Gardening with young children is another powerful activity for fun, learning, kindergarten readiness and connecting to nature. Digging in the dirt and planting seeds are definitely hands-on sensory experiences. Yesterday’s blog post talked about getting the soil ready for planting. Once that’s done, it’s time to pop in the seeds.
Patience is not all that strong yet in kids, so it helps to have seeds that grow quickly so there is something to see. Just like Jack in the Beanstalk, bean seeds are almost magic and in only a few days will have something poking out of the ground. Sunflower seeds are also fast growing and over the summer will seem to be stretching high into the sky. Another advantage of beans and sunflowers is the seeds are big enough for little hands to plant one seed at a time. One finger on a small hand makes a hole just the right size for seeds this big. Corn is also easy to plant and is a good companion seed for beans. The beans can wind up the corn stalk. Pea seeds are recognizable as peas and also like to climb.
A recent guest on Learn and Play with Mrs. A, Barb McMahon from Sprouting Chefs, suggested that herbs are a good choice for kids to plant. Mint, parsley, and basil are quite touchable and kids can be shown how to carefully pick off just a few leaves that can be added to many recipes. Planting herbs in pots, inside and outside, contains them because they spread.
When children help in the garden, they see how they can impact the natural world. This helps them connect to the environment and develop their nature-intelligence. Talk with your child about how seeds are different sizes, shapes, and colors and only sometimes give a clue about what they are. Plants certainly give all of us an opportunity to practice being patient. The whole cycle of seed to plant to seed takes a long time, but it is repeated every year. These experiences are all part of learning that will last a lifetime. What will you and your child plant?
Did you know that gardens are great places for growing fun, learning, and kindergarten readiness, besides seeds and plants? With the weather finally warm enough to spend some time in the yard, it’s also time to think of gardening. Children are fascinated with plants and how they grow, and of course, they love to play in the dirt. Preschoolers are not too young for gardening, but they will need some supervision.
- Before planting, gardens need to be prepared. Unless you have some very early plants, what is most likely growing at this stage is weeds. Kids will happily help pull these out along with any left-overs from the fall. With a small shovel or trowel, little ones can help prepare the garden soil by just digging and turning it over. Grownups have to use big shovels and it’s lots more work. It may help to give children their own patch or big container for digging in.
- Pots and containers will need to be washed first with warm, soapy water. Water and dirt will make mud and soon kids will need to be washed in warm, soapy water too, but in the meantime they will play and work happily and have some sensory stimulation.
- To explain the difference between dirt and soil, it’s helpful for kids to know that dirt is what is on cars and shoes, but that soil is the alive-part with all kinds of things, some that we can’t see. Usually when digging, it’s possible to see some worms and bugs that live in the soil. What else can be found in the soil? Are there any leaves that have turned all brown and crumply? Is the soil all the same color?
Getting the soil ready is just the first part. What do you think will be tomorrow’s play-of-the-day?
(On a new Learn and Play with Mrs. A radio show, I will be talking with a school garden coordinator, Barb McMahon, from Sprouting Chefs and will share more ideas on kids and gardening.)
This kindergarten readiness fun and learning play-of-the-day gets 3 p’s in one: post, planet, and play. Today, all over the planet kids will be doing a variety of crafts to celebrate Earth Day, but one of the most important activities is for children to spend some time outside actually experiencing the natural world, connecting to nature, and feeling that they are also part of nature and the Earth.
What’s is the weather like where you live? Your child may be able to feel the wind or the warm (hopefully) sun. Together look at the sky and check out the clouds. That’s using the senses of sight and touch. Are there any sounds to hear? There may be some flowers to smell, or newly mowed grass, or the freshness after rain. In a city, there might be other smells that are not natural. It’s a good time to talk about needing to take care of the earth and find ways to keep earth clean.
Even in cities there will be pockets of nature to observe and possibly explore, from tiny spots of lichen on the sidewalk to big trees. Playing in the dirt or mud is a super sensory activity and can happen in the yard, garden, or even a plastic dishpan. Add in some rocks, grass, pinecones, and other bits of nature for more fun. What might be some other ways that kids can connect with nature for Earth Day?
