May Baskets: Last-Minute Ideas to Create with Kids

May baskets

April showers bring… May baskets.

Somehow April has zoomed by and it’s May 1 again.

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re all busy enjoying the activities that come with the spring weather or just consumed with fighting our pollen allergies, but somehow this date sneaks up on me every single year.

And every year, I am reminded of May’s coming with the beautiful, thoughtful May baskets that arrive on my porch.

In our nook of the Midwest, we still celebrate the once-mainstream tradition of May baskets, stealthily placing flowers and sweet treats on the porches and doors of neighbors and friends.

It’s a lovely tradition, but one that leaves me scrambling every May Day for cute and yummy things around the house that we can use to piece together a few last-minute baskets.

A Lost Tradition

In the 19thand 20thcenturies, May basket-giving took place across the country. In some communities, putting a May basket on someone’s door signaled romantic interest.

If the recipient saw the giver, they might chase after them and try to steal a kiss. It was seen as another Valentine’s Day, of sorts.

In her book Jack and Jill, Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women) included a chapter titled “May Baskets.”

“The job now at hand was May baskets, for it was the custom of the children to hang them on doors of their friends the night before May-day; the girls had agreed to supply baskets if the boys would hunt for flowers…”

History Lesson

May Day originated as an ancient pagan holiday, celebrating the start of summer.

According to “The Celts of the British Isles believed May 1 to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held. This May Day festival was thought to divide the year in half, between the light and the dark. Symbolic fire was one of the main rituals of the festival, helping to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world.”

Europeans and Americans adapted the holiday and would often celebrate with traditions like Maypole dancing and wearing flower crowns.

May Day Basket Ideas

In honor of the quaint little tradition of May baskets, here are some ideas that we love for creating a last-minute basket.

For the basket itself:

-decorate a small plastic cup and use pipe cleaner for the handle

May baskets

-little potters

-leftover gift bags from birthday parties

May baskets

-construction or other pretty paper formed into a cone-shaped basket. Use string or pipe cleaners for the handle and to hang on doors.

What to put in the basket:

-leftover Easter candy (You’re sure to have some spring-colored treats left this year!)

-stickers (If you’re like us, we have bins and bins of stickers, stamps and bouncy balls that need a new home.)


-flowers (real or homemade from paper, etc.)


-art supplies


-recycled books (Passing along an already-read book seems like the perfect May-Day gift.)

May baskets


Scavenger Hunt

Of course, if you plan ahead, you can find items online or at the dollar-bin at Target.

But my May-Day tradition has been to set the kids off on a (always last-minute) scavenger hunt around the house for cute, lightly-used and sweet items that we can include in the baskets.

 “Such a twanging of bells and rapping of knockers; such a scampering of feet in the dark; such droll collisions as boys came racing round corners, or girls ran into one another’s arms as they crept up and down steps on the sly; such laughing, whistling, flying about of flowers and friendly feeling—it was almost a pity that May-day did not come oftener.”

–Louisa May Alcott, Jack and Jill

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