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Nature Science Activities for Kids Inspired by the Garden

Children are curious beings. And there is no better place than nature and your garden for them to disconnect from technology and have hands-on learning experiences.

A garden is more than the plants you see; it’s also many things you cannot see—such as bacteria, chemical reactions, and water vapor. In fact, the interconnectedness of a garden can inspire all sorts of scientific explorations for children of all ages.  

Follow your curiosity, step out into the garden and nature, and give these science experiments a try.

Preschool Science Projects in Nature

little-girl-exploring-sensory-garden
A sensory garden is a wonderful way for children to get out into nature and explore what they see, feel, hear, and smell. Add some edible plants and they can taste as well!

Sensory Gardens 

Budding young scientists need to know how to master the art of observation.

For young children, a sensory garden is a great way to explore the world around them and engage their senses. 

When designing a sensory garden, you want to account for all five senses. 

  1. Sight: Consider the variety of colors, types, and sizes of plants. What colors are present? What shapes?  
  2. Touch: How does the fuzzy texture of lamb’s ear compare with the smooth leaves of a bean plant? How about dandelion fluff? 
  3. Sound: Bamboo, corn or ornamental grasses make enticing whispering sounds when the wind blows. Bee-friendly favorites (like borage or bachelor’s buttons) will encourage the buzzing of bees in your garden.  
  4. Smell: Herbs such as rosemary and lavender are delightfully fragrant. 
  5. Taste: In a vegetable garden, taste is the best the sense to explore! Nothing compares to the sweetness of homegrown peas or the complexity of a garden-fresh carrots. 

Flower Dyeing Experiment 

vegetables-in-food-dye-experiment-for-kids
This is a very cool nature experiment for kids. All you need is some glasses of water, food coloring, and white or pale flowers. Light-colored vegetables, like lettuce, work too!

All living things need water, and plants are no exception. 

This can be observed by conducting a simple experiment.

  1. Pick a few flowers. (White or pale flowers are best)
  2. Put each flower in its own glass of water.
  3. Put several drops of food coloring into each glass.
  4. Observe what happens to the flower. 

A plant uses its stem to transport water up to the leaves and flowers. Because the water is dyed, you can observe as the water travels through the plant.

The water will be used by the plant to perform an important process called photosynthesis.

kids-nature-experiment-vegetables-in-dye
Try some vegetables for the kids’ next experiment – like this celery in blue food dye. Kids will be able to observe the water travel through the celery.

Older children might conduct this experiment and consider the implications of what they’re seeing. In this case, harmless food dye was added.

What happens when the water we use in our gardens becomes contaminated with substances more harmful than food coloring?

Favorite for Kids
Herbalism for Kids (Online Nature Camp)
$29 (or $39 family pass)

Herbalism for Kids is a wonderful 4-week journey into herbalism for kids of all ages. It's chock-full of engaging, hands-on educational activities and fun, designed to spark their curiosity and interest in the wild world of plants.

Week 3 is my favorite - Have Fun in the Kitchen! This lesson is packed full of kid-friendly herbal recipes and treats - how about some herb ice cream, yummy popsicles, or Flower Power Jigglers? Then, we'll make some herbal playdough!

Sign up a single camper or your entire family!

Get More Info at The Herbal Academy
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

School Age Science Experiments in the Garden

kids-out-in-nature-with-science-teacher
Kids getting outside to get their hands dirty in the garden!

Germination 

Germination refers to the moment when a seed breaks dormancy and begins its life as a plant.

Each seed has enough energy within it to sprout a pair of “seedling leaves” and a root. This process does not require soil or sunlight. Only water is needed.

Different types of plants need different amounts of time to germinate. Vegetables like peas and beans can germinate in just a few days while hot peppers and some flowers can take a few weeks! 

Choose a variety of seeds, label them, and place them between soaked pieces of paper towel.

Child scientists can record how long it takes for the plant to emerge from the seed and observe the differences in shape and size.

This is a great resource on how to conduct a germination experiment
, which includes an observation journal.

One of my favorite ways to study the germination process is while growing sprouts. I love that you can not only watch the process unfold before your eyes but that you can eat the result too! 

