Gardening with Kids #6: Care of Plants

The ground has been prepped, the seeds planted, and now kids can learn about how to take care of plants, which builds their background knowledge as part of kindergarten readiness.

gardening with kidsWhile we know that plants need sunshine, water, and soil, kids do not know until they have first-hand experiences with plants. When asked, kids know that we eat plants for food, but where do plants get their food? At the store? One of the first facts that kids learn about plants is that they stay in one place, they do not move around like animals. Since plants can’t move, they can’t go to the store, so maybe their food is right there, in the ground.

garden-belWhether kids know that plants need water or not, they love to give plants a drink. Overwatering by caring kids has drowned many a seed and new sprout. Explain to young gardeners that we need to water plants low and slow. Plant roots are like straws and can only handle a little at a time. Young children can add the water, but they need some help before they can take away crowded plants. Thinning needs grownups. When kids are a little older they can certainly help pick bigger parts of plants for eating and then be involved in preparing food.

As the Guerrilla Gardener Ron Finley says, “Kids who grow kale will eat kale. Kids who grow tomatoes, will eat tomatoes.” Children are less hesitant to try something new if they have helped grow it. Besides some background science knowledge, kids also learn how people and nature are a team when it comes to growing and caring for plants. Gardens are a great place to learn about working together in a family or group. Responsibility is a life-skill as is learning to make healthy eating choices, and gardening is one way for kids to practice those. Whether it’s a pot of spices on the patio or a patch in the yard, can your child help care for plants?

Gardening with Kids #5, Terrariums and Pots

There are great options for gardening with kids if you do not have a garden, in order to still reap the benefits of all the learning, fun, and kindergarten readiness. Just a quick search on Pinterest for container gardens will astonish you. Plastic water bottles, gutter troughs, tin cans, and even cloth purses and shoe holders, can all hold miniature gardens. While there are Lego and Duplo garden sets, and 2 characters called Poison Ivy and Harry Potter, it wouldn’t be surprising to see pictures of plant containers made with the blocks, at least temporarily. Crates, old suitcases, boats, and tubs can also be recycled as small gardens. There’s an antique truck in front of a nursery locally that blooms with flowers instead of an engine. Having a garden with kids does not need a yard or even a balcony!spiderwort-terrarium

The easiest way to garden though is with a terrarium. Again, plastic water and soda bottles, old aquariums, and jars will work. There’s tons or resources online for making a terrarium. Basically,  layer pebbles in the bottom, sprinkle some activated charcoal to filter the water, cover with dry moss to keep the dirt from sifting down, and add the soil. Some living moss on top makes it nice and green. Kids can help with all of these steps and either add seeds or some small plants and decorations.

Barb McMahon from Sprouting Chefs (who was a guest this week on Learn and Play with Mrs. A radio show) sent me this picture of a terrarium. It has been watered only once in over 40 years! Below is a video that shows the steps for creating a terrarium in an old cookie jar. Earthworm terrariums are another alternative. With all the options for container gardens and terrariums, kids can have a garden anywhere. What kind of garden is a possibility for your child?

Gardening With Kids #3: Creepy Crawlies

gardening with kidsGardening with kids is a natural way for kids to learn some basic science knowledge and develop kindergarten readiness and other skills, such as respect for all living creatures, even if they are creepy crawlies. Many school and daycare gardens have a “No-Squish” policy. In the words of Bradley Millar: Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.

gardening with kids using earthwormsWhile bugs and worms are often not liked by grownups, children find them quite fascinating. In a garden, many of these creatures are beneficial. It’s helpful to explain to children that gardens need insects to help the flowers grow. Earthworms chew up bits of plant matter and then add that to the soil. The words earthworm castings are not near as fun to say as earthworm poo. Kids can go hunting for worms and any earthworms found in the yard, can be brought back to the garden. Of course, some bugs, such as slugs, do not help at all and can be taken away from the garden.

gardening with kidsJust watching creepy crawlies is interesting. Kids are closer to the ground so this is easier for them. Are they all the same color? What kind of shapes are they? Do they all have the same size? How do they move? There’s lots to talk (or draw) about, new names of things of learn, and there will be lots of questions. Children also strengthen their concentration skills as they learn to turn on their attention and turn off distractions.

Creating a home for a bug or worm encourages caring skills as well as science ones. One advantage about bugs as pets, the costs are quite low and they certainly are quiet. Tending to the plants, and the creatures in the garden, encourage the development of a connection to nature. Would you agree, that’s big learning from something so small?

Gardening with Young Children #2

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 … Continue reading Gardening with Young Children #2