Ideas for spring fun at home, originally published March 2020.
Spring is here! To celebrate, we’re packing this month’s Playlist with the how-tos, the hacks, and the having-fun that goes into gardening with kids. From learning about seeds, soil, and sprouts to creating magical fairy gardens, we’re really excited to share this month’s list of learning fun with you. So, get outside and get your garden on!
Spring fun at home: reading & media
We’ve got another awesome book list with recommendations from our favorite local bookshops, all meant to inspire a love of gardening. From big kid picks to non-fiction titles filled with fun activities to books about diversity and self-care, there is something for everyone on this list. Check out this list of 9 Children’s Books that Inspire Gardening.
This month I’m guiding you toward one of my favorite kids’ podcasts, Brains On, for three titles that remind us of the connection between gardening and taking care of our planet.
Plain Vanilla Mom
Spring fun at home: Sensory & STEM
Gardening IS science! Most projects this month are STEM and sensory related – you’ve got to love those effortless, real-world connections to learning. So, even if you simply start a small container garden this month, or go to the farmers market and cook a meal from home-grown foods, you’re already teaching your kids the importance of gardening. Here are some of my favorite kids’ science and sensory activities for at-home garden learning.
Create a garden sensory bin! You can totally put this together using items you find in your home, garage, or yard. All you need is a large plastic bin, and the rest is up to you and your kids. Try adding a couple different types of dirt or soil so they can feel the differences, or dried beans, and throw in the sandbox toys (mini shovels, rakes, buckets, etc.) and watch them learn, play, and explore! You could even open a couple of packets of seeds and have them identify them and feel them with their fingertips.
Plain Vanilla Mom
Start a small garden at home! As obvious as this seems, it might feel daunting. To get started, check out these helpful tips for finding the right plants for your kids’ ages. Next, browse this quick list of how-tos for starting a family vegetable garden. Bring your kids into the conversation, gauge their interest and involve them as much as you can in the process, from picking out seeds to planting and caring for them over time.
Hungry for more? Swanson’s Nursery sent us an awesome activity that features Edible Gardening with Kids! This is a great resource for beginning and getting your kids excited about gardening.
Not ready for a full-on garden? Start small! Try sprouting seeds on a sponge or creating an egg carton seed starter, both of which can be done in your kitchen and require simple supplies and a seed packet or two. Guide your children to take ownership over their mini gardens, and help them give their seeds sunlight and water and watch them grow over time.
For lots of other garden-inspired activities like play gardens, making a worm farm, flower seed bombs and more, head to the Seattle’s Child Gardening with Kids Pinterest Page or the Garden Theme page on my website.
Spring fun at home: Fun & Fresh Food
Garden week opens the door to abundant learning about preparing healthy food! Head to your local farmers market and let the kids choose some produce, pick some herbs from the backyard garden and ask your children to season the main course for dinner, or have a vegetable taste test party! There are so many healthy, yummy ways to celebrate gardening with food this month. Plus, don’t forget to check our Kid-Friendly Food Pinterest page and our choices for fun, veggie-filled options that are sure to please even the pickiest of eaters.
CBC Parents/Radio Canada
Have a veggie taste test party! I absolutely love this Rainbow Taste Test idea, which provides a gorgeous and health-conscience visual for kids and teaches them about the nutrients that each color of the rainbow provides. Reminding kids to “eat the rainbow” when making food choices throughout the day can be a powerful and easy-to-remember trick in getting them to develop healthy eating habits.
Make a bug snack out of veggies. Help your kids create adorable lady bugs out of tomatoes, a snail from cucumber and celery, dragonfly and butterfly wings from carrots and cut up peppers, or whatever you can come up with. Use ranch or hummus for the adhesive, and dig in! Yummy and oh so fun.
Food Field Trip! Visit a local farmers market. Try samples from vendors or grab street food for lunch, ask the local farmers questions about their trade, and enjoy the bustling atmosphere. This is a fun, free way to get out of the house, maybe try or see something new, and come home with a bag of fresh groceries! I call that success.
Set up a salad bar for dinner and let the kids choose! Put out a couple of varieties of lettuce, chop up some veggies, add a protein (bonus points for plant proteins like beans and legumes!) and let the kids serve themselves. A favorite in my house is taco salad bar, with a variety of bean options like black, pinto and refried.
Combining art and nature can be such a powerful experience for humans, and the outcome doesn’t really matter. It’s one of those things that is really about the process, like creating art from rocks and shells on the beach. That said, there are also lots of fun ways to create art specifically FOR nature, or more specifically, your garden!
Make a fairy garden! I love these tips for a cheap, DYI Dollar Tree fairy garden, but you don’t need to buy anything to make this whimsical project come to life. Find sticks and twigs, fallen leaves and flowers, and trinkets around your own yard, and get to work! There are numerous ways to do this- make it into a sensory bin, create a miniature version inside of a mason jar, or build a tiny, magical fairy village in your garden.
Now that you have a starter garden in your backyard, paint some rocks to act as labels for your produce! A great example is these Painted Rock Garden Markers, which offers a fun opportunity for kids to go outside and collect smooth, flat rocks that fill the palm of their hand, and decorate them with paint! I’ve also had a lot of success using paint pens with my kids and students for the more challenging rock surfaces.
C.R.A.F.T: Creating Really Awesome Fun Things
Mosaic stepping stones. This project, although a bit materials-intensive and messy, is great for kids. I did it a few years back using broken, colorful mugs from Goodwill, and my then three-year-old was able to easily place the pieces in the wet concrete. We still have them in our yard! Lay down a tarp for easy cleanup, set up in the garage if it’s raining, and use pie pans primed with non-stick cooking spray. The results are lasting works of art that your kids will be proud of.
Out & About
Want more options? Check out these Six Public Gardens to Explore with Kids around the Puget Sound.
Bonus! For more gardening hacks and local outings, don’t miss these fun gardening tips from Ciscoe Morris!
For more garden-themed outings, check our Family Fun Calendar.
Leah Winters is the Calendar Editor for Seattle’s Child, and a former K through 8 teacher with a Masters in Art Education from Boston University. She is also the (very busy) mother to three young boys, ages 7, 4, and 1. For more ideas on themed learning from bugs to outer space to farm life and much more, check out her blog at creativehomeeducation.com or follow her on Instagram.