This is a wonderful time of the year—between the cold winter weather many of us are experiencing and the holiday season, hopefully we’re all enjoying some cozy days inside with our loved ones. While that time together can be wonderful, it can be a little interesting if you have small children in the house. Little ones may be looking for something to do—their curious little minds keep going even when the rest of us are just trying to relax and enjoy the joys of the season. If you’re wondering how to keep them occupied, never fear—Gardzen’s got you covered! We’re devoting this blog to a list of gardening experiments that can be fun and informative during the holidays. We’ve framed this as a list of projects for kids, but the truth is these can be fun for folks of all ages, and can help us learn a bit more about plants, gardening, and the natural world around us. Let’s dig in!
Before we start, a quick note: experiments are like gardening in general. There are both successes and failures and that’s just part of the learning process. While that’s easy for adults to understand, younger folks might take it a bit harder when their plants refuse to grow. If an experiment doesn’t work, it’s a teaching and learning opportunity and a chance to talk about how gardening (and life!) may not always work out the way we want but the joy is learning and trying again.
Seeds are pretty fundamental to gardening—without them we’d run out of plants in short order. As it turns out, many of us have never seen the full process of seed sprouting from start to finish, and this can make for a fun series of experiments over the holidays. This can be as simple as sprouting some seeds on a wet paper towel inside a clear plastic bag. It’s as easy as it sounds: dampen the paper towel with water, spread it flat inside a sealable plastic bag, spread some seeds on top, and spray with water. Close up the bag and put it in a warm place. If you carefully check the bag every day or two—be careful not to shake it around and disturb the growing seedlings—you can watch the seeds develop into seedlings. For children, this can be a great introduction to how plants grow. For older folks, it’s a chance to observe the process closely and see how the various structures of the plant develop. This greater understanding can make us better at starting seeds in general, and this experiment can be a great way to start some seeds for the spring to come!
Likewise, consider starting some plants from seeds or scraps from your kitchen! Maybe you have some fresh lemons—remove the seeds, plop them in soil in a seed starting tray, and see what happens! You can do this with so many kitchen veggies, and it’s a fun chance to meet the plants that make your food. You can also start some plants from kitchen scraps—the bottom of a celery bunch stuck in some soil can sometimes regrow the plant! Ditto carrots—cut away the rounded top of the carrot (not the pointy root end), leaving a couple of inches to spare, and stick it in some soil with plenty of water and you may get some greens growing! You can try similar experiments with many kitchen scraps—the tops of root veggies, potato eyes, avocado pits, and of course any seeds—and just see what happens. Who knows? You might end up with some new house or garden plants.!
Speaking of carrots: we’ve all eaten them, and many of us have grown them, but how many of us have watched them grow? Well, as an indoor gardening experiment this holiday season, consider growing some carrots or radishes in a clear container and watching the plants develop. Use a clear container like a mason jar or a clear plastic box. Fill with seed starting soil or potting soil, and just plant your seeds close to the walls of the container. Water with a spray bottle like you would for any new seeds, and keep them warm. With a little luck, you’ll be able to see the seeds develop into plants and eventually the full grown veggie!
This is a partial list—there are so many possible experiments to do with indoor gardening and you really are limited only by available materials and your imagination. Don’t be afraid to try a few projects of your own this holiday season. Whether they work or not, you’ll have learned something and kept the joy of gardening alive while giving your kids something to do.