5 Ideas for Gardening Fun with Kids

 

Guest post by Wren from finchnwren.com.

Have you ever considered that gardening is a wondrous way to introduce your children to the miracles of God’s creation—and family fun?

5 Ideas for Gardening Fun with Kids @hsbapost

We’ve been a gardening family for 4 years, when a friend gifted us with a small raised garden bed and soil. We purchased zucchini and yellow squash seeds, and were astonished at the harvest! Since then, our garden has expanded every year, with great rewards. And involving your kids in gardening is amazing on so many levels. Here are 5 of my favorite ways…and don’t forget, you can create unit studies out of all of these!

1. Choosing Seeds

Taking your children to the garden center to choose the season’s seeds is the perfect way to start. Seeing the seeds and the potential through their eyes can help us step way out of our comfort zones.

5 Ideas for Fun Gardening With Kids ~ Choosing Seeds

This is a moment where your vision and dreams for your summer garden can run wild. This year, we picked old favorites and brand new ones, like the mouthwatering mini-watermelon seeds! Of course, you’ve got to keep in mind the length of your growing season, but if you watch the planting dates for your region and stick to that, you can still reap a great and varied harvest.

We’re starting most of our garden from seed this year, and we’re planting beets, basil, zucchini; summer squash, sugar snap peas, and carrots; garlic, watermelon, cucumbers. We’ll be buying tomatoes to put in later once the freeze warnings are over.

2. Creating a Garden Plan

This year, we’re trying square foot gardening. We have 3 raised beds, plus two large containers to work with. I discovered that with square foot gardening, I can plant a LOT, simply by dividing our beds into 12” squares. For example, did you know that you can plant 16 radish plants in one square foot? Or 16 carrots? Or, 8 sugar snap pea plants? My son made a planting guide for our large raised bed in Paint. Great way to combine art and gardening!

5 Ideas for Fun Gardening With Kids ~ Make a Garden Plan

Your raised bed can yield so much more than you’ve ever imagined, if square foot gardening is new to you. You just need a bed plus wooden slats to place across it in grids, to segment all your square foot spaces. It is fun AND exciting!

3. Birds & Bees

There are some insects whose presence is integral to a garden’s success. And others which might not be as necessary, but will still add value and health. Bees, of course, are vital for pollination. I have several beds which run along our fences that are planted with bee-friendly plants. What’s even better is that they bloom over the course of the summer, so that the bees always have flowers to visit.

Russian sage is super-low maintenance, and bees swarm ours every summer. Our peonies don’t last quite as long, but their sticky nectar and heavy fragrance draw the bees beautifully. Last summer, I needed a little extra on one side of our garden, so I planted catmint. It’s very pleasing to the little pollinators as well. You can also try bee balm, lavender, basil, mint….just Google “plants bees love” and see what will work in your area!

One of our summer joys is watching the hummingbirds in our backyard. Did you know that hummingbirds also do some pollination? I was pretty surprised at this, but I know they love the Russian sage and find our tomato cages a wonderful perch. You can find inexpensive hummingbird feeders at your local discount stores, and make your own nectar at home. (Just heat 1 part granulated sugar with 4 parts water over medium heat til sugar dissolves. Let cool, then pour into feeder.)

5 Ideas for Fun Gardening With Kids ~ Hummingbird

 

4. Creating and Cooking

We know that kids who grow their own vegetables are much more likely to eat vegetables than those who don’t. I don’t know if your children are veggie-lovers or not, but how cool would it be to create and cook recipes with your kiddos, right out of your garden? We’ve made zucchini pizza rounds, zucchini-tomato gratin, zucchini breads and cakes, squash casserole, stir-fried beef with sugar snap peas…the list is endless! And that’s not including just eating veggies out of hand. My son even created a pasta and squash recipe several years ago that we still eat, which you can find here:  “Jackson’s Amazing Fettucine with Sauteed Squash and Parmesan

 

5 Ideas for Fun Gardening With Kids ~ Cooking

5. Sprouting

This is more of an indoor activity than an outdoor, but our family loves growing sprouts. This time, not to plant…but just to eat! Sprouts are a wonderful snack, and make a lively addition to sandwiches and salads as well. We have a kitchen seed sprouter, but you can sprout with just a mason jar! My son loves these and I love the fabulous antioxidants and fiber they provide. We’re currently sprouting alfalfa, radish and clover.

5 Ideas for Fun Gardening With Kids ~ Sprouts

There’s so much to love about backyard gardening. You can do it even if you have a teeny tiny space. And involving your family in it…priceless!
How do you involve your family in your gardening? This summer, Kemi from Homemaking Organized http://www.homemakingorganized.com/ and I are hosting a garden linky! Come and link up at Garden Party!

 

Finch n Wren

Wren blogs with her sister Finch at finchnwren.com. She and her husband met on the mission field and still love hearing about God’s work around the world. Wren has homeschooled their only son since the beginning. They love family fun, the beach and great comic book heroes.

