When Froebel created that groundbreaking child-centered preschool in Germany, centuries ago, he chose the name “kindergarten”, which translates to mean, “children’s garden”. It seems fitting, that a proper “children’s garden”, might include an actual garden as well! Class gardens are really the best way to teach science topics like seeds, plants, and the origins of food, as well as pro-social skills such as the value of work, responsibility, and working together toward a shared goal. Additionally, few preschool-aged children can comprehend environmental issues in distant places like rain forests and ozone layers, but they will easily learn about the importance of preserving a good environment when it comes to protecting their own prized pumpkins! And we can’t overlook the development of motor skills that takes place as they care for their patch of plants.
Depending on your climate and the space you have available, different options will work better for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
If you’re lucky enough, you have a little plot of land available somewhere, and you simply have to turn over the soil and get started. If you only have blacktop as far as the eye can see, or you’re worried about your soil quality, raised beds allow you to create the soil you want. You may want to try these raised beds my neighbor just put in. (I’m only a little jealous.) The building instructions include a PVC pipe frame you can add to create a simple greenhouse for a longer growing season if that’s a concern for you.
One idea for maximizing the minimum amount of space is square foot gardening. It’s also a type of raised bed with it’s own recipe for the perfect soil. (In addition to the web link above, there are books on the topic you could likely find at your public library.)
Of course, a window sill or sidewalk strip may be all you have, and all you need. You can buy window boxes, or an assortment of pots for your mini garden. Here’s a site that gives great information for planning a window garden, with a guide to selecting the right containers, plants, and growing area.
Whichever method you choose, involve your children in planning, planting, and caring for your garden. They will understand more about the needs of living things, plant life cycles, and the origins of food than they ever could from a passive experience, and their memories will be more lasting. I still vividly remember caking my hands in mud as a child as I helped my dad transplant strawberries in our garden. I loved having that time with my dad and the sweet reward of juicy strawberries months later, and I believe that experiences like that have made me love to garden. (Please read that as it was written. I love to garden. I didn’t say I was good at it. Yet.) So start today and grow some memories with the children you love and teach!
For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.
Photo by ckgd2.