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.
 

Summer Balance Challenge

By Shelly Murphy, TLC Board Member, Mother of Three, Balance Seeker

As my kiddos (and I am sure yours, too) anticipate the unlimited possibilities and freedom that awaits them this summer, I am filled with a mixture of excitement and dread as I look ahead to the coming months.  Summer breaks are often a huge challenge for parents and usually we find ourselves in a panic scheduling our children’s activities and time. This summer, as I plan our schedules, I challenge myself to seek balance. Will you join me in this challenge? I do not mean that for every class, practice, game, therapy session or play date that we schedule for our children that we should schedule one for ourselves. Instead, my hope is that you are able to find some time for yourself; for your growth, your fun, your health. Schedule and find time for yourself like you do for your kids; seek balance.    

You may be asking who am I to be offering such advice?  Am I a therapist or a counselor or have a PhD in family matters? No. Rather, I am a Mom who recently learned that self-care is not an indulgence, but rather a necessity to live a balanced family life. While a vacation on a Caribbean beach sounds nice, the balance I seek is not that grand.   

 If you can, I encourage you to try some of the following activities to bring balance to your days:

  • Take a walk around the block (with the kids if necessary), and enjoy nature and the outside of your house.

  • Invite a friend to join you for an exercise class or a hike in our beautiful mountains.

  • Try something new or challenge yourself to do something you have always wanted to do. If you can, schedule a date night, or a girls’ night, or schedule everyone else for a night so you can spend some time alone (and don’t clean or do other chores).

If we continue to only give and never care for ourselves, at some point we will get depleted. Remember those instructions on the plane that you are to apply your oxygen mask first before you assist others? There is wisdom in that concept. The same applies for us as we care for our children, our parents, our bosses and seemingly all others first.  

If all else fails and you cannot take a break or schedule something for yourself, I hope you can give yourself the gift of being present. Being present does not require any additional resources other than giving yourself permission to fully focus on the moment. Then, in August, when we send our kiddos back to school or the wonderful care (therapy, infant, toddler or preschool) at TLC Learning Center, we will be able to look back on these summer months fondly, just as our kiddos will.


Summer Sensory Fun for Kids

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Happy Summer! The warm months are a time for relaxation - naps in the hammock, reading a book on the beach, long walks at the park, and escaping to the mountains. At least, that is our perception as an adult. However, for a child who is home from school for the summer, their routine has been thrown upside down. The schedule and predictability that once dictated their days is gone, and often they are left struggling to regulate, and desperately craving a routine. As an occupational therapist, I look at a child’s environment, routines, activities, and sensory input, all of which change dramatically in the summer. I see a number of children whose behavior and response to their environment is also impacted due to the summer's change in routines, environment, and activities.

While I can’t promise you will never hear “I’m bored” again this summer, I hope that this list of sensory summer fun activities will provide you with ideas to increase regulation, routine, sensory input and overall summer enjoyment!

The following activities can be alerting, organizing or calming. Each individual child is unique in their response to activities. Please consult a therapist at TLC Learning Center if you have specific questions regarding your child’s sensory processing.

Movement Activities (Vestibular Input):

  • Swimming
  • Swinging
  • Running, Jumping, Skipping, Hopping, etc.
  • Team Sports
  • Hiking – nature walks, new adventures
  • Water Play – run through sprinklers, jump in puddles, have a water balloon fight
  • Get Up and Move Dice

Deep Pressure and “Heavy Work” Activities (Proprioceptive Input):

  • Ride a bike, scooter, roller skate
  • Build in wet sand. Don’t have a sand box? Fill up a Rubbermaid container with sand from a hardware store.
  • Gardening – digging, pushing a wheelbarrow, planting, etc.
  • Push and Dump Ice Relay
  • Stomp Paintings

Touch Activities (Tactile):

Taste & Oral Activities:

Please let us know your favorite sensory activities for kids in the comments! If you have questions about Sensory Processing Disorders or Occupational Therapy, please contact us to discuss an evaluation for your child.

Lindsey Blechle, MOT, OTR