Playing Outside The Box: Gardening With Young Children

Young children who develop a love for gardening grow into adults with a passion for plants and respect the environment. Gardens and garden activities not only improve children’s environmental attitudes and connect them with nature; they also provide an opportunity to learn about math, science, language arts, social studies, nutrition and art.  An important benefit of gardening with little ones is increased interest in eating fruits and vegetables. If they grow them they are more likely to take an interest in tasting their harvest.
Some of the popular plants that the children of Lisa’s Playhouse have grown over the years are:  Purple (Royal Burgundy) Bush Beans – they turn green after cooking; Mammoth Russian Sunflowers – grow to 10 feet tall; Chocolate Mint – this plant smells so delightful; Purple, Yellow and Cheyenne Spirit Coneflowers (Echinacea) – So colourful and lasts most of the summer; Lamb’s Ear – so soft to touch! Just like a real lamb’s ear; Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica), also known as the “tickle-me” plant. When touched gently the fern like leaves automatically fold closed, then eventually reopen.
Make sure you have an area to take care of our pollinators.  They need water, food and shelter to do their job right. The children can easily help out with this by placing a rock in a water bowl or putting a few sticks in a bird bath.  A bug hotel is a great activity to do with preschoolers too.  Just gather recycled items like bricks, boards, sticks, etc. and let the children use their imaginations.
Caring for something, nurturing its growth, and developing a positive relationship with nature are some of the most important skills and opportunities practiced in gardening.  For some children, this may be their first experience involving any aspect of nature, gardening or caring for a living thing. Encourage the children to participate and help in the process of gardening. Young children can help get supplies ready (line table with newspaper, pass out supplies, fill watering can, etc.) water the plants, count seeds, scoop dirt into the pots or dig the ground or soil. One of the biggest excitement in gardening is when the children find worms!
“From the garden, and the kitchen, and the table, you learn empathy for each other and for all of creation; you learn compassion; and you learn patience and self-discipline. A curriculum that teaches these lessons gives children an orientation to the future – and it can give them hope” ~ Alice Waters.