The Water Cycle

the-water-cycle-experiment-for-kids
Kids can make a mini water cycle with a bowl, a cup, a rubber band, and some plastic wrap!

Gardens need rain, but where does rain come from? The answer can be found in the water cycle and its four stages: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection.

This simple experiment allows you to make a mini water cycle in a bowl using some household items: Create a Mini Water Cycle by The Water Project.

There are several ways in which the garden is affected by the water cycle. Precipitation is the obvious one, but evaporation is another. Gardeners, in particular, want to prevent evaporation so that they don’t have to water as often.

One way for children to see evidence of evaporation taking place is to try the following experiment on a sunny day:

  1. Fill two cups full of soil. 
  2. Wet both cups of soil with one cup of water.
  3. Place a one-inch layer of straw or lawn trimmings on top of one of the cups.
  4. Place the cups out into the direct sunlight.
  5. Check back in a few hours later. Which cup has moister soil?

This experiment demonstrates how evaporation pulls water out of the soil and how something as simple as a little mulch can prevent this from happening.

Decomposition

Everyone knows that gardens are about growing, but not everyone thinks about how much decomposition is also present in the garden. Plants are always shedding old leaves.

When we consume food, there are often parts that we don’t eat, like the hearts of peppers and the corn cobs

Enter decomposition. Bacteria break these materials down over time to produce nutrient-rich matter that feeds future plants. 

Composting can be a time-consuming process that takes several months, but with a few modifications and some slicing and dicing, the process can be accelerated to a few weeks. 

Here’s one example of how this can be done in something as simple as a sandwich bag.

Or older children might like to tackle building a bigger system using 2-L soft bottles.  

Advanced Science Experiments in the Garden

Citizen Seed Trials 

citizen-seed-trial-germination-tray
Participating in a citizen scientist seed growing trial is a great way to get kids involved in nature!

I recently participated in a citizen seed trial, and I think that everyone should have this opportunity.

Here’s how it works.

A group of gardeners volunteers to collect data on the growth of two or three varieties of a certain vegetable, in my case, it was two varieties of peas. 

The seeds are mailed to the participant (often for free), and then the citizen scientist completes a growth record that includes information about germination rate, growth rate, disease resistance, yield, flavor, and other factors. 

In the end, it is compared with the data other people collected and you can see how your experience compared to others. Sometimes other gardeners are on the other side of the continent! 

This kind of project requires youth to put their scientific observation skills to work in the real world. 

Photosynthesis 

teacher-Explaining-photosynthesis-process-to-kids
A teacher explaining photosynthesis to a group of kids out in nature.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants transform light and water into glucose and oxygen.

This process not only allows a plant to feed itself (with glucose), but also provides an important source of oxygen for creatures like us to breathe. 

The following experiment uses a sample of an aquatic plant (these are often sold in the aquarium section of pet stores for a few dollars or online from Amazon), baking soda, and some other household items.

These are used to set up a scenario where you can watch a plant produce oxygen and see how the amount of light the plant is exposed to affects how much oxygen is produced.  

This experiment is ideal for youth who are in high school and already have some understanding of scientific methods.

Nature Activities for Kids [8 Fun Outdoor Activities!]

Why is being outdoors so good for kids? Sure, they get some fresh air and sunshine. But – it also gives them time to unplug, learn something new, or create a meaningful bond with nature. Luckily, there is no shortage of nature activities for kids!

Here are eight great ways for kids to spend time in nature while also having a ton of fun.

Outdoor adventures await!

Geocaching

Geocaching is like a modern-day treasure hunt. Instead of using paper maps and compasses, geocachers rely on the Geocache app on their phones and GPS to find the treasure. 

And what does this treasure look like, you might wonder?

The cache can be as simple as a Tupperware, or it might be a weather-proof container specifically for geocaching. Typically, there is nothing of monetary value in the cache. Instead, you’ll find custom trinkets that others have left behind or perhaps little metal medallions called geocoins.

Geocaching is one of the best ways to enjoy the wonders of nature while also going outside for an adventure! The best part is that kids are almost guaranteed to have tons of fun. Also – geocaching is free – and intriguing! You never know what you’re going to discover.

