Gardening is one of the best ways to teach your children about the environment. They can discover how plants grow from a seed, thus understanding the origins of the food they eat. It is alarming how many small children believe that fruits and vegetables are made at the grocery store. Exposing a child to gardening teaches them the science of plants, and heightens their environmental awareness. However, many Americans do not have a sunny backyard in which they can grow a garden. This post suggests some alternative natural teaching opportunities for those of you who do not have the option of growing a garden adjacent to your home.
Photo by Mike Linksvayer.
Look Into Renting a Plot
Many communities have a public garden space where people can rent a portion and grow their own plants. Often the rental fee is small and includes water use. Check with your local parks and recreation department to see if this is possible. After you rent the plot, decide what you want to grow and set up a schedule to regularly work on the garden with your children. They will love digging in the dirt and watching the seeds turn into plants.
Garden on the Roof
If you live in a city apartment building, see if you can garden on the roof. You will be benefiting your neighborhood and the local wildlife, as well as revitalizing an unused space. Container gardens typically do well on a roof.
Go Small and Grow Herbs in a Windowsill
If you have exhausted all the outside gardening options, consider growing basil or another favorite herb inside. Herbs are not large plants so they won't take up much room. Basil is fragrant and often enjoyed by children. Pick up some seeds, potting soil and a container. Your kids will enjoy checking on the plants as they grow and sampling the basil when it is big enough to eat!
Photo by Dwight Sipler.
Seeds in a Bag
If your thumb is more black than green and you shudder at the thought of trying to grow herbs in the house, go for the simple science lesson instead. Take a ziploc bag and put a damp paper towel folded inside. Add a few bean seeds in the towel, seal the bag, and use tape to hang it on a window. Within 3-5 days you will see the seeds start to germinate. The neat thing about this method is you can actually see the germination process, since it is not in dirt but in a translucent paper towel. Your kids can watch the roots and leaves form, giving them a textbook view of the science of plants. This method is recommended even for families who DO have a backyard garden, because the kids can learn from seeing the seed grow in the bag and then transplanting it into their garden.
Just because you do not have a backyard ideal for gardening does not mean your kids can't be exposed to the learning opportunities that gardening provides. One or all of the above suggestions will have your children interested in the environment, plants, and where food comes from.