Greenhouse Fun with Zinnia Seeds

Reader Contribution by Esther Coco Boe
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Recently I had a cherished visit with my 3 year old grandchild.  We bundled up and headed out the greenhouse.  Skylarr had never been in my greenhouse with me and I think that she loved the warm cozy feeling that is only found in a small glass house.  The contrast between windy and cold outdoors vs. warm and snug indoors was a neat experience.  I gave her a small space of her own on my potting bench, complete with her own bucket of soil, watering can, and shovel.

We got to work and enjoyed the noise of the wind and rain that began to surround us outside. As we were working side by side, I began to think about the benefits that gardening provides to children.  I’m sure that somewhere there’s a list of scientifically proven benefits, so I may miss a few, but the ones that were apparent to me are listed below.

Skylarr’s tiny fingers got a great little workout in the greenhouse. I would definitely say that developing fine motor skills is a benefit. Since we save pollinator flower seeds, it was a nice day to pour out a bucket of deadhead zinnias that we were saving for the spring.  I explained what to look for and how to pick the seeds apart from the flower heads.  She wasn’t picky at first and that was fine by me. She quickly began to rifle through my pile of seeds and added many to her pile of fuzzy dried flower petals and empty seeds. I knew in my heart that the seeds being separated was not nearly as valuable as our time together, so I just tucked her pile into a cup and left them for later.

Gardening is a nice beginning into the world of science for kids.  Rich language bounces out of their mouths as they discover seeds, soil, and water’s role in the life of a plant.  How many education majors are reading this today?  Do you remember Lev Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory?  Vygotsky taught us about the Zone of Proximal Development, where a child’s range of skills is developed through exposure to concepts and then mastered by social interaction. 

Skylarr also was able to experience the beginning stages of plants and can anticipate what will happen next.  She knows that we have tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs growing in the greenhouse for planting out into the raised beds.  This summer she will be able to help harvest and prepare the vegetables for the dinner table. 

I can’t think of a better experience to begin the natural conversation about being responsible for our food.  Children need gardening experiences and support from caring adults to understand their vital role in managing food systems for the future.  As a grandparent, I am well aware of the food insecurities in my community and across the world.  Food deserts aren’t far away, where residents have limited access to affordable and nutritious fresh food.  I believe that it’s my responsibility to teach my children and grandchildren how to grow and manage their food for the future.  It’s never too early to understand the importance of agriculture to our world.

Spending family time in the greenhouse was a high point for our weekend.  We talked about the plants and identified all sorts of new vocabulary with the tools and plants laying around.  I explained what the watering can was used for and Skylarr quickly needed to water everything in her reach.  She called it her “water cannon”! Now, I don’t think you have to be a grandma to find that delightful.  Happy Gardening!

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