Gardening is a hobby enjoyed by old and young alike. The pride in watching flowers grow and bloom or eating a tomato fresh from your own garden keeps the hobby alive. Children also learn through gardening. Social skills are developed through interacting with other children. Critical thinking skills are learned through understanding what is needed to grow a plant. Children develop a sense of how nature works and the science involved in sprouting a seed. Preschool children can learn these same skills by being involved in an indoor garden activity. It is never too early to teach a child the benefits of gardening.
Make a book out of two pieces of poster board and several sheets of printer paper. Lay the paper between the poster board and punch three holes along one side of the journal. String heavy yarn or twine through each hole and tie in a knot. Ask the children to bring in pictures of their favorite plant or flower. Paste these pictures on the cover of the journals. Help the children research each flower or plant to find out if it is an annual or a perennial. Develop critical thinking skills by asking questions about how much water the plant may need to grow or whether it should grow in sunlight instead of shade. Ask the children what they think the seeds from the plant may look like. Have them draw a picture of the seeds in their journal. On the next page, have the children draw a picture of the plant when it first starts to grow. Explain what is necessary to make plants grow. Continue "growing" the plant on the pages of the book, with the final page being a picture of the mature plant or flower.
Help the children collect seeds from flowers or ask them to bring in seed packets. Teach the children how to dry fresh seeds by spreading them on paper towels or a small screen. Gather the dried seeds and seal them in envelopes the children have decorated with markers or crayons. Clearly label each envelope of seeds.
Fill a water bucket with sand and stick a small branch deep into the sand. As the children bring in the seeds or collect the seeds, hang the packets onto the seed tree. Talk about how each seed has a plant stored inside. Ask the children what they think will make the plant come out of the seed. Discuss what makes plants grow.
When the seed tree is full of "fruit," donate the tree to a community garden group.
Watch Me Grow
Fill clear baggies with a spoon full of plant grow gel. Allow the children to add water and watch the dry crystals swell up in the baggie. Have the children drop one seed of their choice in the baggie and zip the baggie closed. Place the baggies into paper cups and set them aside. Talk to the children about how a seed sprouts and what makes the seed germinate. Ask them to explain what might happen to the seed as it germinates and the plant grows.
Have the children check the baggies after seven days to see what is happening. Hang the baggies with clothespins from a string stretched in front of a sunny window. Let the children check the baggies daily to see what is developing. Talk about root formation and what job the roots play in feeding the plant. Discuss why the first set of leaves may look different from the next set. Talk to the children about what job the leaves do for the plant. Allow the children to take the plant home so they may plant it outdoors when weather permits.