Our first-day-of-spring walk for some kindergarten readiness fun and learning while connecting to nature had to get shortened to a quick dash. Actually, the weather here was more like all 4 seasons in a day. The cool, crisp spring morning became a sunny, wonderful noon, warm enough to hint at summer. The afternoon turned colder and windy more like fall, followed by a dark hail storm that made us hurry inside and cuddle up with a winter hot chocolate. Brr. Last year on a walk, we were able to see so many signs of spring. But the weather-filled day was good for talking and learning about nature, anyway.
When the weather cooperates, you and your child can take a walk to look for signs of spring. This will give your child an opportunity to practice some observation skills and encourage noticing details. Kids are usually pretty good at seeing little things that we might miss, like bits of new grass in the rocks. There’s lots to talk about too such as how plants need sun and rain. Look around for other plants that are starting to grow and maybe there are some birds in the area. Is there anything that smells like spring? Some colors of spring? There are lots of things for kids to discover, ways to connect with nature and to combine fun and learning. What are some other signs of spring?
Kindergarten readiness is something that grows and develops. So do seeds, and planting some in the spring is both fun and learning. A favorite seed to plant is a bean because it grows quite big fairly quickly. Bean seeds can be planted in cups, egg cartons, little pots, tissue paper rolls, and even ziplock bags that can be taped to a window. Recently, I saw a bean seed planted in an old CD case which made it super easy to see the roots. But today we planted a few herb seeds in a fairy garden.
To make a fairy or herb garden, you can use a big, wide pot with lots of dirt. It needs to be fairly moist before popping in the seeds. Seeds like basil and thyme are about the size of a speck of sand and disappear in the dirt. It’s easier to sort of sprinkle on a few seeds and then cover them with some extra dirt rather than trying to put them into a finger hole.
The different sizes of seeds is quite interesting and only a few seeds like corn and peas look like the plant. You can show your child how seeds can be different sizes, shapes, and colors. Besides learning about seeds, kids also learn about patience because they have to wait for the seeds to make little sprouts and then bigger plants. This can take several days. Kids learn about how to care for plants, giving them a bit of water and making sure they get some sun. Knowing that seeds grow into plants is a basic, but important, science fact. The whole experience of planting a seed and then caring for a plant helps children develop a connection to nature. Seeds may be small, but do you agree, the learning can be big? And fun?
For each radio show on Learn and Play with Mrs A, I take notes because I’m learning so much about kids and kindergarten readiness from fascinating guests who are experts in a variety of areas. Each of them is passionate about kids and loves the work, or maybe that’s play? Here’s a play-of-the-day suggested from our play-of-the-week conversations and a little information about these awesome guests.
Nature is a cycle and everything is interconnected, even us. The term nature-deficit disorder has made us aware of how important it is that children spend time in nature. Conservationist and forester, Andy Hall explained ways to encourage and develop children’s connection to nature, especially in urban areas where wild, natural spaces may be not be available. Andy suggested looking for pockets of nature in neighborhoods.
For a play-of-the-day, you and your child might like to go for a walk to see some signs of nature. What do the trees look like? Why might they be different right now? What else is there? This tree has no leaves. There’s even nature on the sidewalk with spots of lichen. You may see some animals braving the cooler weather. Checking the weather is another way of being aware of nature.What else is there to see, and hear, and feel?
For more ideas on how to include nature for your child, here is the podcast link:
Andy Hall/Learn and Play podcast
For today’s kindergarten readiness play-of-the-day, how about some learning and fun outside, that doesn’t even need the box?!
Just in case you haven’t read it enough on this blog, kids need time in nature. For that matter, so do adults. Children today are at-risk of not being able to develop a strong and sustained connection to nature. They need time outside to experience the sun, the wind, the plants and even the weather.
