Is your family starting a home garden this month? The perks of growing fruits, veggies, and herbs at home are practically endless: lower grocery bills, healthier produce, and instant access to some of the coolest science on Earth.
In honor of Earth Day, we've collected some helpful tips on creating a home garden with your kids: why it's important, how to make the most of it, and how to dig in the soil for a learning opportunity.
Science grows all around us!
There's something downright magical about the first time a sprout pokes through damp soil. When you grow plants from seeds, you get to experience every part of the growing process.
For kids, the science is nothing shy of a magic trick. Find items on your grocery list that you could successfully grow from home, like herbs and easy veggies like tomatoes. As a family, plan out what plants you want to grow at home: where will they live? How often will they need water? What do you do if it gets cold?
Getting kids involved in the planning stages--not just the "dirt under your nails" stage--is a great way to get them invested in the science behind nutrition and conservation.
Sometimes, a little dirt is a good thing.
Many parents are struggling to find healthy physical activities for kids to do at home. Gardening is a fantastic way to get the blood pumping as you work together to turn soil, sow seeds, and water plants. Plus, what kid doesn't like to get a little dirty?!
Dirt itself also presents a unique learning opportunity. A fun, simple science experiment involves collecting samples of natural top soil and bagged potting soil. What are the differences between the two growing mediums? Which do you think will lead to healthier, stronger plants?
Place two pots side-by-side, and grow two seedlings of the same species. (I'm a big fan of home-grown Roma tomatoes!) Make predictions on which will grow taller, which will sprout blossoms or fruit first, and when each will sprout. Each day, take pictures of your progress and mark your observations down in a Grow Journal. Were your predictions correct?!
Spend some time in the sunshine.
Gardening is also a great way to spend some time in the sun when your local parks and beaches are closed. If you don't have the space for a full backyard garden, dedicate a sunny window or a small portion of your outdoor space to grow something green.
Watering, weeding, and taking care of potted plants are easy chores that are perfect for small fingers. Working together on a family garden helps small children develop responsibility and pride in their work. Plus, the first time you sit down for a home-grown meal, excitement makes the food taste better than anything you'd find in a restaurant!
Let your imaginations bloom!
A home garden is also a perfect opportunity for a little DIY decorating magic. In the picture below, you'll see a plant we grew at home, in a special ceramic pot my kids decorated themselves! We made a day of the activity, busting out the paints and the stickers to deck out our individual plant pots. And a few years later, we still use the finished pieces.
Another fun experiment to try involves your favorite plants and a healthy dose of food coloring. Find healthy plants with wide, roomy leaves where the veins are easy to see. Set out a few different bottles of water, each with a couple drops of food coloring. Every few days, water your plants with the different colors, and keep an eye on the leaves to see the colors travel through the veins. (You can also try this with white or pale-colored carnations!)
This experiment is magical for parents as well as for kids--you'd be surprised what color shows up in the leaves when you drop in some red food coloring!
From garden planning to decoration, planting to pruning, and everything in between, a home garden is a great way to connect with your kids while sharing in the science