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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Larson

Summer Fun: Cultivating Learning Opportunities in the Garden

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

This week we’re kicking off a new blog series we’re calling “Summer Fun!” Over the next six weeks we’re highlighting various outdoor activities you can do with your children which take learning outside the classroom.

We’re especially interested in activities that focus on unstructured playtime, exploring new interests, and giving all of us a chance to recharge after the school year. You might be surprised, but even a short walk around the neighborhood can be a learning experience for your child.

Last week we highlighted the benefits of spending time outdoors this summer, so that’s where you’ll find us!

First activity on our list - Gardening! From a few seeds in a small pot, to a plot in your community garden, there’s endless opportunities for kids to learn about science, develop a few important skills, and have fun too.

So dig out those gardening tools, and get ready to play in the dirt!

Gardening as a Learning Opportunity

If you think about all the work that goes into gardening, it's easy to recognize the numerous learning opportunities. We wanted to highlight three skills our kids can further develop while they’re playing in the dirt based on our earlier review of what kids need to be successful in the future.

Growth Mindset

Learning something new, and exploring what works and what doesn’t ties directly into our desire for our kids to have a growth mindset. Is gardening a regular activity at your house? Try planting something new this summer. Brand new to gardening? Start small with a few vegetable seeds.

Executive Function

Planning your garden is a great way to work on those executive function skills. For our youngest learners, this might involve making a list of materials (pot, dirt and seeds) and helping to shop, plant and set up a watering schedule. For teens, there are opportunities to learn about different types of plants (annuals and perennials), finding space in a community garden, or perhaps planting vegetables you can use for a summer family dinner.

Critical Thinking

There’s something quite satisfying about taking time to be outside and get your hands in the dirt. And one of the best ways to inspire critical thinking in your kids is to carve out time for them to slow down and reflect. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are thinking critically about gardening and how to pull a weed out of the ground. Instead it’s a chance for their brains to make connections about other experiences and interests in which they are involved.

Resources - Elementary

Ten Easy Veggies to Grow with Kids - Picklebums

Try some of these easy veggies to grow with kids!

Best Gardening Books for Kids - PBS

Inch by inch, row by row, learn to make your garden grow! Browse through these seed-filled reads and explore the outdoors through books.

10 Top Gardening Tips for Beginners - Miracle Gro

Wondering how to start a garden? Find your confidence with these expert gardening tips.

Resources - Middle/High

Annuals vs. Perennials: 8 Important Considerations Every Home Gardener Should Know - Bob Vila

Flowering plants have many similarities like light and moisture needs and soil requirements. But some significant differences in annual vs. perennial plants are important to understand.

50 Quick Recipes You Can Make with Ingredients From the Garden - Taste of Home

Put your garden bounty to work! These mains and sides are made with fresh-from-the-garden veggies and come together in just 30 minutes.

American Horticultural Society - Gardening Resources

Following are a number of resources (created for educators, but great for families too!) to help you plan lessons and activities for engaging children and youth in your garden, whether it be located at a school, museum, community farm, or other site.

Join the Discussion

One additional benefit of spending time in your garden, phones are down! It’s one more way to get your child to take a break from their digital devices, and I expect we’re all looking at ways to encourage a little less screen time this summer.

Have a favorite gardening tip? We’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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