Teaching kids to grow things is like eating chocolate cake for dinner. It’s sweet and you want to do it every day of the week. Besides, there is something soul nourishing about growing plants. Maybe it’s just the magic of nature, but something touches my heart whenever I put a seed or a plant in the ground and watch it flourish. That something multiplies when I watch my child learn to nurture and grow plants.
When gardening with kids, it’s important to let your agenda go and let them get dirty. Remember: it doesn’t need to be perfect, it needs to be theirs. My ultimate goal is to teach my boys to love to learn and continually seek new experiences. Personally, I like to pack as much learning as I can into projects like this one. Nels is three and isn’t in any kind of structured school but he definitely benefits from conversation and picks up information super fast. I like to use big words when explaining things to him (like “photosynthesis” and “chlorophyll”) and though he might not be able to pronounce them yet, he understands the idea. Don’t be afraid to use big words, you’ll be amazed how quickly your kid’s vocabulary will increase, just by listening to you use your own vocabulary.
For our gardening project, we kept it very simple. Nels is three, and this is his first ever plant of his very own. When we were shopping for the plants, he inevitably first picked out azaleas, a beautiful but high maintenance house plant that hates hot weather. It gets up to 100 degrees here in the summer, so to avoid the impending disappointment when the plant will surely die, I talked him into daisies instead. Sweet and simple. Like chocolate cake.
Step 1: Gather your supplies. We got some potting soil out of the raised beds in the back yard, a jar and some pretty rocks, a flower pot and of course, the flowers. I don’t own any gardening gloves and we didn’t use a trowel, since I like to encourage Nels to get his hands dirty occasionally.
We are constantly learning to find ways to be generous, so the jar will be for us to keep as decoration for the front stoop, and the blue pot will be given to a friend.
Step 2: Dump the white rocks in the bottom of the glass jar. Nels experimented with dropping the rocks in one-by-one, but quickly got bored and we decided it would be best to just dump them in all at once. Plus it made a delightful sound.
Step 3: Fill part way with dirt. Most kids love to play in the dirt. If your little one is really enjoying themselves, make this step a good, long playtime. My kid prefers to keep his hands clean. I encouraged him to put his hands in the soil and asked him to describe what it felt like, then when he was done we washed his hands and I did the rest of the dirty work.
Step 4: Set the flowers in the jar and top up with dirt. Here we took a few minutes to learn about the different parts of the flower and what they are for. The roots for soaking up water and nutrients, the leaves for soaking up sunlight and converting it to chlorophyll through photosynthesis (there are those big words!), the stems to hold the buds which eventually turn into flowers that give pollen and nectar to feed the bees and butterflies. Nels was very intrigued during the entire conversation and he asked a lot of questions. It was a totally new idea to him, and I could practically see the information being soaked into his brain.
Step 5: Water and enjoy! We gave the flowers some water and placed our new arrangement prominently on the front stoop, for all our visitors to enjoy. Nels was a very proud boy after all that hard work!
Now go, plant something with your kid and nourish your soul! And then eat chocolate cake for dinner, because life is so, so short and we all need some sweetness every day.
Hannah is owner and author at happyvikings.net, where she blogs about simple living with a side of nerd. She is the wife of her very own happy viking and mother to two big boys.
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