Helping in the garden is one of the best learning activities for kids. They can get in touch with nature, indulge their curiosity, and gain self-confidence, all while soaking up the sunshine and getting their hands dirty. Whether or not you’re a keen gardener yourself, you can easily enjoy these simple activities with your little ones.
Most of these projects can be completed with items you already have around the house. Gather up some spare plant pots, empty jars, colored paper, and paints. You may also want a hot glue gun, craft knife, and crafty items like googly eyes and pom-poms. Finally, you’ll only need to spend a few dollars on seeds or small plants at the hardware store if you don’t have any extras lying around already. Now that you’ve collected your materials, let’s get started!
Upcycle Bottles And Containers Into Garden Characters
With this project, you’ll be able to make a funny cast of animals and characters using items that would otherwise end up in the recycling bin. Larger containers, like detergent bottles and milk jugs work great.
First, allow kids to spend a few minutes envisioning how the container could become a person or animal. One example is a juice bottle laid on top of 4 bottle-cap “legs” to become a piglet. The lid of the juice bottle becomes the pig’s nose! Plan where the plant will go. Choose simple grasses or succulents for a low-maintenance plant feature. The plant can form the character’s hair or spill out of its mouth.
Carefully use a craft knife to cut slots into the top or sides of the container, and also make some drainage holes in the bottom. Glue on any accessories, like legs, eyes, and ears. Paint the containers, if desired.
Place a layer of gravel or small stones in the bottom of the planter for drainage, then fill with soil and add the plant. Water the plant, and place your new friend in the garden!
Make A Sunflower House
This activity is multi-phased, starting with planning and planting the house, and then watching it grow over the coming months.
Begin by drawing a circle or square in your chosen spot in the garden. The sunflower house should be at least 4-5 feet across. Plant sunflower seeds or seedlings around the border of the house, leaving a gap for a doorway. Use bamboo stakes if required to keep the plants upright as they grow. Keep watering the plants, and soon you’ll have a wonderful sunflower house, the perfect place for imaginative play, or a shady nap.
Create A Fairy Garden
Miniature gardens are so much fun for kids (and adults!) and can keep you busy for hours. You can build a mini garden in just about any container, like an old pot, wheelbarrow, old bathtub, disused sandbox, or just in an area of the garden. Fill your chosen area with soil, then plant miniature plants such as hardy succulents, creeping ground cover, and dainty herbs. Add pebbles and sand to create pathways, then make furnishings out of items from around the home and garden. Try making little houses, fences, and furniture for the fairies, and add a string of twinkle lights for decoration.
Compost And Worms
Composting may sound a little boring at first, but it is such a great way to make the most of household scraps, while also creating an excellent source of nutrients for your garden. Purchase a composting bin from any hardware store, or build your own, and get the kids to start collecting their scraps – eggshells, fruit peel, old leaves, lawn clippings, and more! Add them to the heap and watch it break down over time.
Kids can also be sent on a mission to dig in the garden and collect worms to put in the compost heap. Once the compost has gathered for a while, it’s exciting for kids to see what sorts of bugs and creatures they can find around the compost heap. When ready, get the kids to help distribute the compost over the garden and watch the plants thrive.
Grow Sprout Heads or Grass Heads
Here is another way to reuse some old items from around the house. Start with a small jar or cleaned-out yogurt cup for each child. This will form the base for the grass head. Use craft materials to decorate the base – feel free to give it a crazy outfit! Cut a 12-inch section off the bottom of an old pair of pantyhose. Sprinkle some seeds into the toe of the pantyhose, then top them with a generous scoop of potting mix. Twist the pantyhose to make a head about the size of a tennis ball, with a few inches “tail” left dangling at the bottom. Use some craft materials to make a funny face on the front of the head.
Now, set up your head for successful growth. Put some water into the jar or yogurt cup, and place the head on top, with the tail touching the water. Moisten the head with a spray bottle each day and make sure it remains damp, topping up the water in the base. In a few days, the seeds will begin to sprout! If you have used grass, kids will be able to trim the grass to change the head’s hair style. If you have used sprouts, you can cut them and eat them!
Paint Flower Pots
Find some old pots around home, or head down to the hardware store and grab some cheap terracotta pots. Lay a sheet out on the lawn or deck and get creative with paints! The kids can paint pictures or designs, or write the names of the plants on the pots. Help kids decide which seeds or plants to put in their pot, and encourage them to take responsibility for their special pot. Create a routine of taking care of the plants and observing their growth and development.
Set Up A Bird Feeder
Keep your neighborhood birds happy and make a bird feeder to hang in your garden. Get the kids to make the feeder then let them watch all the different birds come and munch! They can even keep a bird diary to record all the different birds they see and when they visit the garden.
There are endless designs for bird-feeders, but we like this earth-friendly idea. Cut off the top quarter of an orange and scoop out the pulp, retaining the hollow rind. Pierce two holes in either side of the rind, and thread through some twine, tying a long loop for hanging. Mix two envelopes of gelatin (approximately 4 tablespoons) with 1 cup of water. Simmer on the stovetop, over low heat, until the gelatin has completely dissolved, then stir in 2 cups of birdseed. Pack the rind with the birdseed mixture ‘recipe’ and place it in the fridge for two hours.
Once the birdseed mixture sets, it will be hard to the touch and ready to hang. These feeders look beautiful hanging on trees in any season, but are exceptionally beautiful in the winter when they add some color to the landscape.
Help Bees Stay Hydrated
This is a quick and easy project to help kids observe nature and provide a launching point for discussing the importance of bees. Find a shady spot in the garden, and place a terracotta pot upside down on the soil. Optionally, the kids can paint or decorate the pot to make it special for the bees. Place a shallow bowl or container on top of the terracotta pot base. Glass or ceramic are preferred to ensure the bees aren’t exposed to BPA.
Once your bee waterer is assembled, add a few river stones into the dish, then fill with just enough water, making sure the tops of the stones are not submerged. Help kids take responsibility for changing the water daily and cleaning the bee bath weekly. Encourage kids to watch the bees from a safe distance, observing their behavior, and discussing the importance of these little pollinators.
Make Seed Bombs
This project is a fun and creative way for kids to plant flowers. First, cut a sheet of colored paper into small, 1-inch squares. Place the squares into a small dish while being sure to keep each color in its own dish. Fill each dish with water just until the paper is covered. Let the paper squares soak for about 20 minutes. Take one of the bowls of paper squares and wring it out about halfway. Place the squares into a food processor and pulse into a pulp. Repeat this with all paper colors and put the pulp back into each of their bowls.
Next, get the kids to help you select some seeds: Marigolds, zinnias, nasturtiums, or coneflowers are low-maintenance and will create a beautiful show of color for the kids to enjoy when they come up. Sprinkle some seeds into each bowl of paper, mix them in a little, and press the pulp and seeds into balls. If the pulp is a little dry, add a few sprinkles of water. Set the seed balls onto a sheet pan, or press each one into a silicone ice cube mold to dry overnight.
Finally, get the kids to help you pop the flower bombs out of the molds, and plant them in the garden together. Encourage the kids to keep checking back for when the flowers begin to grow!
Getting kids involved in the garden will inspire their learning and build their self-confidence. Cultivating enthusiasm for plants and the outdoors will also lead to a knowledge of where their food comes from and encourage innate respect for the planet. Which project will you try today?