Keep your preschool nature lessons thriving year-round by planning a variety of indoor gardening ideas. Your preschoolers will enjoy getting their hands dirty and watching the fruits of their labors quickly begin to sprout while learning valuable lessons about how plants grow and what they need to survive, such as water and sunlight.
Indoor herb gardens grow well during any season, making them ideal to use as gardening projects for your preschooler. Buy a few small pots that can fit on a windowsill along with sterile potting soil and herb seedlings or seeds. Choosing herbs you regularly use, such as rosemary or parsley, lets your child pick stems or leaves from mature plants later for your recipes. Have your preschooler help you add potting soil to the pots, poke holes in the soil for seeds or seedlings, scoop soil over the seeds or roots and add water.
To help teach your preschooler the importance of water in a plant's life cycle, grow some sprouts without using soil. In a wide-mouth jar turned on its side, for example, you can grow edible sprouts such as alfalfa or lentil. Soak the seeds for about 12 hours, and then drain the water and cover the jar top with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band. Rinse and drain the seeds a couple of times a day; the residual water should be enough to help them sprout. In two to five days, you'll have tasty sprouts your preschooler can help you harvest and add to salads or other recipes.
When you're planning an outdoor spring garden, get ready in the winter with indoor starter plants. This gives you a head start on the spring growing season while allowing your preschooler to learn more about where vegetables come from. Buy seeding trays from garden supply stores or save the bottom half of egg cartons. With help from your preschooler, fill the sections with potting soil and poke a hole in each section for the seeds. Drop a seed in each hole and cover it with soil; then water the seeds every other day, or when the soil feels dry to the touch. Placing the trays in a sunny location inside your home helps them germinate. Your preschooler can help you transfer the seedlings to your outdoor garden when the weather warms.
Containing the gardening to a terrarium, such as a large glass jar or fish bowl, helps alleviate space problems and the mess often found with indoor gardens by keeping soil and water splashes inside while providing only a limited space for the plants to grow. Your preschooler can help you lay a thin layer of rock or gravel on the bottom, then spoon in 2 to 3 inches of potting soil. Plant small plants in the soil, such as miniature ferns, such as lion's mane fern (Microlepia strigosa "Shishi"), or African violets (Saintpaulia ionantha). Give your preschooler a watering can with a narrow spout to add a small amount of water every few days. As the plants grow, your preschooler can use safety scissors to trim back the plants.