Nature is incredibly important for children and that’s just one of many reasons why little ones should be encouraged to learn about sowing seeds and growing their own plants. Today, we’re taking that a step further by explaining how children can grow plants that will give them real, edible food! With a little planning, care and effort, children can grow herbs, vegetables and even fruit if they put their minds to it. What’s more, it’s possible without a garden and needn’t cost a penny!
The Benefits of Children Growing Their Own Food
If they successfully grow herbs, vegetables or fruit that the family can actually eat, little ones will have an immense sense of achievement — and justifiably so. They will have learnt so much during the process too, including where plants, flowers and foodstuffs come from, how seeds germinate into plants, the relationship between flowers, pollination, seeds and fruit, caring for living things — and the circle of life itself. That will never be more evident than when a seed has grown into a plant that bears fruit, which contains more seeds, through which the whole process can start again.
Children will also love growing plants as an activity. They’ll learn from the responsibility of tending to living plants and seeing the progress that seedlings make when they have cared for them. It’ll be a real milestone, too, when their plants start bearing fruit (… or veg!). And — who knows — harvesting fruit, herbs and vegetables that they can eat may even get them interested in cookery and trying out more foods. All in all, growing food is a brilliant and highly educational activity for little ones.
Growing food is a fun, highly educational activity for little ones.
Take a look below for a few easy and inexpensive ways under-five children can get started.
Shop-Bought Seeds Are a Start But Free Seeds Are Even Better!
Seeds for herbs, vegetables and microgreens are all widely retailed in places like garden centres and even some supermarkets. Each seed packet will usually explain when and how seeds can be planted. This is perhaps the most obvious way for children to grow plants that, if all goes well, result in a healthy crop of food. However, we can be far more adventurous than that! Where is the fun in buying seeds in packets when children can get them for free? Let’s take a look at some cheaper and far more creative ways that children can start things off.
Grow Free Pepper & Tomato Plants!
“Free” you say? Well, pretty much! Next time you have some shop-bought tomatoes and/or peppers as part of your ordinary shopping, get your little one to take a few moments to save some of the seeds. These are found within things like tomatoes, before they’re eaten, and are usually discarded in the case of peppers. Such seeds can simply be spaced out on some compost or earth, watered in and a thin layer of soil or compost added on top. If these are left on the windowsill and the earth kept moist by the child over the coming days, little seedlings will soon start to appear. The image of the green plant shows our pepper seedling grown in this exact way — and it was incredibly easy to achieve. Ours is about 3 or 4 weeks old and it’s just about ready to be “planted out” outdoors, to mature. Once mature, they should flower then sprout some new peppers! It’s identical for tomatoes. If children have no garden for larger plants to be transferred to, ‘grow bags’ or any kind of suitable container can be used on a patio or balcony. Children will need to keep watering them every day, to keep the soil moist. Flowers will eventually appear and, with a little help from bees and insects, will be pollinated so that they eventually ‘fruit’. If appropriate care and attention continues, your child will eventually end up with vegetables that can eventually ripen and be eaten. That’s free tomatoes and peppers for the family, in our examples. Don’t forget to remind your child to save a few more seeds, though, so they can repeat the whole process again … and again!
If you have a large enough space in a garden, your child can do a similar activity using the seeds from squashes, pumpkins, marrows, courgettes and suchlike. However, those do take up quite a bit of room.
Grow Free Herbs!
Does your little one know that he/she can grow new herb plants totally free of charge? This is done simply by clipping cuttings from your usual shop-bought herbs and leaving them in water to root. It’s incredibly easy so long as the child has some patience (that’s another useful lesson for them). All the child needs to do is to save some small (3 or 4 inch long) cuttings from the tips of herbs like basil or coriander. For safety, parents/carers may need to help with the cutting part if the children are very young. The bottom sections of the clipped cuttings should be dangled into a glass, small bottle or other suitable vessel of water and left over a period of days until they sprout roots. See the photo for an example. A clear water vessel, e.g. drinking glass, will allow your child to clearly see the roots. Once suitably long, these new little plants can be transplanted individually into compost/soil in something like flower pots — or indeed a free, recycled alternative like a yoghurt pot. The little ones will need to continue attending to the plants with regular watering so that the herbs grow and mature. This activity can all be done indoors on a windowsill too, so requires minimal space. Growing their own herbs may even make children more inclined to eat them!
Grow Free Extra Lettuce & Celery!
Another ridiculously easy way to grow food is to “re-grow” it. A classic example of this is to save the root section from a salad vegetable like iceberg lettuce or celery. This is the part of a shop-bought vegetable that would normally be cut off and discarded. However, in what has to be the easiest food growing activity of all, the child simply needs to keep that root section and leave it root down in water for 1 to 3 weeks. It will eventually grow some roots but, before that, the upper tip will start to sprout new leaves. In our own test using an iceberg lettuce we ended up with loads! That is new, free salad that can be later harvested and eaten. Simple!
More Food Growing Ideas for Kids
(Speaking of iceberg lettuces): Excuse the pun, but the ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg! There are so many other types of vegetable and fruit that children can grow (or re-grow) for next to nothing. For example, they can grow new apple trees from apple pips and new strawberry plants from the outside skin of strawberries. And the whole topic of growing microgreens merits its own stand-alone article, available here. We may follow up in due course with another batch of food growing ideas for under-fives and, indeed, for people of any age. In the mean time, we hope your little one has some fun with the wonderful ideas above.
Little Acorns: an Outstanding Nursery & Pre-School in Clayton, Chorley, Lancashire
Our award-winning nursery & pre-school in Clayton-le-Woods gives babies and children under five the very best early years education. It’s also a fun place for little ones to grow and thrive during their most formative years. We have an outstanding Ofsted rating, an integral Forest School and represent the best childcare service in Clayton-le-Woods, Clayton Green and Clayton Brook, Chorley, Central Lancashire. Register a nursery place for your child today or get in touch to arrange a visit. Ask us any questions that you may have and we’ll be happy to help. Please choose a button below to get started …