Spring flowers are in full bloom, pollinators are buzzing around, and the sun is shining. Now is the time to enjoy the outdoors before our summer heats sink in, and what better way than to get out in your own garden? Though many of us are stuck at home due to stay at home orders, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy nature right in our backyards.
Since Washoe County Schools are still closed, we thought you might need new ideas on how to entertain your kiddos. Gardening is a great way for young children to get their hands dirty and have fun while learning.
There are many ways to teach kids in your own garden with these fun gardening projects.
Teach Your Kids About Plant Reproduction
You might show them how plants reproduce by dissecting flowers and identifying the parts. Explain how plants are pollinated and talk about pollinators. With your child, research what type of insect or animal pollinates each plant in your garden. For instance, California Fuchsia (Zauschneria californica) is pollinated by hummingbirds.
You can also plant seeds and watch them grow over the course of a week or two. Try planting an edible flower like nasturtium or an herb garden, so your children can enjoy tasting their plants. You may even try a pizza garden with tomatoes, oregano and sweet basil for making tomato sauce. You can create a container garden as a fun garden activity.
Help Your Kids Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects
Kids love learning about insects, so see if you can spy pollinators and other beneficial insects in your backyard. You might be surprised when you look closely just how many insects are in your landscape. If you aren’t sure what the insect is, work with your child to research and identify it. There are many beneficial insects whose young look very different than the adults. Take lady bird beetles or lady bugs for example. Their young look like weird gray alligators!
Do Double Duty with Weed ID
Have weeds starting to spring up in your yard? Why not use it as a lesson on plant identification? First, explain to your child why some plants are considered weeds and less desirable.
To help them identify weeds, teach your children to look for identifying characteristics of plants, such as leaf number, shape and color. If the weeds have already flowered, have them list petal count, color and other identifying characteristics. If you aren’t sure what a weed is, there are great resources online for common weed identification. Work with your children to identify weeds as they pull them. Don’t forgot to throw them out to reduce seed dispersal and limit weed infestations.
Plant Identification in the Landscape
After taking care of the chores, help your child identify different plants in your landscape as a unique learning experience. Allow them to touch and smell the plants to learn more about them.
Some plants, like lamb’s ear, have furry leaves to the touch. Research with your child why some plants are adapted with these characteristics. Hint: hairy leaves reduce transpiration from the leaves to protect the plant against extreme heat and drought conditions. That’s why lamb’s ear does so well in our northern Nevada climate.
Tell Them Where Their Veggies Comes From
During lunch, talk with your child about where their vegetables and fruits come from. If you have a vegetable garden, it may be fun for your child to pick their own lettuce, spinach or cherry tomatoes for sandwiches and salads.
Kid-Friendly Indoor Gardening Activities
Too hot to be outdoors in the afternoon? We’ve compiled some fun and educational coloring sheets for your children. Help your kids work through these activities to make it fun for the whole family.
Being stuck at home doesn’t have to deter you and your children from enjoying the beauty and vast knowledge of nature. It’s right outside in your backyard. Recent studies have shown that getting your hands in soil can help reduce stress and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, so it may be good for all of us to spend a little more time during this season tending to our gardens.