Children learn through play, and for them “play” is “work.” So this is a great opportunity to let them “play” while learning about seeds, digging holes, packing mulch, and watering. All you need are some play clothes, a few plants, a pot or bit of land, soil, and a trowel or two. Not to fret if you don’t have land — this activity can be easily adapted to an indoor space (such a kitchen) or patio with a few pots and a small bit of dirt.
You can start with the following simple instructions, and then go from there…make garden art, build a musical fence, play with the hose, build a birdhouse, look for snails, or collect leaves. The options are endless. More inspiration on gardening with kids can be found here: http://www.thekidsgarden.co.uk/
- Gardens can be a place to gain problem-solving skills. For example, children can explore how deep they need to dig holes, how much water it takes to fill a watering can, and they can make decisions about where they want to plant seeds or plants.
- Ask the child problem-solving questions such as, “What shall we plant in this large hole? The strawberries, the sage, or the tomatoes?”
- Ask the child invention-building questions such as, “What do you suppose we could do with this trowel?”
- If you’re planting a pot or two, once you’ve gathered your materials, this activity could be done in 1/2 hour. Children who enjoy the sandbox, may linger over the joys of digging dirt and could use more time. For a larger garden space, give yourself at least an hour…possibly more. Attention spans can be short, but once outside, time can go by quickly with all of the distractions of bugs, dirt, digging, water, and mud.
- Planting pots or a clear spot of earth
- Plants: veggies, herbs and small flowers are great for small hands
- Trowels: one adult size and one child size. Spoons can work too.
- Gardener’s knee pad (not necessary, but really helpful) — get two if you can!
- Spray bottle: not really necessary for gardening, but little gardeners adore playing with these
- Watering can or hose. Small watering cans are easy to find in drugstores as part of sandbox kits this time of year.
- Play clothes
- Talk with your child about what you’re planning to do: You can choose the plants together or have them ready on “planting day.”
- Show your child the tools you’ll be using, and explain how you’ll use them (i.e. dig holes, put plants in the ground, water the plants).
- As you’re placing seeds or plants in the dirt, explain the process to your child so that they hear what they’re doing while actually doing it. This helps solidify their learning. Also, be sure to ask them what they’re doing, to get their take on it.
- Be prepared for a MESS! It’s inevitable, but also part of the fun.
- After the plants and/or seeds are in place, don’t forget to water them.
- Once you’re done, recap the gardening process with your child by reminding them of what you just accomplished and asking them what they did, and encourage your child to play in the garden.
If you don’t have a garden, can’t stand the sight of dirt, or you’re facing a rainy day, plant some seeds indoors. We eat a lot of avocados around here, and a fun, simple activity is “planting” avocado pits. Check out these simple instructions. All you need is an avocado pit, 3 toothpicks, a glass, water, and A LOT of patience. So simple! Be sure to plant a few just in case they don’t all “pop.” Ours were planted three weeks ago, and we’re still waiting for them to sprout!
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