Celebrate Pollinators with Kids

June is pollinator month in Colorado, and you can learn more about these critical critters (bees, hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, wasps, beetles, and more!) at Save Our Pollinators Day tomorrow from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at the Jefferson County Courts Administration Building (100 Jefferson Parkway, Golden CO). 

A bee covered in pollen

A bee covered in pollen

When most people (especially children) think of bees, they think of honeybees. Did you know honeybees aren't native to North America? While a welcome immigrant to this continent (honeybees were brought over in the 1600's to make honey), we have hundreds of native species of bees and pollinators who also need our care and appreciation. As most bees are not aggressive (and only lady bees have stingers), it's important to teach our children to appreciate these garden friends, without whom we wouldn't have 70% of the produce we eat. If you're having a healthy snack right now, thank a bee!

We're serious - let's thank the bees! First, get to know some of the bees that are native to Colorado. These include: metallic green bees, sweat bees, cuckoo bees, wool carder bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, carpenter bees, squash bees, digger bees, bumblebees, mining bees, and so many more! Each prefers a different kind of nest, with some, like the squash bee, burrowing beneath squash blossoms, and others, like the leaf cutter bee, making nests out of cut-up leaves to secure in a safe spot, like a hole in a wood post. 

A shallow dish with rocks and water provides a safe place for bees and butterflies to land take a drink

A shallow dish with rocks and water provides a safe place for bees and butterflies to land take a drink

Only 12% of Colorado’s bees like to live in a colony in a hive (known as social bees). The majority of Colorado bees are solitary, and would love to find an inviting bee house waiting for them in your yard (or a bare patch of dirt to dig in, or an old log they can burrow into - there are so many options for providing bees with a safe habitat).

You can help thank bees and celebrate pollinators with your children by making your home and/or yard pollinator-friendly through habitats and flowers. A green lawn without flowers is like a desert to a bee - no food, water, or place to rest in sight. Here are a few ways you can make a flower buffet and rest stop for busy bees with your own little busy bees:

 

Plant these flowers as suggested by the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Sonya Anderson, via The Denver Post

Spring: Crocus, tulips, snowdrops, hellebores, lenten roses, poppies, crab apples, serviceberries, false forget-me-nots (also known as brunnera), creeping Oregon grape, sweet alyssum, snapdragons, blue flax, pasque flower, mock oranges, currents, gooseberries, columbines, and bachelor buttons.

Summer: Salvia, lavender, catmint, yarrow, yucca, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, penstemon, snapdragons, verbena, coreopsis, echinacea, milkweed, agastache, blanketflower, gayfeathers, rabbit brush, button bush, and herbs like fennel, dill, oregano, and parsley which support both the immature and adult forms of butterflies (let them go to flower for the nectar).

Fall: Asters. autumn sages, Mexican sages, and goldenrods.

While we love bees, let's not forget our other pollinating friends, like hummingbirds! There are 11 species of hummingbirds that arrive in Colorado in April and will stay till September, drinking nectar and pollinating our plants while they're here. Plants that hummingbirds love include:

  • Flowers with red blossoms and a tubular shape. But they also feed on pink, orange, peach and purple flowers.

  • Bee balm

  • California fuchsia

  • Lobelia

  • Catmint

  • Columbine

  • Delphinium

  • Firecracker penstemon

  • Garden phlox

  • Honeysuckle

  • Indian paintbrush

  • Maltese cross

  • Pineleaf penstemon

  • Salvia

  • Spider flower

  • Sunset hyssop

(via Beauty of Birds). Remember if you put out a feeder for hummingbirds to keep it disinfected and clean. Dirty hummingbird feeders can cause an infection in hummingbirds that leads to starvation and death. 

A bee house that can be purchased at a bee supply store or built at home. Each tunnel has cocoons for leaf cutter bee eggs. The Plexiglas cover lets children peak at the progress the momma bees have made in laying their eggs and taking care of their young! When these eggs hatch, they'll fly out into your garden looking for food from flowers. (Image via The Bees Waggle)

A bee house that can be purchased at a bee supply store or built at home. Each tunnel has cocoons for leaf cutter bee eggs. The Plexiglas cover lets children peak at the progress the momma bees have made in laying their eggs and taking care of their young! When these eggs hatch, they'll fly out into your garden looking for food from flowers. (Image via The Bees Waggle)

Gardening with Preschool Children

By Jen Willette, TLC Preschool Teacher

Have you ever wondered how to involve your child in gardening? Involving children in the gardening and growing process can be exciting for both you and them (even if the initial thought strikes the fear of randomly dug holes, plucked seedlings, and mud - mud everywhere - in you). In addition to teaching botany, biology, ecology, the life cycle, and the deliciousness of a fresh veggie picked from the garden, gardening also teaches children many skills, from problem solving, to planning and implementation, to patience, and finally how to appreciate and enjoy the satisfaction of hard work, a job well done, and the final product: delicious, nutritious vegetables. Here are a few simple ways to get your children involved gardening:

1.    Soil preparation: Children love to dig in the dirt! Invest in some quality child-size gardening tools and dig in the garden with your child to prepare the soil for seeds or seedlings. Removing the old and preparing the bed for new will help children learn about the season of spring and ecology of soil, and that in order to grow, we sometimes have to remove the old stuff! This can be done even with young two year olds.