 

 
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DIY Totally Safe Art Supplies for Toddlers (and their older siblings)

Guest Post by Lisa of School at Home Mom.

As a mom of an active 21-month old, I am always looking for new ways to excite his curiosity and sustain his focus. Early childhood learning is so much about hands-on experiences and exploration, and art activities are a perfect way to delight a child’s senses.

Up until about last week, though, my little artist was still putting everything into his mouth – or coating his hands with everything and then putting them into his mouth!

So, I decided to hold off on splurging on art supplies and make my own food-based materials. This way, he could explore freely, and I wouldn’t have to constantly be on “DON’T EAT THAT!” patrol.

Most of our DIY supplies use only a handful of ingredients that can be stored at room temperature in a kitchen. Just about everything we use is something we’d want to keep around for baking or cooking anyway, and can be found in every grocery store. What could be easier?

DIY Totally safe art supplies for toddlers: homemade play dough and finger paints

Benefits of DIY (besides saving money!)

My son loves to make his own art supplies. He runs to the cabinet where we keep our projects stocked and opens it up, declaring, “Paint! Paint!” and eagerly gets his smock on so that he can help me mix the ingredients.

Some of the skills we can work on while creating and using the art supplies:

  • Cause and effect
  • Colors and color mixing
  • Opposites (wet/dry, big/little, open/shut, soft/hard, slow/fast, etc.)
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand & finger strength

If you have more than one child, these DIY projects are perfect! The older children can help to prepare the supplies in a more scientific way, observing how changing the quantities or process changes the outcome. The playdoh project uses more precise quantities, and would be perfect for an older child learning about customary units of measurement and fractions.

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

Kool Aid + Baby Cereal + Water = finger paint!

DIY finger paint

Ingredients:

  • Small amount of water
  • Baby cereal
  • Kool Aid or food coloring

Procedure: Mix the dry baby cereal with water to desired consistency, then mix in the coloring.

 

My son's masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

My son’s masterpiece, created with Kool Aid, baby cereal, and water!

Fun with painting!

Fun with painting!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

3/4 of the fun was making the paint ourselves. My son loves watching the powder mix into the water!

My son was never a fan of baby cereal, so we ended up with a whole open container of it that we didn’t want to throw away but couldn’t donate. Using it up as thickener for finger paint was the perfect solution!

Note: we do not drink Kool Aid, but we do keep packets stocked for use in projects. I order them in bulk on Amazon so that we can get a variety of colors, and they’re widely available in grocery stores too.

Kool-Aid (or anything else with food coloring) will stain hands and whatever else it gets on, so an old shirt or smock would be great. My son gave himself a red belly button from one of his early painting sessions before we invested in a smock! Personally, I don’t mind – I abide by the saying “If he got dirty, he had fun today!”

For kids who don't like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

For kids who don’t like the feel of finger paint, a piece of plastic wrap taped over it will let them explore and play.

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn't have to worry about contaminating the brush!

My son loved using one of our basting brushes to explore the paint materials. And I didn’t have to worry about contaminating the brush!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn't resist touching it!

After a number of successful experiences, he couldn’t resist touching it!

My son actually hates the feel of finger paint, or anything else that is the least bit goopy or sticky. After he made it clear that he was not going to be touching the paint directly, I taped a sheet of plastic cling over the goop. Then he loved it! Later, I gave him a basting brush, and he got into moving the thick finger paint around with that.

Once he got the hang of the brush, I decided to move on to regular paint. My 2 ingredient recipe for that is next!

DIY paint

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Kool Aid packet

That’s it! Mix & enjoy.

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

My son LOVED watching the different colors mix!

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The Kool Aid produces a vibrant color, especially if you use a slightly more concentrated amount.

The finished product!

The finished product!

After my son had an epic painting session involving like 8 packets of Kool-Aid, we ran out! So we substituted regular food coloring instead. He loved watching the drops of coloring diffuse out into the water. It turned into a bit of a science experiment!

Other paint making ideas:

  • Using water mixed with spices and flavorings
  • Using water with food coloring & salt, for a glittery effect

Another variation: sprinkle the Kool Aid on the paper first and then paint with water – your child will be able to see the powder mixing in a bit at a time. My toddler was mesmerized!

If you homeschool multiple kids: Your older children will enjoy writing secret messages in white crayon and then painting over it to reveal the hidden words! Or, how about a secret “math code” using number sentences or patterns?

Speaking of practicing math and reading, I’m a big fan of using manipulatives and hands on materials to make abstract concepts more concrete. This next project will provide a sensory experience for little ones, while your older child can use it to make numbers and letters, or even cut it up to model fractions!

DIY Playdoh

There are plenty of recipes for playdoh, but many of them use salt – which doesn’t work for my son’s eczema-prone skin. Here’s one that was gentler for him, and still used food-grade ingredients.

