Gardening is a passion and joy for many adults. Introducing children to gardening as a fun activity encourages a lifelong respect for growing things and an appreciation for the environment. Since many children are finicky vegetable eaters it makes sense to start their gardening career with planting flowers. Keep the activity as play time rather than like a school event.
Children may not realize that plants come from seeds. They see flower bouquets in the grocery store or roses blooming in the yard but have no clue as to how the plants and flowers got there. Nasturtiums, zinnias and sunflowers are all big seeds so they're easy for small hands to manage. Presoak seeds for 24 hours before planting for faster germination.
Fill clear plastic cups with wet, but not soggy, potting soil. Push three seeds into the cup right up against the sides so the seeds can be seen from the outside of the cup. Place the cup in a warm, dark place. Check after two or three days. As the seed sprouts the roots and stem should be visible against the side of the cup.
Preschool age children most likely know how to spell their first name. Clear an area in the garden that's 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. Dig up the soil and add compost and organic matter. Write the child's name in the dirt with flour. The flour is white and shows up well against the dark soil. The child plants the seeds using the flour as a guide. When the seeds sprout and bloom they spell his name. Marigolds, alyssum and thumbelina zinnias work well for this activity.
Construct a circle with bands of different colors of flowers. The flower variety may all be the same, such as petunias, or use different flowers such as blue larkspur, yellow snapdragons, red geraniums, orange marigolds and purple petunias. Plants are a better choice for this activity than seeds so the colors aren't inadvertently mixed up.
Insert seven 8-foot-tall plant supports evenly spaced in a circle with a diameter of 5 feet. Leave a 2-foot space open in the front of the tent. Tie the tops of the supports together. Place an inverted pot over the supports. Plant fast growing vining flowers every 4 inches around the perimeter of the circle. Good choices are morning glory, sweet peas or black-eyed Susan vine. After a few weeks the plants will enclose the tent with an opening in the center to play in.
An alternative is to plant sturdy tall flowers in a square leaving an opening for a doorway into a secret hideaway rather than a tent. Good choices are sunflowers or hollyhocks.