Children are naturally curious about nature and their environment. Daycare centers should take advantage of this by planning environmentally friendly activities. You will find that young children in your child day care center love playing in the dirt, planting seeds, watching the seeds they have planted grow, and then harvesting and tasting or displaying what they have planted. Container gardening is a simple way to introduce children to nature and gardening.
Container gardens can be created in just about any container that can hold soil and as long as the container has holes for proper drainage (about one half inch). Great containers for kid’s gardens include:
Milk cartons and plastic jugs
Styrofoam or plastic cups
This is also a great way to teach recycling, reducing and reusing to young children, as you reuse containers that would otherwise be thrown out and sent to clutter landfills.
How to Plant a Simple Container Garden
Explain to young children that you can grow plants from seeds. Give details that in order to for seeds to grow into plants they need soil, water, and plenty of sunlight.
- Select an array of containers from the above list.
- Find a sunny location for containers that is also in close proximity to access to water.
- Fill the container with moist organic potting mix.
- Let the children take turns placing seeds on top of the mix and pushing larger seeds into the moist soil.
- Water the seeds and cover the container with plastic wrap.
Over time, let the children in your care take turns watering the plants and monitoring their progress on a daily or weekly basis. You could even create a plant journal to document maintenance and plant growth.
Easiest Garden Plants for Children
The easiest plants for children to grow are:
- Flowers: Marigolds, snapdragons, sunflowers,
- Herbs: Basil, thyme, oregano
- Vegetables: Beets, turnips, lettuce, beans
These seeds are great for young children because they have a short growing season.
Theme Gardens for Young Children
Incorporate fun themes into your garden activities:
Fourth of July garden: Plant flowers in red, white and blue set to bloom just in time for Independence Day. Add small American flags to the containers to there you have a colorful whimsical, Fourth of July garden.
Pizza garden: Plant tumbler tomatoes, sweet basil, green peppers, and oregano. In conjunction with a cooking activity, use vegetables from the garden to make pizza sauce and toppings for a pizza.
Butterfly garden: A butterfly garden contains butterfly friendly plants. These are flowers that attract beautiful butterflies. Some good flowers for a butterfly garden are impatiens, asters, rosemary nasturtiums, purple coneflowers, bergamots and horsemints. In addition add parsley to the butterfly garden which attracts caterpillars. Your local nursery or garden supply store will sell a mix of butterfly garden seeds.
Herb garden: Introduce young children to the scent and taste of herbs.Some good herbs to start with are mint, rosemary, sage parsley and basil.
As you plant container gardens with small children in childcare centers, be sure to discuss with them what the plants will smell like, taste like, and look like (colors, size, etc.), and describe their uses.
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