Late last month we witnessed the closing of Toys R Us, the retail giant where I spent many hours purchasing the latest toys during my girls’ childhood years. That little jingle: “I want to be a toys r us kid” still resonates in my memory banks. And although I am saddened by the demise of this once robust purveyor of toys to the ease of today’s one click shopping, it reminded me that children’s play can be found outside the confines of manufactured toys. Garden spaces offer hours of valuable “kids gardening lessons” for the developing child.
The natural flow of the all season garden can offer a child the visual, touch and movement that far surpasses the sensory experiences provided by the plastic manufactured toy. Early this spring, I discovered my granddaughter preferred to find the emerging crocus in my garden bed over the overpriced shape sorter with bells and whistles!. I found it fascinating at 10 months old, to observe her natural instinct to grasp and bring the flower up to her nose for the sensory experience. As an adult we often over look the simplest of things a garden can offer our growing children.
At this moment in time. the early summer garden can be a host for interactive kids gardening activities using play to learn and grow. Although the late spring bulbs of the allium are spent and their colors browned by the summer sun, a stake and some funky colored spray paint makes the flower heads an eye catching focal for kids to see in the garden. Yesterday I painted the allium at the Children’s Museum of Saratoga Springs. I was immediately rewarded with the delighted response of children seeing this neon colored spike as they ascended the steps of the museum.
Blending edibles into your garden beds can teach a child the oh so lost art of patience! The lightening speed and immediate gratification offered by today’s technology based learning has nearly eliminated the need to be still and wait. (you may remember that early learned virtuous skill before the advent of handing kids touch screen devices to bide their time) Kids can observe the stages of the developing veggies from flower to fruit and ripening in days/weeks not gigahertz (GHz). Watching that blueberry turn from green to a ripe bluish purple before plucking it from the bush and popping it in their mouth is a childhood memory not to be missed. Now that is a real lesson in developing patience and observation skills. In my gardens we have transitioned from watching and waiting amid the strawberry beds to the blueberry and raspberry bushes. This week my granddaughter will pick blueberries for one of her favorite Poppi-made breakfasts, blueberry pancakes.
Ever play “I Spy” with your child? As my garden choreographs it’s summer dance, the multitude of colors, shapes, sizes, numbers and visiting beneficial wildlife provide hours of playful kids gardening “I Spy” games. The striking yellow of the re-blooming daylily pops out amid the greens of surrounding shrubs and ground covers. My Veronica looks like a child’s colored pencil. My beloved Annabelle hydrangea offers white, round shaped blossoms that look like playful balls bouncing around in my garden. Butterflies, bees, moths and hummingbirds attracted to my perennials give a child visuals to localize and scan, the eye skills needed to begin reading and writing. Digging and pulling up weeds, cutting blooms to arrange indoors and carrying their flower bounty give children the precursor bilateral hand skills for using classroom tools. Make plant selections kids will love to touch and smell. Herbs like lavender and hardy creeping thyme offer scents for further exploration. These positive early sensory experiences provide kids with the sensory motor precursors for movement and to adjust socially.
So this summer, put some “technology free” learning to work for your child. Get out in the garden for some terrific kids gardening lessons. Don’t have a garden of your own to enjoy with your child? Locally you can enjoy the first year experience of gardens at the Children’s Museum of Saratoga Springs. The staff there is developing seasonal activities for kids to appreciate and learn from the urban garden spaces there. Check out their hours and activities:http://cmssny.org
Do you have a home garden that offers fun learning activities for kids? How do you make it fun for your kids and grandchildren? Share it with the Garden Goddess! Sharing from from one another can help our kids learn and grow alongside our gardens! As always keeping garden practices sensible and sustainable 🙂 Be sure to visit my website for upcoming “kid-friendly” garden activities throughout the year.http://gardengoddesssenseandsustainability.com