Now that summer is in full bloom in the U.S. and most children are out of school for a while, it is time to return to weekly “Family Fun” postings. For July and August I’ll post family- friendly activities on Mondays, with more varied posts later in the week. Of course these will include lesson ideas, since my Australian readers have gently reminded me that we’re not all on a U.S. calendar. But for now, we’ll think about creative family fun with gardening. Even if, as we are, you are past prime planting time (or perhaps don’t have a garden space), gardening has lots of options for creative explorations.
- Try some gardening experiments. What do you think might help or hurt plants’ growth? Older children might explore different types of fertilizer, or experiment with soil acidity, but this is an interesting area for exploration at all levels. Two of my favorite gardening experiments were designed by young children. The first, one of my first grade students, wondered what would happen if he poured milk on his potted bean plant instead of tester. Milk made him grow stronger, shouldn’t it do the same for beans? Great question! Another young child observed abandoned cigarette butts in the pots of some pubic plants. She wondered what they did to the plants, and another experiment was born. I’d love to hear about yours.
- Garden art #1: Record a garden. Artists have been drawing and painting gardens for millennia. Bring your sketchbooks to the back yard or park. See how different views change the beauty, from an expanse of green to a single leaf. Or bring your cameras. Digital photography has made it easy to take close ups of interesting plants. Use some to making note cards for all your relatives! Or if you are in your own yard, choose some interesting leaves, coat them with paint and experiment with leaf prints.
- Gardens art #2: Decorate a garden. If you are fortunate enough to have a garden space, think about what you can make to decorate it. Consider making stepping stones, either as individual creations or a planned collaboration. I made three step stones for my yard that combine to make a fishing cat. One day I plan to have them lead to a birdbath! There are lots of commercial stepping stone kits or you can make your own from sand, concrete, and treasures. Or perhaps you’d like to experiment with garden sculpture. Collect rocks or shells. Think about how they could be arranged, or assembled with waterproof glue. What else could you add to your creations? Or try painting rocks to create animals, or even gnome houses.
- Map your dinner. Or your food for a week. Where is the garden (field) in which your food is grown? Sometimes you may know exactly where your food comes from, or in other cases you can at least guess the part of the world where it grows. Learn more about it and the kinds of things that grow there. I wonder where all the components of my fruit salad grew? What about the wheat for the semolina in my spaghetti? It would be fun to put a pin in a world map for each bit of food. Every activity that makes us curious builds a space safe for creativity.
- Gardens can also be fine places for fantasy. Find or build a fairy garden. You might explore fields or forests looking for plants that could belong to the “little people” in your area. Take a photograph, or perhaps build a tiny decoration to amuse the local fairies. Or build a flower pot fairy garden for your home or yard. There are lots of sites to inspire you. Our local nursery has a fairy garden class later in the summer. If I manage to create one, perhaps I’ll add a photograph.