Garden Science

Eliza Clark
March 6, 2016

Science and young children.... Can those words possibly belong in the same sentence?

Making babies and caring for newborns can, of course, seem like one giant, marvelous science experiment from the parental point of view. But now that our milky bundles have turned into something resembling small human beings, can it really already be time to start teaching them science? 

The Savvy answer to that one is yes and no. There is no prior knowledge required on our part, and very little "teaching" involved, but is it definitely time to get our children into science. It's not hard - young children are into science no matter what.

Getting into science simply means getting into understanding how the world works, and we all know that our kids are into that. From the earliest age they want to name and classify and try out or take apart everything for themselves. "Scientific inquiry" is just another way to describe the way their brains work. Indeed, their inquiring is non-stop! So all we need to do is to give our little ones the space and tools to get the most out of their constant drive to inquire and experiment, and there is no better place to start than in the garden. What garden? you ask. Well, the garden in the flower pots by your window will do nicely; and if you've got a windowsill to fill, even better. Rooftop gardens (well-fenced) are splendid, as are community gardens, or even a reclaimed corner of a vacant lot. Perhaps your child's school has a spot for a garden. And if you've got a bonafide yard out back, hurrah! Do dare to disturb the landscaping or lawn to provide your preschooler with his very own plot.

Once you've established your wee homesteader on her very own bit of earth, the fun and learning can begin. A few ideas for getting started:

  • Visit a local garden center or hardware store with your child to find out what plants grow best in your garden's clime. Also let your child have the fun of choosing a few of the seeds he wants even if they're not a sure bet—remember, it's about the experiment!
  • Try for a few edible plants so your little one has the gratification of eating (or, for the picky ones, watching someone else eat) something she's grown.
  • Equip those tiny green thumbs with kid-sized tools, such as a trowel, rake, bucket, and watering can. Also a magnifying glass for close examination of shoots, sprouts, roots, worm, insects, and more.
  • Learn about the bugs that live in the garden; which ones help the plants, and which ones do harm?
  • Talk about your child's observations of the plants, and ask him to make guesses about what might happen next in the garden.
  • Let your proud cultivator take pictures of her plants as they grow. What fun to look back fondly on those tiny seedlings!

 

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