Every year, there is a limitless amount of things that you can do in and around the garden. One great way of showing children the process of growing plants, is to grow them from seed. And whilst this will naturally take longer than popping down to the local garden centre and buying them already grown, it will teach your little ones some very important skills.
What will children learn by growing plants from seed?
When growing things from seed, this will naturally take more time than getting something that you simply buy from the garden centre. And creating your garden from seed will open so many opportunities for your children to learn. It’s certainly something that we have enjoyed and even as an adult, it has been interesting to watch all of the different ways that seeds can grow – even more so for the ones that you start off indoors.
Hand eye coordination
Whilst planting seeds is relatively easy, it does require some skill. All different seeds will have favourable conditions (always on the back of the packet). By working with your child, they will develop skills in placing the seeds where you are going to grow your plants. This is easier to start off with planting single seeds in pots – such as sunflowers. Sunflowers are fairly hardy plants and you can put one seed in each pot. Make about 10 of these using bio degradable pots and the odds of having some success is quite high. This will be good practise for when you are planting directly into beds from March onwards. Again depending on the age of the children, younger ones may find it easier to plant beans over tomatoes – purley because of the size of the seed.
If you are planting with young children, always supervise them when handling seeds
Patience is certainly a good skill for any child to have. Learning that things do not grow overnight is certainly a good place to start. If you are planting up vegetables or flowers, it is likely to take a couple of months before you are able to see the fruits of your labour. Starting off with a simple activity such as cress heads will show your child in a relatively short space of time how plants grow and the stages of them growing.
When you grow things with your children for the first time, it can be a little daunting for them, especially if it is their first time. Let’s face it, the thought of putting something so small into compost, adding some water and putting it somewhere warm, will just be alien to them. This is even more the case as they are, in most cases, growing up in a digital world where everything is on demand and happens at the touch of a button. This is why, as well as growing your longer term vegetables, it is also a good idea to do a project such as the cress heads so that they can see, in fast forward that these seeds actually grow. It will also make them curious about the longer term seeds and it can be an activity in itself to check them on a daily basis to see the first signs of some growth. Once that growth appears, this will bring them confidence in planting some more seeds as the growing season gets underway. I can certainly remember T’s reaction when he saw the cress growing – was quite magical.
Where food ‘actually’ comes from
As adults, we know that food actually begins its journey in the ground (in most cases). Quite often, I do wonder whether my toddler either thinks that the food is grown in the supermarket or when we complete an online order, grown at the touch of a button. This is far from ideal in terms of what I want him to understand when growing up. That’s part the reason why we are here doing this.
So by growing the vegetables and flowers that we buy in the supermarket, he can see the whole process up to the point where it ends up on our plate. And also that carrots do not always look the same but they come in many different guises and are all fine to eat. It still grates me that non ‘perfect’ carrots are not sold on the shelf – there’s nothing wrong with them. To be honest, it is the same as most vegetables. The Soil Association actually believe that somewhere between 20-40% of UK produce is rejected simply because it doesn’t ‘look right’. You will almost certainly get some vegetables that don’t ‘look right’ if you are growing some at home! And that is ok.
An appreciation for the seasons
Now that T is three, he is beginning to understand the seasons. He knows, probably because he is now at the age to understand, that winter is cold! Now that we are moving into spring, and it is getting a bit warmer, we are naturally spending some more time in the garden and with the daffodils that appear out of the ground, it gives it a real sense of magic.
Care and nuture
In a way similar to owning pets, plants need care and attention. Unless you are growing something like poppies, that will survive most conditions, you will need to spend a good amount of time nurturing the plants from seed and then planting them into the garden where they can grow when the weather warms up. Again, this feeds into the patience element somewhat but they will certainly need some care when they are planted into the garden.
We hope that this has given you some inspiration to start your own journey of growing seeds. It needn’t been complicated at the start, just something simple like sunflowers or cress heads. Both great ways to get your children enthusiastic about growing things in the garden!