Warm weather? Take the chaos outside!
On behalf of Gardening Week 2019, here are some gardening activities that will inspire your whole family to spend more time with Mother Nature. Dirty fingernails, worms, and sun-kissed cheeks — HERE…WE…COME!
Create a Compost Pile
Composting is an easy way to give back what we take from the earth. Our family started composting two years ago and since then we have collected enough dirt to start two small gardens. Composting may seem like a headache, but it really isn’t. Let me break it down for you:
Materials: old plastic coffee container, 2 large 5-gallon buckets with holes for aeration, gardening gloves
Time: 2 months for first batch of dirt
- Discuss what composting means to you and your family. Some idea-sparkers include: Why do we compost? Why do some things break down and other things stay the same (man-made vs. natural)? How can composting help us make more food to eat? Why is composting good for the earth?
- Collect all scraps from vegetables and fruits, as well as brown material from cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, etc.
- Cut the scraps into tiny pieces so they break down easier. Ask your children to help you! This can be a daily chore.
- Place the scraps in the old plastic coffee container.
- Every morning, ask one of your children to bring the container with scraps outside to your 5 gallon bucket.
- Pour the scraps inside your bucket.
- Turn the bucket on its side and roll it around.
- Continue this process until the bucket is full.
- Set the first bucket aside and allow it to sit for a month as the scraps continue to break down.
- Ask your children to make daily observations through writing or drawing in a nature journal. Discuss the changes you see.
- Continue rolling the bucket around for optimal decomposition.
- Start adding your scraps to the second bucket.
- After a month, check out the beautiful dirt you made in bucket #1 and set aside bucket #2!
- Create a small garden with your compost.
- Continue the process above.
- During cold weather, consider covering the compost with a tarp. You can add to the compost, but the cold will dramatically slow down the process.
Design a Literacy Walk
Reading + Nature = Awesome!
Materials: book of your choice (optional), thick card stock, crayons, markers, page protectors or a way to laminate your pages, old wood pieces, hammer, nails
Time: a few days
- Choose a book with your children that they would love to recreate or have them make up their own story.
- Record the story on pieces of thick card stock, a few lines per piece of paper. Write 1, 2, 3, etc. on the top of the paper so you know which page should be read first, second, third, and so on.
- Allow your child time to create beautiful illustrations to go along with the story.
- If you have a laminator, laminate the pieces of card stock. If you don’t, put them in plastic sheet protectors instead and staple the sheet protectors to the paper.
- Collect small pieces of scrap wood that are long and wide enough to easily attach the pieces of card-stock to the wood with nails. They should also be long enough to stake in the ground and be seen by people walking by.
- Pick out various places around your yard and garden to place your story.
- When you have visitors, encourage your child to have them do a “literacy walk” in your yard and garden.
- Your child can read the story to the guest.
- Create a few stories throughout the spring/summer and encourage neighbors, families, and other children to check it out.
- If you feel inspired, create a literacy walk at your local library or community garden.
Make Peace Stones
Materials: stones, paint, Sharpies, markers, paint brushes, paper
Time: a few hours
- Go on a scavenger hunt to find some awesome stones!
- Get out paint, Sharpies, markers, and paint brushes.
- Ask your children to visualize words and symbols that make them feel calm and peaceful. What does peace look, sound, and feel like?
- Older kiddos can practice drawing and writing their symbols on a sheet of paper first (if they want to). Little ones will make beautiful messes with their peace art.
- Paint and draw your symbols and words on the stones.
- Place the stones in a small garden.
- Encourage your children to visit the “peace garden” when they are feeling stressed, angry, or need a little break from the family.
- Use the peace garden as a place to meditate.
- Add sticks, shells, and any other happy items you desire.
Go on a Rainbow Walk
Materials: Copies of the Rainbow Walk for your family, pencils, and coloring materials
Time: 20–30 minutes
- This activity can be completed when you are on a hike, in your neighborhood, at the beach, in the forest…just about anywhere outdoors.
- Print out enough copies of the rainbow walk for each of your kids and yourself. Give your kids something to write with.
- The goal of the activity is to find the rainbow in nature.
- Start by finding something red, then orange, yellow, and so on.
- Continue observing nature until you find the rainbow three times.
- Come back inside and finish coloring your pictures.
Plant a Pizza Garden
Materials: a plot of earth ready for gardening, kid-sized gardening tools, herb seeds from local farms and produce, herb plants, compost, large-laminated signs with names of herbs (optional)
Time: A few months
- Bring your kids outside to the plot of earth ready for gardening.
- Section off various portions of the garden with large, laminated signs that show the type of seed and plant the students will be planting. Various herbs that taste great on pizza include: sweet basil, basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
- Have your children fill the upraised soil bed with the compost they’ve cultivated.
- Give your children various herb seeds and plants and let them plant them in the various sections.
- Encourage your children to visit the garden daily with a journal. They can record growth of the seeds, questions, drawings, “aha” moments, favorite smells, etc.
- When the herbs finally thrive, throw a pizza party!
Observe Growth (Extension Lesson)
Materials: journals, pencils
- Bring your children out to the garden daily.
- Show your kids how to look for weeds, prune plants, water plants, cultivate the soil, and keep the garden healthy.
- Encourage your children to observe the growth of their herbs.
- Some ideas to document the growth include drawing pictures, writing words, using measuring tape, taking photographs, etc.