If connecting to nature is what you seek for your children, very few activities can compare to gardening. When a child gardens, they learn something they can't read in a book or be told about by any adult. They learn, through their own hands, that everything is connected, including us.
Growing plants with kids teaches them how nature works. It teaches them responsibility in caring for something. And it teaches them they are capable of something as important as growing healthy food that we need to survive.
Growing the food that we eat shows a child that the garden depends on us. And we depend on it. What a simple and elegant lesson.
Lessons in stewardship aside, growing plants grow is just fun for children. How exciting to see the first seedling pop out from a seed planted and cared for by a child! And don’t forget that gardening will help your child spend more time outside, relax and take in more benefits of nature.
Of course, having acres of land to grow a bounty from nature is incredible but also not realistic for most kids today as our society becomes more city-dwelling. On the bright side, even limited space gardeners can join in on the fun. From egg cartons to milk containers, a garden can grow nearly anywhere as long as you give it sunlight, water, nutrients and the right temperature.
A super fun project that any child can do is create a tiny, miniature garden for seedlings indoors. This is a project in which it is actually better to start small and make sure your child is paying attention to the growth and health of their seedlings. All you need to grow seedlings are potting mix, containers and seeds.
A seed is such an amazing thing. It has everything the plant needs to grow, from the protective seed coat to the embryo inside. Learning about seeds is an important part of learning how to garden. All your child needs to add is soil, water, air, warmth and space. Choose easy seeds for kids that are large enough to handle and germinate readily. Grow some herbs or salad greens. Grow plants to attract pollinators. Or focus on easy to grow plants. Your seeds should germinate quickly to keep those short attention spans occupied, produce a crop quickly and require minimum maintenance other than watering and feeding. Luckily, there are many plants that fit these criteria.
Radishes are super fast growers. They are harvestable in less than a month! Kids love to see the little red globes popping out of the soil. Lettuces are quick and reliable crops to give the child fast results. Try growing a mesclun mix; they can be harvested in less than a month. This is a great way to get your kids to eat salads. More easy crops to grow from seed include beans, peas, kale and sweet potatoes. Learn more about choosing seeds here.
Making your own seedling pots is a great way to reuse products. Think milk cartons, water bottles, egg cartons, even the cardboard from m toilet paper rolls if you carefully fold over the paper on one end to create an enclosure. Set your kids off on a challenge for the most creative design! Or use a D size battery for a mold and wrap it in aluminum. Then remove the battery. Presto! A pot.
Once you've gathered all of your materials, the next steps are easy—just plant the seeds and watch them come to life!
- Fill the pots ⅔ of the way with potting mix.
- Gently place a few seeds on top and then sprinkle with soil. Keep the soil loose and crumbly.
- Place pots in a tray (could be reused from a store-bought danish) and lightly water.
Once the seedlings have grown, your child can transplant them to a larger pot in a windowsill, on a balcony or outside. Just fill the container with more potting mix. If you used egg carton or toilet paper roll, they will decompose on their own!