moisture from petals and leaves.
Using one of the wood panels as a template, cut 4 pieces of cardboard and 16 pieces of newsprint to the same size.
Stack the cardboard and newsprint pieces, starting from the bottom and alternating 1 piece of cardboard with 4 pieces of newsprint, ending with newsprint. Place the wood panels at the top and bottom of the stack.
To create the binding, cut 2 strips of duct tape to the same length as the press. Place the first strip along the left side of the stack, half on the cover and half on the spine. Turn over the stack and repeat with the other strip of tape. Pull the bottom piece of cardboard out of the press and discard it (this leaves space for the plant materials; the remaining layers are loosely bound so they can be replaced as needed).
Slide the rubber bands around the press so they're evenly spaced, then decorate the areas between the bands with the stamps and ink. Let dry.
To use the press, arrange flowers and leaves -- thin ones work best -- between double layers of newsprint, with only one layer of plant material between each section of cardboard. Slide the rubber bands into place and let the press sit for 2 weeks.
To affix the pressed materials to paper for notecards or other crafts, use a mix of half glue and half water. Arrange the materials on the paper, brush them lightly with the glue mixture, and let them dry.