I’ve bought a book called Garden Wizardry for Kids. This is the first project we have done from the book. It’s a ‘Grow Sweet Potatoes’ project that is pretty simple and the kids love it.
All you need are two glass jars, some toothpicks and warm water. Push the toothpicks into the Potatoes and suspend them in the jar. Then fill with warm water. We started with four Sweet Potatoes and only two of them sprouted. But once they did their roots began growing very quickly. Jackson, my four year old, checked it every day and was very excited to see the new growth. Then, when the root system is quite large, the tops start to produce leaves.
I think if you do the project when the weather is warm outside you can then plant the tubers in the garden and hope for the best (depending on where you live). But as we’re still in Winter here I might have to discard them. But, just for entertainment value and a great visual aid to learning about roots and how they grow, this is definitely a great project to try.
I confess I had never heard of Flubber when I moved here. Back in the UK my kids played with playdough, paints, chalk etc but Flubber? No. This was a new thing to me. So when my 4 year old joined the local pre-school co-op and I was assigned the task of ‘making playdough and flubber’ I was more than a little worried. The day loomed when my new skills would be put to the test and 14 little faces would be awaiting their art supplies. Hmmm..
But I made it, the teacher said it was good, and miraculously the kids played with it! I noticed though, that they didn’t just play with it, they were mesmerised by it. And this was not down to my quality product but the fact that Flubber just is ‘mesmerising’.
Have you every played with it? You probably have – I’ve led a sheltered existence. It’s crazy stuff. It slips through your fingers, you can stretch it and break it, chop it and squish it back together again. And then leave it on a rack and it will slowly drip, drip down until all of it is on the table and not on the rack anymore. It does its own thing. It’s almost alive. It’s cold and clammy and feels weird when you put it on your skin. The dog likes to eat it (not recommended). And children? Well, they can’t stop playing with it. Bingo!
So here’s the recipe. The ingredients are simple and it’s easy to make. And it will keep the children amused, guaranteed.
How to Make Flubber
Makes 2 batches
- 3 cups warm water
- 4 cups white glue
- Food colouring
- 2 and 2/3 cups warm water
- 2 Tablespoons of Borax
Mix thoroughly the ingredients in each container. Pour the contents of container 2 into container 1. Gently lift and turn the mixture until only about a tablespoon of liquid is left. The Flubber will be sticky for a moment or two. Let the excess liquid drip off and the Flubber will be ready. It will last for two to three weeks in an airtight container.
And if you don’t want to stop here, there are so many more ‘make your own art supplies‘ recipes too.
Today, we visited a local Pumpkin farm with the pre-school. I was excited because I’ve never visited a Pumpkin farm before. Back in the UK Pumpkin farms are hard to come by. There are some but as the summers are not predictable I’m sure it’s not very stable business for farmers. Here in Portland, however the situation is very different. With the longer summer temperatures and sunshine (although I’ve been assured this is usually sunny for October) Pumpkins do very well here.
The children were here to harvest the Pumpkins sown by the previous class in May. It was a sweet idea – that a child who was a year older than you left you a ‘present’ in the ground and it grew to become a Pumpkin. We soon located the one for us and Jackson held on to it tightly.
The number of different varieties that were grown here was impressive. This knobbly variety is actually called, Red Warty Thing, which is a brilliant name for what can only be described as a red warty thing.
Other varieties included New Moon, Jack Be Little, Swan Neck Gourds, Baby Boo, Apple Gourd and Bat Wing Pumpkins.
This one is called Lil Pump Ke Mon.
The farmers even decorated the hay wagon with corn and dried flowers. It was all lovely.
And best of all it’s made me very excited to grow Pumpkins next year. I’m already thinking about which seed varieties I’ll be buying and where to plant them.
The Mangetout that we planted a few weeks ago in Jackson’s garden is growing well. He was amazed that it came up so fast and we put some sticks in for them to grow up. He wants to know if we can eat them yet? And even though I said that they won’t be ready for some time I expect he’ll still pick some and taste it, just to see!
He never believes me when I say things aren’t ready. He spat out quite a few green Strawberries last year before he admitted that I was right. He has a will of iron.
And… at the moment Jacskson’s little patch has more growing in it than my garden. All I have showing are some sprouting Onions and a row of Radish. I need to start concentrating on my patch! Ho-hum.
