When doing a study of seeds, plants, flowers, and gardens with children, the obvious, absolutely best activity is actually growing something from a seed! The transformation is magical and empowering to those little ones, and the applied activity really reinforces all they’ve learned about the needs of plants, and how they grow. Here are a few of my favorite planting activities!
Grass is gratifying because it grows quickly, making the changes visible each day. Children will love giving it a “haircut” as it becomes taller and taller. Find instructions for using regular grass seed or hard red wheat (for wheat grass) in indoor containers. Either one is easy, quick growing, and have the added bonus of providing a bit of spring indoors – particularly helpful if spring is a little slow in coming (as I type during yet another spring snow storm). Grass photo by vacanjay.
Sunflowers are a great choice as well. They are easy to grow, with easily visible progress as they ascend to some pretty impressive heights (particularly the mammoth variety). Sunflowers are also a favorite of mine because they so perfectly show the full life cycle of seed to plant to seed again. Use with the book One Little Seed by Elaine Greenstein or Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown for a great literacy activity, connecting the life cycle of the sunflower. I have done this activity with groups of children, planting the seeds in containers after one of the stories. Then I would send them home with a sheet full of instructions and connected activities to last them through the summer. ( Click here for the sunflower planting take-home sheet.) Sunflower photo by flashubi.
Zinnias are another favorite of mine. I mean, just look at that picture above and tell me it doesn’t make you feel happy inside! Zinnias are easy to grow from seed, rather resilient, and long-blooming. There are many varieties (I prefer the Dahlia-flowered), and a wide assortment of colors. I love to read the story Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington, and then help the children plant zinnia seeds into containers. Once the plants have enough growth, they can easily be transplanted outside for a summer full of color. (Find planting and transplanting instructions here.) Zinnias are also a great cut flower, so your children can bring their flowers indoors or give them as thoughtful gifts to others. Zinnia photo by lynnc.
Paperwhites are a fantastic indoor flower. You can easily grow them indoors any time of year, though their bulbs are most easily found in stores in the fall. Perhaps best of all, the bulbs can be grown in a glass container right on rocks and water, rather than in the soil, so their roots are completely visible. This makes it a great example for teaching the parts of a flower, since you can easily point them all out! (Instructions here!)Paperwhite photo by spaulson.
Start your garden early! As I mentioned, the snow is still falling here in the Rockies, but even if winter is a stubborn guest, you can start the seeds for a variety of plants to be moved out to your garden when the weather gets better. (Find class garden ideas here.) Growing food is particularly gratifying as the children can eat the literal fruits of their labors. It also reinforces the concept of natural sources of food. Children begin to understand that food doesn’t just appear at the store. Veggie photo by bigevil600.
Containers. When you do a seed activity, think about your container and how it will fit your purpose. See-through containers (think glass or plastic baby food containers, glass vases and other flower containers, and even plastic Costco-sized snack jars) offer a great view of the sprouting process. (Check out this See-Through Seed Garden activity.) If you use a container that is not see-through, you might also want to consider sprouting the same seeds in a baggie (you know, the classic wet paper towel in a plastic bag) so that children can see what’s going on under the soil. As far as solid pots go, Jiffy Pots are a great option, as they can be planted directly into the soil outside once your seedling is ready. I personally like to recycle old plastic containers that I’ve collected from past landscaping adventures because I’m cheap resourceful.
Whatever your method, whatever your plant, just get growing with the children you love and teach!
For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.