Previously we mentioned planting a vegetable garden with your children and we hope that not only is your vegetable garden thriving, but that you’ve also considered planting flowers, keeping the natural pollinators, bees and butterflies in mind. Embracing nature and spending time outdoors with your family has so many benefits both physical and mental, and also builds a stronger family bond. It’s an established fact that children who spend more time outdoors are healthier, both physically and mentally, than their more indoor bound peers. Establishing a connection with the natural world early on is an essential, not-to-be-missed aspect of childhood and gardening is just one outdoor activity that the whole family can engage in and benefit from.
Remember that gardening…
Encourages healthy eating habits.
Research has shown that when children participate in growing edible plants, they are more apt to try, not only the fruits and vegetables they grow, but also other fruits and vegetables. Getting kids in the garden and teaching them about where food comes from will naturally extend to having children in the kitchen assisting to prepare the food they have worked hard to grow, thus teaching your child valuable life skills.
Introduces children to math and science concepts.
Gardening is a perfect introduction to the Scientific Method, as children observe their plants grow and form hypotheses about how their plants will turn out. And just as each child is unique, so too is each plant. Different plants require certain types of soil, amounts of sunlight and water, spacing from other plants, and so on. That is science. Additionally, planning out a garden requires counting and measuring, perhaps even some construction if you are going to have raised garden beds. That is math. Working in the garden will provide your children with a basic foundation in important math and science skills that they can then carry with them to school.
Reduces stress and boosts confidence.
It is a proven fact that gardening is a stress relieving activity. In fact, a recent study found that gardening is an even better stress reliever than reading (and that’s saying something)! Gardening can be a meditative, calming activity and can provide both children and adults with a sense of purpose and pride. Children will gain more self-confidence when they see that their hard work is paying off and benefiting themselves and others. Also, older children can use their own knowledge and skills to guide their younger siblings in the necessary tasks to take care of their garden.
Teaches responsibility and patience.
In this world of instant gratification, gardening can help teach children about the need for patience and the rewards that will come given a bit of time and effort. Additionally, children will learn that they have to be responsible and take care of their garden, water it daily, pull out the weeds, etc. or else their plants will not thrive. This sense of responsibility for their own small patch of earth can easily grow into a larger discussion on being a steward of the planet and how important it is to have a healthy planet to sustain life.
Promotes family bonding.
Gardening takes a fair amount of planning and organization and working on such tasks with your children will help to establish a deep bond between you. Involve your child in the entire planning process, allowing them to add their voice to the decisions that need to made, such as where the garden will be located, how large it will be and what you will grow.
Gardening and reading will keep summer fun, productive and inspiring and can help to reduce the summer learning slide. Planting a vegetable garden will help to feed the family and teach children the importance of farms and flower gardens that attract natural pollinators will help to improve the bee population and keep that yummy honey flowing, not to mention the burst of color that is pleasing to the senses. Consider planting Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, Goldenrod, Butterfly Bush, Purple Coneflower, Snowdrops, Crocus, Salvia, Sunflowers and Roses to attract the pollinators. So bring on the vitamin D by spending time outdoors in a garden, even if it’s only on your patio or deck and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Extend the learning beyond the garden itself by connecting the experience with a great book like the ones listed below:
*Note: this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Any purchases made via the links provided will go to support our literacy efforts!
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston
Poetic, lyrical text and beautiful, true-to-life illustrations make Aston’s series of science picture books a delight to share with children of any age. The large text that moves across the pages is sure to catch the eye and ear of younger listeners, while the smaller, informative pieces of text found throughout the book will appeal to older children. This book introduces a plethora of seeds to children, some familiar and others that may not be, and explains what a seed is, the different parts of a seed and how a seed grows to be a plant in a very accessible way.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
While taking a walk on a drizzly day through his very gray and dreary city, Liam comes upon a tiny, struggling patch of plant life up on the old railway. He decides to tend to the little patch and become its gardener. Although Liam does not know anything about being a gardener, he does his best and slowly learns all that he can about taking care of plants. Inspired by New York City’s High Line, Liam’s story shows us that anyone can be a gardener with a little patience and dedication.
Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
Following the same building pattern and cumulative structure as the British nursery rhyme This Is the House That Jack Built, Jack’s Garden shows readers “the garden that Jack planted” from the initial preparation of the soil and planting of the seeds, to the beautiful blooms that are visited by bees collecting nectar. Each two-page spread shows Jack’s garden at a different stage of growth and features different things to be seen in the garden, such as a variety of garden tools at the beginning and the various insects found in the garden later on. The illustrations in this book are chock full of things to look at and talk about with your little gardener!
