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Growing Plants from Seeds—A Fun Way for Kids to Learn About the Earth
Thursday, 09 August 2012 00:00  |  Written by Dawn Marshallsay | Blog Entry

Boy Watering Plants photo by whgradAs a child, I used to plant everything from pepper seeds to ash keys (winged seeds from ash trees) in pots in the disused greenhouse at the end of our garden. I’d water them every day, waiting for the thrill of spotting the first green shoots pushing up through the soil. Any failures were part of the experimentation—the unpredictability fascinated me. Do children have the time, space and patience to plant seeds in the technological age? If we want future generations to care about the environment and look after it, we must involve them in its creation.

Motivation in Reward
All children love rewards and planting seeds provides plenty. There’s a greater sense of achievement in growing a plant from a seed, just like cooking a meal from scratch, rather than using a mix. And there’s no discounting the delight of enjoying the resulting fruit or vegetable, or a pretty and sweet-smelling flower. However, growing houseplants can be just as satisfying, as we shall see.

Eating Their Greens
What if your children don’t like eating fruits and vegetables? Growing their own might do the trick, as they’ll soon see there’s nothing to fear about the vegetable they planted from seed and lovingly watered every day. Plus, it’s no myth that freshly picked, homegrown organic crops taste better than supermarket produce, as they haven’t had the chance to lose any goodness through travel and preservation—and they aren’t coated in chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Food Tasting
All children like food and games, so a fruit and vegetable tasting session is a useful way to extend their knowledge. They might even enjoy a bit of competition with their siblings and playmates as in which has the greater, bigger, better-looking and tastier yields.

Find fresh, colorful pieces of fruit and vegetables, and ask your kids to describe their flavors and textures. Support each product with facts about the vitamins it contains and how this improves their health. It’s also important to remind them (and yourself) that fruits and vegetables sometimes have strange shapes, textures or aftertastes, which might delight a sophisticated palate, but not a youngster.

At the Greengrocers
Once youngsters can appreciate the taste of a good-quality vegetable and piece of fruit, show them how to spot top specimens in the shop so they won’t end up selecting and eating an old, unripe or damaged item and be put off to the specific fruit or vegetable—or fresh produce in general.

After growing and tasting their own food, they’ll be better able to appreciate that crops don’t have to be grown using chemical pesticides and fertilizers—which may make the resulting harvest look and travel better, and add to the growers’ profits, but which harm the environment and our health. This should encourage them to eat fresh and organic fruits and veggies even when misshapen or otherwise less than photogenic.

If children are searching for something to care for during the winter months, after the harvest is over, evergreen houseplants are a great source of wonder. They come in all shapes and sizes, lower stress and remove toxins from the air. Venus flytraps always prove popular. Kids love to watch as these carnivorous plants snap their leaves shut on flies and eat them.

Spider plants are also easy to care for, fast-growing and quick to multiply. These baby plantlets can also be given to friends, or other children in the neighborhood, so they can share the fun.

As a child, it so fascinated me to see the tiny white flowers on my spider plant sprout miniature leaves and white tubular roots in midair, that I used to plant every single one. Hence, friends and family often received them as presents.

Winter Activity: Search for Seeds
While winter isn’t the best season for planting seeds, it’s ideal for harvesting them. Children can have fun finding the following seeds in the wild, as shown on the Royal Horticultural Society’s children’s webpage. They can then be stored for planting in spring or used for arts and crafts:

  • Acorn
  • Beechnut
  • Clematis
  • Conker
  • Fennel
  • Holly berries
  • Nigella
  • Pine cone
  • Rosehip
  • Sweet chestnut

A new green world is out there, waiting to be discovered, planted, watered and loved by its junior stewards. It would be a shame for your kids to miss out on the entertainment and edification this can provide. And, of course, it’s much better for the planet if future generations grow up with the respect and love for Mother Nature that growing plants instills.

Additional resources:
The Kids Vegetable Garden website
Fresh For Kids website
EcoHearth's Eco Parenting Blog

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Comments (2)add
Written by Shane , January 13, 2010
I still remember how excited i was about my silly peas that I grew. It really connected me to "life".
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Written by Sara , December 08, 2009
Such an inexpensive way to keep kids busy while teaching them to be nurturing, responsible and good stewards of the earth which sustains us all.
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Eco Tip

Become a vegetarian or vegan, or at least eat less meat. Meat is a big waster of water and energy—and generator of greenhouse gasses. It also exacerbates world hunger. One acre of land yields almost 18 times as much usable protein from plant versus animal sources—356 pounds if used to grow soybeans, 20 pounds if used to raise cattle for slaughter. More tips...

Eco Quote

He who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man. — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Essays, Second Series, 1844   More quotes...