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The Kids Garden

Those of us with children are always looking for ways to spend time together while enriching their lives. However, finding an activity that engages both the interests of a child and their parent is easier said than done. Starting a kids garden project is one of those rare activities that every generation in the family can enjoy. 

The benefits of gardening in early childhood can be felt throughout your child’s life. Kids can learn how plants develop, and what it means to nurture new life. Especially here in Steinbach, we know first-hand how valuable it is to understand how food is grown. These ideas are fun ways to spend time with your children while teaching them gardening fundamentals.

Garden Activities for Toddlers

Very young children are a ton of fun to involve in the garden. Get kids aged two to four excited about the garden ecosystem with these projects!

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Egg Carton Seed Sprouter – Teach kids about seeding indoors! With your little one, bring a cardboard egg carton, a small bag of fresh compost-enriched soil, and a variety of seeds outside. Show your child how to fill them carton and let them have fun getting messy. Then, show them how to plant the seeds. They can pick different seeds to plant in each egg compartment. Water the carton and place it next to a sunny window with a plastic tray set underneath to catch runoff. Watch together as the sprouts begin to poke out and make a daily ritual of checking on the carton together.

Garden Buddies – While out walking together, have your toddler collect interesting shaped rocks. Take them home and use water-based paints to paint the rocks like frogs, insects, and flowers. Then. let your child decorate your yard or garden with their painted pals.

Taste Test – Help your toddler appreciate fruits and veggies early on by creating a sensory board of sliced fruit and vegetables. Ask them which colours they notice, which fruits and vegetables look similar, and whether they also taste similar. Try a variety of treats, like berries, cucumbers, carrots, apples, bananas, and small florets of broccoli.

What time of day should I water my plants? The best times to water your plants are in the early morning or in the early evening. At these times, the heat and sunlight aren’t at their peak, which gives your plants more time to absorb moisture before the sun begins to evaporate the water in the container. Well-hydrated plants are less likely to die prematurely, especially in the blazing Manitoba summer sun. You can help containers retain moisture by applying a layer of mulch over the soil—just make sure you leave a little room between the mulch and your plant stems.

Garden Ideas for Kids

Kids love to explore the natural world. Teaching children about gardening is easy and fun with these kids’ garden activities for ages five and up.

Plant a Kids Garden – Set aside a small plot, or a single container, in your outdoor space to act as your child’s very own garden. Show your child how to mix in compost with the soil and explain why it’s important. Once you’ve prepared the soil, take them with you to a garden centre (visit us if you’re in the Steinbach area!) and help them choose seeds that will grow quickly. Let them plant their garden and make it a part of your after-school routine to check on the garden. Show them how to check soil moisture with their fingers and water when the garden is dry.

Bean-in-a-Bag – For this fun activity, you’ll need a few dry kidney beans, a few sheets of paper towels, and a Ziploc sandwich bag. Show your child how to stuff the bag very loosely with paper towels. Get them to place one or two kidney beans in the bag and add enough water that the paper towels are damp but not sopping. Then seal the bags and hang them in front of a sunny window with a piece of tape. Your child will be able to see every day how much the bean sprout has developed. Once the bean has sprouted enough, you can re-plant it together into your garden or into a small pot.

Pet Earthworm – Teach your child about soil composition, and how to care for a very low-maintenance pet! With your child, use a set of measuring cups to layer sand and fresh soil in a large clear plastic container. Poke holes in the lid for ventilation and add enough water to dampen the soil. On the surface, add a few pieces of compostable waste, like coffee grounds, an old lettuce head, and a banana peel. Then, go hunting for earthworms together! Once your child has found one or two, place them in the container and keep the container on a sunroom, balcony, or in the backyard. Your child can look for the earthworms as they crawl around, watch how the compost breaks down, and keep them alive with more compost and water.

The Best Plants for Kids

Choosing plants for kids adds a few considerations to the selection process. Naturally, you’ll want to pick plants that are very easy to care for and that grow well in Steinbach soil conditions. It’s also important to consider what the child will find most rewarding about the plant.

Does it attract pollinators? Kids who love animals are fascinated by the bumblebees and butterflies that frequent pollinator plants!

Does it grow fast? Kids have much less patience than adults!

Is it edible? Growing something snackable might feel more rewarding to a young child.

Are the seeds easy to handle? Tiny seeds are difficult for tiny fingers to manipulate. Larger seeds are simpler to handle.

Does the plant have different textures? Kids are amazed by plants that grow in interesting shapes or feel interesting to the touch.

Is it a plant the child would recognize? It’s exciting for children when their tiny seed grows into something they recognize from real life or cartoons, like sunflowers or carrots.

These plants tend to be a hit with kids:

– Sunflowers
– Nasturtiums
– Lettuce
– Radishes
– Carrots
– Snow Peas
– Cherry Tomatoes
– Cilantro
– Marigolds

Kids are naturally fascinated by the world around them, and the world of gardening lets them learn so much about it on a pint-sized scale. With a little encouragement and these fun activities, you might be raising a gardener for life.