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Friday, May 4, 2012

Gardening With Kids: Get Them Dirty! (Coloring Cups and Starting Seeds)

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Gardening With Kids: Get Them Dirty!
Coloring Cups and Starting Seeds
by Gary Pilarchik 5/4/2012


Gardening With Kids: A Blog Series - Gary Pilarchik

Supplies:
Styrofoam Cups 8oz-12oz  (easily decorated)
Magic Markers
Baking Tin  (large enough to hold 3-5 cups)
Bag of Starting Mix  (can find it at a grocery store or home improvement store)
A Few Kids (don't find them at a grocery store. That's bad)
Pack of Tomato Seeds
Pack of Bush Green Bean Seeds


This is the first of many blog entries that will focus on gardening with kids. Children are filled with curiosity and enthusiasm. They enjoy coloring and creating and will eagerly take on new projects and ideas just because they are having fun and doing it with you. My grandfather taught me about gardening and that experience as well as my memories with him have lasted a life-time. 

Children really don't know how things grow. They don't know that sunlight, water, and earth provide a small tiny seed (your tomato seed) or a big bulky seed (your bean seed) all they need to grow and mature. This is what your are going to teach them with this project. A fact to keep in mind, once the plants grow, is that little seeds grow and mature into big healthy plants but only if someone takes good care of them.


Part One: Decorating the Cups with Sun, Rain and Soil

You should talk about the sun, water (rain) and earth (soil) and how a plant needs them to grow. Seeds live in the ground like we live in the house and instead of eating food, they eat sunshine by absorbing it through their leaves. You can let them know that process is called photosynthesis.  You can have fun pronouncing the word and worry less about what it means scientifically. Depending on the age of the child, you are just connecting dots and creating associations. You can explain to them that baby seeds need water just like we need water.  But since plants don't have mouths, they drink water out of the soil through their roots which are like tiny little hairs the grow and grow beneath the ground.

The fun part of spending time together is the bottom line of the activity and you can decide how much teaching you really want to stress. I can tell you that they will have a ball decorating the cups. I did this with my kids years ago. You can decide how many cups you want to have decorated. You do want to decorate at least 2 cups so that you have one for tomatoes and one for beans.

Review sun, water (rain) and earth (soil) again and ask them to decorate the cups with each of those items and also draw what they imagine the tomato and bean plants might look like when grown. I find kids also enjoy watching you do the same thing so you will need to bring the artist out in you and grab some markers.


Gardening With Kids: www.therustedgarden.blogspot.com

Part Two: Starting the Seeds:

The first thing you need to do is poke some holes in the cup and you can have the kids do that with a pencil. Two or three holes is perfect. If the starting soil you bought is dry you will need to add some water to it. The best way to set up the soil is to get a large mixing bowl and fill it halfway with the starting mix. You can add a cup or two of water to it till it seems mostly moist but not soggy. 

Since you are going to be watering from the bottom you can let them fill the cups to the top with starting mix. Make sure you press down the starting mix into the cup and fill again. You don't want the starting mix to be to loose because the seeds could drop too far down into the cup a prevent successful germination.

Have the child use their finger to make a hole about 1/4 to 1/2 deep in the tomato cup. They should make three holes. Each hole should get one seed. You want to plant more than one seed as not to be disappointed if one doesn't come up. The bean cup should get a hole about 1 inch deep and the child can make two holes. Each hole also gets one seed like the tomatoes. A few pinches of starting mix will cover the seeds to sleep and grow.

The cups should be placed in the tin and you can help the kids fill it with water to about a quarter of the tray.  Finally, have them find the window with the most sun and give the newly planted seeds a home to germinate and grow. After about a half hour passes you can dump out any excess water. You should explain to them that seeds germinate and that means the seed turns into a tiny plant that pushes its way through the soil and growing leaves and roots. These seeds will germinate between 5 and 10 days.


Words and Concepts to Teach:

  •  Absorb, Soil, Photosynthesis, Roots, Germination and How A Seed Grows

Life Lesson You May Want to Teach:

  • They have the ability to nurture and care for something to help it grow. (Acts of Kindness and Caring)
  • Little baby seeds needs care to grow big and strong. (The Parent/Child Relationship)

It is up to you how much you want to verbally talk about the life lessons. I can tell you that the actions and behaviors of this project will teach them about relationships and caring. You will have to talk to them about checking on their seeds everyday and making sure they are warm in their house of soil, that they get plenty of sun and that they get water when the top of the soil gets dry.


Fun Points of Progress:
Not only will they have fun with the project. They will have a great time keeping an eye on the plants. When the plants break the surface, you will see the excitement in their face. The beans will get huge leaves and the tomatoes small leaves. Each day they can watch the plants grow. If you manage to get the plants into the garden...(another project) you will be able to talk about how the smaller seed (tomato) made the biggest plant.


Good Luck, Go Grow Something and Get Them Dirty!

Gary

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