crafts

Back to School and Into the Garden!

School is back in session and it’s time to get our youngsters out of the cafeteria and into the garden–their very own school garden.

From aphids to zinnias, beets to watermelon, children can gain a wealth of valuable knowledge from participating in a garden, but they need guidance.  And who better to guide them than you?

ladybug in action!

“Me? But I don’t have time for a garden.”

Of course you do—you simply don’t realize it yet!  Gardens don’t have to be time-consuming.  Nor do they have to be stressful.  I mean, where in the garden manual does it say you must sacrifice every ounce of your free time and sanity for the sake of growing vegetables? More

Going Back to School

Kids head back to school next week which means I as garden coordinator head back with them.  While we didn’t spend a lot of time in the garden over the summer (peanuts are fairly low-maintenance), we have BIG plans for the year ahead, beginning with our pumpkin patch.  As you may recall, last year our pumpkins hit a rough patch of fungus and did not produce the orange beauties we were expecting.  Why not?

Well, we could chalk it up to ambitious gardeners, seed crowding, Florida humidity, the normal stuff–but this year we’re doing things a bit differently.  We have moved locations, giving the pumpkins ample space to stretch out and spread their vines.  We also plan to put mulch beneath them to ward off grass growth.  Kinda hard to cut the lawn around the pumpkins and vines which caused some of the problems.  But no worries.  We will master the art of pumpkin growth this year!  We’ll also harvest our peanuts and generally prepare the garden for our fall crop. 

As to our lessons, we will coordinate garden and classroom for a seamless and common sense approach to education.  Translated:  what they’re learning in class will correspond to what they’re learning in the garden.  Easy enough when it comes to botany and chemistry.  It’s life science in middle school that will prove a bit more, “challenging” shall we say?  Oh yes, we’ll be talking reproduction in the garden, 101. 🙂

If anyone has any suggestions for curriculum or craft ideas, I’m all ears!  On the current agenda we have:   art in the garden to express their creative side, journaling to practice their power of observation and writing skills, science projects with our attempt at building a solar oven, measuring and graphing for a slice of math among the beds, the power of self-sustainability beginning from seed to harvest, then learning to save their seeds for next season, and of course cooking.  We eat what we grow which makes everything taste better.  For added fun, we’re incorporating Spanish into our garden, with bilingual plant signs to vocabulary lists.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?  Oh–and don’t forget the field trip to the worm fun.  Talk about a good time, worms are it.

So follow along with us as we share our garden lessons and crafts and by all means–share some of yours.  We’ll consider it a coop garden of sorts, albeit virtual in nature.

How to Make the Most of your Garden with the Kids

Please welcome Laura Clarke to my blog today!  She’s a keen blogger and loves making the most of the garden, especially when it comes to the kids.  Currently, she’s working on behalf of Tiger Sheds, a company out of the UK.  If you’re “in the area” why not stop by the website and take a look see?  Something for everyone there… 🙂

How to Make the Most of your Garden with the Kids

Kids love to be outside at this time of year and there are plenty of things that need to be done in the garden that the kids can help you with and enjoy! Whether it’s sowing seeds, picking out the weeds or watering the plants there are plenty of activities that will keep your kids entertained and also keep your garden looking great at the same time.

Grow some vegetables

No space is too small to grow your own vegetables, fruit or herbs and kids will love watching the plants grow to have edible produce that they can enjoy. Tomatoes are favourites with children as they can easily grow in a grow bag in a warm garden shed or greenhouse. Strawberries can also be grown in hanging baskets and herbs in small pots. Cooking with their own produce will give children a new-found appreciation for the lengths it takes to get food to the table.

Let them plant your pots

Show them how to fill your pots with soil and how to sow the seeds and bulbs and then get them to water them. They might not be the cleanest gardeners, so beware of soil scattering everywhere, you could even get them to sweep up the mess they made. Teach them how from tiny seeds or bulbs big plants will grow and how they have to be looked after by giving them plenty of water to drink and sitting them in a nice sunny spot.

Get them to weed your flower beds

Weeding can be a chore at the best of times so by having some little helpers on hand could save you precious time. Kids gardening kits are easily available and are great for little hands. As we all know kids love digging and playing “grownups” so they will really enjoy doing this. (Just make sure you brief them fully as to what constitutes a weed–we don’t want any plants uprooting!)

Give them the task of watering the plants

Giving children jobs to do in the house in return for their pocket-money is nothing new, so why not extend the jobs into the garden and have them water the flowers. Filling up a watering can and watering the garden can be a great game–they will forget it’s a job.  Receiving their pocket-money at the end of the week will be so much more fulfilling.

Create a child’s garden

Depending on how big your garden is depends on how much space you can give to the kids. If you have a small garden, give them a large window box to look after or for large patches, why not give them a flower bed? Tell them it is their responsibility to make sure their patch looks as good as the rest of the garden and show them how to keep it tidy. They will be very happy once their flowers bloom and they see their hard work pay off.

