Parenting Resources

Grow Without the Dirt – Gardening Indoors With Kids

With spring on the horizon, most of us start to plan our garden. At least here in my Chicago suburban home, planning our summer garden is one of the ways that our family survives the final push of winter weather. I can make it through any random April (or May!) snowstorm if I know that gardening is just a few weeks away. Gardening indoors with kids is one of the first steps to get them excited about summer!

We’ve started our plants indoors this year, and have watched our seeds grow steadily. Jackson, our preschooler, has always enjoyed helping out with gardening tasks but this year he is into it tenfold. I’ve been looking for ways to harness and expand his enthusiasm, but simply don’t have the living space to add one more seedling to our home. Enter our very own form of hydroponics, or growing living things without dirt.

Besides being a fun science experiment, learning to grow things without dirt has given him more plants to check on each day. He thinks it is awesome that he can grow plants in dirt, in water, and in other mediums entirely. Here are a few ideas to get you and your little gardener started.

Start an Avocado Adventure

While I might be the only person who doesn’t love guacamole, I do love that you can start an avocado tree in your home with just a few toothpicks and a glass of water. The next time that you are at the grocery store with your child, pick out an avocado together. Talk about where he thinks avocados come from – a bush, a tree, etc. Avocados do indeed come from trees and you can start one together.

After you use your avocado, save and rinse the pit. Pierce it with 3 or 4 toothpicks so that it can “hang” in a glass half full of water. Keep the pointy side as the top. Now, you wait. It might take up to eight weeks to see things really start to happen, but if you and your family can have the patience, your avocado pit will start to sprout roots.

If you live in appropriate weather, you can plant your sprouted pit. About 10 years later, your tree will start giving you avocados. If you don’t have that kind of time, just seeing the sprouting process right in your kitchen is enough to call this experiment a success.

Lettuce, Onions, and Leeks (Oh My!)

This spring and summer, our family is committed to working on reducing our kitchen waste. While we are good at using most of our ingredients up, I’ve already started our compost pile and am still looking for ways to decrease our household trash. Our dirtless plants fascination works great for this.

The next time you are chopping up green onions or leeks, don’t throw away the bottom part with the roots. Instead, toss them into a bit of water. Within no time at all, you will have new green onions and leeks to use for your next recipe. Be sure to rotate some new starter roots every few times so that you are getting good nutrients, but this is a fun way for your child to see how things grow. You can also use this technique with romaine lettuce and even fennel.

Hit the Pet Store

If you already have a fish tank at home, or a pond in your backyard, you might find your next aquatic plant adventure in your pet store. Our fish Blue now has a lovely aquatic plant in his tank, courtesy of the nice lady at our local pet store. We had fun “planting” it in his tank and I think that Blue is pleased with this recent upgrade.

If you have a pond as a landscape feature, you already have a gateway to water lilies and other aquatic plants. Get your child involved in choosing appropriate plants for the health of your pond, as well as “planting” them. It is a wonderful way of hands on learning.

If you aren’t sure if avocado pits and green onions are the way that you want to test out dirtless plants, or if your child is more advanced and ready to take something else on, you can dive more into hydroponics; or, find clear gel that you can grow root cuttings in. Get your child involved with you by visiting local garden centers or botanical garden locations that are local to you; gardening or nature camps are also a great place to get information.

Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged

Indoor Gardening With Kids

It may be the end of January but the sun is shining in our neck of the woods, which is actually pretty unusual for this time of year.  I live in the Pacific Northwest and it is usually freezing in January!

Whether the sun is shining in your area or not, this is the time of year that kids get antsy from being indoors a good amount of time.  So it’s a great time for gardening with kids and for igniting their imagination, to dream, plan and create!

gardening kids.jpg

Gardening with kids at this time of year?  Yes!  What do you think of when you think of a garden?  Vegetables, Flowers, Herbs?  A huge garden in a country backyard or a petite garden in the inner city?

I happen to believe that all children should have the confidence and knowledge to know that they can plant a seed in the ground and learn how to nurture and care for it in order to see the fruit of their labor.  After all growing flowers, fruits and veggies is a life skill that someday they may need!

Here are a few guidelines that you might like to use to get you started growing a little garden;

  • Make it easy ~ In this day and age of being busy we want things to be easy.  Easy seeds to grow, easy gardens to tend and easy to gather supplies.

  • Purchase child size plastic garden utensils so that the kids have their very own.  Even if you plant a small seed indoors, kids can become familiar with what each utensil does.

  • Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of a garden.  A “garden” can be 1 seed in 1 container on 1 windowsill of your home.  There you have it…an indoor garden.

See how easy a little garden can be?  Let’s further investigate the reasons having a garden with your child is such an awesome thing.

Types of Gardens you can grow with kids:

  • As mentioned above, you can have a teeny tiny garden on your window sill to a big elaborate garden outdoors, but since we are thinking along the lines of indoor gardening, let’s start there.

  • You can plant a seed in any kind of container you like; buckets, boots, milk cartons, 2 liter pop bottles…anything!  The main thing you need  to have is some drainage on the bottom so that over watering does not occur.  If the container you use doesn’t already have holes, make them.

  • Seeds that grow super easy indoors are Beans,  Radishes,  Onions,  Peas,  Sweet Alyssum,  Nasturtiums,  Parsley.

  • Make sure that you pick a spot in your house that will get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.  If you don’t have this, there are special growing light bulbs you can buy at your local garden nursery.

  • Be sure and do the above things together! Planning a garden is a big part of the fun.

Benefits of gardening with kids:

  • Creates a sense of self confidence and self reliance.

  • Stimulates the senses with wonderful smells.  Not to mention the fun of digging in dirt!

  • Kids become curious and start to ask many “scientific” questions: How does the seed grow? How long will it take?  How can we make it grow faster?

  • Parent child bonding happens when doing a fun project together while investigating the wonders of that little seed that is underground.  Use your own sense of wonder Mom and Dad!

Gardening projects to do with kids:

There is no end to the little garden projects you can do with kids, here are just a few!

  • Plant grass in the shape of your child’s handprint ~ super easy and grass grows fast.Grassy Handprint.jpg

  • Seed Sorting ~ Buy different sizes of seeds and sort them, glue them into pictures and then plant them.
  • Create little garden markers (even if you plant one seed) out of popsicle sticks.

  • Create a little chart to keep track of the day you last watered your seeds.  Then make a chart for when your seed starts to grow.  Measure each week out big it is growing.

  • Grow Seed Hair!

  • Gather free catalogs and cut out the pictures, sort by whether they are flowers or vegetables.  Glue them into a little notebook.grow seed hair.jpg

For more ideas on gardening fun with kids you can hop over to this great Pinterest resource with over 64 great ideas or check out nature camps near you.

Teaching patience is hard to teach children.  With gardening, you can be doing other fun projects while they wait patiently for that little seed to pop out of the ground.  Part of being patient if finding other things to do while you wait.

Happy Gardening!