To a preschooler, a garden is an outdoor classroom, teeming with the promise of math and science discoveries, nature observation, and new tastes and smells. Of course, your child probably also likes the chance to plunge his hands into the dirt without getting scolded! Even if you don't have a yard or patio, your child can still dive into the world of plants with easy-to-grow vegetables like peas.
Observe a Seed Sprouting
Have your child plant his pea seed in a clear plastic cup stuffed with damp paper towels. Place the seed between the side of the cup and the paper towel so he can see it from the outside of the cup. Remind your child to check on the progress of the seed every day, and add water if the paper towel is getting dry. Older preschoolers might want to draw a picture of the changing seed each day in a science journal, or take photographs of the seed to make a book about its progress.
What do Plants Need?
Rather than just telling your little one that plants need water, sunlight and soil to survive, set up experiments for him to do. Once he has several pea seedlings planted in pots, he can give one of them both water and sunlight, one just sun, and one only water. Ask him to observe what happens after a couple of days and draw a picture of the results. Older preschoolers might want to do other experiments, such as growing peas indoors versus outdoors.
Your preschooler can also get some measuring practice in while you are growing pea seeds. As the plant grows, have him measure how tall it is with a ruler and record the results. Younger preschoolers may need to round to the nearest inch. For a longer project, plant peas outside next to a trellis and monitor how the vines grow upwards along it. Show your child how to use a tape measure and a stool to measure the plants once they are taller than him.
Eat the Peas
Once the plants have gotten big enough to bear fruit, your child can pick the peas and eat them right from the garden or add them to other vegetables to make a salad. Let him get silly and create a face on his plate using peas as eyes, shredded carrot as hair and half of a cucumber slice as a smile. Discuss nutrition and healthy eating with your child as he munches. Remind him that his body needs vegetables to grow big and strong, just like plants need water and sun.