Happy and Healthy: Gardening Activities for Children
Keep your children happy and healthy by turning them into—gardeners? Multiple scientific studies are now beginning to show children exposed to dirt, animals, pollen and the outdoors at an early age have fewer allergies and other autoimmune diseases later in life. Scientists say this early contact with “dirty” things actually strengthens the immune system. On the other hand, children who spend most of their early childhood indoors become more likely to develop allergies. Gardening is also very therapeutic for children diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, and acts as a healthy outlet to channel their energy and creativity. Children are natural gardeners, curious and eager to explore the magic of nature. The following are some activities to get your child out and involved in the landscape.
Create a Child's Garden
Help them create a garden especially for them. Set aside a small section of a garden bed and let them know it’s theirs. This will give them a sense of responsibility and pride as they watch their seeds sprout, grow and mature. Have your child pick out plants and seeds that interest them. Giant sunflowers, colorful wildflowers and whimsical vegetables are all great for a child’s garden. Encourage your child to water their plants and other simple tasks throughout the season. Come harvest time, show off your child’s work and enjoy the food they grew in their garden. If land is not available or you live in an apartment, help your child create a container or window ledge garden.
Wildflower Seed Crafts
There are many crafts involving wildflower seeds that children can be included in. Wildflower seeds are ideal for children to work with and usually require no special soil preparation. They germinate quickly and provide beautiful blooms that can later be gathered for flower arrangements. One craft children really enjoy is creating seed balls. These palm-sized balls of clay, soil and wildflower seeds can be thrown throughout the landscape as “seed bombs.” Learn how to create seed balls here. Plantable seed paper is also a great craft time activity to involve children in. Seed paper can be written on and colored just like regular paper, but by embedding wildflower seed into the paper it’s possible to “plant” the paper and watch it grow wildflowers. This activity requires a lot of adult help, but children will have a blast as they find creative ways to use and plant their seed paper. Learn more about it here.
Help a child start a leaf, flower or insect collection. Leaves and flowers can be pressed by laying them on a layer of newspaper, placing another layer of newspaper over the top of them and compressing between two heavy boards. Once the leaf or flower has dried, glue it onto a heavy piece of paper and label it. Insects can be caught with a net and placed in a jar with a few cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol. Dry out the insect and pin it to a piece of cardboard.
Here are some other gardening ideas for children:
- Help a child grow a fragrant garden. Include plants that smell spicy, minty and sweet.
- Help a child grow a butterfly and hummingbird garden.
- Make flower jewelry. Weave blossoms into bracelets, necklaces and headpieces
- Make birdfeeders by spreading peanut butter on a pine cone, then rolling the pine cone in bird seed. Hang from a tree.
- Create a living necklace by placing a seed in a damp cotton ball. Place the cotton ball and seed inside a small plastic baggy. Punch a hole in the top of the baggy and use a string to make a necklace.