Published in the Winter 2019 Issue of the PRG
By Ann Wright
Nevada County Master Gardener
As children develop and grow, so do their senses. As the excitement and stimulation of the holiday season winds down and winter days seem long, finding activities to stimulate children’s minds can sometimes be all consuming. One way to engage young minds is to involve children in planning spring gardens. Outdoor garden related activities are somewhat easier to plan; indoor activities may be more of a challenge – especially for young children.
For planning a spring garden, even very young children may appreciate looking at pictures of beautiful plants and vegetables in magazines and seed catalogs. Help small children begin to identify vegetables by color, then offer a sample of different vegetables that can be planted next spring. Dexterity of small fingers can be enhanced by allowing children to plant vegetable “starts” in small pots to be transplanted later for early spring crops. Allow children time to paint colorful flower pots, then plant a fragrant herb window garden.
Outdoor gardening activities can certainly stimulate a child’s sense of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. They may also enhance their sense of balance as they navigate garden pathways and garden beds. Learning to tread carefully will help them appreciate plant life and improve their sense of balance in the world. Toddlers and young children can enlist motor skills as they help pick up leaves for composting, start picking early emerging weeds, or work in the garden with child-sized tools. Allow children to touch and dig in the soil – what do they find? This gives them some fresh air and exercise while helping accomplish tasks. While outside, help children identify what they see and hear in the yard, then when it’s time to come indoors, spend time helping them learn more about what they saw and heard.
Consider helping older children learn to appreciate the soil. Explore websites or printed references that help define healthy soil. Young children can draw pictures of what happens in the soil; older children might want to start an earthworm bin to begin worm composting. Children can be taught that plants need good nourishment. Compost added to the soil will help enrich the soil and thus the plants.
Allowing children to contribute will help them gain greater enjoyment from the experience. The newness of spring will offer many changes – both in the gardens and with our children as they grow. Enjoy the new year and happy gardening!
For more information, contact Ann Wright, Nevada County Master Gardener, at ncmg.ucanr.org or call the hotline at 530.273.0919