From the moment that we started KDG, one of the main focuses was to promote gardening to children to help with their development. It can be tricky to know when to start promoting gardening and we are relatively fortunate because T’s birthday is in February so when he turned three, Spring was right around the corner and I couldn’t wait to get him out there!
However, I did take a step back at this point and thought to myself that for a toddler, growing seeds really is something quite alien! Taking something so small, putting it in soil and waiting for it to grow, is quite an odd concept.
Cress Heads is a good place to start
Cress Heads is a superb way to introduce growing to children. It is amazingly easy and you can have some great fun decorating the eggs before planting the seeds. You can literally be as crazy as you like – ours are rather simple. What I love most about it is growing them on cotton wool as it helps children see the progress of them. If you were to plant them into soil, you wouldn’t actually see the seeds! It’s also a great activity to do all year round as you don’t even need to go outside! If you want to learn more about it, check out our post here.
However, cress heads does have its limitations as you can’t really see the roots that are growing and once the plant reaches the top, there isn’t that much else to see – other than the fun of a great hair cut and lovely egg sandwiches!
What will children learn?
There are a number of skills that growing beans in this way will provide children. As this is an easy activity to complete, children can nuture the beans throughout their growth as they are only going to require water to grow.
Patience is also a big part of growing and gardening in general. This is a great stepping stone to get some of those skills underway. A little longer than growing cress heads but the results are just incredible – mainly due to the beans being much larger than cress seeds.
Personally, I love doing this activity around the month of March. This allows a good amount of time for the activity to develop, just in time for the garden beans grow. Plus, children get to watch the same growth but in the garden with the added benefit of beans at the end of it. Within 5 weeks of growing, the beans, in the glass were already at the height of our three year old and he is just so excited to show anyone that comes to our house. To him, they are huuuuuge!
How long it takes: Around 4 weeks for the beans to fully grow
Equipment needed: Household items & some beans
What you are going to need
- A large clear container (we used a glass)
- Cotton Wool (the long rolls are best – same as the one we used for cress heads)
- Broad bean seed
Put the cotton wool into the glass jar. You won’t need too much of it but enough for the beans to germinate and take root. Enough to fit into one hand is quite enough.
Place the bean into the glass jar nestled to the side so that you are able to see the root growth when it begins. We actually placed two beans into the glass, one on each side. Mainly so that they could have a race to see which one grows the fastest. If your children are older, you can place one side to the light and the other covered with some tape. This will show the effect that light has on growth. Once placed, add a little water and then wait for the magic to happen.
Soon enough, you will start to see the beans sprout and the root growth start to appear. This is a really exciting time as you see the root come out of the bean. This literally happens over a couple of days and it is worth while making some time each day to look at the progress of the root growth. If your glass is on the windowsill, there can be some sunny days that will dry out the cotton wool so make sure that it is kept moist to encourage further growth.
Once the root is established, you will start to see the plant growing out of the other side of the bean. This happens really quickly and it is certainly worth checking back on a daily basis.
The bean plant
From the moment that you see the plant appear from the bean, it won’t be long before the plant is growing outside of the grass and heading towards the light.
Remember to keep the seeds watered at all times. You will certainly know if they start to dry out as they will start to wither. All in all, this is great experiment to do with children. You can either do this at the same time as growing beans in the garden or beforehand so that children know what to expect.
Most importantly have fun!