2.    Go seed and plant shopping with your children. Allowing them investment in this process will make gardening more concrete for them. Try to choose plants that mature quickly, along with those that take longer to mature. An example of this would be radishes (28 days) to pumpkins (90-100 days). Let your child pick a few seed packets that they can take ownership of from selecting, to planting, to caring for and harvesting. If your child is very young, seed packets make excellent rattles they love to shake as you shop.

3.    Planting is fun, however, it is one of the shortest processes of gardening. Talking about what plants need to grow and get bigger at this time helps children understand more about why we do certain things, like adding compost and making mounds for melons. Teaching children how good soil, water, sun, and air that can move around helps plants grow will help the children see that all living things need different things to grow. 

 
 


4.    Watering! Who doesn’t love to play in the water on a hot summer day? Giving the plants a good soak on a hot day is important. Sometimes you can even see the difference in five minutes from a droopy plant to a happy plant, creating a great moment to talk to kids about the plant's response.

5.    Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! Make it a point to look for different types of insects and living things in your garden. On a good day, you could spot a ladybug, spider, robin, and a snake all lounging about in your garden. All of these are important to the health of your garden and make it exciting to have a scavenger hunt to search for something new. Ladybugs, spiders, and robins all eat "bad" bugs that can chew away at your plants, and snakes help keep your garden clear of rodents and other small critters that would otherwise enjoy chewing on your carefully cultivated plants.

6.    Weeding: I would love to say that children like to weed, but lets be honest…they don’t. Save yourself some frustration and do most of this yourself. Showing kids that weeds (plants we do not want) will also grow with the plants that we do want is a good skill for them to learn. Children who did not know the difference have pulled many plants that were meant to survive. To help cut down on weeding, you can implement companion planting techniques and teach kids about how some plants help each other grow better. For example, planting certain herbs around and between vegetables both helps the vegetables grow and suppresses weeds. Bonus: you have more fresh herbs to use in the kitchen!

7.    Harvest time: This is often the most enjoyable part of gardening for children; seeing what their seeds turned into brings great satisfaction. Harvest your produce with your child and point out things that you notice: the root system, the size of the leaves, how many fruits the plant produced. 

Gardening is not a guaranteed success. It is often a trial and error and the same is true of gardening with little people. The most important thing is involving them and allowing them to have some investment in the garden. Learning the value of hard work is a skill that will be useful for the rest of their lives. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the time with your kids.
 

Healthy Eating Before Five Years Old

Healthy eating habits begin early.

Did you know that a child's eating habits can be established as early as two years old? Or that 95% of a child's brain development occurs before age five?

These are just two reasons why TLC focuses on child health and nutrition both in our preschool classrooms and our pediatric therapy services. Our two garden beds, installed by TLC alum Cooper Knight, are just one way we integrate activities related to healthy food selection, overcoming fears of new foods, cooking, the science of healthy bodies, and the science of food production.

In our classrooms, students are fed healthy snacks in a nut-free, allergen-sensitive facility. Children in both classrooms and therapy sessions learn to make their own healthy snacks from fresh ingredients, many of which are grown by the children in our two on-site garden beds during the spring and summer.

Poor nutrition contributes to delays in intellectual development by causing brain damage, illness, and delays of motor skill development (e.g. crawling and walking). Early shortages in nutrients can reduce cell production; later shortages can affect cell size and complexity. Nutrient deficits also affect the complex chemical processes of the brain and can lead to less efficient communication between brain cells, potentially crippling a child’s cognitive potential for life.

A variety of positive food experiences and activities can help develop good eating habits and food preferences in children. TLC’s programs strive to provide these positive experiences daily, and provides opportunities for parents to gain further information on continuing healthy nutrition habits at home.

Toddler & Preschool Protein-Packed Superfoods:

  • Eggs

  • Oatmeal

  • Peanut Butter

  • Avocados

  • Salmon

  • Black Beans

  • Nuts & Seeds

  • Lentils

  • Green vegetables

Zero to Three, a program of the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families, states that brain development is most sensitive to a child’s nutrition between mid-gestation and two years old. Children who are malnourished do not adequately grow physically or mentally. Their brains can be smaller than normal because of reduced dendritic growth, reduced myelination, and the production of fewer glia (supporting cells). A newborn’s brain is only about ¼ the size of an adult’s, and grows to be 80% of adult size by age three, and 90% by age five, when a preschooler graduates from TLC, making their time at TLC one of the most critical periods in their development for adequate nutrition acquisition.

If you'd like to learn more about how TLC works to build healthy minds and bodies through our birth - 5 preschool classrooms and birth - 12 pediatric therapy services, contact us today at (303) 776-7417.