When I was growing up, we always had a vegetable garden. My mom grew up on a farm and was appalled when my sister or I would throw a fit upon finding a tiny bug in our lovely, homegrown lettuce salad. “Where do you think the lettuce came from?” she would ask, and we’d have to admit that it grew in dirt, outside, and that there are bugs out there. It was an invaluable lesson and one I hope I can pass along to my kids. Our world has become too sterile and disconnected from nature. Like plants, we need dirt, sunshine, fresh air and clean water to survive. Who cares about a few bugs?
Try planting a few bean and pea sprouts in plastic bags to show your kids how sunshine and water can make a plant sprout!
You’ll need a few plastic zip-lock bags, dry beans from your pantry (or peas and beans from the garden seed packs you can find almost anywhere ), paper towels and water. Cut a paper towel so that you can fold it a few times and it will fit into the zip-lock baggie. Have your child soak it with water and help them put it into the bag so that it’s relatively flat. Then, give them two beans or seeds to place in the bag, near the bottom. I had to stuff a little piece of paper towel into the bottom of the bags so that the seeds wouldn’t sit in the extra water at the bottom. Let your child help seal the bag. Leave an opening near the top so the plants can get some air. Finally, tape the bag in a window with the beans facing you so that your child can watch them as they grow. (I’d recommend finding a window where they won’t get blasted by hot sun all day, or they might fry.)
As you do the project, ask your child what they think plants need to grow (Plants need light, air, water and nutrients, or “food.”) Ask them how they think the seed can grow without the dirt as “food.” Tell them that when a plant first sprouts, it gets its nutrients from the seed itself. They can watch the seed shrink as the plant grows. Have them draw the seed/plant in their science notebook as it changes. Older kids can measure the plants as they grow. Eventually, you should be able to transplant them to a cup with dirt, or directly into a garden. You may have to add water to the paper towels if they dry out. Play it by ear.
Plant a garden this spring, even a very tiny one in pots! Let your kids get their hands in the dirt. Help them nurture plants that will eventually nurture them. (Children are much more interested in tasting vegetables that they’ve grown themselves. ) It is one of the most rewarding activities you can do with your children, and takes only dirt, seeds and water! Find your inner farmer and let your children find theirs- organic food is cheap when you grow it yourself!