Family Activities

How to Turn Your Family Garden into a Learning Adventure

Gardening with kids combines food, family, fun, and learning all in one.

By Lee Scott on April 19th, 2017

Little girl planting seeds in pots
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It looks like spring has finally arrived. In some areas of the country, we thought it would never get here. Is your green thumb starting to itch? Whether you create a small window box or plant a patch in your backyard, spring gardening can be a wonderful learning experience for the whole family.

Gardening greatly benefits young children in the areas of science, collaboration, planning, organizational skills, and mathematics. According to a 2005 study, children who are involved in hands-on gardening demonstrate higher assessment scores in science. Other studies reported positive effects on nutrition, attitudes towards the environment, self-confidence, and social skills. The best benefit is the time spent with family and the enjoyment of eating the results!

Here are five easy tips to help your family find their green thumbs:

1. Plan Your Garden
Before buying seeds, make a list of each family member’s favorite fruits and vegetables. Choose plants that are colorful (e.g., carrots, lettuce, peppers). A variety of plants equals a variety of flavors and nutritional benefits. Explore online or at your local garden store what plants work best in your climate. You can choose seeds or small potted plants ready to plant in the ground.

2. Who Does What?
Explore with your child what needs to be done to make the garden a success. Where will you plant your garden? How should you prepare the soil? How many times should it be watered, do you need to protect the plants and seeds from insects, and what plant food should you use? Once you’ve answered these questions and have your list of chores, create a calendar with assignments for each family member.

3. Harvest Time
The plants you select may have different times for maturity. Lettuce is great because you can pick from the plants throughout the growing season. Record the plant growth by taking photos each week. Plan a weekly family feast using the veggies that are ready to eat. Make sure you wash the food before serving.

4. Start Indoors
Is it still too cold outside? Start your garden indoors. Dampen a paper towel and slip it inside a zip-top plastic bag. Place a few small seeds, such as carrot, lettuce, or radish seeds on the paper towel. Seal the bag and tape it in a bright window. Open the bag every few days and spritz the paper towel with water to keep it moist. In no time, those seeds will germinate and start to grow. Which ones grow the fastest?

5. Jack and the Beanstalk
Help your child plant one bean seed for a fun science experiment. With just water, soil, and a cup, your child can grow his or her own beanstalk. Create a small journal together to record observations. How tall is the plant on day 1? Day 10? How much water did you give it? Are there sprouts? Show your child how to make a graph for charting the growth of the seed.

Share with us on Facebook your family’s gardening projects and ideas!

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