Books and Toys to Cultivate Even the Tiniest of Green Thumbs

Amy Rees
March 8, 2011

Teaching science to preschoolers can sound at first offputting, almost grandiose. Oh, but it's not! It's so fun that it seems almost like cheating to say you're doing it in the guise of opening their little minds to the world around them. Experts tell us that teaching science is essential to children because it's a way of thinking -- using observation, experimentation, analysis to get through life. It strikes us that it's really just a restatement of what these little darlings have been doing every day we've known them -- watching, taking it all in, giving it a whirl, and seeing what happens. Science for preschoolers is code for being curious, plain and simple. And you've got to answer all those incessant "why?"s and "how much farther?"s anyway, so why not do so with the confidence that you are really just engaging in scientific dialogue with a very small person?!

The Nature Treasury: A First Look at the Natural World by Lizann Flatt


In teaching your child how to care for the earth, where is a well-intentioned parent to turn to come up with some answers to those interminable questions about how it all works. Suddenly the mechanics of why composting is so important seem both mildly icky and totally beyond your ability to explain. And you need some stats to back up your repetitions about the need for recycling and the dangers of plastics floating around the environments of sea lions and pelicans. Well, here is your child's first reference book, one suited just for him and one that you will return to again and again. There are 22 richly detailed spreads covering animals and plants in habitats across the continents and oceans as well as geological detail about the earth itself. Also featured are several "Up Close" pages that offer detailed drawings of how water, air, trees and grass "work." So many questions will be answered, and so many new and wonderful ones are sure to spring up in their place

Butterfly Pavilion by Insect Lore

Perhaps the true wonder of science is that a process as intricate as the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is also so exquisitely simple that even preschoolers appreciate it. We marvel at the steps; they delight in the process and (best of all) unhinge their little jaws when they see the butterflies take flight. Science in action, and delight in action right along with it! This magnificent butterfly pavilion comes with a certificate that you mail back in for 10 live Painted Lady caterpillars (continental U.S. delivery only, though). When kept in the right conditions (a spot warmer than about 55 degrees), the caterpillars form chrysalises within about a week and then about a week after that emerge as beautiful butterflies right before your child's eyes. The customer service at the manufacturer, Insect Lore, is known to be especially helpful if you need it, but the fact is that this is a snap. When you've cared for your butterflies as long as you can, you can release them into your child's other garden, the great big world outside. This offers an experience that is delightful for kids of absolutely all ages.

For our even more fun with garden science, see the guide on our book and toy page.



From the Parents

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