It’s the perfect time to teach kids about how plants grow. The benefits of gardening with kids is not merely that it’s a bonding activity, but it’s also exciting and educational for them to learn about plants and watch their plants grow. If you have a garden, great; if you don’t, no worries. There are plenty of fun things you can grow inside. Here are a few gardening experiments to try with your kids:
Beans in CD cases
Recycle a clear CD jewel case to grow beans and teach kids about the parts of the plant. With the empty case hinge side up, add some potting soil, filling about one-third of the case. “Plant” a bean concave side down (like the letter “n”) on top of the soil and let the kids water with a dropper by adding drops of water into the hole at the top of the CD case. Stand the “planter” upright in a sunny window and kids will be able to clearly see the roots reaching down into the soil as the plant grows out of the bean.
Paper whites and daffodils are favorite early spring plants, and growing flowers from bulbs is a great science experiment. Use any see-through container as a vessel, from plastic cup to a clear glass or vase. Add rocks or marbles to the bottom of your container and place the bulb on top, root side down. Fill with just enough water to cover the bottom of the bulb. Observe the bulb as it grows roots and eventually a flower! Bonus lesson: Cut open an extra bulb so that kids can see the inside of this plant powerhouse.
Colored Carnations or Celery
Fill a vase or glass with water and tint the water with food color. Place a white carnation or celery stalk inside and watch the plant become colorful as it “drinks” the tinted water. This is a great, short experiment to show how plants take in water.
Ever wonder how root veggies form under the ground? You can see for yourself– and show the kids– by planting root vegetables in a clear container. Clear Mason jars are perfect for this, but a clear vase or other container works just as well. First, fill the bottom of your container with pebbles, marbles or gravel to allow for drainage. Then, add potting soil. Plant any root vegetable seeds, several per jar. Try carrots, onions, radishes or turnips. Keep the soil moist and enjoy watching the root form. Best of all, when the vegetable is done growing, you can eat it!
Grow a Carrot Top
This is a fun way to see a plant grow, but it will not produce an edible carrot. You can use an end of a carrot from your veggie scraps, or buy a whole carrot with the green fronds still attached for this experiment. Cut off the carrot near the plant end, leaving an inch or two of root. (Remember, the root is the edible part of the carrot, so you’ll want to cut your carrot near the wide end, leaving the part where the green leaves attach for growing.) Place several cotton balls on a plate or shallow dish and add water until the cotton is moist. Place the carrot top on the wet cotton, orange side down. Help the kids check and add water as needed. The green plant will sprout within a few days.
Sunflower seeds sprout and grow quickly, making this the perfect flower for impatient children. These seeds can be started just about anywhere, even in a Styrofoam coffee cup. Kids love seeing the plant push its way out of the soil, wearing the seed husk like a hat! Transplant your plant to a flowerpot after sprouting to observe the flower as it forms.
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Grass is another seed that grows quickly. Make a living basket by lining a basket in plastic and filling with potting soil. Scatter grass seed on top and lightly mist with water daily. The kids will love using a spray bottle! This makes a perfect spring table centerpiece filled with green, living grass!
Try any of these inexpensive garden experiments for a fun project. Growing plants is a great way to sneak some learning—and a little sunshine—into your daily routine.
By Tiffany Doerr Guerzon, freelance writer and mother of three.