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.