You might already be feeling the approach of spring, depending on where you live, but sadly, here in Eastern Canada, there are still piles of snow taking up most of the land, and very little greenery. Maybe that’s why just thinking about spring and planning spring activities makes me smile.
If you love plants and flowers and do not mind getting your hands a little dirty, I strongly recommend gardening with your kids.
It is an ideal hobby to get into with your little ones, as it does not require classes and can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home – without breaking the bank. And most importantly, seeing your kids’ anticipation and that joyful moment of the harvest is a precious experience.
You do not need to have a spacious garden in your yard. Even if you live in an apartment in the middle of the city, any sunlit space where you can find a home for a small plant box and some pots will do, and it will bring so much joy to little kids to experience the joy of gardening.
What to plant?
Follow your family’s interests. There are many vegetables and flowers that grow well even in pots.
If you and your kids like to cook, then plant something edible like tomatoes, grape or cherry tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, squash, cabbage, celery, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, swiss chard, radishes or parsley.
If your family loves flowers, try African daisies, Angelonia, Begonias, Geraniums, or Gerbera daisies.
Things to prepare:
gardening soil (50% soil, 50% compost), planter box or pots, gardening gloves, watering can, garden trowel, seeds
Seeds and time to plant for cool to warm season vegetables
Soak seeds for around 13 hours to germinate ahead of planting.
Pour the gardening soil into the pot, leaving 1-2 inches of room from the top.
Spread seed sparsely over the soil, cover with a thin layer of soil, and press gently with your hands.
Water right away.
Care: Keep the soil moist at all times. It will germinate in about 4-5 days. Water the soil regularly to keep it moist.
Harvest: Cut individual leaves at the stem starting with outer leaves first, or harvest the whole head depending on your need.
Temperature: 5-25°C / 41-77°F
Planting method: Use a seedling tray and then transfer to a pot when the head is 2-3 inches tall (Make sure to water them well before transferring).
Planting: Dig 1-inch hole, insert the roots and cover with soil, pressing the soil firmly with your hand. You can plant the heads around 10 inches apart from one another. Make sure to keep the soil moist at all times.
Care: Once a week, poke around the soil to loosen it; this helps the roots to spread.
Harvest: You will be able to harvest after around 2 weeks by picking individual leaves. Once the heads reach maturity, you can use a knife to harvest the whole head of lettuce.
Temperature: 5-28°C / 41-82°F
Planting method: Planting tomatoes from seed is not easy. It takes about 10 days’ care, leaving the planted seeds outside for them to adjust to the outdoor environment.
Instead, I recommend using pre-sprouted tomato plants that are ready to transplant. Dig a hole in the soil deep enough for the roots to be fully embedded in the soil. After covering with soil, press firmly with your hands. Water right away and keep the soil moist at all times.
To prevent pests from harming the plant and fruits, mix 2 tbsp of liquid dish soap with 1 qt of water and spray directly onto the plant.
Garden activity and charting
Let your kids observe and monitor the cycle of the plant growth and harvest. Let them draw what they see from the germinating period to when the little buds start to sprout out of the soil, and then to the fully grown plants.
Let your child track their plant care process as to when and how much they water the plant, add extra fertilizer to the pot, etc.
Name each plant
Let your child pick a name for each plant, to help them grow attachment and bond with the living thing they are in charge of.
If you choose to plant vegetables, the harvest time will be the most exciting moment. Help your child to harvest with their own hands.
It will be an amazing joy to help your little one prepare a salad with the vegetables they have grown. Even picky eaters will be curious to taste their hard-earned harvest.
Benefits of gardening activities for little kids
Sensory rich activity
Touching and smelling the soil while watching the plants grow, and tasting the harvested fruits and vegetables they have grown, offers a sensory-rich range of activities to try with your kids.
Teach responsibility and caring
Gardening requires attention to the needs of the plants, which helps children learn patience, caring and appreciation of living things, while teaching them about the life cycle of plants.
Learn nature effortlessly
The best way to learn about how plants grow is to actually watch the process from germination to harvest. It is a valuable lesson that cannot be rivalled by learning from a book.
Bonding with parents
Caring for and growing something together is a good way to bond with your child. Sharing experiences and memories are a much more effective way to get closer to your child than thousands of words.
Escape the picky eater
Picky eaters are much more generous toward food they have cooked, and using their own self-grown ingredients will add an extra layer of excitement to tasting the food they have prepared.
Here are some free printables; a plant observation journal, care chart, plant anatomy diagram and colouring sheets that will facilitate your gardening project with your little ones
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