As a child, I’d spend hours in my backyard poking around in the dirt. I’d pretend specific plants were magical and “mix” up concoctions. I could be alone with my imagination, whether under the giant pine tree or next to my mom’s garden bed.
But our yard doesn’t offer the same experience for our kids. It’s on a corner heavy with foot traffic and no clear place for them to play in the dirt. So I wanted to make them one – somewhere that was set-aside, just for them. After more than a year of planning – raising a new baby took a higher priority – we finally started building it this spring.
The children’s garden isn’t anything complicated. While there are some amazing outdoor play spaces on Pinterest, we had neither the space or need for anything that elaborate. We just wanted to build something that could hold some dirt. It’s really just a box. Or in fancy garden terms, a raised bed children’s garden.
Feeling the thump thump thump of kicking feet against my back and the cries of the baby who did not want to be in the car any longer, I thought, “What the hell was I thinking trying to go camping with two kids?” We were still 45 minutes from our site and things were already going very badly. Fortunately, a couple of potty breaks and some whining later, I realized that the camping trip this past weekend turned out a hell of a lot better than I expected it. In fact, it was easily our best camping trip so far.
It had been almost two years since we had gone camping with Sprout. It was the first time we went camping with two kids. Even though the times with Sprout were chaotic, from clueless packing to partying college students, I still wanted to go. There’s a genuine magic that makes all of the other nonsense worthwhile.
It’s spring! Along with a lot of rain and a lot of tourists here in D.C., it’s also gardening season. We’ve sowed seeds, sprouted plants, and had a baby eating mulch. While not exactly always on task, my kids do love the idea of gardening. How do I get them excited about it?
I recently wrote how I’ve involved them over at Happy Science Mom in the post 7 Clever Ways to Get Kids Excited about Gardening.
Here’s the first paragraph of the article:
“Messing around in the dirt is a classic childhood activity. Gardening is just messing around in the dirt with a purpose. Growing fruits and vegetables together can actually be one of the most fun and engaging activities that you do with your kids. In addition to the general benefits of being outside, gardening connects kids with their food, provides them with a sense of accomplishment, and is a great way to teach a variety of important skills. In my own life, I have seen my son get so excited about the cherry tomatoes in our garden that he eats them right off the plants!”
Read the rest over at Happy Science Mom!
Gardening is all about science, from the life cycle of a plant to the nitrogen cycle of the soil. I combined both of those loves in a guest post for Raising Nerd about using gardening to teach your mini-nerds about science, engineering and math. It’s heavy on the ecology, but touches on a bunch of areas.
Here’s a preview:
Dirt covered the table. Dirt covered my son’s hair. Dirt covered everything. While I wanted to be annoyed, I really wasn’t. It was all in the name of learning – and growing food in our new garden.
While trowels and compost may not seem like obvious tools for teaching science, vegetable gardens can be incredible classrooms. That day, my son was learning about the life cycle of plants while we started tomato seeds.
The best part is that gardening provides the potential for kids of all ages to learn. While my three-year-old is just beginning to learn the basics, even I’ve learned quite a bit in my years of gardening. If you don’t garden yet, consider planting a few flowerpots so you can share the benefits with your kids.
Read the rest at Raising Nerd!
“This is the last Christmas we’re all going to be together!” my mother-in-law opines each year. This year, it was finally true. My parents left upstate New York last summer and my in-laws will be moving out West in the spring. So we had to make the most of our final holiday season in our hometown.
Here are a few memorable scenes from our Christmas vacation, both good and bad:
Most people aren’t thinking about prepping their garden at Thanksgiving. But due to a delay known as “having small children,” that’s what we were doing on Sunday, prepping the layers of our inedible lasagna garden. Lasagna gardening, also called sheet mulching or sheet composting, is a permaculture method of gardening that’s easy, cheap, and fun to do with kids.
Lasagna gardening mimics the natural process of leaf litter and other organic matter building up on the forest floor. In the forest, the dead leaves and other plants slowly accumulate and then decompose into soil. Lasagna gardening speeds up this process. Because the organic matter you layer is largely cheap or free, you save quite a bit of money. This technique also doesn’t leave any disturbed soil for weeds to root in. Even though it takes some serious prep time in the fall, it makes for a nearly maintenance-free garden in the spring and summer.
Getting kids outside has a whole host of benefits, from stronger immune systems to the sheer joy of play. While sometimes all that’s needed is a stick and a bit of imagination, having certain gear can help bringing kids outside easier, safer and more fun. Whether you’re in the mountains or your own backyard, this gift guide – which is mainly focused on kids in preschool and elementary school – should provide a few helpful suggestions. (Note – none of these are affiliate or sponsored links, just products and/or companies I personally like.)
This post explores the biology and ecology of feathers. It’s part of a series I’m doing on using everyday situations to help young kids explore science – particularly ecology and biology – more in depth.
With birds winging their way south for the winter, it’s the perfect time to investigate their most unique trait: feathers. Find a feather on the ground to examine it!
The scientific context:
While feathers are unique to birds these days, they’ve been around for far longer. Unlike when I was a kid, scientists now think that many dinosaurs had feathers as well. Although they didn’t fly, dinosaurs’ feathers probably served many of the same purposes bird feathers do today.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the Outdoors Family Challenge last week! We had folks participate across several different social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Here’s a round-up of some of the posts, along with the announcement of the winner of a copy of Vitamin N, courtesy of the Children and Nature Network.