Hands-On Learning Tips For Kids – Creative Ways To Teach Gardening

So, you’re an avid gardener with young kids running around. If gardening is your favorite pastime and you’re curious about how you can pass on the green thumb to the youngsters, read on!

Teaching Garden Curriculum Ideas

Children learn through play. The best way to allow them to do this is by providing them fun and exciting hands-on activities that also stimulate all of their senses. If you want to get them curious and learn about gardening, give them fun activities related to just that.

Activities can include, but are certainly not limited to, things like sensory play, special snacks or cooking activities, outdoor games, arts and crafts, and so much more!

Teach Gardening by Playing Pretend

Dramatic play is a favorite type of play for young children and also very important for development. With this type of play they imitate things they see going on around them in their everyday life. To encourage them to learn about gardening, allow them to observe you in the garden and provide them with an area (it can be indoors, outdoors, or both) for dramatic play, garden themed.

Child-sized gardening tools is great for this. Provide gardening gloves, hats, miniature tools, aprons, empty seed packets, watering cans, plastic pots or other containers, fake flowers and let them imitate the act of gardening. You can even work together to create your very own DIY garden hat to wear outdoors.

Legos or other types of building blocks can be used to construct pretend garden beds or, if children are a little older, you can help assist them to build garden or window boxes out of wood materials. Other garden items that can be constructed or replicated include:

  • Greenhouses
  • Birdhouses/feeders
  • Bug hotels
  • Produce stands

Sensory and Science in the Garden

There are so many sensory bin ideas you can do for children to allow them to explore using their senses and get hands on with the garden theme. Give them their own container full of soil, some sticks, and rakes to create a garden. Use sand and rocks to make a Zen garden. Let them actually dig and get their hands dirty, add seeds to examine and explore with, help them plant their own seeds, or add fresh smelling flowers.

Feeling textures of different materials and plants is very stimulating for sensory development. You can also talk about what types of plants are edible and even let them taste different things grown in the garden. Other ideas for a sensory bin include:

  • Adding different leaves to explore and identify
  • Adding mud, leaves, twigs, etc. for bird nest building
  • Containers of water for washing fresh reduce
  • Dirt with insects to bury/dig up

Science in the garden can be as simple as exploring an old bird nest you find or broken eggshells, playing in mud and seeing what happens when mud sits out in the sun, or learning about garden helpers by exploring earthworms. Other simple science activities include:

  • Exploring the parts of an apple or cleaning out a pumpkin
  • Comparing fresh and dried fruits, leaves, or flowers
  • Using different pasta types to represent (along with discussing) the life cycle of a butterfly– watching one hatch if possible
  • Observing different stages in a plant’s life cycle within the garden

Arts and Crafts

One thing all children love to do is arts and crafts, so this hands-on learning is definitely going to engage them. You can paint rocks to make them look like ladybugs or flowers, make papier-mâché watermelons, use Play-Doh to either construct your own items or add garden themed cookie cutters.

One neat project is to make 3D flowers. Use cupcake liners, coffee filters, and large paper doilies. Color or design them however you want and then layer them (doily on bottom, coffee filter middle, and cupcake liner on top) with glue. Also glue on a stem and add leaves. Spray just a dab of floral perfume or air freshener and you have a beautiful, 3D scented flower.

More art crafts to try are:

  • Stuffed yarn leaves
  • Leaf tracing
  • Ink blot butterfly wings
  • Using outdoor chalk to decorate garden areas (washes off when it rains)
  • Plastic bottle bottoms to stamp flowers
  • Paper lettuce using green circles of various sizes

Garden Inspired Snacks

What kid doesn’t love a good snack? You can even relate gardening into snack time or let the kids get hands-on with garden-themed cooking activities. Ideas to try:

  • Taste honey (relate to activity on bees)
  • Types of seeds you can eat
  • Vegetable soup or fruit salad from the garden
  • Taste parties to try various fruits, vegetables, or other edible plants that may be new to them
  • Picnic in the garden
  • Have “buggy snacks” with ants on a log/in the sand (raisins, celery, peanut butter, graham cracker), spiders (Oreos and pretzel sticks), butterflies (pretzel twists and celery or carrot sticks), and snails (celery, apple slices, pretzel pieces, chocolate chips, and peanut butter)
  • Make snacks for the birds and other garden wildlife

Other Ideas for Kids in the Garden

Just letting children get involved with watering plants or decorating their own pots can be enough to pique their interest in the gardening world. You can assist them with planting projects, there are several fun, kid-friendly planting projects out there. To name a few:

  • Plant seeds in sponges
  • Plant seeds in ice cream cones
  • Grow and observe what happens with popcorn kernels in baggies
  • Grow in your name out of grass seed
  • Plant a pretty flower or make a butterfly garden with wildflowers
  • For St. Patrick’s Day, grow some shamrocks
  • Grow a bean stalk

Encourage children to go on different types of “hunts” around the garden. You can go on an insect, color, clover/shamrock, flower, or leaf hunt. Count butterflies and bees and bring up pollination. The possibilities really are endless!

