GARDENING WITH TOTS
I just love gardening, don’t you? The satisfaction of carefully nurturing something and then watching your efforts thrive and grow brings great joy. The pleasure of planting a seed and watching it grow is something tots (and older children) love too. Here are some simple gardening activities you can do with your tot to share that joy.
Before you begin
To help your tot get the most out of any gardening activity, you may want to first talk to them about how plants grow. Eric Carle’s The Tiny Seed or Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert are both lovely books that explain plant growth in an engaging way. Another way to support your child’s understanding is to play role play games. One way to do this is as follows.
To start you will need a selection of coloured items (brown, blue, yellow and green). I use scarves but you could use items like socks, gloves or tea towels (get creative). To play, scatter these items around your room or garden. Once you have done this, you will need to role play as the seed and curl up in a ball. Ask your tot to bring brown items to you that represent the good soil you need to begin to grow. Next, your tot will need to bring you blue items to water you and then yellow items to provide sunshine. Each time you are presented with an item start to uncurl a little. Finally, when the green items are brought to you stand up tall and spread out your leaves (arms).
Grow a Seed
For this activity, the best seeds to use are large and fast growing such sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or you could use dried peas or beans from your kitchen cupboard.
In a Cup
You will need: see-through plastic cup or jar, tissue or cotton wool, water and seeds.
Fill the cup with cotton wool or tissue. Get your tot to drop a few seeds in the cup so they can be seen. Then place the cup on a sunny windowsill and watch the seed grow and change.
In a Bag
You will need: resealable sandwich bag, Sellotape, stapler, coffee filter paper or kitchen roll, scissors, water and seeds.
You will need to prepare the bag for the seed by placing the filter paper/roll in the bag, then putting a line of staples across the bag about 1 inch from the bottom. Add just enough water to dampen the filter paper/roll. Hold the bag open and ask your tot to place several seeds inside the bag. Older tots may enjoy picking each seed up with tweezers (if you have any) and dropping them into the bag. Seal the bag and tape it to a window so you can watch the seeds germinate.
In a Pot
You will need: a pot, soil, trowel or spoon, water and seeds.
For the pot you can use any waterproof container large enough to hold 2-3 inches of soil or more. Try to involve your tot in selecting the container. I like to use old milk boxes (see photo). Make sure you poke some drainage holes in the bottom before asking your tot to fill it with soil. When the soil is in, ask your tot to push their finger into the top of the soil, pop their seed in and cover it with more soil. To avoid any disappointment, you may want to repeat this process so there are a few seeds in the cup. To help your tot understand that fruit and vegetables start life as a seed, together you could carefully cut open an apple, tomato, or bell pepper to retrieve seeds and pot these too.
During these activities, try to engage your child where you can; from searching your cupboards for dried beans to selecting which pots to use. Talk them through each step, ask them questions, make deliberate mistakes (they will love to correct you), and review what they saw, heard, touched and smelled. Visit your seeds regularly and get excited about what you see.
When out in your garden or a green space, you can extend this activity by seeing if you can find any plant seeds. As a child I loved to blow dandelion clocks and I would marvel as each seed floated away on the breeze. Kids of all ages are naturally curious about nature and the differences in size, shapes and colours of seeds is so fascinating. Looking for old conkers, beech nuts, and maple tree helicopters can be time well spent with your tot so welcome in your three-year old self and enjoy!