Gardening Activities for Toddlers

In early April the wind still blows relentlessly and the rain drizzles non-stop.  William peers out the sliding door saying, “When it stops raining maybe we go outside,” and Corinne crawls over to sit next to him and pounds on the glass.  (Check out my post here about indoor rainy day activities that are physically active).  I wait patiently for the weather to break long enough to get the vegetable garden planted, at least the hearty cold weather plants that can withstand the frosts that will still come.

But by late May rain and wind are scarce and the sun warms the soil and our backs as I slather the kids in sunscreen, flop a hat on their heads, and get them digging in the dirt with me.  We plant the last of our warm weather crops and tend to those planted in April.  We water, weed, thin, dig, and wait for more growth.  I say “we” because the William and Corinne simply can’t let me have all the fun.

Here are some ways I had the kids help me out:

Soften the ground—Kids love to dig, so I handed out trowels and let them have a go at soften the soil and preparing it for planting.  This year I added some finely fertilized potting soil to our raised beds, and the kids practically crawled into the beds to spread the dirt evenly.

Plant—Planting seeds is a great fine motor skill for young children, like pinching and sprinkling small lettuce seeds, or poking corn and peas into the ground.  This may mean that the garden rows are crooked or the seeds unevenly spaced, but that is ok.  It is also a great way to teach beginning measurement.  Cut a twig the appropriate distance the seeds should be planted and teach your child to use it as a guide for how far apart to plant the seeds.

Water—The kiddies didn’t seem to mind the fact that 66° really isn’t sprinkler weather, and they ran through them anyway.  But setting the water by carefully positioning the sprinkler was a good opportunity to teach William about why plants need water and how they carry and absorb it.

Weed—This is less academically purposeful and more of a lifestyle principal, but I believe in teaching kiddies to work.  I have more memories than I can count about helping out on our one acre “farm” when I was a kid.  I may not be quite the enthusiast my dad hoped I would be, (nor do I quite have his incredible green thumb), but I did learn how to work, and that is certainly something I want my children to learn.  So, William helps me weed everyday.

Eat—While planting seeds was a great time to teach William about where our food comes from, and what parts of the plants we eat.  We discussed seeds, stems, leaves, roots, and fruit (as in the food bearing from a blossom), and we did a lot of eating.  Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are a new favorite snack in our pantry.

Plant Life Cycle—William and I planted some bean seeds in a plastic cup so we could watch the bean sprout roots and grow.  Sorry I don’t have a picture.  We watched two plants germinate and become big enough to transplant into the garden.  I also drew out a germination cycle for William so he could match the stages to our growing bean plants.  We then cut apart the germination cycle and practiced sequencing the cards.

Read—It turns out there are lots and lots of fun books about gardening, both fiction and nonfiction.  Here are some of our favorites:

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Watch Me Plant a Garden (part of a nonfiction series)
Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres
The Curious Garden (one of my all-time personal favorites) by Peter Brown
Muncha, Muncha, Muncha by Candace Fleming (also a favorite)
Water, Weed and Wait by Edith Hope Fine
Two Old Potatoes and Me by John Coy
The Life Cycle of a Bean (part of a nonfiction series)
Mrs. Roses Garden by Elaine Greenstien
One Watermelon Seed by Celia Lottridge

Also, check out this awesome book list from A Heart For Home.

While we haven’t yet gotten to these (the season is still young), check out these other great activities from some of my favorite bloggers:

Growing Pea Seeds in Jello at Mrs.Stensland’s Kindergarten
Growing Potatoes with Kids at Quirky Mama
Seed Matching (with free printables) at The Golden Gleam
Seed Book at Pre Kinders
Grow Bulbs in a Mason Jar at Frugal Luxuries
Faux Indian Corn at It’s Playtime
Faux Indian Corn Update at It’s Playtime

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