Sunday, 23 May 2010

Gardening with Children

I was inspired to blog about this after our lenghty gardening session yesterday with the children, planting out all the vegetable and flower seedlings we had grown from seed.  Another credit for this should also go to the lovely Cafebebe who blogged about getting her toddler started with gardening activities.

Getting children interested in gardening can be as simple as giving them some quick sprouting seeds and a small patch of soil to work with.  Children don’t need to produce a massive crop to find gardening rewarding.  If you don’t have a garden - small crops in containers work just as well.  Give your child ownership of their space and the responsibility of nurturing their own vegetables.  Make a sign with their name on it! (even if it is only 3 small pots)

To captivate and hold your little one’s attention, set their garden up to flourish from the start by choosing the best spot.  Look for a sunny and protected space with fertile soil or good quality potting mix.

Tasty plants are a great motivator. - strawberries and sugar snap peas are good examples. They are healthy snacks and easy to grow.  Then eat what you grow. Introduce kids to the value of healthy eating by picking and eating fresh food straight from the plant!

Plant easy to grow vegetables; cherry tomatoes, radishes, lettuces, pumpkins, cucumbers, potatoes and peas are easy to grow and reward with fast results.

Plant herbs – kids love to experiment with the taste, touch and smell of fresh herbs.

Grow edible flowers amongst the veggies – kids are curious about flowers and attracted to the bright colours. Flowers also attract beneficial insects and they look beautiful. Why not use the petals from any edible flowers (roses, nasturtiums, violets, lavender) to decorate cakes, biscuits, or to garnish your dinner plates. Simply have the children pick healthy, unblemished petals, dip them in room temperature water, shake the excess off gently, and sprinkle with caster sugar. These look fabulous and are fun for your children to make.

Make a scarecrow! Scarecrows are fun to make and incorporate play into gardening tasks. Teach kids about recycling by using old clothes and rags.

Plant a sunflower seed – from a little seed a huge 3 metre sunflower can grow, observe as it follows the sun.

Try growing mustard and cress on the windowsill on a sheet of kitchen towel – remember to keep it damp at all times and you’ll soon see the seeds sprouting, a few days at the most.

Older children can keep a Gardening Diary.  Provide the children with paper, crayons, pens, and pencils and allow them to create a record of their gardening experiences. The children record their garden activities throughout the year. They can write the size and colour of each plant, or can include pressed flowers, a rain chart, a drawing of their garden, the successes and plants that haven’t thrived.

My girls love using pressed and dried flowers.  Pressing flowers is as simple as having the children pick any flowers or foliage they like. Then lay the flowers in a single layer between two pieces of greaseproof paper in an old book (telephone books are great). Weigh the book down with some old bricks or another heavy object. In about a week to 10 days they are ready to use.

For drying flowers, pick some flowers, wrap an elastic band around the bunch, and hang upside down from the ceiling, we do this in our garage. Once the flowers are dry or pressed, you use them in flower arrangements, in collages or to make gifts…be creative.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Free or Low Cost Rainy Day Play Ideas


Pasta Jewellery: Thread macaroni/penne etc. on cotton or string for necklaces, bracelets, crowns. Paint first if you want.

Pasta pictures: Draw simple picture. Coat cardboard/stiff paper with a layer of glue and start sticking.

Pasta music: fill jars, paper cups, saucepans (any containers) with pasta and shake. If you use two paper cups taped together you can decorate the outside as well.

Pasta animals. Use glue to stick pasta to rocks, empty boxes, cotton reels, cardboard tubes, etc and turn them into animals or other creatures.

Pasta race: Fill spoons with raw pasta and have an 'pasta and spoon' race. Winner has the most left in their spoon after hopping down the course

Pasta pick up sticks: Use wide spaghetti instead of sticks
Shops with a twist

Help your children to dig out any play money you might have or make some coins and notes out of cardboard and paper. You could also make cash cards and a machine to slide them down. Then empty out your entire kitchen cupboard or pantry onto the dining table. Let the kids arrange it into a supermarket and play shops. Once the items have been purchased the children bring them to you and you can put them back in the cupboard/pantry.  By the end of the game you should have satisfied kids and a kitchen cupboard all spring cleaned.

Indooor picnic

With my three children we have rainy-day picnics. We decorate small cardboard boxes and we use them for individual picnic baskets. They decorate their own boxes with their names and stickers and paint, then pack a special indoor picnic in each box and we put on a CD and lay out the picnic blanket in the lounge. It’s especially good to invite all the teddy bears and dolls in the house and sit each one around the edge of the blanket because they can then stay on to listen to an impromptu concert or watch my daughters dancing to the music taking turns to entertain each other.

Paper children

Either have some large peices of paper handy to draw around your children or draw smaller versions of them.  Cut out the child shapes then dress them up using lots of glue, coloured paper, fabric, wool, straw, string etc.

Cardboard Boxes

Most supermarkets have cardboard boxes that they will let you have free of charge.  Take a few boxes and let their imagination run wild. My three girls have made cars, trains, royal carriages, boats, robots, palaces, and an enormous amount of other creations out of cardboard boxes, all for free.

Create your own Board Games

Board games are a great way to while away a few hours, but if your children are tired of the games you have at home, why not get them to make their own. Give them a large sheet of poster card, some felt pens, old magazines, scissors and glue, and let them go to it. They’ll need to create their own rules, cards, counters and dice, you’ll be amazed by what they come up with. The whole family can take turns playing each other's games.

Oh So Beautiful

Rummage through your makeup drawer to find some bits and pieces you’re happy to let go, and then set up a beauty salon for your children. You can be the stylist, or let them take turns putting on make-up, nail polish, and doing each other's hair. Before you know it they will have created a whole game complete with a receptionist and a diary for bookings.

Write a Letter

Grandparents love getting letters! Have your child write a letter to Gran and Grandad, or even a friend from school. If you have friends or family in another town or country, you could set up a pen pal system, so that writing letters becomes something your child does every rainy day.

Dress Up

My children have a tote full of dress up clothing. I did it inexpensively charity shops, Poundland, and sewing my own.  I pick up things such as jewellery, hats, sun glasses, badges, fancy dress costumes and other articles of interest.  Many times I save new things to add on a rainy day or another day they have nothing to do.  It generates new interest and hours of play.  We also have theme boxes. There is a fairy box, a princess box, an emergency services box (fire fighter, police officer, etc) and a costumes in progress box.  There's enough of a mix of costumes and accessories to inspire their imagination and creativity.

Driving Mat

A huge poster board or cardboard is great to let your little ones paint train tracks, roads and rivers on.  It can be any size you like.  My girls painted lakes, roads, airports trees and so on.  You can use crayons or felt pens instead or as well as paint.  They had a really great time making this one rainy day and still enjoy using it.  When they've finished playing with it I just roll it up and put it away.  Card board cartons can be saved and painted to make houses and shops to place on their driving mat.