Garden projects are a great way for kids to enjoy the outdoors while learning more about nature. The activities don't have to require a lot of materials, just basic stuff you have lying around the house and maybe a couple of home and garden items you can easily purchase. Just make sure to supervise the kids, especially when sharp objects are involved. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Build a Snail Farm
Make a home for the snails using an old clear plastic bottle with the cap on. Cut a 5x15 cm opening along one side. With the bottle lying on its side, get the kids to fill about a third of the container with damp soil, then add a few lettuce leaves on top. Have fun hunting for snails together among leafy plants and on brick walls. Place a few of them in the farm, then seal the opening with a clear tape. Punch the tape with holes to permit air. Now the kids can enjoy watching the snails grow for a few days before releasing them.
2. Make Rock Plant Markers
Look for good-sized rocks with fairly smooth surfaces. Wash and dry them, before letting the kids paint with nontoxic outdoor acrylic paint. Once dry, use a white marker to label the rocks with the names of plants growing in the garden.
3. Grow a Grass Head
Poke 3-5 holes on the bottom of a large clear plastic cup. Fill it with soil three-fourths of way, sprinkle in some grass seeds, and lightly cover them with soil. Be sure to follow the instructions on the seed packet. To moisten the potted soil, water it over a sink until the excess drips out from the holes at the bottom. Tape to the cup a wacky blown-up photo of the kid's face, with barely the hairline showing. The image should have ideally the same height as the cup. Place the cup by the window, where it will get enough sunlight. Once the grass has grown tall enough, the kid can cut it to create interesting 'hairdos.'
4. Make a Milk Carton Birdfeeder
Clean and dry an empty half-gallon milk carton. Using a box cutter, cut a rectangular opening--with an arched top, if preferred--on one side of the carton, where the birds can access the seeds. If you want to paint the carton, use a spray paint for plastic surfaces since it adheres better than acrylic. Once it's dry, let the kid decorate the carton with buttons, leaves, twigs, and other materials. For the perch, hot-glue a short twig just below the opening. Punch a hole at the top of the carton for a string to go through. Pour in the birdseed, and hang the feeder up a tree.
5. Make a Whimsical Hanging Planter
Line an old sturdy straw hat or a woven basket with moistened sphagnum moss or shredded coconut husks to aerate the soil. Fill the container halfway with damp potting soil. Carefully remove small plants from the garden, making sure the roots are still intact. Transfer them to the planter, add another layer of soil, then water. Hang the planter up using strings. Some plants that are great for this project include impatiens, begonias, tomatoes, and strawberries.
6. Grow Herbs in Eggshells
Get the kids to paint some hard boiled eggs like they would for Easter. Peel off the shell, leaving half of it intact. After carefully removing the eggs, arrange the half shells on a milk carton with its cover removed. Spoon potting soil into the shells and drop a few of your favourite herb seeds into each one, making sure to follow the sowing instructions on the packet. Mist the soil with water, and stick fancy labels on each using toothpicks, art paper, and marker. Leave the herb garden on a sunny spot. Once the first leaves have fully sprouted, transfer the entire eggshell pot into a large pot or straight into the garden soil, where the shell will naturally decompose.
7. Make a Miniature Garden
A lot of imagination and creativity can go into this project. You can plan ahead by drawing a "blueprint" or a rough sketch of how the mini garden would look like. For the container, use a shallow plastic or metal tray, or an old lid-less box made of tin or wood. Pierce a few holes at the bottom before adding damp potting soil. Add some small-leafed plants from the garden, and cover part of the top soil with moss. To create a pond, embed a small jar lid that's painted in blue or lined with gravel. Fill it with water and place tiny pebbles around the border. Other decorative elements can be added, including a tiny house, gnome figurines, picket fences, and winding paths. Be sure to keep the garden moist and replace dying plants.