Of course, another great way to help children learn about gardening and expand their knowledge of the topic is by reading garden related books to them regularly and assisting them with reading as they get older.

Ideas For Gardening With Preschoolers

1.Sprouting Sweet Potatoes – (Pre-K Pages)- Have fun growing your own sweet potatoes by using one you pick up at the store or farmer’s market! This is simple gardening activity the kids will love!

2. Growing Lettuce in the Science Center (Pre-K Pages) – Not all kids may like to eat lettuce, but they will love this fun scienceexperiment! Here’s how you can use scraps from your kitchen to easily and quickly re-grow lettuce in your classroom. Your kids will be full of questions as they observe the changes taking place in this captivating science experiment!

3. Growing Grass in the Classroom (Pre-K Pages) – Growing grass indoors in a cup is the perfect science experiment for preschoolers because it grows easily in many different environments, both indoors and outdoors. Your kids will love growing grass at home or in the classroom with only a few basic materials.

4. Growing a Beanstalk in Preschool (Pre-K Pages) – Planting and growing beans is a tradition in many preschool classrooms. This simple science activity is perfect when paired with the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk at school or home.

5. Planting Pumpkin Seeds in a Pumpkin – (Pre-K Pages) Have you ever planted pumpkin seeds with your class? Check out this awesome experiment Denise Hoefer did with her class. Pumpkin seeds are very easy to plant, just follow these simple steps below. Planting pumpkin seeds is a fun experiment your preschoolers will not forget.

6. Planting and Growing Beans (Pre-K Pages) – A quick and easy way to grow beans in a zip top plastic bag with cotton balls. Invite your students to make observations of the growth process over time.

7. Winter/Indoor Gardening (Tinkerlab) – Gardening doesn’t have to be always done outdoors in the spring and summertime! Get some wheatgrass seeds and enjoy this indoor gardening activity any time of year!

8. Eggheads with Cress Hair (Nurture Store) – Your kids will be sure to giggle over this gardening activity. It’s perfect for Easter time!

9. Sprouting Indian Corn (Gift of Curiosity) – Kids will be fascinated when they take an ear of corn and see it sprout!

10. Growing Beans on Cotton Balls (Imagination Tree) – This is a really easy, visual way to teach children about root systems and is something I used to do with my school children each Spring time. Plus it’s very exciting to watch how FAST the plants grow!

11. Growing Romaine Lettuce from Kitchen Scraps (Educator’s Spin On It) – Here is a simple, but extremely effective science project to do with your children:Growing Romaine Lettuce from Kitchen Scraps. Grab your since journals and record the results.

12. How to Regrow Celery (Housing a Forest) – Don’t throw out those celery stems! Use them to regrow celery instead with this fun science gardening experiment you can do with your kids!

13. How to Grow Sprouts on a Sponge (Housing a Forest) – Grab a sponge and some seeds and watch them grow in this easy gardening experiment.

How a school garden has transformed the way we teach

From finding fresh ways to engage children in maths to improving behaviour, we’ve put a garden at the heart of learning

‘Four years on, gardening has become a central part of the curriculum.’ Photograph: Alamy

‘Four years on, gardening has become a central part of the curriculum.’ Photograph: Alamy

Last modified on Fri 6 Oct 2017 10.22 BST

It was in 2004 that I decided to install a garden at Charlton Manor Primary School. I’d just taken up the role of headteacher, and there was some derelict land on the school site. I’d seen the news reports about children lacking knowledge of where their food came from and felt that we as a society had become very detached about food. The reason for this was clear to me: we were no longer educating our children about food in schools.

So I saw a garden as an opportunity for the children to learn in a real way, in an outdoor context, while also instilling an understanding of where their food came from and the importance of eating fruit and vegetables. But I also wanted to use it to cover other topics: life cycles, flowering plants, pollination, adaptation, creative writing and report writing. I believed that plenty of subjects could be well taught in a garden, while increasing pupils’ activity levels and encouraging teamwork. There was a behavioural element, too. With many teachers facing comments from children such as “It wasn’t my fault” and “It wasn’t only me”, here was our chance to develop a sense of responsibility. We took the pupils out to local gardens and allotments to give them inspiration for what they might want from a school garden, and asked them to play a practical role. From this, their ideas included areas to grow fruit and vegetables, a wildlife pond complete with bridge for viewing, a hide to observe wildlife and a greenhouse set within a maze so that the garden didn’t reveal all of its secrets straight away.

