Since children grow as quickly as sprouts in springtime, gardening with them is a perfect match. One of the ways to celebrate the season is to start an indoor garden with fast growing seeds. Watering daily and then watching the sprouts become something green, lush and growing in your home is an excellent way to introduce the concepts of spring and gardening to young children. Children learn through experience and this project is nearly foolproof, so it’s satisfying for both children and adults seeking signs of spring indoors before it is fully expresses outdoors.
Start with a terracotta tray used for drainage under plants. You don’t need a lot of soil for this kind of garden so these shallow trays work well. Purchase a bag of wheat berries; they come in spring and winter varieties and in my experience, they both work well as long as they are tended by watering and placing them in a sunny spot to sprout. Some experts say that the hard spring berries sprout better so you may want to try them. They have wheat berries in bulk at the Lexington Coop and I am sure they are available in health food stores and sections of supermarkets. These berries can also be ground into wheat flour; providing a hands on lesson in where our food comes from. If you don’t have a grain grinder and want to make some flour, use the food processor to turn the hard berries into soft whole wheat flour ready to use in baking. Many adults are amazed and delighted by witnessing the different processes whereby the same little hard berries can become either wheat flour or wheat grass.
They have wheat berries in bulk at the Lexington Coop.
Place a bowlful of berries in water to allow them to germinate. Let them sit for a day or so then mix them with fresh dirt. Children love stirring the mixture with a big spoon or with their hands. Spreading newspaper on the table will reduce clean up afterwards. After mixing, spread the dirt and seeds into the tray, leaving a little bit of room for the mixture to swell when you water it, or better yet, when your child waters it.
If the tray is placed in a warm, light-filled spot, the wheat berry seeds sprout in a few days and grow into beautiful blades of spring green grass within less than a week. You can trim the grass to then mix in a salad or make juice or you can add spring decorations to the display.
Felted wool or beeswax rabbits or chicks in the form of finger puppets are easy to make and seasonally appropriate (directions can be found online). Children tend to like and be familiar with these animals as they are often characters in children’s literature. You can also dye eggs or stitch ones (using recycled wool strips and stuffing) and then hide them in the grass.
Ro – a home supply store on Elmwood and Breckenridge.
Ro, a home supply store on Elmwood and Breckenridge has lovely woolen mice that you can purchase to put in or near your gardens. Children also relate to these small and fast-moving animals. You could put a stick in the garden or in a vase and hang animals or eggs on it. The mice at Ro have strings to facilitate hanging. They also sell the wheat grass gardens on strings for hanging in your house (perhaps out of children or animals’ reach). Children delight in these displays and when they are involved in tending the garden, they usually respect its purpose and refrain from disrupting the garden, although the same cannot be said for indoor pets but the grass is safe and edible.
Besides brightening your home, the spring gardens can make lovely gifts. There are simple ways to package them and make them presentation worthy. Depending on the size of the tray you used, you can cut off the top of a brown paper lunch bags (pinking shears make a lovely cut) and then fix a handle to it from the leftover paper or brightly colored construction paper (pink, yellow or green look great). You can then place the garden inside the bag and carry it carefully with the handle and one hand underneath the garden. Few things say “happy spring” more than something green and growing.