Educare Tips: How to create an early childhood garden
November 07, 2016
Whether you have a green thumb or not, introducing the basics of gardening, nature and fresh vegetables into your early childhood program can have a positive effect on your students, parents and staff.
Gardening programs, like many Educare schools run, are a great way for children to experience nature and science by exploring how things grow and where food comes from. They also offer opportunities for lessons in math, language, social interactions and cultures.
Here are some tips from our Educare staff for how to make your program’s garden grow.
Top 6 early childhood gardening tips
- Find a community partner. You don’t have to be a gardening expert to have a great garden. Check for organizations in your area who specialize in helping programs and nonprofits create and sustain gardens.
- Get children excited about gardening. Create dedicated beds or boxes for each classroom, especially for preschool-age children. This creates a connection for the children as they watch their garden grow. Another tip: “One of the lessons I have learned is to plant seeds and plants,” advises Julie Ramsey, child development manager at Southwest Human Development, home of Educare Arizona. “The children can get impatient waiting for the seeds to grow into larger plants.”
- Bring gardening into the classroom. You can encourage children’s engagement with the garden inside the classroom, by studying plants and foods and reading related books. One idea is to read Jack and the Beanstalk, and have children plant, estimate, measure and document their own beanstalk’s growth.
- Involve your families. Gardens are a great place to bring children, staff and families together. Children will enjoy taking their families on a walk through their garden. You can also make garden harvests available to families or offer cooking classes for parents.
- Let children explore. They can take their magnifying glasses into the garden and discover insects living in the dirt and among the plants. Encourage grazing and nibbling as children visit and work in the gardens.
- Enjoy the garden. Gardens not only benefit children and families, they can also be an oasis for staff. “It is really my ‘zen’ place,” says Maegan Heimes, infant and toddler master teacher at Educare Omaha at Kellom. “When I am having a tough day or just need a break, it’s a great place to go and just admire and to remind us of how simple things can be.”
Thank you to all of the gardening organizations assisting Educare schools:
- Educare Omaha: The Big Garden, a project of the Methodist Church
- Educare Washington, DC: DC Promise Neighborhood and City Blossom
- Educare Chicago: Growing Power
- Educare Arizona: Garden and art interns from Arizona State University
- Educare Kansas City: Kansas City Community Gardens
- Educare Denver: Comcast