Geocaching helps children (and adults too!) improve their map-reading skills, takes explorers to unfamiliar places off the beaten track, and can be a hilarious way to test your detective skills. Geocaching has grown tremendously popular since it first started in 2000.

Our Pick
Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator
$149.90 $135.00

A very well-reviewed, rugged, handheld navigator with support for paperless geocaching and up to 20 hours of use on two AA batteries. IPX7 waterproof, WAAS enabled, and preloaded with a worldwide base map.

Get More Info
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12/09/2022 01:49 am GMT

You can find geocaching options ranging from easy and kid-friendly to very difficult.

If you’re not sure where to find the best geocaches around your neck of the woods – check out the Geocaching app in Google Play and the App Store.

(There are countless thousands of geocaches within the the free Geocaching app. I can’t believe there are so many. Geocaching is booming!)

Read More – Termites vs. Carpenter Ants! How to Prevent Damage!

Take an Educational Walk

dogs-make-outdoor-activities-more-fun
Dogs make educational walks more fun! So – if your kids find walking boring, consider adopting a puppy! I don’t think dogs mind going for educational walks either – especially if you bring extra dog cookies!

In some ways, going for a walk sounds too simple to be entertaining, especially when it’s compared to something as captivating and adrenaline-inducing as a video game or a movie.

However, a walk doesn’t have to be a dull, humdrum affair. An engaging walk can be an educational experience or a mindfulness exercise.

If you have a preschooler, take them on a walk and challenge them to:

  • Find a series of items, one for every color of the rainbow 
  • See how many different shapes they can spot
  • Search for unicorns. Or birds. Or – bunnies! (Or any fun creature that lurks nearby!)

If you have a school-age child, task them with:

  • Focusing on the world at our feet (How many bugs can they spot?)
  • Paying attention to the growth of the plants you pass. Repeat the walk a few times over a month and watch how the plants evolve.

Fun activities for older kids: 

  • Using walking as a time to practice mindfulness. Get them to focus on clearing their minds and relaxing their bodies.
  • Contemplating the history of a place. What do they think this place looked like ten years ago? 50? 100?
  • Instill the benefits of exercise and enjoying the outdoors!

These ideas and more come from Gillian Judson’s book A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder and Developing Sense of Place. 

Our Pick
A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder And Developing Sense of Place (K-12)
$19.99

This is a great resource for educators and parents who want to take student learning outdoors. It includes 60 easy walking-focused activities, designed to broaden the kids' awareness and wonder in nature.

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12/09/2022 05:28 am GMT

Read More – 10 Amazing Egg-Collecting Aprons and DIY Patterns!

Learn to Hike

learn-how-to-hike-for-kids-outdoors
Challenge your kids and family to abandon their tablets and video games for an epic outdoor adventure along your favorite mountain trail! As you travel, pay attention and enjoy the scenery. Appreciate the remarkable sights, sounds, and wildlife you encounter!

Hiking is the perfect way for older children and teenagers to build a positive relationship with exercise at a young age, explore their community, immerse themselves in nature and learn more about local flora and fauna. As children grow, they may seek more challenging adventures!

However, hiking in the wilderness is not without its dangers. Accidents can happen, and people can become lost. The Hug-a-Tree and Survive program teaches children how to stay safe if they do become lost.

It’s also wise to teach young hikers the importance of being prepared. Complete a trip plan that outlines how long your hike is, what route you’re taking, and approximately what time you will be back.

Leave your trip plan with a friend! That way, if something happens, there is someone who knows where to look for you.

Prepared hikers should have the following items in their backpacks for a day trip: 

It’s also crucial that we are good stewards of our environment when we visit the great outdoors. These wild spaces can be surprisingly fragile, and we want them to last for many years. 

Remember the following tips while you’re out in the woods: 

  • Give animals lots of space.
  • Keep pets under control at all times.
  • Take only photos. Leave only footprints.
  • Walkthrough puddles, not around them, to reduce trail erosion.

Read More – Are White Cucumbers Safe to Eat?

