Have you even wanted to get out in the garden and grow more, but your so busy being mum to your beautiful kids and they’re just too young?
Well i’m here to tell ya, that’s simply not true!
Toddlers are supper curious about the world around them and want to explore it all. They’re not afraid to put their hands in soil and they’ve not yet discovered the joys of technology, so what better age to introduce them slowly to the garden?
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Introducing children early to the outdoors, and teaching them to grow and nurture the world is, in my view the best childhood we can give them. Today we will look at making a simple greenhouse with your toddler and using it to sow sweet pea seeds in.
This is a simple activity that your child will love and who doesn’t love the amazing smell of sweetpeas in summer?
There are many other simple activities you can do with your toddler to create a love of growing that will last forever, and fill their growing brains with wonder instead of filling their hands with coloured pieces of plastic.
So, here’s a simple growing project to help you grow with your toddler, sowing sweetpeas and making a homemade propagator. Sounds complicated, it’s really not, keep reading to have a look.
Firstly, Why you should be growing seeds with toddlers.
Growing seeds with toddlers is a simple process that offers so many learning opportunities for children, from using their fine motor skills, improving concentration, hand eye coordination, as well as, patience.
Learning to scoop soil and pour water in the right amount are all necessary parts of development, as are; learning what lifecycles are and how plants grow, and how they relate to us, ie. where our food comes from are vital lessons for children.
A single seed can give you a whole year’s worth of growing and science lessons for children as they’ll see the full cycle of planting, germination, growing, and harvesting.
They get to learn about sustainability, as they gather their own seeds from the plant, ready for planting the following year. And you just might find that children who are picky eaters are much more inclined to try new foods, if they’ve been involved in the hands-on process of growing them. So why not teach these things by planting a simple seed?
Why are we growing seeds with toddlers, cant we buy plants?
Yes, but as a gardener, most of the plants we grow are grown from seed. Which has many advantages but one big advantage of growing from seed is that it’s much cheaper, a packet of seeds that might grow into hundreds (often more) plants, all producing flowers or food at a fraction of the price you’d pay if you bought those same plants as seedlings from a garden centre.
Growing from seed also gives you a huge variety of each type of plant. For example there’s over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes you can try to grow. each unique and completely different from the next.
The garden centres and nurseries that grow these plants for you cannot grow enough of every variety so your limited to the ones they choose which are usually the ones that are easy to mass produce quickly, ie lack flavour and taste.
However, buying plants is a valid short cut for very young children who can simple plop plants into the holes they’ve been digging or perhaps if you want to grow something that has tiny seed like strawberries or hard to grow.
Why is growing seeds with toddlers good for them?
Children love the outdoors from a very young age. When my own son was around 6 months, He’d lie on his play mat in the garden while we got on with garden tasks beside him.
He would lie for ages just letting the grass tickle his hands, when he could crawl he roam over the grass picking at daisies, dandelions and other things in the grass and sit and study them for ages, touching them to his face or trying to pull them apart. Once he was old enough we would give him a pea pod, strawberry slice, or small leaf from a lettuce or a pea shoot to play with, he would sit and play with it or end up sucking on it as he watched us garden around him.
Each new step in his progression opened up a world of fun for him and fast forward to today where he eats anything we put in front of him and he loves being outdoors.
Chidren learn new skills without realising their learning, it’s directed by them and they have fun, playing and exploring for themselves (obviously with our supervison, never leave a baby or toddler unattended)
They develop self-confidence and learn to care for others by spending time in the garden growing their own seeds and nurturing them into plants that can bare food, flowers or fruit for them to eat. Most kids love the outdoors, getting dirty, and connecting with the world around them.
Our Tips For Growing Seeds With Toddlers
- Start with small garden kits you can buy. There are many pretty sets to get you started over at Gardeningforkids. you enter GHK10 at the checkout you’ll get 10% off your order) They come with small amounts of everything you need which takes the guess work out of growing with kids, Then you can focus on encouraging the simple steps with your toddler. These sets are a great money saver too. you don’t need to go and buy lots of items to start your project until your sure your child is interested in growing.
- Relax. Toddlers will pick the first green tomato before it ripens , they will pull flower heads off the plants, they will sow too many seeds in each pot or drop them all on the floor, but try stay calm, even by making mistakes they will learn valuable lessons and they are still having fun. Just ensure your not buying expensive seeds and you start small. You can always sow extra on your own to ensure some of the plants do well.
