Garden Yoga pose “Seeds”—Photo courtesy Leanne Manning
This summer several sites across the U.S. are piloting a gardening curriculum with preschoolers. This curriculum, developed by Nebraska Extension and Texas A & M Extension, teaches children about the parts of the plant. While it sounds simple, they are learning much more than the parts of the plant as they go through lessons like how to plants seeds, how stems take up nutrients to help plants grow, eating healthy foods grown in the garden, and about being patient. It is hard work to wait for your turn to plant your seeds or to wait for your seeds to sprout. Here are some tips shared by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to help make gardening with young children go a little more smoothly.
- Be prepared. Find out what grows best in your area. Prep the garden area before the children join you. Have many tools available for lots of little hands.
- Chill out. Children will plant 25 seeds in one small hole. They will plant the leaves instead of the roots in the soil. Other children will undo what one child has just completed. Things will happen and it is best to just relax and go with the flow. Everyone will enjoy it much more if you do.
- Have a “can-do” garden. Find all the ways the children can be involved in the garden. Yes, you may plant those seeds. Yes, you may dig in the dirt. Yes, you can use the hand tools, and yes, you can water the plants. When attention wanders, allow the children to move to other tasks. We have incorporated garden yoga into the gardening time and the children love the movement.
- Eat what you grow. Remember children are great imitators and if they see you eating and enjoying vegetables from the garden, they too will develop a liking for them.
- Have fun! Pretend play is important in all children’s development so see what ideas they come up with for garden fun. Placing an old chalkboard along the garden path can be fun for impromptu chalk art. Bring out a small pool to have water fun in the garden. Old pots and pans can be hung on the fence and used as “musical” instruments. The list of ideas is as varied as you make it. That reminds me, we need to try some singing in the garden. I fondly remember picking strawberries with my mother in the garden and learning many childhood songs.
LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Sarah Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child
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