Spring is here (!!!), and for us that means it’s time play outside and start a garden.
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!
We love to garden too. Elan requests to water the plants immediately upon returning Home from school. A few cool finds: Home Depot sells these Elmo/Sesame Street gardening satchels with plastic tool set and mini pots w seeds and soil pellets. We love using my regular tools in the cool satchels (blue and pink sesame print). Target also sells the cutest kitchen kids aprons for $5 that are perfect for gardening… In the art supply aisle.
Thanks for sharing the resources, Chana. And that’s fantastic that Elan is in the practice of taking care of his plants when he gets home from school. He obviously loves it.
As a creative thinker and parent yourself, can you recommend a book for a six-month old’s christening? What’s is appropriate for so young a boy that might also spark creativity in his early development? Chris
Good question. Here are a few of my favorites:
* “Ready, Set, Go!” and “Peek a Who” by Nina Laden are fabulous little board books that was part of our indispensable first library. They’re interactive, and the words rhyme in a short, catchy way.
* “Good Night Gorilla” by Peggy Rathman is a charming board book with very few words, so the adult reader can fill the child in at whatever level they may be at. We started reading this one early on, and just read it again this morning. So far, this book has had a 1 1/2 year lifespan in our family!
* “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?” by Karen Katz. A six-month old may be too young to understand the words, but the book also boasts interactive peek-a-boo flaps that are engaging. Any of the books in this series (Lift-a-Flap books) are fun for babies and young toddlers.
* “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis. This is one to grow into, but it’s open-ended nature coupled with a simple story about imagination is all about creativity. We started reading this when my daughter was about a year old, and she began interacting with it and reciting the dialogue of the story around 18 months.
* “Duck! Rabbit!” by Amy Rosenthal plays with the idea of optical illusion, where an image appears to be both a duck and a rabbit, and encourages kids to see things from different perspectives. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, and may appeal visually to a baby before the book actually makes much sense…which will be later since it’s written with the 3-5 y.o. crowd in mind.
I found “Not a Box” and love its simple vision illustrated on butcher’s paper pages. That’s the one! Thank you for the many suggestions.
Gardening with Simone has become our form of survival. If the day is getting rough we head out to the garden, nibble on some strawberries, dig for worms, pull a few weeds and with in twenty minutes we are both centered again. The earth is so giving that way.
You’re so right, danielle! And thankfully the weather is now nice enough to allow us to run outside at any given moment. There’s something so comforting about sunshine, wind, and fresh air. And the opportunities for open-ended exploration are endless. As an aside, I think the squirrels are stealing our strawberries. Any advice on how to combat this?
cage the strawberries. the slugs get ours. 🙂
What a great blog! I love the gardening idea. Love the pics, too. We’re going to try it next weekend. Knowing Theo, the water and the mud will be the biggest draw 😉
Thanks, Amy! Look forward to hearing how the gardening goes, especially with the mud!
Fantastic! I am always buying stuff for my great neice and her mom is really good about doing arts and crafts, cooking, and gardening with her. She is also quite the dancer. I am going to share this site with a couple of friends that have grandchildren and i am sure they will enjoy the ideas that encourage their individual creativity. Thanks Cousin.
Thank YOU cousin! It’s great to see you here, and look forward to seeing you next month!
Great ideas here. Looking forward to seeing more.
Thanks so much, Judy! I’m obviously just getting started, and hope to add a couple posts each week. It’s definitely a fun project. How did you find me?
Thanks so much, Judy! I’m obviously just getting started, and hope to add a couple posts each week. It’s definitely a fun project.
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