Gardening that’s for the kids

By Lynette Walther | Apr 08, 2020
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther The garden’s “schoolroom” can provide young people a wealth of experience and food too.

Go easy on that dish soap, go easy on the butter…I find myself admonishing my husband as I monitor our food and household supplies, and vow not to go to the grocery store until absolutely necessary. Yesterday as I counted the teabags left in the box, a vision of my grandmother flashed into my mind.

Reba Miley was a proud, self-sufficient and capable Hoosier who survived the Great Depression. It left an indelible impression upon her. She washed out plastic bread bags to reuse, rinsed “tin” foil, and over her range (she called it a range and not a stove) a length of cotton string was strung. Upon it dangled tea bags that she dried to use again. She didn’t have to do any of those things. And never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that one day I might actually have to do things like that either.

But here we are, and here I am counting tea bags.

Social distancing, self-quarantine, self-isolation, sheltering in place — new terms and practices that we are all using these days, phrases that two months ago were not even in the lexicon.

This situation with Covid-19 is moving so fast that every day presents new numbers, new alarm and apprehension. But out of it all, a novel direction is giving many hope and purpose. And it is gardening!

Whether it is concern over the food supply chain or just plain boredom after weeks self-isolating ourselves at home — gardening has emerged as an up-and-coming national pastime. It is one of the most rewarding activities for those homebound. Sales of garden seeds are brisk. People are researching how to build raised beds or how to grow certain vegetables.

The effort is bringing households together, the likes of which has not been seen since WW II when victory gardens helped feed a nation at war.

Well in a sense we are at war, but for many of us this conflict is being fought at home. Households across the nation are dealing with school-aged, and younger, children at home all day. Once the classroom lessons of the day are completed, there are hours to fill. And while it is still too early to get those gardens planted, creative parents and caregivers are using growing things as both activities and education.

KidsGardening, a national nonprofit reaches close to half of a million educators, parents and volunteers with free online gardening educational resources and activities, created and shared these ‘tried and true’ plant-based activities that can be conducted indoors, and enjoyed at any age.

Best of all, they do not involve “screen time.”

KidsGardening points out, “Active interaction (like touching and smelling) with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress, according to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology. Outdoor time in nature is equally powerful for restoring a sense of well-being and balance.”

KidsGardening reports that it sees firsthand the positive and life-changing experiences plants and gardening bring to children, and offers these home projects.

Top 10 Recommended Kids Gardening Activities

• Kitchen Scrap Gardening: Help the planet and clean up your kitchen, this one is a great way to think about where your food comes from. Sprout carrot tops or avocado seeds or a pineapple top in water. Plant a birdseed “garden” in half of an eggshell. Or start a compost pile.

• Seed Viewer: There are many different ways to explore plants by sprouting simple dried beans and peas from the soup grocery store aisle.

• Plant People: Create your own “chia pet” family with chia seeds and water on a terracotta flower pot.

• Grow Your Own Salad: Kids who grow edibles are more likely to eat them. Start seeds indoors and transplant into garden when the soil warms up.

• Pressed Flowers: Save beautiful spring blooms for future crafts. Pressed flowers provide a base for numerous projects and gifts.

• Leaf and Flower Prints: Engage those high energy kids with this fun craft. Use kraft paper and a can of spray paint plus leaves.

• Make More Plants from Houseplants: Houseplants make great gifts and what a great ‘giving’ activity. Many houseplants such as jade tree, philodendron and ivies can be sprouted in water.

• Hydroponics: Ever wonder how hydroponics really work? All that’s needed is a cup with a cover, water, and seeds.

• Garden Scavenger Hunt: Turn garden exploration into a game! You can even have prizes for those competitive family members.

• Soil Art: No paint on hand, no problem. With a little glue and water, soil can inspire creative artwork.

If you’re looking for additional ideas, KidsGardening has even more lesson plans, garden activities, and garden basics. Or look to additional kids gardening inspiration from National Garden Bureau, a proud supporter of KidsGardening.org.

In addition to making do or doing without in her home, Grandmother Reba also grew her own victory garden. She and her garden provided me with a lifetime of experience and inspiration.

Many of today’s parents will be doing the same as they teach their offspring the values of conservation of resources and how to grow things. Of course we know gardening cannot solve this crisis. That will be science. But in a sense this might just turn out to be a golden opportunity to show a generation what they are capable of doing for themselves.

Stay safe.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement and the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. Her gardens are in Camden.

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