- Written by Lea Hanson Lea Hanson
Try indoor gardening with your child
Kids are natural caretakers and are interested in using their nurturing instincts and skills when they can. Ashley Young, Education Coordinator at the Gardens at Spring Creek in Fort Collins says growing something teaches kids the concept of delayed gratification. When you plant a seed or take care of a plant, you must take care of it over a period of time. If the plant thrives, it could be around for years. If not, the consequences aren't terribly serious—but they are tangible. Young says, “Growing plants not only teaches kids where their food comes from, but also helps them understand the needs of living things, which are surprisingly very similar to our own as humans.”
Young says kids can benefit at almost any age, taking on more responsibility as they mature. Preschool-age children can mist leaves with a sprayer or clean dusty plants with a sponge. Older children can remove dead leaves or help re-pot a plant that has outgrown its container. Young says, “This time of year is also a great time of year for getting started with seeds indoors to prepare for outdoor gardening” and therefore getting kids excited about the months to come.
Following are plant selections for all types of children and situations:
Plants that multiply
Kids often love the idea of sharing their plants. They can decorate a pot and give a new plant to someone else. Young says, “Like spider plants, strawberries seed by their runners so they are good plants for separation and multiplying.” A Philodendron is also common and easy to grow indoors. Even a lone leaf can be put into a glass of water to sprout roots. Then, it can be easily replanted in a new pot. Philodendron don’t need a lot of sunlight to thrive so they can be kept most anywhere in the house.
“One of my favorite things to grow with kids is herbs. Mint and basil are good because there are many different types and they can be directly used as a food ingredient with which they are familiar,” says Young. Beans and peas are some of the easiest to grow and hardest to kill. “And, they grow really big and really fast; plus you can eat them,” Young adds. “Within a week of planting beans, kids can start to see sprouts, which is exciting.” Scarlet Runner Beans, Orcha Beans, Anasazi Beans, and Hyacinth Beans are additional examples of tough plants that grow quickly.
Many herbs will grow indoors. A simple pot of chives or basil can be placed on a sunny windowsill and used in cooking. For households with inadequate light and/or humidity for herbs to thrive, indoor garden systems (such as AeroGarden) can ensure success. See the sidebar for herb garden tips!
Let kids choose their own
The aisles of garden centers and big-box stores are filled with plants that thrive indoors. For a small investment, allow your child to choose a variety that appeals, whether it's a plant with shiny leaves or a fuzzy texture. Enlist help from staff to figure out what might work best in the conditions you can offer.
Grow your herbs!
Herbs that can go from stem to recipe:
Herbs that can help illustrate the growing and pollination cycle:
- Thyme (good for watching pollination because it attracts bees)
- Lavender (not for eating, but for smell; also good for watching pollination because it attracts bees)