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Having Fun Together

8 Easy Gardening Activities for Preschoolers

Your kids will dig these fun ways to get their hands dirty

Gardening is about more than sowing seeds and pulling weeds. A child in the garden learnsabout cause and effect, hones fine motor skills, and practices respecting nature. But not all gardening activities areappropriate for preschoolers. Here are some kid-friendly tips and tricks to help you safely grow your child's gardeninghobby.

1. Allow a little instant gratification. Preschoolers are often lackingin the patience department, so consider peppering your garden with a mix of seedlings and seeds. When selecting seeds, includesome fast-growing items like radishes, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes and have your child look to see how the garden has changedevery few days.

2. Cultivate number skills. The garden is a great setting to introducethe concept of measurements. Have your preschooler decorate a plain ruler or yardstick with flower stickers. After reading thespacing rules on your seed or plant packets, show your child what to do and have him replicate the measurements.

3. Plant a theme. Got a pizza lover on hand? Grow tomatoes, basil,oregano, onions, and peppers. Or if she really loves rainbows, ask her to help you choose bright ROYGBIV flowers and plants inred, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. For more ideas, just look to your kid's favorite foods and interests forinspiration.

4. Make a DIY watering can. Hack a milk jug into a kid-friendly wateringcan. Clean and empty a half-gallon plastic milk container and re-cap it. With a knitting needle or thick sewing needle, pokeholes in the cap so that water can flow right through. Let your child decorate the jug with colorful Sharpie-drawn flowers...andmore importantly, water her flowers and plants when you say go!

5. Create garden markers. Explain to your child that you're going towant to remember what you planted and where it's at. Then gather wood or plastic spoons, rocks and seashells, craft sticks, orany other item you think would make a good marker. Next, ask your child to paint each flower, fruit, herb, and veggie on eachmarker. Just be sure to use permanent, acrylic paint that's weather-resistant, such as Patio Paint. (You might want to add aclear sealant, too.)

6. Make a DIY birdbath. Birds, bees, and butterflies work to pollinateyour garden and all three like birdbaths. How to make one? Pick up three clay pots (8, 10, and 12 inches) and one 14-inch claysaucer. With the pots upside down, have your child paint designs on each item. (Permanent acrylic, weather-resistant paint is amust. Once dry, spray everything with several coats of clear acrylic sealer.) Then, stack upside-down pots in size order, withthe 12" pot on the bottom. Use a silicone adhesive to secure the pots and to fasten the bottom of the large clay saucer to thebottom of the top, 8-inch pot. Fill the saucer with water...and voila!

7. Collect rain. A rain barrel is a great way to teach kids about waterconservation, and all you need is a large plastic coffee container with a lid. Have your child decorate the outside of thecontainer with more of your weather-resistant paint. Once it's dry, cut out the center of the lid, leaving about a 1-inch borderaround the sides. Next, place a mesh or tulle screen over the opening so it stretches over the sides. Replace the lid, trim theexcess screen, and use waterproof tape to secure the edges of the lid. Now, simply find a good spot for your mini rain collector,and wait for Mother Nature to do her job. Once filled, your child can use the water to feed the flowers.

8. Start composting. Pick up a simple compost bin at a home improvementstore and place it in your backyard. Have the kids gather dried leaves, small twigs, and a bit of soil to put in the bottom ofyour bin. Together, you can illustrate a chart to post on the fridge with all the good-to-compost items in your kitchen, likefruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grinds, and egg shells. Your child can help gather items to toss in the bin. Once your compostlooks like black soil (and smells earthy), it's ready to use.