Two great hobbies you can share with your kids are the love of reading and the joys of gardening. Combine the two, and you’ve got an amazing learning opportunity for the whole family.
The tall stems and giant flower heads of Mammoth sunflowers make the perfect walls for a living sunflower house.
Photo Credit: Lane Greer
This vegetable garden has a pizza theme – all the plants (wheat, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, oregano, basil, etc.) growing in it can be used in or on a pizza.
Photo Credit: Stephanie Avett
There are lots of great gardening-related children’s books out there. Reading them with your child can be lots of fun, but planting and growing a garden that’s inspired by one of these stories is even more entertaining! Here’s a peek into two garden-friendly children’s books that can be a springboard of ideas for your own interactive garden.
Sunflower House by Eve Bunting (Ages 4-8) A little boy plants sunflowers in a circle. As the plants grow, they turn into a fantastic sunflower house, where he and his friends play as “jungle beasts that roar and rage.” (But no parents allowed – they’re too big!) Eventually the sunflowers start falling over, and the children try to fix them – but it doesn’t work. Then they notice the seed in the flower heads, which they collect so they can plant another sunflower house next year.
In the Garden After Reading
Plant your own sunflower house! With your child, pick an area of the garden and plant a circle (or two) of Mammoth sunflowers. Be sure to leave enough room inside the circle to play once the plants come up. Take care of the garden together, watering it and checking every day to watch for the sunflowers to poke up out of the ground. Give your child free time to play, imagine and act out his or her own story in the sunflower house. And be sure to save some seed for next year’s garden (while sharing some with the birds)!
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French (Ages 4-8) Oliver is visiting his grandparents. He likes his grandfather’s garden, but when asked what his favorite vegetable is, he answers, “French fries!” So his grandfather makes him a deal: If Oliver can find the potatoes in the garden, they’ll have French fries with supper. He’s given one chance a day to find them, and whatever veggie he discovers in his search, they’ll eat that night. After several days of searching (and several meals with carrots, rhubarb, cabbage and beets), Oliver finally finds the potatoes – his last pick! For his final supper when visiting his grandparents, Oliver has his French fries – along with a whole list of vegetables he now likes to eat.
In the Garden After Reading
Plant and grow different vegetables in your garden with your children – and with the deal that when the food’s ready to harvest, you’ll gather, cook and taste it all together. There’s something about growing, picking and preparing their own vegetables that causes children to find that healthy food more appealing. Take advantage of this and see how many different veggies your child actually eats – and likes!
There are countless children’s books that relate to gardening. Pick one up and see what sorts of gardening ideas it sparks in your child!