By Michelle Mady
Spring is a perfect time for outdoor activities. The flowers start to bud, and trees regain their leaves. Spring brings life and color, contrasting greatly with the cold, dark winter we experience. The plant life cycle is fascinating and the changes are easy to see, making it a great stepping stone for children who may be interested in planting their own gardens and learning about the science of plant life.
A true garden can be tricky to create for those of us without a green thumb. However, gardening with children doesn’t require a large plot or huge time commitment. For young children, it is great to start with a few different types of “beginning stages.” Having a few options of seeds, seedlings, and young plants will help keep your child’s interest and increase their gardening patience.
A true garden can be tricky to create for those of us without a green thumb. However, gardening with children doesn’t require a large plot or huge time commitment.
Plant a few seeds in small pots inside the house. Sunflowers tend to grow quickly (comparatively) and grow tall, which will make it all the more exciting to watch it grow. With my little ones, we will plant a few sunflowers, each in a different pot, and guess which one will be biggest. Our guess changes a few times as we watch them. We also plant some wildflowers, as they show flowers quicker than the sunflower.
Using seedlings from a garden center can speed up the process, too. Fern seedlings are great because they tend to be less delicate than some other plants. We plant these outside and watch them grow. Although ferns do not show the bright colors that flowers do, the leaves are so distinct that it brings a new type of plant life to the entire experience.
We also always start with a few vegetable plants, purchased at a home improvement store’s garden center or sometimes even from the grocery store. Like fern seedings, vegetable plants skip the sometimes very long, drawn-out step of planting the seed and waiting for something to sprout. For small children, the time it takes a vegetable seed to get to the point of growing vegetables can simply be too long. So these plants help to get you closer to harvesting vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are the most likely to produce vegetables and require a bit less care. Cucumber plants also grow on a vine, which can be great fun to watch “climb.”
Using three different stages of a plant to start with in itself shows your child how much happens in the life cycle of a plant. We keep notebooks near our garden (both inside and out) and writing utensils so the children can make observations. Sometimes I will write what they observe, sometimes they will draw a picture, and sometimes I take a picture to print and tape into our book.
Using three different stages of a plant to start with in itself shows your child how much happens in the life cycle of a plant.
Supporting a child’s interest in gardening and plant life will likely translate into a respect for the earth and the environment. Seeing how much work goes into creating a tomato might make that tomato taste a bit sweeter. Working to water the plants every day and taking care of them might make children want to take care of plant life more than just in their garden. So, while gardening with your child can be a fun bonding experience, it is also a great way to teach the importance of keeping our Earth healthy.
About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15. As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.