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
A young girl and her mother plant a rainbow each year. First they get bulbs and plant them in the fall, then order seed packets and get seedlings to plant in the spring. Then they watch their rainbow grow. The bold, colorful illustrations show the bulbs and seeds in the soil, giving readers a glimpse into the actual sprouting and growth process of the plants as the story moves along.
The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes
The illustrations in this book are so captivating and, in our opinion, what really make this book such a gem. The little gardener loves his garden and works very, very hard to take care of it, but he is just too small to do it all on his own. One evening, he wishes on a star for some help and what happens next is so heartwarming. Through very simple text this story shows readers the value of hard work and that help can come from unexpected places.
Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay
There is no denying that this book is a work of art. Rather than traditional drawings or paintings for illustrations, this book features 3-D paper cut-outs, arranged on stunning backdrops, lighted for effect, and then photographed, giving each page depth and a life and character all its own. Much like The Curious Garden, this book tells the story of a little girl with a love of butterflies who moves from the country to the city. She is disappointed to discover that Butterfly Park does not actually have any butterflies in it and after several failed attempts to capture butterflies to populate the park, she realizes what the park really needs in order to entice the butterflies to stay: flowers! Eventually the whole community gets involved in turning Butterfly Park into a flower filled wonderland.
A Year in Our New Garden by Gerda Muller
Anna and Benjamin have just moved to a new house in busy town. Although they are in the city, their new house has a large garden that the entire family cannot wait to work in. Each member of the family has a different plan for the garden and the book follows their progress and hard work over the course of a year. Sprinkled throughout the story readers will find information on gardening and plants, as well as activities and tips for spotting wildlife. The vintage style illustrations are gorgeous and begged to be pored over and viewed again and again. You and your child will be so excited to get out and work on your own garden after sharing this story!
National Geographic Readers: Seed to Plant by Kristin Baird Rattini
Brimming with full color photographs, this nonfiction title is packed with information on plants from defining what a plant is to explaining what plants need, how they’re used, depicting the growing process and even offering trivia like facts about various plants. Young botanists will love this one. Follow it up with National Geographic Readers: Plants by Kathryn Williams (a Co-Reader designed for an adult and child to read together) and A Seed is the Start by Melissa Stewart.
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
Through a series of letters written home, Lydia Grace Finch tells about her life in the big city living with her cantankerous Uncle and helping out in his bakery during the Great Depression. After working in the bakery all day, Lydia Grace spends her evenings putting her gardening skills to work in her secret place. The surprise she eventually reveals (in the hopes of putting a smile on her Uncle’s face) is a glorious rooftop garden. This book shows readers the joy that can be found through gardening.
Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
Peek through the hexagonal die-cut in the center of the book (that is reminiscent of a honeycomb) to see the busy little bee collecting nectar, spreading pollen, and doing her part to help plants grow. The gorgeous illustrations depict the little bee going about her day and the rhyming text explains in a simple, understandable way the vital role of the honeybee in our environment. This book is a great choice for introducing little ones to pollinators and helping children appreciate the need for them in order to have healthy gardens.
Florette by Anna Walker
Following a similar theme as a couple of the other books on this list, this book tells the story of Mae, a little girl who moves from the country to the city with her family and desperately misses her garden and spending time out in nature. She attempts to bring nature back into her world, but the rain washes away her chalk drawings and her dad throws away the boxes she decorated with apple trees and daffodils. On a walk through the city with her mother, Mae sees Florette, a plant store that resembles a lush jungle and is thus inspired to create her own garden in the city.
Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler
“Take care, my little ones, for the world is big and you are small.”
There is great potential to be found within every seed. Each towering tree and beautiful flower was once a tiny seed and Miss Maple knows that some seeds just need a bit more time, care and encouragement in order to become the amazing plants they are destined to be. She collects seeds that have not found the perfect place to sprout yet and cares for them until they are ready to set down their roots. This is a thoughtful book with whimsical illustrations that will touch the heart of all those who read it.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mary Lennox, a sickly, selfish, unloved child, born to wealthy British parents living in India finds herself orphaned after a cholera epidemic. She is then sent to live in England with an uncle she has never met. At first she is just as rude as ever, but slowly she learns to enjoy the people of her new home and exploring the grounds. Eventually she discovers the secret garden of Mrs. Craven, her uncle’s deceased wife, and spends her time restoring the garden to its former glory. This chapter book is about the power of love, patience and compassion and is a classic of children’s literature
So, get out into the garden with your child this summer. Take some books out there with you to read while surrounded by the beauty you have cultivated and cared for so meticuously. Not only will you and your child benefit from the shared storytime in the great outdoors, but so will your plants! Recent studies have shown that speaking to your plants actually helps them grow!
