The garden is a great place to connect children to the natural world. Get your kids unplugged, outside and tuned into nature with these gardening projects.
If you can get a kid out in the garden, they have a lot of fun. There is so much to play with while they explore, learn and grow. Their senses are stimulated with the colors, textures, smells and sounds of the outdoor world. It’s also good for their health to be out in the fresh air.
When my older daughter was 3, we had a garden that covered most of an acre of land. My green beans were coming up beautifully when she decided to pull them out of the ground. She failed, thankfully, but she did manage to tear off the tops of them all. They beans did fine (they are so hardy!), but her actions made me set up a section of the garden just for her.
I gave her some seeds and some starts, and we planted them together. On a piece of scrap wood, I painted a sign that said Ellie’s Garden. I tacked it onto another scrap that became the post, which I pounded into the ground. I told her she could do whatever she wanted to in her section, but she wasn’t allowed to work in the rest of the garden.
We flood irrigated from a ditch, and she’d play in the mud and ‘water’ her plants. That meant filling up a toy bucket and pouring water on her garden. She didn’t pull out her plants, and she did harvest some beans. It was very successful to have Yours and Ours gardens!
Gardening with children doesn’t have to be elaborate. When I was in second grade, we were given clear plastic cups with a damp paper towel in it. A few beans seeds were placed around it between the paper towel and the cup, so we could see them. We kept the paper towel and seeds damp, and in about a week, roots began to grow from the seeds. Then a stalk appeared. This was magic to me, and I’m sure it helped spark my interest in plants.
Something as simple as this is still magical, and it’s educational. Teach your kids about plants, and add a lesson about recycling. Use jelly jars, water bottles, or old glasses from a yard sale or thrift store. Show them how to reuse what we have instead of throwing things away.
If you don’t care about watching the underground happenings, sew seed in recycled pots. You can make them from toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Place several close together on a tray, fill with good soil, and plant! The entire pot can be put into the garden.
Save your eggshells to use as pots. Besides being a container for soil, eggshells have nutrients that help plants grow. A dozen of them have their own tray to sit in, and the whole shell gets planted out.
Every kid loves a fort. Why not make one out of sunflowers? Use seeds that produce the tallest plants, and outline a circle, rectangle or square. Remember to leave space for a door! If you have the space, add some kid furniture and toys so they have a fun outdoor hang-out.
Alternatively, you can make a wooden structure like a tipi, and grow pole beans around the outside of it. They will climb the walls creating shade, flowers and food.
How about a pizza garden? Plant tomatoes, peppers, onions and basil in a section of your garden or in a large container, like a livestock trough. You can buy starts or grow from seed for a full head-on experience of growing your own food!
If you have houseplants, you probably know that some are very easy to root. It’s easy, inexpensive, and you and the neighborhood kids can watch new plants come from old. If you have a lot of cuttings, pot up extras as gifts. Make this a big project, and donate the plants to a nursing home. Greenery is healing.
Another project that involves recycling is making seed cards and paper. Copy paper and newspaper destined for the trash or recycling bin can be churned up into new paper. These make wonderful gifts any time of year – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays (especially those in spring!)
Explore new territory
If you are a gardener, you know the joys of it. Explore new territory with your kids – exotic houseplants, unique fruits and vegetables, and sprouting food from scraps. Think about building a fairy garden, too.
As you harvest the beans and sunflower seed in the fall, don’t forget about ironing leaves between sheets of wax paper! That is the most basic of projects. All gardening is magic! Enjoy it and spread it around!