Favorite for Kids
Herbalism for Kids (Online Nature Camp)
$29 (or $39 family pass)

Herbalism for Kids is a wonderful 4-week journey into herbalism for kids of all ages. It's chock-full of engaging, hands-on educational activities and fun, designed to spark their curiosity and interest in the wild world of plants.

Week 3 is my favorite - Have Fun in the Kitchen! This lesson is packed full of kid-friendly herbal recipes and treats - how about some herb ice cream, yummy popsicles, or Flower Power Jigglers? Then, we'll make some herbal playdough!

Sign up a single camper or your entire family!

Get More Info at The Herbal Academy
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Rockhounding

rockhounding-rock-collecting-for-kids-nature
Rockhounding is a lot more fun than you think! Starting is easy. Brainstorm a list of the top 5 rocks in your region. Next, challenge your kids to help you find them. Maybe mention the possibility of gemstones and rare earth minerals. Who could resist the challenge!

Some rocks have distinctive characteristics! 

Here’s what I mean.

Jasper is bright red. Quartz has a tell-tale shimmer. Volcanic rocks? They’re full of holes! Jet forms by putting wood under enormous pressure – and it often floats. 

Rockhounders use their knowledge of local geology to find unique minerals and gemstones in their environment. Every place has unique geology – and it can be fun to see what makes your home unique. 

Many communities have rockhounding clubs for adults and kids, and there are many great books about identifying stones. 

Great Guide
My Awesome Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals
$16.99 $10.99

Kids can identify and catalog their rocks and minerals with this fascinating field guide! Explore 150 different rocks, with step-by-step instructions for testing and identifying the one you find yourself. Includes plenty of notebook space to record your data!

Get More Info
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/08/2022 06:18 pm GMT

This site has a comprehensive guide on how to start rockhounding.

Go out and start a rock collection today! 

Build a Birdhouse

building-a-birdhouse
Wooden birdhouses provide a fun outdoor activity for your entire family! If you get lucky, a bird may even fancy your birdhouse and live inside! Don’t forget to add nesting materials to help accommodate your potential guests. Add moss, twigs, hay, and straw to welcome nearby birds.

Kids love to build birdhouses. They accomplish a small carpentry project, and they get to enjoy watching birds use them. Birdhouses also provide a tremendous opportunity to learn more about local bird varieties and their lifecycles. 

There are many ways to build a birdhouse! Also – different birds are attracted to various kinds of birdhouses. So, if your kids enjoyed making one birdhouse, consider building another and see who comes to roost.

Our Pick
Toysmith Beetle & Bee Build a Bird Bungalow DIY Kit for Kids
$17.00

Welcome birds to the backyard with this classic 6" tall birdhouse! Easy to make and suitable for kids aged 5 and older, it includes the wood pieces, a chain for hanging, paint, paint brush, nails, glue, and instructions.


Get More Info
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/08/2022 02:53 pm GMT

Let me share a method that uses pieces of logs that would otherwise end up as firewood!

Here’s a crafty homemade birdhouse tutorial from SunCatcherStudio that uses pieces of logs that you would otherwise chuck in the fireplace!

If you’re looking for a classic birdhouse, check out Ana White’s $2 birdhouse. Ana White’s birdhouse makes clever use of picket fencing materials and is a perfect inspiration!

Read More – How to Keep Flies Away from Food!

Beekeeping

mason-bee-home-insect-hotel
Imagine building a wooden bug hotel that nearby insects can’t resist. You can invite nearby bees and insects to nest inside by forming holes and easy-access-ports. Notice the cells and compartments so the bugs can effortlessly burrow within. We bet that kids who love insects and wildlife jump at this idea!

Mason bees are solitary nesting bees that you can find throughout most of North America. They often make their homes in sandy areas or the hollow stems of dead plants.

These bees do not produce honey! But, they are powerhouse pollinators that are great friends to have in the garden.

Making a mason bee home can be a fun way to support local pollinator populations in your area and boost pollination in your garden. 

You can make a mason bee home by drilling a series of holes into an untreated 4×4. Or, you can use a series of hollow bamboo pieces or paper straws. A tube with a diameter of 5/16 should suit your mason bees marvelously!