Winter can be a challenging time to be outdoors but sometimes outside can be brought inside. Gather up a big plastic bowl of snow, bring it in and set it in the sink. Kids can play with it there and any mess will just go down the sink. What does it feel like? What happens to it? You may live somewhere that gets days and days and days of endless rain, but while grownups don’t love puddles, kids certainly do. In areas with sun, enjoy the time outside. There will still likely be seasonal changes to notice and explore.
Wherever your family lives, is there a way to give your child some outside time?
After Christmas, it’s a bit sad to take down the tree and usually, though it may have some learning that helps with kindergarten readiness, it can’t exactly be called fun. An early learning preschool blog that I love, along with thousands of other people, had a very interesting science/nature activity. Called Pine Needle Discovery Bottles, it seems like a wonderful way to keep a little bit of Christmas.
If you had a real tree this year, when it’s ready to be taken down and recycled, save a few small branches. Tuck one about the same length as the bottle in an empty bottle and then fill it almost to the top with water. Help your child shake in some sparkles. We chose white to look like real snow, but they looked much whiter in the package. A few drops of glycerin added to the water will slow down the flakes, but only use a little bit so the sparkles do not all lump together. (Found that out by experience!) Glue on the lid on or use wide, sticky tape.
The bottle and water magnify the branch and needles so it is easy to see the shape. When tipped upside down and back up, the sparkles do swirl like a snow storm. Have your child feel and smell any needles that didn’t make it into the bottle. Talk about the color and shape of the needles. Why are they called needles? Any guesses about what part of the tree they could be? Do you like the smell of pine?
Many children find changes, even small ones, difficult to accept. Helping children cope with change will support their development. Making a discovery bottle with a bit of the Christmas tree is one way to lessen the impact and keep it for a while longer. It also serves as a bridge for what is happening seasonally. In many places, Christmas is over but there’s lots of winter still to come! Does the winter where you live have snow like the one in this bottle or picture?
Kindergarten readiness is fun for all seasons and today that season is winter. Winter where your family lives might mean snow, or rain, or if you are very lucky, warm and sunny. Wherever you are, it is important for your child to have time in nature. Recently, research is showing us how critical this is for healthy development. To quote Richard Louv, “To take nature and natural play away from children may be tantamount to withholding oxygen.”
Outside play time today may certainly depend on the weather. Exploring and talking about the weather is one way to connect to nature. You and your child may be able to go for a walk outside and see some seasonal changes. Do the trees look the same? What’s happened to the leaves? There may be some birds lingering and looking for any left-over berries. If snow isn’t covering them all, there may be a few pine cones on the ground. As kids look around, besides building their awareness of nature, they are also practicing observing skills.
Playing in the snow is a highlight of winter and building a snowman is a special activity. Outside time is exercise for the whole body and the talking and listening is exercise for young minds. Who says snowmen can’t talk? Your child might be able to tell what the snowmen would like to say. Children sometimes do not like change. Noticing how nature can change and yet still be the same may be helpful and reassuring for them.
Will your child be able to have some nature learning and fun to celebrate the first day of winter?
That’s 10 special kindergarten readiness and nature fun and learning activities for fall. Den rhymes with 10, as in an animal den or home. At this time of year many animals are looking for and making homes.
Animals can have all kinds of homes. What kinds of animals live under rocks? Help your child turn over a few to find out. There are often many interesting kinds of bugs and other crawly critters. Besides on the ground, homes can be up high. There may be some bee hives to see.
If there are any trees in your area, see if there are any squirrels or racoons that may be making a home in the tree. Sometimes, even tree stumps or fallen logs can be homes for small creatures. There may be some empty nests. Where have the birds gone? Look very closely in case there is a tiny, carefully hidden fairy house!
A special story to read at this time of year is Mousekin’s Golden House, by Edna Miller. A little mouse makes a den inside a jack-o-lantern after Halloween where he sleeps inside all snug and warm while the fall wind and winter snow blow outside. The story also shows other animals looking for homes in the mud around the pond.
The Earth is a big den for many animals, and people too. What other animal homes can your child find?