Spring certainly seems to be moving into a more summery feel right now, and so what better time to get the kids out into the garden? Outdoor play is essential for young bodies and minds and the fresh air works wonders for us adults too. This week we’re talking gardening, and the many ways that kids can get involved. Are you ready to get gardening with the kids?
Why gardening is good for the soul
Being outside has so many benefits- an increase in vitamin D, fresh air and an open space to move freely often makes us feel happy and lifts our mood considerably. For children, the great outdoors can be a source of wonder. All of the sounds, smells, sights and textures to explore can open up questions about the world around us and feed into a child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. Simply spending fifteen minutes a day outside can boost the immune system and enhance brain development too. Since gardening is mostly done outside, it stands to reason that gardening is good for the body and the soul!
What children can learn from gardening
Gardens can be magical places. Children want to learn and being in a garden can be an excellent place to take advantage of that. Flowers and plants teach little ones so much about the world around us, and if a child has been involved in the growing process this learning is enhanced further. By planting a single bean, a child can learn:
- What a plant needs to grow
- A sense of responsibility in caring for the seedling
- How the weather can affect the world around us
- Where our food comes from
- Why its important to eat a balanced diet
- How to read measurements- by recording the bean’s growth week on week
- What a broad bean tastes like and how to cook it
- How plants grow
… and that’s just for starters!
Creative gardening ideas
If you’re gardening with kids, its important to keep it simple and if you’re planting seeds, choose ones that will germinate quickly so that the kids can stay enthused with the project. Fast growing seeds include broad beans, sunflowers and cress. Don’t be tempted to plan extravagant projects that will take a lot of time and effort, as chances are children will lose interest when results aren’t appearing quickly enough. Alongside fast growers, plant some seeds that do take a little longer too, so that you can explain how each plant is different. Some creative gardening ideas for kids include:
- Cress heads. These are great fun and so simple to do! Your child can decorate a paper cup with a face before lining it with cotton wool. Sprinkle the cress seeds on top and water regularly. After around 7 days, the cress will be fully grown into a nice head of hair! Encourage your child to taste the cress too- often home grown vegetables are a lot more appealing to young palates!
- A sunflower fort. What child doesn’t love a fort? This is such a lovely project, and one that doesn’t take too much preparation. Plant your sunflower seeds now, or pop along to the garden centre for some seedlings. Each week, you can measure the sunflowers to see who has the tallest. In the meantime, mark out a circle in the garden and use canes to make a wigwam shape. When the sunflowers are strong enough, plant them next to the canes and train them to grow up and along them. When fully grown, the kids will be able to sit inside the fort and play dungeons and dragons!
- Make a wormery. This may appeal to the kids more than the adults! The Nurture Store has a wonderful tutorial on how to do this at home with kids, so do take a read. The best thing about this project is that it teaches kids lots about the way all animals have a place in nature. and how we can help to protect our environment too.
- Plant seeds in the shape of letters. This is a wonderfully simple project that is just perfect for preschooler learning letters and sounds. When the flowers. plants bloom, the letters appear- much to the kids’ delight!
- Create a kitchen garden. Not everyone has a garden they can use but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with growing plants. Kitchen scraps make a fantastic gardening project and you can be as creative as you like with this. The next time you have carrots for dinner, save the tops. Pop some stones on a plate and add water. Then pop the carrot tops on top on the stones and water regularly. To make it more fun, you can add smallworld toys too and turn the mini gardens into fantasy lands. After a week or so, you will notice new shoots sprouting from the carrot tops!
Make it fun
The most important part thing to remember about gardening with the kids is to make it fun. Kids will learn so much from any of the gardening projects above, and if they are having fun too they are more likely to develop green fingers for life! Once back inside, you can extend the learning by introducing new concepts into the play too. The Janod garden beads are great for talking about the plants and how they grow, and the more adventurous of you could take the Pl-ug den kits outside too to provide a cosy canopy for picnics. Don’t forget also that role play is an excellent way to build on what the kids learn outside in the garden- the Haba play food is an excellent resource to use when playing shops or cafes and if you are growing fruit and vegetables with the children you can talk about what the end result is going to be and the ways that we can use it too.