Happy gardening and reading!
Spring has sprung, which is evident in the colorful blooms all around us and the stores overflowing with various plants waiting for a home. Gardening has often been touted as a therapeutic experience relieving stress, increasing vitamin D and offering exercise. Planting a vegetable garden with your child offers the same benefits along with allowing children to see how their food grows and take pride in helping to feed their family.
Research has shown that when children participate in growing edible plants, they are more apt to try not only the fruits and vegetables they grow but also other fruits and vegetables. Helping to plan, plant and tend a garden not only develops life skills, but also helps foster responsibility, independence, leadership, caring, teamwork and problem solving. Most children today, especially city dwellers, are unaware of where their food comes from or what it takes to grow food. Visiting your local farmer’s market is a start but actually growing the food you will serve will cultivate a relationship to the natural world, which in turn will help your child to wisely make future decisions that could impact nature.
Before beginning a garden you and your child should:
After planting, while you are waiting for your garden to flourish, think about offering your child coloring pages of the vegetables you have planted to help with identification and improve fine motor skills. A few options are a Dover Children’s Coloring and Activity Book such as Color & Garden Vegetables by Monica Wellington or Fruits and Vegetables Coloring Book by Lynda E. Chandler or look for coloring pages online. Also, think about reading some of the following books with your children to increase the fun and anticipation. Consider sharing the stories while sitting outside in your garden so the plants can enjoy the books too!
*Note: this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Any purchases made via the links provided will go to help our literacy efforts!
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
Move through the alphabet and learn the different names of a variety of fruits and vegetables. The bold, colorful illustrations will help little ones learn to identify the fruits and veggies based on their shape and color.
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
This is a good choice for reading when you are getting ready to plant your vegetable garden and then to keep referring back to as the growing season progresses. It begins by depicting the tools needed to plant a garden and prepare the soil, then moves through the planting, tending and harvesting of the garden and ends with using the vegetables grown to make soup (a recipe is included). Your child will be able to identify with each phase as they help tend their own garden.
Rainbow Stew by Cathryn Falwell
Three children are visiting their grandfather, which is always so much fun because he lets them play outside all day. The children are so excited, until they notice that it’s raining. Will their outdoor fun be put off for a sunnier, drier day? Not at all! Grandfather gets everyone into their rain gear and the group happily sets out to gather the vegetables needed from grandfather’s garden to make rainbow stew (the recipe can be found in the back of the book)! When read aloud, this story has an almost musical quality to it. The rhyming text flows beautifully and the occasional use of onomatopoeia makes the words come to life. Also, children will get an introduction to colors and different vegetables.
Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming
Mr. McGreely has finally decided to plant a garden and cannot wait to enjoy the yummy veggies he grows, but three hungry bunnies keeps getting into Mr. McGreely’s garden and munching his veggies first! Mr. McGreely takes action, putting up a fence, building a wall, digging a trench…all to no avail. Those clever bunnies keep getting in, until Mr. McGreely builds the biggest something and locks up his garden tight. The repetitive language, unique vocabulary, fun sound effects and clever illustrations will make this one an instant hit for the whole family and the surprise ending will definitely incite some giggles. This story may also spark a discussion on protecting your own garden from the furry critters in your backyard. *(Reading this story makes us think of Aaron Reynolds’s Creepy Carrots. Share the stories together and then discuss their similarities and differences with your child.)*
My Garden by Kevin Henkes
An imaginative little girl talks about her dream garden, from simple things like continually blooming flowers to more outlandish features such as rabbits that don’t eat the lettuce because they are made of chocolate and the little girl eats them instead! This is the perfect book to read aloud when starting a discussion with your child about what to plant in your own garden. What would your child’s dream garden be like?
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
A little boy plants a carrot seed. Everyone keeps telling him, “I’m afraid it won’t come up.” Regardless, the little boy does not give up hope and tends to his little seed every day, until his hard work is finally rewarded, in a very big way. This is a beautiful, simple story about persistence, patience and the value of hard work. Share this one with your child to help them understand the need to tend to their garden every day.
10 Hungry Rabbits by Anita Lobel
Count along as ten hungry little rabbits go out to the garden to find scrumptious things to add to Mama’s soup pot. Simple text and charming illustrations introduce little ones to numbers from one to ten, a rainbow of colors and a smattering of vegetables too.
How Does My Garden Grow? by Gerda Muller
Sophie is a city girl and has always gotten her vegetables from the supermarket, but then she spends a summer at her grandparent’s home in the countryside. While there she learns all there is to know about gardening, from planting to weeding to composting and so on, which inspires her to start her own garden back home on her balcony the following year. Lush illustrations make this book a visual feast and the story is full of information on gardening that is sure to inspire readers young and old alike.