Getting your kids involved in garden maintenance means they’ll be less likely to dig up your favourite plants, plus they’ll feel pride in looking after their very own. So get outside and let’s start gardening as a family!

Engaging Kids in the Garden

And by this I mean both verb and noun.  Kids are a hoot in the garden.  Not only do they come up with some of the most amazing theories about nature at work, but they delight in the simplest of discoveries (a joy for any parent to watch).

But how do you get kids INTO the garden?  In general, kids tend to avoid chores like homework.  Sure, they understand it’s part of the deal, but if they can shortcut the process somehow…

…then by all means, they’re shorting!  However, if the garden presents adventure and discovery, you won’t be able to keep them out.  Bugs, rare finds, lost coins, worms, butterflies, animal poop–having your own garden equates to big time excitement!  And then of course there’s harvest time.  What kid doesn’t like to eat yummy food?

Stop laughing.  I’m serious! Vegetables can be yummy for kids, so long as they’re “staged” in the proper fashion.  (Note to parents of daughters:  while I don’t literally mean fashion, you can use this angle to get your girls in the garden.  How?  My daughter plays with her Polly’s among the branches and trellis’ and has quite the time of it, creative little thing that she is!).   But truthfully, lure them with the promise of baking healthy french fries and potato chips together.  

Packing carrots with the greens intact makes for amazing bragging rights (wonderful cupcakes, too).  Even broccoli snapped from the stalk seems a whole lot more alluring to kids than the shrink-wrapped store-bought kind.  I mean, what lucky person had the right to break all those “trees” from the stalks?

Not your kids.  Trust me–they want their chance.  It’s fun to harvest vegetables!  Pulling carrots from their hiding places, swimming for buried treasure–er, potatoes.  It’s a blast!  And the sheer pride they derive from planting seeds, watching them grow… 

It’s truly a wonderful experience.  Have them grow their own herbs, too, and then dry them in oven.  They’re perfect for sprinkling on pizza, pasta–you name it!  Not to mention they make great gifts for friends and family, and dare I mention…teachers?  End of the school year is approaching fast, but don’t worry if your child doesn’t have their own garden yet–they can practice with fresh fruits and vegetables from the grocery store!  My kids and I recently went strawberry picking and ended up with flats of excess berries.  What did we do?

Made our own homemade preserves.  (It’s easier than you think.)  Check my recipe section for complete how-to instructions and don’t forget Mom!  With Mother’s Day on the horizon, your kids will enjoy giving her the gift of nature with satchels of lavender and rosemary, or painting a planter pot at the local paint and glaze shop. We have an awesome one in our area.  Check your local listings for one near you. 

While we’re talking rosemary, try using some to make rosemary lemonade!  Or how about making homemade aromatherapy oils?  Hmmm…  Moms love that kind of stuff.  I should know–I am one!

For those who “know how to sew,” how about creating a garden apron?  Worked to get my daughter excited about the garden…  And it’s too cute to pass.  For those rebel do-it-yourselfers, I’ve included the “apron-construction-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” patternI do love a challenge.

Now that we’re all dressed up, how about hosting a harvest party?  Better yet, invite your childs’ friends over for a potato swim or carrot dig!  They will surely be the hit of the neighborhood.  And there are some awfully cute garden-style invitations to choose from out there.   I couldn’t resist.

And when they finish with their first season, encourage sustainability with custom-designed seed saving packets. Instructions are right here under the Kid Buzz section of this website and they are way cool.

No matter which path you choose, gardening with kids is tons of fun and a true joy.  Plant seeds of love together, and watch your relationship grow.

Make Corn Husk Dolls this Fall!

Here’s a fun way to use all those corn husks this fall — make dolls!  These kids are having a ball  (is there a lot of rhyming going on here?)  and it’s quite simple.

To begin, remove husks from corn.  It’s best to use soft, pliable husks but if you have some already dried, no problem.  Just soak them in water for about 10 minutes to soften.  Gather together about 4 – 6 corn husks, thin ends at one end, and tie with string or twine.  I used yarn in this example but it won’t hold up in the long run, so use something more sturdy.  For hair, include the silk from your corn.  Tuck it inside your gathered husks before tying.

Next, hold husks at tied end and fold over to create head.  Tie at neck.  Look at that gorgeous blonde hair!  Yarn is a good substitute for hair.

For arms, take another husk and roll it lengthwise into a tight tube.  Tie at ends to create hands and slip in between the body of your doll. 

For added bulk, roll another husk from end to end and under husks, beneath arms before you tie the waist.

For a girl, you’re finished.  For a boy, divide husks into two sections and tie and knee and ankle.  Kids can decorate how they wish.

Try it!  My kids really enjoyed it.