by Kristen Beardsley Schoenherr and Mary Gadek, Master Gardeners
Kids love to plant seeds, and it’s a great way to show them the joys of gardening. Now’s the time to get seeds started for indoor and outdoor growing. Explore these educational resources for you and your family.
WATCH, READ and DO!
WATCH this how-to video!
READ books together
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle (Ages 3-8 ) A simple description of a flowering plant’s life cycle through the seasons.
Plant a Little Seed by Bonnie Christensen (Ages 4-7): Children plant a seed, care for their flowers and vegetables during the growing season, and enjoy the harvest.
DO activities for different age groups
This month we have two suggested project for you to try with your children:
1). Seed Starting with Young Children
- Child sized apron (optional)
- Mat/waterproof cloth to work on (optional)
- Seed starting soil in an airtight container
- Child sized trowel or spoon
- Plant pots (cam reuse old yogurt or egg containers, clear container to see roots, something decorated, etc.)
- Seeds displayed based on the age and abilities of your child, with or without seed packets and plant labels (for a young toddler maybe put out many types of seeds so they can see the variety, for an older toddler maybe put out one type of seed with the seed packet and labels, and older child can write their own labels and can be given more seed choices.
- Little pitcher/watering can/spray bottle
- Cloth for cleanup
- A warm lit place to put planted pots
- Tray to help carry materials, materials should be arranged from left to right in order of use
- Place to work, can be a little table, counter with a stool for child, kitchen table, or the floor.
PRESENTATION OF ACTIVITY
- Invite child when they are well rested and feeling good.
- Show them where the materials are located and invite them to help carry the materials to where you will work. (If you are right-handed, sit to your child’s right, opposite for left handed. This will allow the child to see what your hands are doing.)
- Name each material as you take it off the tray (this is a great embedded language/vocabulary opportunity)
- Say, “I will plant one seed and then you can have a turn.”
- “Watch.” (This draws their attention to your hands.) Open container with soil, show the child how to carefully scoop the soil and place it in the pot. Close the container.
- Introduce seeds. “I’m going make a little hole for the seed.” Show how to make a little hole, put a seed in the hole and cover it with soil. “We only need one seed.” (they may plant more, and that’s okay)
- If you are using labels, show how to label the plant or how the child can create their own label.
- “Now we need to get some water.” Get water in the pitcher or watering can and pour on soil or show how to squirt spray bottle.
- Show child where they can put their planted seed.
- Clean up any spills as you go. “I see there is a little spill, I will clean it up.”
- “Now you can plant as many seeds as you like, when you are finished, I’ll help you clean up.” Offering multiple pots helps to encourage repetition. Empty pots can be kept in a different spot, instead of on the tray if that is easier.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN PRESENTING
- Young children are creatures of process not product. They benefit from simply doing the activity or even a part of the activity as opposed to the finished product. These seeds may or may not grow into great seedlings that can be transplanted into the garden, and that is okay.
- Limit language and distractions during the presentation and while the child is working. If you want to point out something additional or add more language or sensorial opportunities, try these at a different time. When you show your child how to plant seeds for the first time ever or the season you want them to focus on the activity and your hands so that they can be most successful.
SENSORIAL OPPORTUNITIES AND EXTENSIONS
It can be fascinating for young children to shake the seed packets and hear the noise that different seeds make. They can notice how the sound changes with seed shape. Collect a variety of seed packets for your child to shake.
Make sure to pick some large seeds, such as peas or squash, and some small seeds such as lettuce or carrots, so that the child can hear the different sounds while shaking the packets. This activity will help the child develop their fine motor skills while learning about music and sounds!
Children might love feeling the soil and become entranced with using their hands. Others may hate the feel of the soil and don’t want to touch it. When you offer the child to have a turn, it is a great opportunity to sit back and observe how your child proceeds. They do not have to repeat exactly how you modeled.
At a different time, invite your child to observe different kinds of seeds with you, notice and discuss similarities and differences. On a plate or tray lay out small piles of various seeds. Ask the toddler to describe the seeds. Questions you could ask: Is the seed round or flat? What color is the seed? Which seed is the largest? Which seed is the smallest? Which seeds look similar to another kind of seed? Let the child pick up the seeds to explore them. This activity will help the child develop their descriptive vocabulary and fine motor skills while learning about various seeds.
Three period language lesson: Choose three types of seeds that are quite different. Tell the child the name of each seed, “This is a sunflower seed, this is a bean seed, and this is a pumpkin seed.” Ask the child fun questions to reinforce names of each seed. “Where is the pumpkin seed? Put the pumpkin seed next to the bean seed. Give the sunflower seed to your brother.” Test knowledge by asking, “Which seed is this? Which seed is this?” If your child answers incorrectly no need to correct them, simply say which it is, “That’s the bean seed.” This can be done in a group or with an individual child.
This activity is very easy to modify. Seeds and planting containers can be switched regularly to meet your family’s gardening needs and preferences.
This activity is intended for one child to do at a time (young children love working alone and can concentrate best when alone), but we easily used the same materials and a similar process to include our child in our family’s group seed planting. If you have multiple children, you may need multiple trowels so they each could fill pots at the same time. Or one child could fill a pot, one plant a seed, and an older child could write a label.
2). GRASS HEAD PROJECT – WATCHING GRASS GROW CAN BE FUN!
Introduction to plant biology to observe seeds transforming into a plant and to learn how to take care of a plant.
- Clear container with wide opening and its cap (plastic cup or item recycled from your household)
- Items to create a face on the container (permanent markers, puffy paint, colorful seeds, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, stickers, etc.)
- Potting soil
- Fast growing seeds, like grass seed-bag of lawn patch kit or cat grass
- Optional- glue; scissors
Punch a hole in the bottom of the container for drainage.
Decorate a clear container to make a face on one side.
Fill container ¾ full of soil; sprinkle seeds on top of soil; top with additional soil. Put the container cap or a shallow dish under the container.
Set the container near a light source. Water (daily) so soil doesn’t dry out; since the container is clear, you can see if the soil is adequately saturated (not too little or too much). Watch the seeds grow!
Explain what a plant needs to grow: soil, light and water.
Growth cycle: Notice how the seeds are changing under the soil and then how the plant grows above the soil. Activities:
Measure and record growth in a written and/or photographic journal.
Predict how long it will take for grass to grow to a certain height.
Give the grass a haircut with scissors and watch regrowth happen.
Repeat A and/or B.