If you are one of the millions of American families who increased their home gardening this past year, this article is for you. Back in March, I wrote about starting my home garden with my son. Here are some of the ways I have incorporated S.T.E.A.M. based learning as our garden develops. We included some ideas of how to make this developmentally appropriate based on the age range of your child.
1. Science- We watered the plants and talked about how water, soil and sun help the plants to grow. For a child in their elementary years, this is the time to introduce the plant life cycle and more complicated concepts of science. The We Are Teachers website has a feature on the 17 Creative Ways to teach the Plant Life Cycle which offers many activities, ideas, and resources.
2. Technology- We set up a tiny cash register with a calculator and he is learning how to use them. Older children benefit during the elementary and middle schools years by learning how technology assists our minds by speeding up our math skills and creating documentation. It is a great opportunity to explore with your child how we can rely on technology to double check the math skills we learn in school and that not all technology is screen based.
3. Engineering- We built a vegetable stand with shoe boxes to sort different garden veggies. But the concept of a vegetable garden offers a much wider opportunity for older children to get creative with building and construction skills. Home Advisor’s Website has an entire section dedicated to developmentally appropriate construction activities separated by age group with everything from insect homes to water table structures.
4. Art- I’m a creative mom so I admit that this is my favorite area. We name our store and design a sign that we hang behind our produce. We practiced writing names of the produce on tiny chalkboards we found at the dollar store. Right now, my son benefits the most from interactive play and role modeling. I play the customer who shows up at his store for veggies and he’s even sold some produce to family members and friends. As kids get older, the art possibilities become endless. If you’re into reusing, composting, and recycling, check out Play Idea’s list of 25 Playful Vegetable Activities.
5. Math- My son sets the price per item and we’ve started to work on coin values and coin exchange. For young children, this is a great time to learn to recognize quarters dimes, nickels and pennies by sight. For older children, it’s the time to start figuring out how to make change and calculate gratuities. If your child is somewhere in between, see how fast they can master a change activity like this one on Pinterest.