Kids in the garden - a guide to the learning opportunities outside your back door
Kids in the garden
This blog is for the parents who have suddenly taken on the extra teaching job but would secretly like to just be in their garden.
A way to balance the learning, churning out a continuous supply of meals and snacks, dealing with the mess and working from home. Wouldn't it be nice if the kids could just go into the garden and learn?
They'd be in the open air.
You'd get some work done...
So here is how the garden fits into your timetable and a few ideas to get them outside. The ideas may take a little input to set up but when they are up and running hopefully your offspring will be happy to go out and tend, water and generally potter.
Ticking the Learning Boxes
Being outside ticks a myriad of learning boxes. This is especially the case with Primary School children. But even for older children the garden can have a therapeutic effect releasing stress and providing a sense of achievement. It can also provide opportunities to design and run their own experiments . Here are just some ways that gardening meets the curriculum learning requirements.
- set up experiments - what happens when you over or under water (plant extra to find out)
- germination - what happens to your seed when you plant it
- photosynthesis - how do plants make their energy
- count out seeds
- measure out plant food
- estimate how much your plant will grow in a week/ how big it will get
- measure height each week
- handle seeds - this uses fine motor skills so will help with pen control and hence handwriting
- write growing instructions - helps with ordering thoughts, handwriting, spelling
- write a story - base it on an existing story like Jack & The Beanstalk or let them think up their own
- draw / paint your plants
- tape leaves to a stick and use it as a paint brush (if your kids are really little you don't even need paint - just use water!)
- look at pictures others have drawn of flowers and gardens
- research artists and their relationship to gardens - like Van Gough and his fascination with the flower
1) Sowing & Growing
Kids want something that grows big and bold - sunflowers fit the bill perfectly. You can compete with your neighbours and connect with others by entering them into the #SunflowerChallenge too. For useful tips on how to grow sunflowers check out this blog Grow at Home: Sunflowers
Beans are a great plant for kids to grow too. If you really want to see what goes on then you can grow a bean seed in a glass jar. Moisten some kitchen paper and fit it around the inside of an old jam jar. Add a bean seed between paper and the glass so you can see it from the outside. Keep the paper moist and you should see the seed start to produce its roots and shoots. If you are a purist then you may want to grow your bean in Rootrainers instead. This will give the plants a better start. You will still get to see all the lovely roots when you open up the books ready to plant them in their final position though.
You might have trouble getting seeds and if this is the case you can still grow flowers. Dig up a young dandilion or daisy from the lawn making sure you get as much of the long tap root as you can. Transplant it into a pot. Water well and watch it grow. Your own little flower garden. As well as seeing how the plant grows you can see how the plant sets its seeds and distributes them. (Prepare for a few more dandilions next year!)
Growing kitchen scraps
Perfect low cost growing - take the top of veg like carrots or the stub of veg like celery, lettuce or even onions and put it in a shallow dish of water. Change water every now and then and watch your veg sprout. You won't get carrots (the root won't regrow) But you will get the lovely feathery foliage and possibly flowers.
2) Their own Patch
Even if you don't have a garden giving kids their own growing space is a great idea. A few pots, an instant raised bed or a corner of the garden. Then they decide what they want to grow and it is up to them to water, weed and generally look after it. Check out these two blogs for some veg that are easy to grow and can be eaten in as little as 4 weeks from sowing 5 Veg that you can easily gorw in a Pot or Planter 5 MORE Veg you can grow in pots
3) Wildlife Watch
The Great Bug Hunt is a competition usually only open to schools but now open to all. There is the chance to win your child's class a bundle of bug exploration-related prizes. The overall winner’s school will also get a hands on Insect Learning Day with the team from the RES. They will get up close with an assortment of more unusual insect life. Its all about counting bugs and recording what you see. The child with the best entry will also get a digital microscope. This could be the start of a life long love of science. Chcek out their website for details of where this fits in the curriculum and exactly which skills it develops. Great Bug Hunt
Even if you don't want to take part in the official hunt then you can easily build your own bug hotel. Look in the garden or park for sticks, preferably hollow ones. You can also raid the recycling box and roll up plastic to make tubes and add these. Make your materials into a bundle and tie with string then place in a sheltered spot. The hollow sticks are an ideal place for solitary bees to nest and you will soon find these and other insects moving in.
There are many resources on the internet that will allow you to identify the birds in your garden. You could get the kids to note which birds they see or you could try and attract new birds to your outside space. To attract birds it is easy to build a bird feeder out of an old plastic bottle. Simply cut a large hole in the side and punch a few holes in the bottom to allow rain water to drain. Attach string round the neck to create a loop for hanging. Then fill with seed and hang it up out of reach of the local cats.
4) Using it as another room
If you are lucky enough to have a garden or balcony then consider using it as another room. So, not just as a place to grow and sunbathe. But a place for some chilled out learning too.
The one thing that all schools are demanding is that children still keep reading. Change this up by taking blankets and cushions outside and doing your reading there.
Write and perform little open air theatre plays - either existing stories or ones your children have written. If you have a tent, put it up and use it for reading or drawing or writing stories.
I hope that this helps you to get your kids in the garden and out of the house.
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