12 Projects to Get Your Kids Excited About Gardening
Introducing your children to the wonders of gardening never fails to be a great decision. Regardless of their age, inviting children outdoors to dig in the dirt and stop to smell the flowers has been shown to promise plenty of perks, both for their health and learning development.
Gardening is a great way to teach your tots about where their food comes from or discuss why it's important to take care of the planet. It's also a great opportunity to sneak in a little earth science, like why bees love and need flowers or why most all plants need water, just like humans do. The best part? Kids won't be the only ones reaping the benefits of being in the yard. In fact, taking time to tend to your flowers is not only a proven stress-reliever and all around mood-booster, but it can also be great exercise and help lower your blood pressure. Research also shows that gardening even helps to encourage healthy eating and can be a great way to build a community.
Whether you already have a vegetable patch in the backyard or are looking for ways to help your humble windowsill herb garden flourish, there are plenty of simple ways to get children excited about gardening. From letting them grow seedlings and paint their own planters to teaching them about the power of compost and the magic of Mother Nature let these projects inspire you and your little ones to get outside and grow something together.
Start Seedlings in Eggshell Flowerpots
For young gardeners, use eggshells as pots to start seeds, and coffee-stirrer tags to foretell what will pop up where. Plant seeds according to package instructions, and nestle planters in an egg carton on a sunny windowsill, where they can be watered easily. The first leaves to sprout will be the cotyledons or seed leaves, which supply nutrients to the young plant until the first true leaves (resembling those of the parent plant) appear. When plants have grown to about three inches and have at least two sets of true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted to the garden. (But remove them from the eggshells first.)
Tend to a Terrarium
Keep their green thumbs going indoors with pint-sized terrariums, great for decorating however they desire. Start with an empty jar and a handful of gravel for the bottom. Then, add a 1/4 inch of charcoal, and a mixture of potting soil, peat, and sand. Nestle in your plant (we like sweet flag), and mist well before putting on your lid.
Experiment with Natural Dyes
Avocado pits make pink. Blueberries create violet. Dried marigolds yield yellow. These are just a few of the gorgeous colors that you can make with your children from a dye garden. Use these natural dyes to transform fabric scraps and the family tablecloth, or a set of matching T-shirts.
Invite little crafters to create a nature-inspired note with the art of pressed flowers. Have them collect mini blooms, ferns, and herbs around the garden and perhaps create mini flashcards to learn more about each variety.
Draw with Natural Ink
One way to get kids spending more time in nature? Show them how magical—and colorful—it can be. These natural inks, made from leaves, berries, and bark, will spark an entirely new curiosity within them.
Capture the Light in Sunprints
The sun doesn't only help your garden to grow—it can also power these pretty masterpieces. Encourage the kids to collect their favorite specimens from around the yard (they should have interesting shapes and silhouettes; the more intricate the negative space, the better). Then, carefully arrange each object on a sheet of light-sensitive paper, cover with clear glass, and watch the sunlight do its work.
Paint with Nature
Let Mother Nature be their muse with this clever painting activity. Get the little ones to collect leaves, stems, and flowers in a variety of shapes and textures (this is a good opportunity to teach them different varieties), then pinch them into clothespins. Pour out some washable tempera paint, and let them go wild on the canvas.
Feed the Birds
The neighborhood feathered friends will love visiting your yard for this homemade treat. Mix peanut butter and vegetable shortening; melt in a microwave for 1 1/2 minutes on high. Mix in quick-cooking oats, cornmeal, and flour. Pack mixture into two paper cups, then cool. Remove from molds, and place in a mesh bag, plastic clip side down. Secure the open end of the bag, and hang your family's feeder from branches at a good height above ground.
Build a Compost Bin
What kid doesn't love digging in the dirt? It is never too early to raise your children as eco-minded individuals, and this activity teaches them the importance of composting. While your kid's favorite snack may be fruit salad, tell them how much your plants would love their snack's seeds, pits, and peels in a heaping spoonful of compost. Talk about why compost helps keep soil healthy, and start your own compost bin (red wiggler worms can be added to an indoor compost bin).
Have a Home for Ladybugs
While little ones love to spy these polka-dotted beetles, adults know that these cuties' real appeal is the service they perform for your garden: eating insects that are harmful to plants. Start by filling a round pipe (about six inches wide by one foot long) with bamboo, cane, or scrap wood. When you're finished, stick the habitat in your garden on a stone or ledge. The ladybugs will make nests inside the habitat's hollow spaces—and watch over your garden, too.
Craft a Fairy House
A trip to the pumpkin patch is one of the best traditions of fall. The lesson to be learned? Teach them all of the different varieties as you go about picking a pumpkin that will last through October. When your children are fully engaged in pretend play in the garden, a fairy house encourages them to use their imaginations. Have them forage for a variety of natural materials including rocks, sticks, bark, leaves, pine cones, nuts, and flowers to build the details. Many of these fairy houses are built at the base of a tree or in shady wooded areas, but any spot that is safe and comfortable to play will work.
Plant a Family Tree
Trees benefit our landscapes in so many ways: They provide food and shelter to a wide array of birds, good-for-the-garden pests, and other wildlife. Their roots help capture rainwater and prevent storm runoff from polluting the watershed. Take a family trip to your local tree nursery or garden center to pick one for yourself, host a special naming ceremony as you place a plant tag in the ground near the tree, and gather around for a family photograph. Planting a tree is a gift not only to yourself and your family, but to those in decades to come.