I just took delivery of this sweet little box of kid’s gardening paraphernalia courtesy of Innocent Kids. We love smoothies in this house so it was super exciting to get this box. But that’s not all…
They sent me two! So I’m giving one away in the Kid’s Gardening Group over at UK Veg Gardeners. Check it out if you know some little person who might appreciate this.
Growing for kids is not the same as growing with kids – that’s a whole other post. Growing for kids is about growing things that your kids will eat, as opposed to growing things that your kids will like to grow. Are you following me?
In my nearly four years of experience growing for kids (which isn’t a lot so if you a have older children bare this in mind), I’ve found that they like the following:
- Peas – green podded to begin with, then purple podded to add wow factor.
- Mangetout – so sweet when they are picked fresh that they are like candy.
- Carrots – small, quick growing ones that they can pull themselves. You’ll be amazed at how harvesting their own food can make them actually want to eat it!
- Strawberries – by the bucketload.
- Raspberries – ditto.
- Blueberries – ditto.
- Blackberries – ditto.
- Apples, Peaches – not so much Pears as they can’t be eaten directly from the tree.
- Teeny Tiny Tomatoes, or cherry Tomatoes – again it’s a pick your own thing.
- Sweetcorn – Summer BBQ, butter dribbling down chin = happy children.
- Pumpkins – Watching and waiting and talking about Halloween is great fun.
- Gherkins – Small Cucumbers are a novelty and once the spikes have been washed off will be tolerated in small quantities.
Avoid things that are tough, stringy, need lots of sugar (Rhubarb) or have pips in.
You’ll notice that disappointingly there’s not much that’s green on this list. In our house, at least, there is still a moratorium on the acceptance of green things on the plate – even if they have been grown by Mummy’s own hands. I’ll try again this year but I’m not holding out much hope. At the moment I can only get them to eat Courgettes if I lie and say they are Cucumbers – and that’s not sustainable (or morally acceptable, I suppose).
So there you have it – my non-scientific list of things my children tend to eat from the garden. I’m sure there are children out there who happily munch bucketfuls of Spinach and Kale but they certainly don’t live in my house.
Jackson is raring to get going on his new, bigger garden. He wanted to go out and do some digging but the digging soon turned to raking. The raking consisted of moving the soil from one location to another and then back again.
It was great fun, especially when we used the rake upside down.
And when we were finished the garden really didn’t look any different than it did before we arrived but we had spent a nice hour or two in the garden, getting some welcome fresh air after the crazy Christmas week – and mummy got to do some tidying up too!
These little hands are trying to figure out how to open this peapod thing with the sweet, juicy Peas inside. Pulling the stalk bit doesn’t work.
Aha! The little hands have no idea how they did it but they managed to open it! And look what’s inside. Lots and lots and lots of them.
“Eat them as fast as you can before someone comes along to stop you,” they say, “because normally we’re not allowed to eat green things because they’re ‘not ready’. I’m sure it’s different with Peas but you can’t be 100% sure, so best to just shove them in, no?”
Honestly, I never thought the day would come, but Jackson actually does have his own garden. Despite writing a book about his garden he never really had one until now. You know how it is with little ones – in the beginning they just eat dirt, then they try to choke themselves on stones, then they take great delight in digging up what you have just planted.
Then they discover seeds, how to eat and throw them (Radish coming up through the cracks in the pavement!). At about two years old he discovered tools. He had is own miniature set but no, he wanted mine.
When they find the power of speech they ask, ‘what’s this?’ (holding a Tomato plant by its roots) and then later on ‘is it growing yet?’ (holding Pea seedling in similar way).
All of this is fun and can be called ‘gardening’. But actually growing something, leaving it in the ground, watering it and checking on it every day – hmmm… not so much.
Until now that is! Jackson sowed some Peas and he ‘actually’ left them in the ground. He sowed some Lettuce in a tray and ‘transplanted’ them to his garden – oh okay I did it, but he watched and understood what I was doing.
Last week we went to the garden centre, he choose some seeds (Radish – good choice), we sowed them, they germinated and today we ‘thinned’ them. And yes he did it all by himself this time!
I ‘actually’ have a little gardener on my hands and he’s only three. I’m so proud of him :)
I’m currently working on the next book in the Jackson’s Garden series. The first book was received really well and so I’m working on the next story that introduces tiny readers to the merits of bees! It’s not quite finished yet, I still have a few pages left to draw and paint but the story is taking shape.
I just love the process of thinking up the story, planning the layout, drawing painting and seeing the whole thing come together. I find it very relaxing, a bit like gardening really.