The garden is a place for growing flowers, chasing butterflies…even impromptu tag. But you can slip some learning in without drawing too much attention to yourself. Spring has sprung and summer’s coming fast. It’s the perfect time to plant a seed.
What You Do:
Take a quick trip to the local nursery to gather supplies. Make a list ahead of time of some kid-friendly candidates, such as beans, peas, gourds, beets, and sunflowers. The key thing to remember is you want big seeds (easy for little hands to handle), speedy growth, and fun factor (like edible pods or seeds, showy flowers, or quirky shapes).
Now that you’ve got your loot, take it home; spread a blanket or towel near your vegetable garden, flower patch, or just a container pot with soil. Mix in a little fertilizer and show your preschooler how to press the seed in gently, cover it lightly with soil, and pat it down lightly with a shovel or trowel.
She should water it each day until a seedling sprouts and luckily with these plants, that won’t take but a week, max. But since you’re in the garden, you might as well take advantage of the view. Ask your child to help you count how many petals are on a particular flower, or how many leaves or tomatoes are on a particular plant. Count the rows of plants in the garden, and the number of plants in each row. Kids love tools, especially sharp ones! With supervision, ask your child to help you cut a particular number of flowers, or pull a particular number of fruits or vegetables from the plant. All these probing questions and suggestions help kids realize that math is all around us!
Preschoolers don’t spend a lot of time working on what we’d consider complex math, but they do work quite a bit with math “manipulatives”—objects they can touch, sort, and compare. As your troll the garden, ask your child questions like:
- How many leaves are on this plant?
- Which flower has the most petals? Let’s find out by counting!
- Which plant is the tallest? Which plant is the shortest? How can you tell?
- Which plant has the most tomatoes? Which plant has the fewest number of tomatoes?
- How many tomatoes can you count altogether?
- How many rows of flowers do we have planted?
- How many plants are in this row?
This is an easy way to introduce real-life math concepts. And if you’re lucky, when your new plants grow, you can talk not just about the life cycle, and what living things need to grow, but about the yumminess of the peas on your son’s plate, or the sunflower seeds at snack time. So get growing!
Samantha Harpring was a classroom teacher for 16 years and has spent the last several years writing curriculum. She is the mother of two energetic boys, ages 7 and 10.