Children work as a team in the garden, taking responsibility for nurturing the plants. Photograph: Charlton Manor Primary School

Four years on, gardening has become a central part of the curriculum. A recent creative writing task on buried treasure took on a whole new meaning with the garden as the backdrop, as pupils used the sights and sounds as inspiration. In maths measurement classes, children have mapped out flower beds rather than relying on small-scale drawings in textbooks. We’ve produced charts and graphs by measuring sprouting sunflowers, and recorded weather information from the weather station and charted its effects.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. At the beginning, we struggled to get some of the staff on board, due to concerns that behavioural issues would worsen – because if they couldn’t trust the children in the classroom, wouldn’t they be worse outside? But once those teachers started making use of the garden there was recognisable behaviour change in those pupils. The children worked as a team, were engaged in their tasks, and took responsibility for nurturing the plants.

We needed to think about funding, too. We’ve had to find money from the school fund for a full-time gardener – paid at the support staff rate, he’s employed all year round to plan and deliver lessons with the teachers. We also decided to enlist the help of a landscape architect, and we were lucky enough to have a school fundraiser to make this happen.

Types of gardens kids will love

There are a variety of gardens to choose from depending on the developmental stage and interest of your children.

  • Mexican garden– Consider onions, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, tomatoes, corn, garlic and anything else you love to eat in your favorite Mexican food recipes. We have always enjoyed homemade salsa and fresh tomatoes on tacos!
  • Fairy herb garden– Herbs are the perfect size for fairies to live in. Create a fairyland with your kids! Fairy items can be found here! To learn more about herb gardens, read here to get started.
  • Seed garden– Older kids might enjoy looking up the many types of seeds to plant. This could result in some thinking outside of the ordinary. Ponder sunflower, pumpkin, corn, nuts, potatoes, beans and peas. You’ll find a list of my favorite seed catalogs in this post.
  • Rainbow garden– Write all of the colors of the rainbow down and find fruits and veggies that you can plant that represent each color. This is a very healthy garden!
  • Giving garden– Plan a garden space for food that you are going to grow and give away. Find a shelter, church or family in your area that would appreciate free and fresh food.
  • Musical garden – Plant gourds to make future musical instruments! Surround the garden with bells and homemade wind chimes.
  • Teepee garden– Use long poles and some rope to create a teepee shape. (Leave an opening to the teepee) Plant climbing veggies, like green beans, at the base of the poles. Kids love to stand in the center of the teepee and get excited to see the plants wind up the poles.
  • Mud garden– Make or find an old container like a big ice chest, sandbox or a kiddie pool. Fill it with sand and bagged soil. You are going to want “clean dirt”. Toss in sticks, old toys, beach toys, dollar store kitchen utensils, dinosaurs, Hot Wheel type cars, whatever else you can find. Kids that love to play in the dirt will be playing here, rather than the garden. Nothing will grow here except your child’s imagination.
  • Italian garden– Picture homemade pasta sauce with tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, basil, oregano. Endless possibilities! Learn about the amazing health benefits of tomatoes!
  • Plan a planting schedule– this is easier to do with older kids. Learn about what seeds to plant for early spring, summer, fall veggies. This gives them something to always look forward too!
  • Indoor garden– if you are short space, you can still garden. Green onions, celery, lettuce, and herbs are good indoor plants. They grow fast and have visible results. One friend swears by her countertop herb garden that produces more basil, oregano, parsley, mint, and thyme than her family can eat.
  • Secret garden– If your yard has a place that is a bit overgrown and shady, pull out some of the lower level plants to create a sitting area for your kids. Kids love secret places where they can just sit or read. Nothing really grows here, except your kids.

Teaching Gardens-Curriculum

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The following activities are examples of how the American Heart Association is engaging students in fun, educational, hands-on investigations of nutritious fruits and vegetables in and out of the garden.

American Heart Association Teaching Gardens can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose, and the scale of your program will depend on your time, experience, resources and preferences. The full Teaching Gardens curriculum includes a wide variety of activities, from simple matching games and scavenger hunts to more elaborate planting and cooking projects.

If this is your first experience with a school garden, we suggest that you start small. Enjoy some successful garden experiences as you establish clear expectations with your students around the space, then branch into some of the more elaborate lessons when you are ready.

Click to try a few of the activities that support the Teaching Gardens experience.

There are many ways to support the American Heart Association. Your donation will support programs, tools and resources to drive healthy eating habits.

Watch the video: Our Gardening Classroom - How To Teach With A Garden u0026 Inculcate A Green Thumb

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