- Give them their own space. We’ve found the easiest way to grow with toddlers is to set aside a large pot or 2 as their space. That way the have total control over their pot and its not likely they will destroy your prized pumpkin plant or chop the leaves off all the onions plants as the start to grow well.(sigh) Having their own allocated space means you never have to say no or ban them from doing somehing as they can control their own space
- Make sure you eat the fruits of your labour, let the kids have the first taste of each crop. Show them how to harvest and wash their goodies before they try to eat them. Having a chart where they can record what they’ve tasted and what they thought of it means you can take the pressure off them having to try it and its a simple part of the process. you can also reward them for trying every 3 new veggies or for trying one they didn’t like in a new way. (some children hate raw carrots but will eat them roasted, boiled or mashed. always try everything in more than one way because your never know)
- Most importantly is to have fun with it. Dont make it a chore. Explore new things together, don’t try to do too much at once. Simple quick activities can be build into their normal routine and add a bit of fun here and there but expecting a toddler to sow a whole field of veggies in one go is asking too much
Growing Vegetable Seeds With Toddlers
To make growing seed with children easier, choose larger seeds, choose seeds that are large and easy to handle for little hands. These type of seeds
- Germinate quickly, so kids don’t lose interest
- Are quick to grow, once the seedlings appear.
- Don’t need alot of fussing over.
Choosing seeds to try with your toddler
Choosing seeds with young children can be tricky with tiny seeds. so, to make it easier for them choose large seeds that can be sown in individual yogurt pots or containers as these are easy to handle for little fingers. Here are some of our favourites;
They are all large and easy to handle. They can take a while to produce pods of peas or pumpkins etc but you can grow them, eg.pea shoots can be grown very quickly and ready to eat on salads etc in as little as 10 days.
There’s many activities you can do in between sowing and harvesting to further your fun and keep kids interested like making labels for the crop, planning recipes,, painting pots to grow them in, or creating compost in a bottle so you can feed the plants when they need it.
Let’s Start Growing seeds with Toddlers
What you will need to make your mini greenhouse
- 2 Plastic containers fruit is usually sold in
- 2 Cable ties
To sow your seeds you will need..
- Cardboard tubes
- Compost (and a scoop or spoon)
- Your chosen large seeds
- Watering can
How To Make A Mini Greenhouse propagator
A simple mini propagator can help your seeds to keep moisture in and get enough heat and protection to grow well.
- Let your children wash the grape tubs in a bowl of water, this in itself is a lot of fun for toddlers.
- Take 2 fruit tubs and make 2 holes in side at top edge with some scissors.
- Join the plastic tubs together using 2 cable ties and make sure it isn’t too tight so it still moves like a hinge.
Voila you now have a simple homemade mini propagator. If You need something bigger take a look at out simple grow box instructions here.
How to start growing seeds with your toddlers
Sow Sweetpea flowers in October or up to late March. We’ve chosen to sow them at the start of March and will keep them sheltered until after the frosts before they go into the ground. there’s so many other seeds to try with toddlers, keep reading to find a list of our favourites.
- Fill one side of your mini greenhouse with cardboard tubes, See More recycling ideas here.
- Now fill with compost. good practise at scooping and getting hands in soil. Using compost makes sure the soil is sterile so you don’t have to worry about any nasty bugs in the soil. (Make your own compost in a bottle here another great fun experiment)
- Let you toddler choose their own seeds and put a small amount of seeds in a shallow dish so they can pick them out individually.
- Encourage them to pop 2 or 3 seeds in each tube. We put 2 (ish) seeds in each loo roll tube of soil.
- Take your ‘pokey finger’ and poke down the seed to the first knuckle.
- Now scoop the compost to top up loo roll tube to the top.
- Water the seeds. kids get over excited with water and end up pouring lots of water onto the seeds. That’s not an issue here as the tubes will soak up a lot and help keep your seed moist but also allow lots of water to escape through the holes on your grape tubs. Giving children a child sized watering can can make this more fun for kids who want to do the job without you helping to hold a large watering can (Again check out Gardening for kids for some cute and fab ideas.) You can also use a milk just, simply pop some small holes in the top and off you go.
- Fold the top over to make a mini green house and pop somewhere out of the way. Sweetpeas will grow outside in a sheltered area or you can keep them on a sunny windowsill until they grow then just pop them outdoors after hardening them up for the outdoors
- Check out how to care for your seedlings here
- Now all that’s left is to sweep up. (Kids love to do as well). Get a child size brush and let them sweep the compost away. In a few weeks you will have strongly growing Sweetpea shoots.
While you wait for your seeds to grow, you could be,
- sowing other seeds, try tomatoes, nasturtiums or pumpkins
- make a measuring stick to measure how high your flowers reach,
- design and make a vase to put your flowers in as you pick them.
So, there’s our simple way to start growing seeds with toddlers, please let us know how i can help you grow more with your kids, maybe you have tips for me? or you want to show me how you grow veg. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.