Friday, April 19, 2013

Planting Seeds of Science: Gardening with Kids

Gardening with Kids: Planting Seeds of Science
"This roly poly is tiggling me."
Gardening provides magical opportunities for children to learn through hands-on science as they explore the outdoors and watch a seed grow into food. They can learn about the life cycles of seeds and critters, how to respect our environment, the seasons, weather and much more.

When children learn to produce healthy food, it builds strong bodies, self-esteem, a respect for land, patience, and a healthy appetite. When you invite children to garden, you are in store for a learning adventure full of surprises.

My grandson Brody lives next door and he can keep me busy with his curious mind, never-ending questions, and desire to learn more. He loves to play in the dirt so he is fascinated that we are planting seeds and seedlings to grow vegetables and flowers. Here are some ways we are expanding gardening into science lessons.
"Where did that roly poly go?"
What Does It Take to Be Alive?
As a former kindergarten teacher, I taught what organisms need to be alive. One day in class I again asked, "What do plants and animals need to keep them alive?" 

We'd been over and over this. I was surprised when little Toby raised his hand. He was a premie, summer birthday boy who had been diagnosed as ADHD and usually just yelled out whatever was on his mind.

"Thank you for raising your hand, Toby. What does it take to be alive?"

"Being a cowboy!" Toby smiled as he patted his cowboy boots.

This was Texas, after all. No one rebuked his answer.

{The desired kindergarten curriculum answer is: Air, water, soil and sunlight.}
"I'm getting strong arms pounding this dirt."
Brody is very excited to plant seeds for large colorful sunflowers. He is taking the lumps out of the dirt so roots can grow easier. Every day he comes over to see if his seeds have grown and ask me what else we can plant. 
"Hurrah! The sunflower seeds are growing!"
Will Birds Eat Sunflower Seeds?
Yes, birds are attracted to sunflower seeds. We are also planting flowers to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. This is a good opportunity to expand on the life cycle of butterflies.
"Will it help if I jump on the shovel?"
Push and Pull Effects:
Gravity pulls things down toward center of the earth (jumping) and sunlight pulls plants upward. When a seed germinates, it first produces a root that supplies it with water and nutrients from the soil. The shoot that emerges above the ground absorbs the sunlight necessary for food product. How a plant knows which direction it should go is determined by it's response to certain stimuli, with gravity playing a key role in the process.
"Are worms good for the garden?"
Yes, worms are nature's way of composting naturally. They also tunnel through the dirt making air holes which helps the plants develop.
"Eeewwww. Feels funny."
Blossoms and critters are popping out everywhere.
"This is the first ladybug I've seen this year!"

Are spiders insects?
No, spiders are spiders. Spiders have 8 legs; insects have 6 legs. Insects have three distinct body parts: a head, thorax and abdomen. Spiders have two: a combined head and thorax known as the cephalothorax and an abdomen.
"Can ladybugs swim?"
"Err - I don't know. Let's find out if they like to swim or would rather be on the ground or flying." It's okay to admit you don't know the answer to every question a child can ask. Look together for answers in books or on the internet. (My right sidebar has links to many free educational sites.)
"Do cats lay eggs?"
No, cats do not lay eggs. They are birds, not mammals. Fluffy found a guinea egg in our flower garden and was playing with it before taking a nap.
It only takes a small space to produce healthy vegetables - or you can grow food in pots where they will get lots of sunlight. Bean sprouts are easy to grow inside and very nutritious. Perhaps you can join a community garden or your Parent/Teacher Organization volunteers will build raised beds. School gardens provide wonderful learning experiences for children. Our school garden had rabbits, long pumpkin vines good for measuring, and large fascinating worms in compost containers. Gardening is also very good for children with special needs as it is hands-on and builds self-esteem.

Brody didn't want to take home any spinach or turnip greens (he mostly likes white foods and ice cream) but he did take some lettuce and roly polys for his iguana and frog. I think he'll learn to like vegetables more now that we are growing them. 
The Happy Mommy Handbook is filled with ideas for creative playful learning and the child development theories behind them as told from a mom and teacher's perspective. Glimpse into kindergarten with my book: Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents. Both are bestsellers and the ebooks are only $3.99. Also available on Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

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What do you like to plant with a child?


  1. This is brilliant! We started our garden last week. The kids loved it. We're also fortunate that our school has a partnership with a conservation group who teach them gardening and conservation skills as well.

    1. That is wonderful to partner with other groups. Master gardeners have a wealth of information. Children LOVE gardening. Thank you so much for visiting, J.

  2. What great ideas! I'll have to get my kids digging in the garden more this year!

  3. I love how this post really explores the unending curiosity of kids and following the interest of the child. What fun memories for you and your grandson. And I learned a lot about gardening too! :)

    1. Thank you Jackie. I've learned a lot from your blog too.

  4. I love this post, Susan! Thanks for sharing - I'm pinning it now!

    1. I appreciate it. Have fun digging in the dirt.

  5. So many great learning opportunties :0) Thank you for Linking up to gardening adventures

    1. So glad you liked it. I have never outgrown the love of having fun in dirt.

  6. Wonderful post - he really is enjoying his gardening experience! Thanks so much for linking up to Discover & Explore Gardening with Kids. Pinning to others can visit!

    1. Thank you Jacquie. Your blog is truly a treasure.

  7. We just planted a vine that will attract humming birds. Your garden looks great! Thank you for sharing your post on the Dig Into Gardening Link up!

    1. I'm looking forward to the hummingbirds returning. Have fun this Spring - I know you will.

  8. This is an awesome blog! I'm actually studying my diploma in Early Years Learning as we speak and this was an awesome read. it made me take a step back and see a bigger picture, I find just starting out I'm more narrow minded than I'd like to be this has opened my mind. Thanks a million Susan

  9. My daughter loves helping in the garden. Digging around and finding warms is her favorite thing. This year we made our seed starters from egg shells and Ruby was so excited about the whole process of planting. These days she walks around the garden, picks some vegetable and eats it right outside, and she looks so proud of herself.


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