Have you heard about Victory Gardening? The original Victory Gardens were sewn by our grandparents and great-grandparents during the World Wars. They were made as a way to supply more food for Americans so that food could be shipped to Europe, where fields that had once produced crops had become battlefields. Though we aren’t at war, thankfully, many of my friends are referring to their new gardening efforts as Victory Gardens this spring.
We can do it!
Personally, I love gardening. I love how it makes me feel connected to the earth and my food. And I love how it is easy to teach kids about botany by just having them be a part of the process.
Currently, I am sprouting seedlings that will be transplanted in May, after my local frost date has passed. I’m starting an assortment of both flowers and veggies. I’m hoping to have tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash in my garden this summer. I’ll also be growing some marigolds, as those are supposed to help keep away pests. The kids are helping water the seedlings, but mostly this is a project I’m doing, that they observe. Soon I will plant radishes and lettuce outside. They grow quickly and don’t need to be started inside.
Taking it a Step Further
To help my kids get more from this project, I’ve pulled out books and created some learning activities about plants.
We really enjoyed the book, A Year in Our New Garden by Gerda Muller, which teaches the cycle of the year for many plants you may have in your yard.
We also read The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, which is about a girl growing flowers during the Great Depression. It sounds sad, but it is an interesting way to discuss history in a child-sized bite. Both books make gardening accessible for kids, which is important.
If your child is younger, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson is a great choice to get your child excited about gardening.
If you’d like some more information on how to get started creating a garden with your kids, the website Gardener’s Path has some great ideas!
Botany Lessons as Science
Here are some more ways you and your child can explore plants this spring.
- Plant seeds in a glass jar so that the seeds are pressed against the edge of the glass. You can do this with wet paper towels or actual soil. Keep the seed moist, and encourage your child to water it and check it daily to see it sprout and grow roots.
- Plant a tiny indoor garden, or a larger one outside. Let your child choose what to plant, and help with the work. You can grow lettuce, radishes or marigolds in a flower box inside or in a pot on a deck or patio. While some plants need a lot of room to grow, those don’t.
- Purchase or dig up bulbs, and let your child do their first dissection. Kids love a chance to use a small knife and investigate things. Have them look for what is inside the bulb. Is it the same all the way through? Is it symmetrical? Does it have a smell? Onions and garlic are types of bulbs that may be in your kitchen already. Comparing those to tulip bulbs is quite interesting.
- Get a field guide to local wild flowers or trees and help your child investigate the plants in your area.
- Observe the vein patterns on leaves or number of petals on flowers. Discuss how this is one-way scientists group plants into families.
- Soak beans overnight, and let your child pry them apart to observe how these seeds have 2 parts, which makes them dicots. Corn kernels are a good example of monocots, seeds with a single part. The parts are the food for the seed to use as it sprouts before it is able to get food from the sun and soil.
Get Your Hands Dirty!
As we all social distance, gardening is a great project to do with kids. Digging in the dirt is great for my sensory seekers. Plus, this can be a full-blown hobby that doesn’t require leaving the house. Gardening is a good way to remember to slow down and have patience. Watching each seed sprout and grow a bit each day helps us be connected to little changes that the warming weather brings with it.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.