Because this recipe uses heat, you won’t want to prepare this one with your toddler’s help. Once it cools, you can enlist your child’s participation for mixing in colors.

Bonus: This recipe is gluten free, if that’s a concern for you.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Food coloring of your choice (if desired)

Mix the ingredients and cook on medium heat. Stir constantly and watch for when it begins to thicken. When it thickens enough, take it off, allow it to cool, and then mix in the colors.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

This playdoh recipe is easy on sensitive skin.

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh - big victory!

My son was actually willing to touch the playdoh – big victory!

The texture of this playdoh is soft and a bit sticky at first (if it’s too sticky, add more cornstarch). We were able to keep it in the fridge for several weeks. We allowed it to warm up a bit before playing with it.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Lisa of schoolathomemom.comLisa has been a special education teacher for 15 years and is looking forward to wrapping up her final months of her teaching contract so that she can homeschool her young son. She is also eager to help other homeschool families who can benefit from her years of experience working with children with many different learning styles, strengths, and needs. If you are new to homeschooling, her 100 Day Countdown begins on April 21, 2015! In addition to her years in the classroom, she has also traveled to 6 continents and participated in endangered sea turtle conservation projects and archaeological digs. Lisa currently works for the Museum of Natural History developing curriculum and teaching enrichment courses and camp sessions to children ages 5-10. You can learn more at her website, http://www.schoolathomemom.com.

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Quick & Easy Trim Healthy Mama Recipes {that kids like too}

 

Guest post by Linda Rose.

I began my THM (Trim Healthy Mama) journey this past summer. In June I started training for a 5K using the Couch to 5K training program. Shortly after that, a friend started up a Trim Healthy Mama group at her house. At first I was like, ok sure I’ll come, but you can’t make me eat anything green or weird. After hearing people talk about THM, I still wasn’t convinced, but ordered the book out of curiosity anyway. I read the book and it just made sense. I had a light bulb moment! You see I had always thought that in order to lose weight I would have to eat weird or green food, but it turns out that isn’t the case at all.

It’s been slow going, and there are days that I find it challenging to eat on plan all the time, but even so, I’ve lost almost 27 pounds! I feel healthier, have more energy, and am still running. It almost feels strange to be able to eat some of the foods that I do eat and be able to still lose weight. And I don’t have to eat any weird or green foods (unless I’m feeling adventurous). I’m a pretty picky eater (so are some of my kids). In order to make THM work for me, I’ve had to make foods that the whole family will eat and love. I’m not about to make a meal for them and then make a separate one for me.

 

Many of the recipes in the THM eating plan are extremely quick and easy. If you are like me, you can appreciate that because honestly who has the time or the energy to slave away in the kitchen?

A couple favorite recipes at my house:

 

Chicken Alfredo (S meal for THM)

Ingredients:
6-8 frozen chicken breast tenders (or 3-4 whole chicken breasts)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 cups mozzarella cheese
garlic powder (or fresh if you have it)
salt and pepper to taste

Serve over Dreamfields spaghetti pasta or steamed broccoli.
Place the frozen chicken breast tenders into the bottom of the crockpot. Pour the heavy cream over the chicken. Sprinkle the garlic powder over the cream and chicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the mozzarella cheese. Turn the crockpot on high. I like to stir the ingredients every hour or so. It just prevents the cream and cheese from burning on the edges. As the chicken cooks it becomes tender and breaks apart easily. I use a fork to pull the chicken apart before serving. I serve the alfredo sauce over Dreamfields spaghetti with broccoli on the side. It’s so easy and delicious. I put the ingredients in the crockpot at lunchtime and it is ready by dinner time. If it’s ready sooner, then I just turn the crockpot down to warm until we are ready to eat it. The house smells delicous while this is cooking! (adapted from a recipe in the THM book, which you can purchase here)

Ham and Cheese Scrambled Eggs (S meal for THM)

Ingredients:
6 eggs
4-6 thick slices of ham–diced
1-2 tablespoons of cream cheese
1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Directions:
Put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk everything together. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter into your frying pan. Add the ham and cheese egg mixture, stirring to help everything cook evenly.
 
You can use more or fewer eggs; this is what I use for our family. Alternately you could substitute the ham for some other breakfast meat–bacon or sausage is yummy too. Be careful if you choose to substitute store bought pre-packaged bacon bits as many of these have sugar in them.

 

These are quick, easy, and yummy–perfect for a quick breakfast!

 

Linda RoseLinda Rose blogs at Rose Academy and Sew Happily Ever After. She has 15+ years of teaching experience in public, private, after-school, and home school settings. She enjoys homeschooling her own children as well as teaching small group English classes in her home and at local co-ops. Sewing has become an important creative outlet for her and allows her to use her talents to bless her own family as well as others.

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