Kids learn so many things without realizing it. Or really, without us realizing it. Every word spoken, every activity done together, every book read, it all adds up to experiences, educational opportunities, and memories for a child. But when you take time to be intentional about what you’re teaching and really focus on the educational benefits, you’ll be amazed at how much the “little stuff” is really BIG stuff when it comes to teaching children, regardless of their age.
Growing plants together is a big educational opportunity that is very carefully disguised as fun. I can guarantee that if you’re planting with your child, they’ll have no clue that they’re learning, but they’ll be gaining valuable skills, whether they’re 3 or 13 or somewhere in between. And the best part is that now, anyone can grow things. Even if you don’t have a big garden, there are many kits and container gardening options that allow you to grow your own plants, indoors or out, and they’re generally available at a pretty affordable price. We picked up this grow kit for our big kid, featuring sweet basil and parsley, from Buzzy Seeds.
But you can think even smaller with these mini greenhouses that are perfect vegetable starters, available from the Miracle Grow kids product line. Both options are perfect for getting kids (and teens!) involved in the gardening process.
One of the big benefits that is present in gardening, especially with kits, is the thought of following directions. An older student can read the directions themselves and test their reading comprehension as they measure the right amount of water in the right temperature and do the steps in the proper order. A younger child can test their listening skills by listening to when to pour the dirt, when to pour water, when to stir, and how to plant seeds.
Fine motor skills are really worked to their limit when it comes to smaller children and planting. From accurately pouring from one container to another, to pressing the seeds in gently, there’s a lot of fine motor work going on during the gardening process. It is a great opportunity to get those fingers flexing and allow those smaller muscles to get a workout.
Observation plays a huge role throughout the gardening process. When you consider soil factors (young kids can watch the soil pellets in a kit expand, older kids can consider the aspects of the soil that make it viable for plants, and how it undergoes the change from pellet to soil), how light and weather impact plant growth, and the finished plant product as it sprouts, grows, and possibly gets transplanted, there is a lot to be observed. Even during the planting process, it’s a great time to whip out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at the things going on, from the seeds to the soil, and see how all of these parts play a vital role in the plant’s life.
Volume is a lesson that young kids learn but don’t realize they are learning. Anytime a small child pours water from one container to another, scoops rice from a bowl to a cup, or fills a cup with the contents of another cup until it overflows, kids are learning about volume and how it works. This is no different. In the same way that kids should have plenty of time to explore and experience the kitchen, it’s also good to give kids a chance to focus on gardening and how liquid plays a part in the gardening process. If nothing else, the small children are getting the hang of pouring.
Planting is also great for math and logic skills. A younger child can count seeds and consider where to place them. An older student can use spatial reasoning– how far apart is an inch? Can I imagine where to place the next one without getting a ruler, or use knowledge I already have on what an inch looks like to figure out where to place my next seed? How can I use those determinations and measurements to determine how deep to plant my seed?
Planting is an amazing sensory experience for younger children and older students alike. Sometimes, it’s important just to take a step back and really dig into the soil and dirt, feel the texture of it, enjoy the scent of it, and really get your hands dirty. Sensory experiences like that can’t be measured, but they’re infinitely important to a child’s growth and development. By introducing kids to different textures, you’re allowing them to better understand the world around them.
Plus, planting is about long-term responsibility as well as long-term results. By making sure to water and tend to the plants, you’ll reap great rewards of food, flowers, or other plant life in the process. When you make sure you’re watering the plant and caring for it regularly, giving it the long-term maintenance it needs, it’s a great way to learn about how living things take care, whether you’re applying it to how a pet also needs constant care and attention, or helping a child understand that they, as a living thing, need their own care and attention, such as inspiring grooming habits. It’s a really great way to explain that living things need that extra loving care. The best part is the benefit you’ll reap from long-term plant care. When growing food especially, it’s a great opportunity to then include it in a meal. For example, sweet basil is a great ingredient for a pizza or pasta! The hard effort that goes into growing the ingredients instills a sense of pride, and that pride makes the food taste even better.
Finally, planting is a great way to start other discussions. Whether you’re taking it as a good start to jump into books about planting, using it as inspiration to start a compost bin or other green activities, or even launching into a discussion about God’s creation, you’re able to use planting and gardening as a great starting point to many different conversations to come, which makes it an activity you just can’t pass up.
Whether you’re using a grow kit like we did, or you’re getting dirty outside, you’re going to find that planting together is a fantastic way to spend time together, a great way to relax, and just a fun experience all-around that will stick with kids in lifelong ways.
Happy spring… now get planting!
Do you tend a garden at home? And do your kids ever join you in the planting? Let me know in the comments below!