Recent events have given us plenty to worry about, but if you’re a parent, one of the most pressing matters is likely the sudden, early onset of summer “vacation.” With lots of time at home ahead of them, you may be scrambling for ways to keep their brains active without relying on excessive screen time. What better classroom could you ask for than the great outdoors?
Support Your Local Garden Center
As you read through these great green lessons for kids, you’ll notice many of them call for gardening supplies which you may or may not have. We encourage you to take this opportunity to support your local garden center. In response to the current situation, many of the garden centers across America are currently offering curbside pick-up to safely accommodate you. Buying from them means you’ll be supporting local business, your region’s ecosystem, AND your child’s learning, all at once!
Ready to “bee the change”? Let’s get growing!
Start with Seed Starting!
No matter which state you live in, now is a great time to start seeds. This is an excellent indoor activity that kids can do while they’re out of school, and it doesn’t require any screens! All you need to get started are some packets of seeds, a grow lamp or two, and some seed-starting trays. Let kids try their hand at planting seeds on their own and checking on their seedlings every day. The bigger they grow, the more they’ll start to feel like “pets”!
Try a Sensory Sandbox Garden
Got an old plastic kiddie pool or empty sandbox kicking around? Cut some drainage holes in the bottom and fill it with soil. Arm your kid with some native plant seeds and a set of children’s gardening tools and send them off to grow their very own garden. Native seeds are adapted to the local conditions, so they’re much more likely to grow and survive in the care of an easily-distracted young gardener.
Encourage your child to dig, plant, and play in the soil—when you’ve got nothing but time, what’s one more bubble bath? Then, in the weeks that follow, encourage them to check on their garden and watch as the plants grow, change, and bloom!
Take a Backyard Safari
Chances are, your backyard is teeming with wildlife that you and your child haven’t even noticed yet! Visit your garden together and start observing the living things around you. Ask questions and talk about what you see; like what’s that bumblebee doing in that Coneflower? Are those two ants fighting over that leaf? Which critter left behind those tiny pawprints?
As you both become more aware of the ecosystem in your backyard, your child will begin to understand that “nature” isn’t something far away in the jungles and rainforests—it’s right here at home! That means we’re all responsible for taking care of the natural world; after all, we live here, too!
Create a Timelapse Video
Sometimes, kids can learn more about something they’re not very familiar with, like plant science, by combining it with something they know a lot about, like technology. Send your child to snap a photo of one or more plants in your backyard, from roughly the same distance and angle each time. You may want to guide them to the cool stuff—an Eastern Redbud that will soon burst into bloom, a tulip that’s begun to emerge from the ground, or a tomato flower that will soon develop into ripe red fruit. Have them shoot one photo every day for several weeks and notice how the plants change day-by-day. Once they’ve captured the whole process, have them put the photos into a slideshow or timelapse app, so they can watch the plants develop in hyper-speed!
Learn How to Compost
Composting is an important way that everyone can turn household waste into precious, plant-friendly soil. Teach kids about composting by showing them what goes into the composter, and show them how to mix “greens” and “browns” to cook up some awesome “black gold” compost! Kids will be blown away when they can feel the heat coming off of an active compost heap.
If your kid is into creepy-crawlies, they might show more interest in vermicomposting. Tell your kid they’re the “worm master” or “emperor of the worms” and let them revel in feeding them your worm-safe scraps!
While the world beyond your fence is looking a little strange right now, these projects can help turn a big challenge into a chance to do something positive. Let your kids come away from this experience with some new skills, a deeper bond with nature, and a lifelong love of green living.