Celebrate spring with these 5 garden-themed activities for preschoolers! Young children delight in discovering little details that often go unnoticed to the adult eye. And let’s be honest, exhausted parents sometimes describe their child’s knack for self-directed exploration as a “problem.”
Historically, others have called it “science”. So let’s agree to embrace it this spring! I want to lean in to noticing the little things, and make time for our kids to explore – and I have a feeling you want the same thing for your family too.
Benefits of Garden-Themed Activities for Preschoolers
A great place to encourage exploration and a love of being outdoors is in the garden! Our goal in garden-based education at the preschool level is cultivating natural curiosity into an overall love of learning that will guide children throughout their lives and expand into a variety of disciplines. For the modern mom, this often requires a subtle shift in expectations.
Expectations for Garden-based learning with Young Children
As the educator, your attitude and approach sets the tone for the overall learning experience. Sometimes it’s hard to be mom, but we’ve got to have our best attitudes on for learning time!
Of course, there are certainly instances when a task simply must be completed whether or not a child is curious. However, these activities are designed to educate through play, allowing both child and parent to relax and discover together.
By shifting your expectations from task completion to exploration, you invite your little one to co-create with you. When the development of curiosity becomes the main focus of the activity, you have a wonderful opportunity to observe your own child’s tendencies and natural strengths.
Some of these activities may be a natural outpouring of your child’s personality and strengths; others may be challenging to the point of frustration. Take it easy, mama. Give yourself some grace and your child too! This is a learning adventure you are undertaking together. Growing can be difficult, but the rewards are well worth the investment of time and personal energy.
Let’s dive into the raw world of a child’s natural curiosity with these five attainable garden-themed activities you can explore this week:
1. Seed Starting With Preschoolers
Watching a dormant seed burst into life is nothing short of a front row seat to nature’s magic show! Young children (and often their grown-ups!) feel an enormous sense of pride and wonder when witnessing a seed’s development into a happy plant.
Although encouraging your preschooler to assist you in starting your annual vegetable garden from seed can be a delightful experience (more on that here), our goal in this activity is simply to invite your child into the wonder of the plant life cycle.
Grab a small peat pot or plastic container, some starting mix, and some seeds from your local garden supply store. If you really want to encourage personal buy-in, allow your child to pick out their very own packet of seeds for this experiment! Since your goal is simply to cultivate curiosity rather than produce viable transplants for your garden, you’ve nothing to lose if your little one decides her life is incomplete without that packet of 10-foot-tall sunflowers!
As you and your little one wait for the seeds to germinate, use your FREE Plant Life Cycle worksheet to discuss the rhythms of seasonal growth and build anticipation for the moment your own seeds break through the soil!
2. Garden or Outdoor Word Searches
We have absolutely loved utilizing basic word searches for advancing letter recognition with our little ones. Once a child is comfortable with the alphabet, rearranging the letters (like in a word search) challenges the patterns that were used in letter memorization and engages critical thinking in young brains. This activity is particularly beneficial for kiddos with a natural knack for language.
We enjoy pairing word searches with garden-themed activities and plants that our children will encounter in their own garden or nature walk, thus building another mental connection to the natural world.
Although our overall goal isn’t for them to master spelling at this stage, it has helped pave the way for understanding foundational principles that will later aid in literacy. And at the same time we’re increasing my child’s familiarity with the natural world!
If you are interested in trying these with your little one, check out this FREE bonus set of garden-based learning strategies that will give you a starting point for implementing this idea right away.
3. Root Propagation
Propagating plants is as educational as it is economical. Developing roots on a freshcut stem allows children to engage with a plant process that is usually hidden underneath soil. Watching “secret” science unfold in clear sight heightens the excitement and curiosity!
Grab a clean jar of fresh water and a cutting that easily produces roots. Our favorite is mint because it produces roots relatively quickly and reliably, making it the perfect candidate for preschool science! You can either pluck the mint directly from the soil or snip it where the stem meets the ground.
Longer stems are preferable as the length allows the stem to remain submerged in the water without soaking the leaves. Fill your glass with water and plop the cutting directly inside. Little white hairy roots generally start appearing between 7 to 14 days.
4. Painting Planters
This activity is perfect for artistic hearts and hands that don’t like to touch dirt. The tactile and artistic nature of painting planters with children is its own reward, but it becomes something even greater when connected to the garden.
When a child creates something (in this case, their own decorated planter) and places it in the garden, they build a touchpoint of connection to the growing space. By placing something of their very own into the garden, they create a tangible reminder that they are welcome here. They belong.
A whimsical garden peppered with hand painted pots and garden stones becomes a space where a child’s imagination flourishes and their sense of place within the natural world is strengthened. All this value without ever forcing their hands in the dirt.
5. Field Trips
Take your learning on the road and explore ways your community is already engaging in the natural world! The variety and bustling excitement of a farmer’s market makes for a delightful place to ignite your child’s curiosity while introducing him to the growers within your community.
If you and your child prefer the quiet serenity of the outdoors, take a nature walk and discover the flowers, insects, and plants native to your area. Botanical gardens are gorgeous places to take a stroll, and there are an increasing number of multi-sensory gardens crafted specifically for young children to engage in nature through the use of all of their senses.
Final Thoughts On Garden-Themed Activities for Preschoolers
All five of these activities connect children to the natural world through their natural curiosity.
As children grow into their personalities and preferences, the subjects of their curiosity will naturally begin to morph accordingly. Some children will love the patterns and puzzle-like nature of word searches, while others will crave the adventure of outdoor discovery.
Lean into this diversity of development and engage your kiddo in areas of current interest. As you discover how your child prefers engaging in his world, you unlock a deeper capacity to bolster a love of learning within his heart, a love that will fuel discovery and creativity throughout the rest of his life.
You might also enjoy:
PIN THIS FOR LATER
Meet Madison- creator and educator at Growing the Gardener!
As a gardener who delights in growing good things in earth and others, I believe that a garden can be equal parts playground and science lab! Visit me at Growing The Gardener to see how we are creating connections between children and the natural world through exploration and discovery, where we grow more than mere gardens- we grow gardeners.