Gardening is a fun way for children to learn about where their food comes from. It also allows them to grow their own food and explore the science behind how plants grow! March is the perfect time to start your seedlings indoors, so they can be transferred into the ground or outside in May!
The first important thing when starting a garden is to ensure you have all of the tools you need to help your plants grow! You will need a shovel, rake, soil, egg cartons (and a tray to put under them) or starting tray with inserts, large outdoor pots (for transplanting if you are not planting directly into the ground), a cage for tomatoes if you will be growing them, craft stick for labeling plants and a marker. As you gather the tools together, help your child begin to recognize them by telling them what each tool is and what it does. Now is also a great time to explain to them why you are starting the plants inside (It's too cold outside for the plants to live, but we want them to start growing, so we can harvest them sooner). If you're going to grow root plants, peas or beans, you will want to wait until the Spring to plant them outside as they don't transplant well. Once you have all of your tools, it's time to start planting! (This can be explained to kids by saying something like "Some plants don't like to be moved once they've started growing)
With all of your tools now together, it's time to start planting. First make the labels for each plant you will be growing. If your child is able to write, they can make the labels. You can write the labels for them, (if they cannot write yet or cannot write small enough) then show them what you wrote and read it to them or have them read it to you. Then have your child place the tray on the table, and put the egg carton on top or the starting tray and inserts. Next have your child help you fill an egg carton or starting tray with soil filling each space about 3/4 of the way. Now it is time for you and your child to plant the seeds. To plant the seeds, first have your child make a hole using their finger in each space. Then help them get the seeds out of the packet and put 1-2 seeds in each hole. (Have your child count how many seeds they are putting in each hole and how many holes they are filling and write down these totals for each tray/egg carton) Finally, have your child cover the holes with soil. (Once the holes are filled, have you child add up how many holes they made and how many seeds they planted in total) Once the seeds are planted, it's time to water them. Now is a great time to talk about what is needed for a plant to grow; the soil, water and sunlight! It's time to make sure the plants are in a space where they will get sunlight and let them start growing. While you are waiting for your seedlings to grow, it's a good time to talk with your child about the science of gardening and how plants grow! You can even do some research with older children and have them search for information about where plants grow, how they grow and why it's important to grow plants.
Transferring plants outdoors!
After Mother's Day is a great time to transfer the seedlings to their permanent outdoor home! Your child can help you fill a pot or dig a hole in the ground. Then you will have to remove the seedlings from the their starting home and help your child place them into their outdoor home. Once the seedling are in their outdoor home, you and your child will need to make sure there is enough soil around them to keep them in place. Then you will have to put the labels near them so you know what each plant is. If you are growing tomatoes you will need to put a cage around them. For peas and beans you will need to place a stick where you have planted them. Now it's also the time to plant root plants with your child! Once all of your plants are planted it's time to let them grow and bloom!
The academic skills in gardening!
Now that you have some ideas for gardening with your children, let's talk about the skills your child is learning while gardening! They are working with you and talking which is helping their social-emotional skills, as they are participating in teamwork and bonding with you! They are also learning about how gardens can affect them and their body's needs. This includes having them recognize how some gardens are specifically grown for food for them to eat, which is helping them to become more self aware. There's plenty of science in gardening! In addition to science there, language and math skills in gardening. You could even add creative expression by allowing your child to design their own flower pot for the plants to be transferred to outside or kept inside near a window if you choose a small pot!