Gardening with preschoolers teaches young children basic science concepts and encourages healthy eating habits. Children enjoy caring for plants and working with dirt and other materials, which build fine motor skills. Hands-on growing activities with preschoolers encourage a lifelong love for science and an eco-friendly state of mind.
1. Seed Tape
You can purchase seed strips in garden centers, but they are easy to make. Children can increase their fine motor skills and monitor the progress of their plants. For this activity, you will need paper towels, a pencil, a ruler, white glue and seeds (lettuce and carrot work well). Cut paper towels into 3-by-12-inch strips. Take a ruler and use the pencil to place a dot every 1 inch down the center of the paper towel strips. Place a drop of white glue on each dot and put a seed on each glue drop. Allow strips to completely dry before planting strips in the garden (1/2 inch deep).
2. Grass Heads
Young children become discouraged when seeds sprout slowly. Wheat grass sprouts in just a couple days so this activity is ideal for children to observe how things grow. For this activity, you will need a Styrofoam or plastic cup, potting soil, wheat grass seeds, cotton balls and markers. Children use the markers to decorate their cups with silly faces. Place 6 cotton balls at the base of the cup, then fill the cup 3/4 full with potting soil. Scatter about 10 seeds along the top of the soil and place a thin cover of soil over the seeds. Place in a sunny areas and water daily. Soon, the funny faces with have a nice grassy head of hair.
3. Sponge Garden
This is a simple indoor activity. You will need a sponge, a plate, scissors, seeds (mustard seeds and bean sprouts work well), plastic wrap and a spray water bottle. Choose a shape and use the scissors to cut the sponge accordingly. Run the sponge under water until it is soaked, and squeeze out the excess water. Put the sponge on the plate and sprinkle seeds liberally across the top of the sponge. Place the sponge in a sunny area and use the spray bottle throughout the day to keep it damp. At night, place plastic wrap over the sponge to maintain moisture. Continue watering and wrapping the sponge for two weeks. After a few weeks, you will be able to eat the sprouts.
4. Seed Balls
Encasing seeds in clay protects vulnerable seeds from predators or over watering. For this activity, you will need clay, seeds (choose flowers or vegetables that grow easily like marigolds and radishes), potting soil and wax paper. Cover your working area with wax paper and roll clay into five small balls roughly the size of golf balls. Gather a small amount of soil, equivalent in size to one ball of clay, and a small pile of seeds. Mold the soil into the clay (all of it), adding a small amount of water if it feels dry. Add the seeds to the top of the ball of clay and soil, pushing the seeds to the center of the ball. Roll the ball so that it is round and leave to dry overnight. Once dry, seed balls can be wrapped as gifts or planted into pots or the ground.
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