Spring is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than spending time in the outdoor classroom here at Kids’ Care Club? Ms. Mary Fudge, a garden educator and organic farmer from Seattle, Washington, helped kick off the garden last week with the children. Together, we learned about the importance of 5 different components of gardening, and 5 important developmental benefits of gardening with preschoolers.
We sourced this year’s compost from our friends at Mountain Meadow Mushrooms. The children discussed the differences between our existing soil and the compost, and many guessed that the compost helps soil grow plants better. They were so right! Compost is a crucial, chemical-free way to enrich your soil, reducing (or eliminating) the need for chemical fertilizers. This compost decomposes organic materials from things such as hay and straw, and serves to improve soil structure, retain moisture, and support valuable microorganisms like bacteria and fungi that help encourage our plants to grow.
Worms are Our Friends
After exploring the purposes of compost, we searched for worms, with success at each center. Alongside fungi and bacteria, worms are one of the major decomposers of organic matter, serving to improve soil structure, cycle nutrients throughout the soil, move water, and encourage plant growth. It’s always exciting to search for these garden helpers.
How to Plant
This year, we purchased our plant starts from our Rancho Peñasquitos neighbor, Armstrong Garden Centers. Each school now has an assortment of lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and peas – how exciting! Children from our two-year-old classroom to our Pre-K class were great helpers in digging holes and choosing where to place the starts considering each plant’s needs. We dug, learned what roots (also known to the children as “white strings on the soil”) do, and tucked them into the beds with a fluffy coat of soil. Ms. Mary explained to us the importance of good watering to jumpstart the growth of these young plants in their new environment.
Important Ingredients for a Healthy Garden
What’s essential for plant growth? Each group knew that sun, water, air, and space is so important for our plants to grow nice and big to produce food for us to eat.
How to Take Care of our New Plants
We all know the responsibility that comes with a newly planted springtime garden. In the coming weeks, the young gardeners will continue to see the growth of their garden. Alongside their teachers, the children will be supporting plant growth by watering plants consistently, and providing any further help that each plant may need (extra sun protection, pruning, etc.). We can’t wait to see how this season in the garden unfolds!
5 Child Developmental Benefits of Gardening
In addition to having fun and learning the art and science behind plant growth, the outdoor garden plays countless child development benefits for our early learners here at KCC.
1. Gardening Engages all Five Senses
Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste, and Touch. How does the compost look different from the soil? Can you hear birds chirping as you water your young plant? What does Rosemary smell like, and does it remind you of any food at home? How does a strawberry taste right off of the plant? How does the dirt feel against your hands? Does it feel different when it’s wet? Gardening is all about sensory exploration.
2. Gardening Encourages Healthy Eating
Being involved in growing fruits and vegetables is one sure shot way to encourage food curiosity in your child and to address picky eating. We can’t wait to try out new recipes involving fresh produce from our garden in the coming months. Who knows, your child could discover a new favorite food.
3. Gardening Enhances Gross and Fine Motor Development
Planting seed by seed. Digging. Spraying water. Pruning. Harvesting. Each step of gardening encourages your little one’s gross and fine motor development skills from seed to harvest.
4. Gardening Teaches Math and Science Lessons
Gardening provides countless opportunities for learning, for both you and your child. Why are plants green? What is the role of different bugs in the garden – do they help growth or harm growth? How far apart should seeds be planted? How many hours of sunlight does each plant need, and how much water does each plant require? Encouraging your child to ask questions at each step provides countless learning opportunities.
5. Gardening is a Great Family Activity
If you’re not convinced to get your hands in the dirt alongside your little one yet, this is our favorite component of gardening. Gardening is hard work that requires time, learning, and energy, but doing it together as a family makes it fun. We can’t think of a better way of spending time together and making new memories!
Start your Own!
Southern California provides the perfect conditions to grow your own veggie garden, and it’s not too late. From window sill herbs to your own raised vegetable beds, there’s many opportunities to continue the learning of plants and gardens at home with your little one. Consider planting the vegetables and herbs we planted here at KCC, or refer to University of California’s vegetable planting guide for San Diego County for further ideas. Above all else, make sure that the plants in your garden are safe for your child. We can’t wait to see the progress both at KCC, and in the gardens of our families!