Every year my family plants a small garden – a couple of tomato plants, pepper plants, lots of sunflowers, and whatever else catches our eyes. Each year the kids have been getting more and more involved in the entire process. They enjoy planting the seeds or plants, digging out weeds, and especially watering each and every plant. They also enjoy picking the tomatoes from the vine, pulling peppers to eat for dinner, and seeing the sunflowers bloom and tower over us all.
Not only does our garden produce wonderful food that we can enjoy, but is also a valuable teaching tool. Along with the fun of getting dirty and playing in the water, children learn valuable lessons with the help of gardening. They learn about patience as they wait for vegetables to grow, responsibility as they see how we have to care for the garden, and even loss when the plants die at the end of a season and we have to cut them down.
Gardening is a tool that not only families can use, but child care programs and schools as well. In fact, at the Fall Conference of the Fort Wayne Association for the Education of Young Children, ECA’s Lisa Bradley, CACFP Food Monitor, and Marc Goeglein, Learning Center Co-Director, presented a workshop about this called, Magic Beans and Growing Things. I asked Lisa and Marc if we could share some of the insights that they presented that day.
Whether you start a small window sill garden in your home, plant a garden in your yard, start a garden at school, or help with a community garden, I hope you share the experience with your children.
Have a Great Week!
Gardening – A small investment…with a huge return!
Why do we feel that it is important and beneficial to garden with children?
- Gardening with children helps teach many of the Indiana Foundations (English and Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education and Health, Visual Arts).
- It also introduces new and different foods.
What Can Preschoolers Grow?
- Squash & Gourds
- Honey Dew
What can you do once the garden starts to produce?
- Weed the garden.
- Water the garden.
- Make charts.
- Make predictions and observations.
- Draw pictures of what is happening in the garden.
- Harvest the produce.
Can they do anything else?
- Paint with the Harvest (corn, cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, sunflowers, carrots, etc.) Getting messy is OKAY!!!
- Cut Cabbage
- Clean Potatoes
- Cook with the Harvest
- Enjoy the “vegetables” of their labor
Lisa Bradley is a Food Monitor for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). She works across ECA’s 10-county service area, providing nutrition information and training while monitoring Program compliance. Lisa, who has a degree in culinary arts, has also worked as the Food Quality Controller at ECA’s Learning Center-Beacon Street.
Marc Goeglein is Center Co-Director at ECA’s Learning Center on Beacon Street. Prior to that, he was a classroom teacher there. Marc, who has a degree in early childhood education, was instrumental in starting the gardening activities at Beacon Street. Since its inception, gardening at the Center has provided both learning experiences and real produce for the children at the Center.
Tips for Gardening with Children from NAEYC