PS: If you want to learn how to make a mason house with some scrap lumber, check out this legendary mason bee house tutorial from Hobby Farms!

Solar Ovens

The inside of a solar oven gets warm enough to melt chocolate bars and marshmallows! Perfect if you love s’mores and want a sweet outdoor snack while enjoying the beautiful sunny weather at the same time!

Harness the power of the sun to make s’mores or a grilled cheese sandwich! Here’s how.

Gather a pizza box, saran wrap, tin foil, and scotch tape. Then – kids can build a nifty makeshift solar oven! This science experiment demonstrates how solar energy converts into heat. Plus, who doesn’t love a good s’more?

If your kids decide that solar cooking is lots of fun – then consider grabbing a GoSun Solar Kitchen Pro if you want a significant outdoor cooking upgrade!

Follow the instruction in this video for more information on how to build a solar oven:

Sometimes, it’s okay to bribe friends and family with s’mores if they refuse to spend time outside!

Flower Pressing

When pressing flowers, let your creativity run wild! Invite your kids to press their favorite autumn foliage, flowers, petals, and leaves the way they like. Which contrasting leaf colors, petal shapes, and blossom hues look the best?

Flower pressing dates back to the 1500s. It can be as simple as picking a flower and putting it between the pages of a heavy book.

Throughout a couple of weeks, the pages absorb the moisture – and the flower preserves. The dried flowers are perfect for a wide variety of art projects.

Or – you can drape the dried flowers nearly anywhere you can imagine for an upgraded decor and fragrance!

(Try draping the dried flowers over your doorway, along your garden terrace, on your front porch – or even in your camper, RV, or walkway. They work anywhere and enhance any setting!)

4M Green Creativity Pressed Flower Art Kit for Kids
$14.99 $11.99

This flower press kit includes a 4" press, glue, brush, double-side tape, and detailed instructions - perfect for kids aged 5 and older.

Get More Info
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12/09/2022 01:43 am GMT

Outdoor Activities for Kids and Family!

There are a million ways to spend time in nature with your kids, and once you start, I think you’ll find you want to spend more and more time outside.

Whether you’re enjoying a hike, searching for rare stones, or doing some nature crafts, I hope that you and your kids find ways to make a habit of putting on your hats and getting outside!

But – which outdoor activities for kids do you like best?

Or, maybe we missed some of the best nature activities for kids?

Did we overlook something?

We love to hear your ideas!

Thanks so much for reading!

Read More – 3 Types of Basil for Herb Garden Variety  

How to Get Your Kids to Trade Screen Time for Green Time

Remember when there was no such thing as the internet? Well, I do. As a kid, I spent long hours playing in the backyard and exploring my rural neighborhood.

Whether I was racing pop cans in the irrigation ditches next to my house, sneaking into the creepy abandoned buildings behind my dad’s shop, or crafting the latest confection for my mud-pie bakery, there was always something to do. 

I loved helping dad look after the animals, whether that was cleaning the chicken coop, preparing the huts for piglets, or building a playground for our goats to keep them out of mischief!

Some days I’d even climb up into my favorite tree with a book and read until my mom called me in for dinner.

I watched the world change as I grew up, as computers and then the internet advanced, and green time gradually gave way to screen time. And now my own kids are growing up in a world totally unlike the one that raised me. 

These days, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend over 7 hours a day in front of screens. Perhaps more frighteningly, the average amount of time that kids spend outside engaging in unstructured play every day is 4-7 minutes

Some scientists worry that our lack of exposure to nature could be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

If you compare our lifestyles over the past few centuries to the previous 99.9% of human history, it makes sense; our bodies and brains simply didn’t evolve in concrete jungles surrounded by screens. 

Favorite for Kids
Herbalism for Kids (Online Nature Camp)
$29 (or $39 family pass)

Herbalism for Kids is a wonderful 4-week journey into herbalism for kids of all ages. It's chock-full of engaging, hands-on educational activities and fun, designed to spark their curiosity and interest in the wild world of plants.

Week 3 is my favorite - Have Fun in the Kitchen! This lesson is packed full of kid-friendly herbal recipes and treats - how about some herb ice cream, yummy popsicles, or Flower Power Jigglers? Then, we'll make some herbal playdough!

