activities for kids
In the summer months, it's sometimes hard to keep kids out of
the garden, especially if you've marked off an area just for them
to grow their own vegetables and flowers. But what about winter,
when chilly temperatures force you inside? What can you do to keep
your children interested in gardening? The answer is "plenty!"
Here are some ideas from the American Association of Nurserymen
to get you started thinking about indoor gardening projects for
your family, scout troop, or other youth group. I'm sure you'll
come up with others.
1. Windowsill gardens. When snowdrifts keep your
kids inside, try cultivating a windowsill garden. All you need is
a sunny spot and a few containers of soil. Herbs are an excellent
choice for windowsills.
2. Peculiar plants. What kid wouldn't be fascinated
by an insect-eating plant? Many garden centers sell Venus flytraps
in their houseplant section. Then visit your library or search the
Internet for more information on the natural habitat and growth
habits of this unusual plant.
3. Watch seeds sprout. Line a glass jar with a damp
paper towel and insert several zucchini seeds between the glass
and the towel. Place a lid on the jar, leave it on the kitchen counter,
and check the paper every day to make sure it's still moist. Seeds
should sprout in a few days. Or try bush beans instead of zucchini.
4. Kids' gardening clubs. If you haven't visited
your garden center lately, you'll be pleasantly surprised to discover
the trend towards kid-friendly shopping experiences. Many centers
host kids' gardening clubs or special workshops such as building
a birdhouse or starting seeds indoors.
5. Read a book. Books like Peter Rabbit or
The Secret Garden can spark your child's interest in gardening.
Ask your local librarian or bookstore owner for other suggestions.
6. Decorate while you wait. Let kids indulge their
natural creativity by painting inexpensive terra cotta pots to use
next spring, for repotting houseplants this winter, or for birthday
and thank you gifts. Kid-safe, durable paints can be purchased at
most craft shops.
7. Get a jump on spring. Plan a visit to your local
garden center to buy seeds. Or let your child help select varieties
from the seed catalogs. Then start seeds indoors to plant outside
after the last frost. Ask the experts at your garden center or check
your favorite gardening book to determine when to start seeds.
8. Worm farm. Line a large cardboard box with a
garbage bag. Fill it with soil, organic matter, and a few worms.
Keep it shady and moist, but not too wet. Add kitchen scraps (vegetables
only!) Worms will help teach your kids about the interdependence
of plants and organisms as they turn vegetable kitchen scraps into
9. Garden crafts. There are several projects you
can try with your kids, depending on their age and interest, such
as hand-painted plant markers or homemade whirligigs to put between
rows to frighten off birds. Your local craft store should have all
the supplies you need.
10. Terrariums. Carefully place some soil and a
few mosses and plants (with roots) inside a clean mayonnaise jar.
Keep your indoor garden moist with a plant mister, and cover the
opening with clear plastic wrap.
11. Feed the birds. Stock up on birdseed and suet
at your local garden center, and feed the birds this winter. Have
your child keep a record of all the species of birds that come to
the feeder and what date each first was spotted.
12. Pot People. Draw or paint faces on small clay
pots, then fill with soil. Plant grass seed, water, and watch the
13. Build a birdhouse. Birdhouse kits and plans
are available at most garden centers and craft shops. This is a
great activity for a cold winter's night.
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
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