Gardens are nature’s classroom, creating the perfect environment for children to learn and explore. Gardening teaches children so much more than how to plant seeds. Planning and tending a garden teaches children:
- Problem solving skills
- Leadership skills
- All about plants, insects and animals live in their garden
- How to cultivate and harvest plants
- Where food comes from and the work it takes to grow it
- Dedication and hard work
- Planning skills
To tap into this great learning experience, start planning for your spring garden now.
How to Get Started
Like every successful project, a great garden starts with a plan. Involve your child in age-appropriate portions of the planning. Start by drawing your garden’s layout. Will you make it in the shape of a wheel or pizza, traditional rows, or small patches? Will you plant an extra row to share with a homeless shelter? Will it be an in-ground, raised or container garden?
Once you’ve determined where and how you will be planting, it’s time to think about what you want to plant. We suggest a variety of vegetables and plants to stimulate the senses. Here are our favorites:
- Fast, sturdy growers – beans, sunflowers, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe
- Tasty pick-and-eat plants – cherry tomatoes, blueberry bushes, strawberries
- Tactile-stimulating plants – lambs ear, dusty miller, waxy begonias
You may also want to plant a rainbow of colors. There are plenty of flowers and vegetables available in each color!
Gardening You Can Do Now
Once you’ve decided which plants to include in your garden, start some of them indoors from seed now. They will be ready just in time for transferring into your garden after the final frost of the season. (Keep in mind, your entire garden doesn’t have to be from seed. You can buy slower-growing plants in the spring.) For planting indoors, containers can be as simple as Styrofoam or plastic cups, or as fancy as an indoor terrarium. There are great seed-starter kits of all sizes available at home and garden stores. Sitting these near a sunny window provides an optimal and inexpensive start for your plants.
Read seed packages carefully to determine how deep to plant each seed. Children may suggest doing it differently than the package says, and many times, you can use this as a learning opportunity. Do an experiment to see what happens! Children can label and decorate containers, mark a move-outside date on the calendar and help with watering to make sure the seeds stay moist.
Getting Excited About Gardening
Involve your children in all of the steps you can from buying the containers to planting the seeds. Keeping seeds moist is much less work than tending an actual garden, so keep their interest peaked with other garden-related activities until warmer weather arrives. Go to the library and check out books on gardening. Play gardening games on the computer. Build and paint a birdhouse to welcome birds to your garden this spring. And all the while, talk about the important job your kiddos will be doing in their very own garden.
Check back soon for part two of our gardening series where we’ll get out into the yard and start building that outdoor classroom! At Sparkles! we know the importance of hands-on learning and take every opportunity available to help children build their confidence and independence. Call us today to find out more!