Sign up a single camper or your entire family!

Get More Info at The Herbal Academy
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

While it’s not yet clear if the lack of nature negatively impacts our health, we do know that increased time in nature can improve it. Research has shown that spending more time in or around nature has a plethora of health benefits for adults and kids alike. 

Specifically for kids, more nature time can:

  • Encourage creativity
  • Reduce stress
  • Help attention and memory
  • Improve immune function
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Promote responsibility
  • Improve social connections

Help Kids Learn to Love Nature

water-garden-and-dogs
Entertain the kids, the dogs, and water the garden at the same time

When I was a kid, it seemed like the whole world was there to explore just outside our back door. To my kids, the whole world seems open to them, too–right on their screen. 

We’re raising the first generation of kids who were born with this technology–given the powerful lure of tech, how can we encourage our kids to get back to nature?

  1. Tell them it’s okay if they get dirty. I apologize in advance for the ensuing laundry, but c’mon… let kids be kids. Remember to keep a few “grubby” outfits they can wear outside and get as dirty as they want.
  2. Give them the tools they need. A bug-catching net, a bucket and shovel, or a magnifying glass can be all it takes to spark imagination and adventure.
  3. Or don’t! If you really want to give the kids a creative challenge, try a “time travel challenge”. Task them to spend time or build something using only what your great-great-grandfather would have had available to use in his day.
  4. Plant a garden. There’s just something gratifying and miraculous about watching something that you planted grow and thrive. Growing something from seed can give kids a sense of accomplishment that rivals beating the latest level of their favorite video game.
  5. Start a collection. Is your kid always bugging you to expand their collection of the latest toy trend? Try encouraging them to start collecting something from nature. Collect rocks, press flowers or leaves between sheets of wax paper, or start an insect collection. 
  6. Get outside with them. While parents in my day had a tendency to toss us kids outside and tell us “be back for dinner!”, there are plenty of reasons for you to join your kids outside. Besides the fact that nature has all the same benefits for adults as it does for kids, it’s always good to be a good role model. The more time you spend outside appreciating nature, the more your kids will value it, too. 
  7. If all else fails, bring the tech outside. Despite the pitfalls of tech, it can still be a tool for creativity and connection. That, and sometimes you need to pick your battles. If your kid is dead set on being the next YouTube influencer extraordinaire, consider letting them shoot their next video on location. IMHO, outdoor screen time is a big improvement on indoor screen time.
  8. Start a worm farm. There’s nothing better than worms for gently introducing kids to the world of nature – those wriggly creatures are non-threatening and they’ll appreciate all your veggie scraps!
Great Guide
My Awesome Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals
$16.99 $10.99

Kids can identify and catalog their rocks and minerals with this fascinating field guide! Explore 150 different rocks, with step-by-step instructions for testing and identifying the one you find yourself. Includes plenty of notebook space to record your data!

Get More Info
We may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
12/08/2022 06:18 pm GMT

Gardens are more than just a place to grow food. For all ages, they are a place to spark curiosity and learn new things.

These are just a few ideas to help spark your (and your kids’) creativity; being in nature offers endless opportunities for exploration, innovation, and adventure. What were your favorite things to do outside growing up? Let us know! Better yet–grab your kids, get outside, and show them, too.

What lessons will you learn on your next visit to the garden? 

Authors

  • Elle

    Jack of all trades, master of some. Wild garden grower. Loves creating stuff. From food forests and survival gardens to soap and yoghurt. A girl on a farm with two kids and one husband (yep, just one - although another one would be handy). Weirdly enjoys fixing fences and digging holes. Qualified permaculture teacher and garden go-to.

  • Stacey Neglia

    Stacey Neglia is a freelance writer and blogger, a former lab rat who still loves science, and a mother of two crazy kids. She lives in the soggy suburbs north of Seattle but has aspirations of getting back to eastern Washington where the sun is always out and vegetable gardens don’t mold. She loves writing, growing things in the garden, playing video games, and making spreadsheets.

Sudhir Kumar Sajwan

Thursday 17th of March 2022

Lovely, it's our duty to protect our planet. Each one must plant one.

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