The Giant Carrot by Jan Peck
This story is a Western take on a traditional Russian folk tale, The Giant Turnip. Little Isabelle’s family plants a carrot seed and tall Papa Joe, wide Mama Bess and strong Brother Abel all help tend the little seed. But, when Little Isabelle wants to lend a hand too, Brother Abel just laughs and asks, “What can you do?” This does not deter Little Isabelle from doing what she can to help the little carrot seed grow. In the end, the family gets quite the surprise when that little carrot seed reaps one huge reward. This story highlights the importance of working to help a garden grow. Amp up the reading experience by using your best Texas accent with this one!
Sylvia’s Spinach by Katherine Pryor
Sylvia’s Spinach tells the story of young Sylvia, who hates spinach. When her teacher gives her a packet of spinach seeds to grow as part of a class project, Sylvia is less than thrilled, but dutifully plants and cares for the spinach seeds. Eventually, her spinach is ready to eat and she carefully tried a bite and comes to realize that spinach isn’t really so bad after all. The moral of this story: trying new things is good!
Zora's Zucchini by Katherine Pryor
Zora’s Zucchini begins with Zora receiving a free zucchini plant from her local hardware store, which she takes home and plants. As the summer progresses, Zora’s zucchini plants just keep growing and growing, producing more and more zucchini, far more than her family can eat. Zora then comes up with an idea for a Garden Swap and the whole neighborhood begins sharing the fruits and vegetables that they have grown. This story is a reminder to not waste food and, when able, share your bounty with others.
Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre
It’s time to cheer for vegetables! This boisterous, rhyming book is filled with colorful photographs of an array of vegetables. Full of actions words and lots of exclamation marks, this chant jumps right off of the pages and begs to be acted out and shouted out loud. “Rah, rah radishes! Red and white. Carrots are calling. Take a bite!"
Happy gardening and reading!
It’s an undeniable fact that children who spend more time outdoors are healthier, both physically and mentally, than their more indoor bound peers. Establishing a connection with the natural world early on is an essential, not-to-be-missed aspect of childhood, but, with the reduction of recess and free time in education and the overall increase in screen-time, children today are beginning to suffer from ‘nature-deficit disorder.’ This term, coined by Robert Louv in his 2005 book The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, is not a clinical term, but rather a way to describe the growing disconnection between children and nature.
Recent studies have documented the importance of exposing young children to nature and the outdoors, finding that the development of social, emotional and physical health depends a great deal upon the amount of time children engage in outdoor free play. It has been determined that exploring nature improves children’s
Children who spend a greater amount of time outdoors than in are more...
And those who spend more time outdoors experience
less mental and physical health issues, such as...
vitamin D deficiency
These benefits are not only exclusive to young children but to adults as well as documented in this article from Business Insider: 11 Scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside.
Studies and human observation tell us that increased classroom time, increased screen time and decreased free time are all detrimental to children’s development. Therefore, look for opportunities that allow for time spent in nature this summer.
The only thing better than getting kids outside more is reading to them! We suggest sharing the following titles with your child to further showcase the joys and wonders of the natural world:
Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peak
Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World
Over in a River: Flowing Out to Sea by Marianne Berkes
Each book in this extensive series follows the same rhyming rhythm and counting pattern as it introduces the different types of animals that live in various habitats, from forests to oceans to the grasslands of Africa. Read the stories about habitats that reflect the area you live in first, so children can make a connection between the book and the world around them and then branch out to explore the different types of environments found across the Earth.
North Woods Girl by Aimee Bissonette
"When Grandma tucks her pants into her oversized boots and grabs her walking stick, I run to catch up," a little girl tells readers as we see her head out with her grandmother to explore the forest surrounding her grandmother’s north woods home. Their jaunts take place in all seasons, offering readers a glimpse of life in the north woods at various times of the year and what wonders can be found out in the woods.
Fun With Nature: Take Along Guides by Mel Boring, Diane Burns, and Leslie Dendy
As the title says, this book is a great one to take along with you as you explore your own backyard or take a hike in the woods (although it is a bit bulky for younger children). Comprised of six different titles from the Take Along Guides series, this is a great resource for all types of information about the natural world found right outside your door. Also included are activity ideas and blank scrapbook pages at the end of each section for your child to make notes or drawings, press in leaves/bark/flowers they have found or place photos from their outings.
