Spring is a time of new beginnings and longer days in the sun. Heading outside with your kids to take advantage of the beautiful weather is a wonderful way to get some vitamin D, let your little ones expend pent-up energy, and enjoy quality time together.
One productive way to spend time outdoors is to plant a spring garden. Not only will a vegetable garden give you fresh produce for little cost, but it also will teach your children about the world around them. Whether you are looking to explore science, math, language arts, or practical life skills, there are hundreds of ways you can use your spring garden as an educational tool.
If you are looking for ways to incorporate scientific exploration into your gardening adventures, you will not be disappointed. There are scientific concepts at work everywhere, and the garden is no exception. Use some of these ideas to spark your little scientist’s interest and watch where their curiosity leads them; you may even learn a thing or two yourself.
* Discuss the life cycle of plants with your child and then watch the process in real time in your garden.
* Talk about photosynthesis in an age-appropriate manner. This is a fascinating process and is sure to pique the interest of people of all ages.
* Experiment by using different types of fertilizer and/or pesticides on your plants and record their reactions. Discuss the results later to determine the best products to use in your next garden.
* Research the topic and make your own compost bin. Learn and talk about why and how a compost bin works. Use the compost on your garden when it is ready.
Math does not have to be a dull or maddening experience. When students apply their mathematical lessons to real-life situations, they are often able to better grasp the concepts that seem so foreign when viewed only in a textbook. Ditch the math book for a while and head outside for a hands-on mathematical experience in the garden.
* Teach or practice measuring and graphs by tracking the growth of your plants.
* Practice division by having your child split a packet of seeds evenly, based on how many you wish to plant per hole. You can then have them determine the number of holes to dig.
* Very young gardeners can practice counting seeds as they are planted.
* If you will be building a raised bed, have your little mathematicians test their geometry know-how. Allow them to draw up a blueprint; make sure all measurements are correct and corners are square. This is a fairly complex task, so make yourself available to help them find answers if needed.
There are several easy ways to incorporate language arts into your gardening experience.
* Have your child write about the process of gardening, giving step-by-step instructions on how to plant and raise a garden successfully.
* Beginning readers can practice their skills reading by telling you the names on seed packets.
* Intermediate readers can practice reading by following instructions for planting, which can be found online and printed out.
* Creative writing can be tied in by asking your child to write a poem about their favorite plant in the garden.
Life skills are as important to learn as the three R’s. The ability to sew, cook, drive, and wash laundry are all incredibly useful skills to have. Gardening also helps children in their daily lives in many ways.
* Planting and caring for living plants will help your kids develop a sense of responsibility and good work ethic.
* The ability to grow their own food boosts self-confidence while providing a useful skill.
* Waiting for plants to sprout and be ready to harvest teaches patience, and the reward at the end reinforces the idea of deferred gratification.
* Growing and eating your own fruits and vegetables provides many great opportunities for discussions of nutrition and healthful eating.
These are just a few of the many ways you can use your springtime gardening as a time of intentional learning. Think outside the box and see what other ideas you can come up with, and whatever you do, remember to have fun!