Getting kids outside gardening and connecting with nature is good for everybody and there are loads of benefits when kids of all ages get their hands dirty in the garden. Spring is a great time to get into the garden, so we’ve compiled a list of five great gardening ideas for kids and teens. Whether your students are learning remotely or in the classroom, there are sure to be some ideas here that light a spark.
Why is gardening so good for kids?
How long do you have? The list of benefits to kids and teens when they get outdoors and grow things is long. But some of the key, evidence-based findings are:
Vegetable gardens lead to healthy eating
Growing, harvesting and cooking vegetables establishes a connection between where food comes from and healthy eating. Healthy eating habits form early but continue to develop through adolescence and into adulthood, so kitchen gardens have lots to recommend them for students of all ages.
School kitchen gardens can lead to parental engagement
It takes a village to make kitchen gardens work. Parents can get involved in all sorts of ways: from volunteering in the garden, helping with the cooking component at school or letting their children loose in the kitchen at home to demonstrate their newfound knowledge of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Patience, responsibility and teamwork
Gardening provides a bounty of teachable moments. Aside from teaching science-based skills, gardening teaches students of all ages how to be responsible through caring for plants. Patience, teamwork and understanding around cause and effect are some of the ‘soft’ skills that are learnt in the garden. It also gives students a real boost of self-confidence when they see their hard work and care has resulted in a thriving plant. Gardening is a great chance for those kids who struggle to sit still in a classroom all day to get out and show what they can do in a different setting, giving them a chance to shine.
5 Gardening activities for kids at home and at school
1. Make mini greenhouses from milk bottles
You might have seen this online referred to as ‘winter sowing’. Essentially, it’s the practice of sowing seeds in a DIY mini greenhouse, most often made from a recycled plastic milk bottle. The best time for this project is winter to early spring. Cut a 2 litre milk bottle in half, leaving a small section to act as a hinge. Carefully poke holes in the bottom for drainage and fill the bottom half of the bottle with potting mix. Sow your seeds and use duct tape to seal the container shut again. Leave the cap off for ventilation and put your mini greenhouses in a sunny spot out of the wind. All that’s left is to wait for the seeds to sprout and watch them grow.
2. Grass-head people – gardening for fast results
Young gardeners might benefit from a project that yields relatively fast results to make sure they catch the gardening bug. Enter, Mr/Ms Grasshead! This is a classic activity that teachers have been sharing with their students for decades – it’s still a hit every time.
3. Build a bug hotel to attract beneficial bugs
Creating a bug hotel is one of those wonderful activities that sits at the sweet spot of science and creativity. There are opportunities to talk about life cycles, eco-systems and habitat. Building a bug hotel makes the most of found materials, which makes it suitable for kids (and parents!) learning at home as they can use whatever happens to be lying around. It works just as well for students engaged in face-to-face learning. Either way, it can be as rustic or complex as you like. This activity is best suited to mid-late primary school students.
4. Grow vegetables from kitchen scraps
So many vegetables, fruits and herbs can be grown using scraps from the kitchen. This is a very satisfying project for all ages, but it’s worth keeping growing timeframes in mind. It takes 18 months to regrow pineapples from the tops, but vegetables like celery and bok choy will start to reshoot in 1-2 days, making them better candidates for school-based gardening projects. There are five different ways to grow food from scraps and there is plenty of expert advice online to get you started.
5. Grow microgreens in a few weeks
Microgreens are edible crops that are harvested when the plants are just a few inches tall. Although microgreens are expensive to buy at the supermarket, they are very easy to grow. Generally, microgreens are ready to harvest in a few weeks, so students can experience the thrill of growing something edible in a short time. There are loads of microgreen kits online, but you don’t need any special equipment for this project. Microgreens flourish in a shallow planter with drainage and need four hours of sunlight a day, as well as regular, gentle watering to keep the soil moist. Students can try growing microgreen versions of rocket, amaranth, basil, beet, broccoli, buckwheat, cabbage, chard, coriander, silverbeet, corn, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, nasturtium, pea, radish and sunflower. Fun fact: microgreens are also called ‘vegetable confetti’!
Gardening is an act of hope and a springboard for so much learning that supports students of all ages in ways that will benefit them now, and into the future.
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