This month I thought I would discuss ways to encourage natural learning in our gardens. Whether your children, your grandchildren or the neighborhood children frequent your garden, you can create an amazing resource for educating our youth. Not just agricultural education either, academics is easily incorporated in our natural world.
Ideas for Gardening Lessons
When my children were old enough to walk, they were exploring our garden and nature. As they have grown I have adapted lessons in the garden for their age. We used to count green tomatoes, now we multiply collected seeds.
I am always using nature and gardening to strengthen their academics. We discuss comparisons with end of the season rotten and unusual tomatoes. We identify and spore print mushrooms after it rains. The three year old loves to bird watch and pretend to take pictures. The six year loves to identify whether the bird is a female or a male. My children could name the trees in the neighborhood, the bugs in the backyard, and tell you how to make more dirt, but they were just having fun and didn’t know it was a lesson.
Here are a few of my favorite lessons, appropriate for preschool to elementary age children.
Practice handwriting: natural journaling
Take a nature walk in the backyard or somewhere special. Have your children write about their explorations afterwards.
Strengthen Reading: chalkboard garden markers
Young readers can learn words in the garden. Change the chalkboards when they aren’t around, so they are surprised to see them next garden visit. Or skip the chalkboards and hide flash cards with words on them in the garden. Let the kids find them and tell you the word.
Teach Science: insect life cycles
Gardening is a great way to teach the life cycles and characteristics of insects and plants.
- Spend the day identifying the trees and plants in your backyard. My oldest gardener like to write the names of everything on clothespins and clip them to the pots or stems.
- Visit (and photograph) local parks seasonally to explore season changes.
- Have children help with composting to understand how things decay and the importance of soil’s relationship with our food.
Helpful Resources for Parents Who Garden
I couldn’t have taught my children about the world around them if I didn’t know. Brush up on your own nature knowledge. Head to the library and do some research. What birds, butterflies, and animals frequent your area? Many parks, plant nurseries, libraries, and local colleges offer seasonal seminars, classes, and other local resources.
There are so many ways to incorporate education in nature activities. I like to check out daily ideas to encourage development. Here’s some of my favorite social networking resources for gardening parents:
- NaturalMommy: a free natural resource for moms and caregivers who want to live naturally. Their page is full of natural living choices, from sharing links on the benefits of lemon balm to ways to shop local, this is a great addition to your Facebook feed.
- Gardening 4 Kids: They have a fun page and great Sensory Gardening Pinterest board too.
- The Outdoor Classroom: a page dedicated to teachers and parents who are interested in using the outdoor environment to develop children.
- Hands on: as we grow: this is a great page for crafting with kids. A lot of the activities can be taken into the garden or involve natural supplies.
Use the hashtag #playoutdoors for good tweets on gardening with children.
I enjoy dozens of gardening and nature resources on Twitter, but these two are my favorite:
- NWF’s Be Out There @BeOutThere – a movement connecting American families to the outdoors to raise happier, healthier children with a life-long love of nature.
- Children & Nature @ChildrenNature – The Children & Nature Network was created to support people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature.
With each generation families and children are becoming farther removed from the farm. I hope to join the change to put food back in our hands by teaching the love and understanding of gardening to our youth. Please feel free to share resources and ideas you may have to teach lessons in the garden in the comments below!
growing vegetables & kids
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