I Took A Walk
On Meadowview Street
On the Way to the Beach by Henry Cole
For children who enjoy seek-and-find books and playing I Spy these titles are sure to be a hit. As the main character of each book walks through various natural environments they list the different plants and animals that they see along the way. Your child will enjoy poring over the illustrations with you to find the various flora and fauna mentioned and then probably want to head out and see what they find on their own walk outdoors.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies
You and your child will marvel at all of the beauties and wonders to be found right outside your window after reading this volume of poetry. The poems themselves are simple, yet present the reader with a wealth of factual information about a variety of plants and animals and the eye-catching, mixed-media illustrations bring the seasons to dramatic life.
Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find? by Editors of Storey Publishing
Want to get your child excited about getting outside? Want them to take their time exploring all of the natural wonders around them? This is the book that will get them out the door and looking carefully about. As your child explores the outdoors with this book in hand, they are encouraged to take a closer look with the magnifying glass embedded in the cover, mark off the various flora and fauna they find with the sticker badges inside and are given all sorts of facts and information. Additionally, there are activity ideas throughout the book to increase the fun and connect your child with the nature.
Rhoda’s Rock Hunt by Molly Beth Griffin
Budding geologists and rock collectors will love this story! Rhoda is on a “long, long hike from their up-north cabin” with her aunt and uncle and is responsible for carrying her own pack of gear, but her pack becomes too heavy for her to lift after she fills it with all of the wonderful rocks she has found. What can she do? Should she leave her precious finds behind? Your child will enjoy Rhoda’s clever solution and be inspired to get outside and start a rock collection of their own.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
The language used to describe the natural world is slowing disappearing from children’s vocabularies as they spend less and less time connecting with the great outdoors. Macfarlane, inspired by the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s deletion of a number of nature words in 2007, offers readers a chance to bring these lost words back and help children develop an appreciation of the wonders to be found throughout the natural world through his acrostic poems. His moving words paired with Jackie Morris’s breathtaking illustrations make this book nothing short of pure magic for nature enthusiasts of all ages.
Mrs. Peanuckle’s ___ Alphabet series
For babies and toddlers Mrs. Peanuckle’s various alphabet books offer a wonderful introduction to the natural world and the ABCs. The series has six different titles (Birds, Bugs, Flowers, Fruits, Trees and Vegetables), each with bright, vivid illustrations, a smorgasbord of unique vocabulary (for example nectar, fiddleheads, and delicious) and interesting bits of information about the various things featured in each book (did you know fairy wings grow in the woods and prefer to live near waterfalls? Me neither.).
Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods
Jo MacDonald Saw a Pond by Mary Quattlebaum
Children familiar with the song Old McDonald Had a Farm will love singing these variations on the popular tune and will hopefully be inspired to take a hike through the woods and sit by a pond to see and listen for the different types of creatures to be found. In the back of each book you’ll find information on forest and pond ecosystems as well to enhance the learning.
A Stick Is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer
This collection of poetry is an ode to childhood and all the fun that can be had playing outside when you use a little creativity and imagination. Follow a group of children on a summer’s day as they get back to the basics of childhood play and engage in all sorts of activities, such as mixing up mud pies, playing jacks and catching fireflies. The illustrations give life to the simple poems, making this book also enjoyable just to flip through and talk about with your child, perhaps while sitting outside on a sunny summer’s day.
Looking for more titles about the earth and trees specifically? Take a look back at our post
Let’s Celebrate Earth Day & Arbor Day
For further information on why it's important to get kids outside check out the following articles:
Happy reading and adventuring!
For most of us, this past winter had such a tenacious grip that didn’t seem to want to let go but now it seems that the warmer weather is finally here to stay and summer is just around the corner. For parents that means summer vacation and sometimes, countless hours of endless boredom to combat. But summer should ultimately be a time for children to gain independence, build memories and partake of new experiences. The best way to do this is by embracing nature, encouraging creative play, supplying them with good books and reading aloud to your child or having them read aloud to you. Over the next several months, we will be blogging about how to encourage your child to connect with nature, the joy of gardening and cooking, helping your child to become unplugged and offering ideas to help combat the summer learning slide and, of course, recommending books to share that follow these themes.
Stay tuned for our next summer blog offering ideas and suggestions for making this summer unforgetable!
In the meantime, snuggle up and share one of these stories with your child to get in the summertime mood:
Happy reading and outdoor adventuring!
We are mom Sandra and daughters Amanda and Kate, all with backgrounds in literacy and education, who want to share our philosophy of taking the basics of life; books, simple toys that encourage play, imagination and creativity, and using cooking and baking to teach math and real life skills to raise happy, inquisitive children. Join us in exploring the old and the new and sifting through the myriad of research to consider what is best for our children.