Happy Official First Day of Spring! I am so excited that the spring is here…at least that is what the calender is saying! The weather is telling me something different, but there is always hope! And hope is what we did here today!We started the seeds for our garden in the house today and the girls are all excited to watch them grow! Bunny already has a good idea of how it all happens, but Pup and I have been learning about living things and she is really excited to see it! This has had me thinking alot about how to make gardening fun with kids. There have been alot of years when I pick out everything and do most of the work expecting the kids to somehow just absorb it. But it doesnt work that way. They need to get in the dirt, feel the seeds, watch them grow, dig them back up, and taste the food they grew right outside in the yard! In fact I think that Bunny learned more last year about seeds while she planted helicopter seeds in the garden, then she did any other way! So that leads me to a few tips on making gardening a learning experience in a Montessori way.
1) Start with the Basics: Before you get out in the dirt, it is important to talk about living things! Show then the difference between living and non living. Talk about the things that all living things need (food, air, water, and reproduce). And even talk about the needs and parts of plants. This will allow the work in the garden to make an impression and to allow them to draw the knowledge out of the experience. There are alot of simple books you can find about these things, and you can also use cards from Montessori Print Shop to help show present these ideas! These are simple, and easy presentations that take only a few minutes, but really give the child the vocabulary and information to learn more!
2) Get Messy: Gardening involves dirt and it will be messy~ Let it! Let them really dig in the dirt and use the opportunity to talk about the dirt that the plants need to live and grow in. Let it be a sensory experience. You will allow them to form a sensory impression that will stick with them forever! Plus you will go down in history as the coolest mom ever! 😉
3) Give up Control: This is probably the most important tip~ let go! Give them seeds, give them soil to work with (weather in a pot or in a part of the garden), and them go. Let them plan it, water it, grow it, pull it up and look at it, whatever they want. This is where the learning it and it will happen. Dont plan on getting a bunch of great veggies or flowers from this area, but plan on your kids understanding more about plants then you can ever teach!
4) Have two gardens: You hear me, two gardens! One for the kids to experiment and play in, and one to really grow things. That means when your kiddo wants to see the roots of the plant he planted and he pulls it up, it doesnt ruin your tomato crop for the year! Lets face it, if you are going to put work, time, and money into the garden, you want to have a product! So make sure that they have their plants and you have yours. This will also allow the children to see the plants grow and produce, even if they forget about (or inadvertently kill) the plant they planted. Plus the children will see you model how to work in the garden and your plants can also provide control of error for your child’s plants as well!
5) Grow Creative: Try to get new veggies and new plants that you dont usually get along with your regulars! This year we found multi colored carrots and pepper that the girls were really excited to grow, even though they dont like either veggie normally! If you have limited space or are growing in containers, look for dwarf plants to grow. There are little carrots, peas, and berries for growing small, so look around and grab something new and different! It may just widen your eating!
6) Make the Space Usable: Have small gardening tool, small gloves, small pots, small watering cans…small everything! Make sure that it is all available all the time for the kids, so that when they have a chance or the desire to get out and work in the garden, they can! Gardening is only really fun when you can get out there and do it! Its not a chore, its an adventure!
7) Control Charts for Everyone: Another idea is to make control charts of what the plants look like as they grow, what weeds look like that should be pulled, and even a step by step on how to water the plants are things that should be printed and laminated and available in the garden area! Your goal is to make sure that the child have everything that they need to garden successfully! When there is many things growing, having reminders of what is growing, what it looks like, and how to care for it makes it easier!
8) Start them Sooner: Another fun thing that we did this year was to start our seeds early inside! I love that we are getting to jump into this learning and really have time to watch it closely and study before we are in the warm outside where the kids tend to get distracted! 🙂 We will watch it all happen and then we get to watch it outside too! This works really well for us who live in an area where that last frost seems to be really late in the year! Kids tend to get impatient, so waiting to eat those tomatoes until the end of summer may cause them to loose interest!
I am sure that there are a million more tips for gardening and I would love to hear what you do! I for one love to just keep it simply a chance for the kids to really dig, plant and learn! Any veggies we get are really a great bonus! I hope that this helps you get outside (when it warms up) and have fun in the dirt! I for one and planning on having a great time gardening in a laid back way with the girls this year! I hope you do too! If you want even more ideas, be sure to pop over to Pintrest and check out my Nature and Outside Ideas Board. Happy Gardening!