Watching plants grow is not only therapeutic for adults but a fun and educational experience for children. Children are born with natural curiosity and anything new gets them excited on the prospect of what is coming next. Growing plant seeds with children teaches them how nature works, taking responsibility in caring for something, an interest in the environment and being proud of the end results. It is also a great activity to keep then occupied over the school holidays and gets them to spend more time outdoors.
We have assembled a list of the best seeds to grow with children along with some tips and ideas on how to make it as exciting and interesting as possible.
Who doesn’t remember growing a sunflower when they were young? Sunflowers are the perfect seed for children to grow as they grow fast. Sunflower seed are also very easy to care for and don’t require too much attention.
What type is best
The best variety of sunflower seed to go with children is the Helianthus annuus 'Russian Giant' Sunflower. They can grow up to a monumental 10 feet tall! Your child will be full of excitement and measure their creation on a weekly basis. You could always encourage them to enter a sunflower race to see whose sunflower is the tallest!
When to grow
Depending on what variety of sunflower seed you choose to plant, Helianthus annuus 'Russian Giant' Sunflower are best planted around the months of March, April or May time. To encourage it to grow extra tall, harden it inside before planting outside that way if it is raining outside, your children will have something to entertain them and get their enthusiasm growing.
What is more exciting than carving a pumpkin lantern for Halloween which they have grown themselves! Before you consider what variety of pumpkin you wish to grow and how many, keep in mind certain varieties can grow very big and need a lot of space.
What type is best
'Dill's Atlantic Giant' Pumpkins can grow up to a gigantic 158 inches, when grown singly. If you prefer to grow a smaller variety of pumpkin, then a ‘We-B-Little’ pumpkin would be an ideal as they only grow to an average of 8cm wide. But the ideal pumpkin to grow for carving out your Halloween lantern is ‘Jack Of All Trades’ pumpkin. It can grow approximately 79 inches wide if grown singly, but it can produce several medium pumpkins from one plant. This type of pumpkin has a sweet flavored flesh, that is perfect if you are planning to make pumpkin pies or soup after having fun carving lanterns with the little ones.
When to grow
Pumpkin seeds require a minimum temperature of around 16 degrees Celsius, so it is best to plant them indoors and when the better weather comes, relocate them outdoors. If you are planning to plant them indoors, the best time for them to be sown is around April and May (but this depends on the variety of pumpkin – always refer back to the packet). If you would prefer to plant them outdoors, the perfect time would be late May to Early June as the soil would have warmed up.
Cress is a great choice for children, as they can be grown all year round. Cress is a fast grower and only takes up to a week to grow 5cm, perfect for a child with a short attention span. There are many fun activities with water cress that you can create for example;
Grow your own cress head! With using an empty egg shell or empty yogurt pot, get your children to draw or paint a face onto them and sow the cress seeds into their chosen container. Once the cress has grown they will have themselves a funny cress head! Below we have put together what you will need and how to create a cress head:
What is needed
- A pack of cress seeds
- Empty yoghurt pots or eggshells
- Kitchen roll
- Cotton wool
- Paints and pens to decorate the heads
What you need to do:
- Decorate and add facial features to your yogurt pot or egg shell with a pen, paint or whatever is handy and is waterproof.
- Wet some kitchen roll and place it in the bottom of your chosen egg head container, then wet some cotton wool and place on the top of the kitchen roll. Leave 3cm gap between the cotton wool and the top of the eggshell or yogurt pot.
- With a teaspoon, sprinkle the cress seeds onto the wet cotton wool, then press down gently with your finger.
- By placing your cress head creation in direct daylight and a warm place, you will soon have your own cress head and delicious cress to place into your egg sandwich or chosen meal!
Growing potatoes is a great way of teaching your children where certain foods come from and how it is processed from the ground to your plate. It can also entice them to learn about growing things organically and eating healthily as well as the enjoyment of helping you cook the final result. There is much confusion regarding the space in which you need to grow potatoes, but there are many ways in which potatoes can be grown, for instance; you can grow smaller varieties of potatoes in a grow bag or even pots. The depth of the pot or grow bag will determine the quantity in which the crop will produce.
Potatoes are relatively easy to grow and do not need a lot of attention, although you do need to keep an eye out for potato blight. To avoid potato blight, it is advisorable to choose earlier varieties as they will be harvested before the end of summer which is when blight is more troublesome due to the damp conditions.
Growing Tips For Children
Your children will gain many hours of fun and educational qualities from planting seeds to watching them grow. We have put together a few tips and suggestions that would make life a lot easier before and during their outdoor activities:
Use unusual containers – Old wellington boots, tea pots, old pans make great potting containers and an ideal way of recycling what is not needed anymore.
Having everything to hand – compost/soil, seeds, watering can. Having it all ready to get started, stops tantrums and boredom from rapidly erupting.
Safe tools - Make sure you have equipment that your children can handle and is safe for them to use without too much guidance.
Over watering – Teach your children not to over water by putting less water than needed in the watering can and show them what it should look like when they do water.
Maintenance is key – Get them to weed around the plants, plant out, water, feed and harvest. This will teach them how to be responsible and give them independence, which is an important trait to have.
Children learn better when they understand the context of their activity. They will learn that gardening can be fun, but far more than idle play; they are contributing to the family well-being. Besides planting and nurturing their garden beds and pots, be sure they alone do the harvesting and preparation of their crop for the table, no matter how modest the offering.