Moss in jars, pretend play and experiments - how to be more childlike

'Play is our brain's favourite way of learning' Diane Ackerman.

As the days are getting shorter and colder, homework piles up and I sadly get very little time to drag the girls out in the garden. At weekends I have been able to spend a little time outdoors tidying up the half-dead garden and dreaming about having enough time to actually plant something this autumn (I have some lovely salad, some early peas and garlic to sow...). 

However, the lack of quality outdoor's time has led to a surprising increase in creativity in finding ways to get the girls 'gardening' indoors. 

As adults gardening is often all about growing and nurturing a plant (either for food, beauty or ego). We often look at the end result rather than the journey and we rarely seek to understand 'why' something happens, unless it goes wrong. On the other hand, children tend to find excitement in everyday things, including some journeys, and they are definitely obsessed with the 'why'. Below are a few thoughts on how I have embraced the mindset of my children in order to continue nourishing their gardening skills during these cold and dark months:

- There is a whole world of indoor plants that can be super fun for mini gardeners. My daughter was gifted for her birthday a Marimo moss ball in a little jar from Pretty Cactus and it has been a revelation. The girls named the moss ball Emerald (pretty accurate given her vivid green colour) and it has practically become a substitute for a fish pet in the house. The girls love changing her water every couple of weeks and she requires no care from my side. Also succulents,  cacti, air plants and carnivorous plants can offer great indoor gardening opportunities for little ones as they often require very little care and are pretty cool to observe and touch.

Marimo moss ball in jar

- It is widely recognised that young children learn the best through play so including a healthy amount of pretend-play gardening in their weekly play time should be a good thing, right? When I first started mini green fingers about a year ago, I was really struggling to find pretend-play gardening toys and I therefore made it my mission to find some really lovely and high quality products to stock in the mini green fingers shop. Brands like Tender Leaf Toys/Threadbear Design and oskar&ellen make some fantastic and high quality pretend play gardening sets in wood and fabric respectively. The girls have been testing them all out and I can say that they have thoroughly enjoyed them!!! And you can't really kill a fabric or wooden toy plant... 

Children playing with pretend play gardening toys

- Most children are fascinated by 'how' and 'why' something happens so tapping into their natural scientific curiosity is a great way to grab their interest. Following on from some of the activities that I did at the mini green fingers Gardening School, I got the girls to look for seeds in fruit, vegetables and flower heads and the response was fab. After hunting for seeds we put all of them alongside a bean (just a dried one that has been soaked in water overnight) in a see-through bag with some wet paper towel. I knew the bean was going to sprout but the experiment was to see if we could observe any of the other seeds sprouting. The bags have be taped to a sunny window and since starting the experiment the girls have rushed to it everyday as soon as they come in from school. In the age of instant gratification I think this is quite an achievement!!! So far only the bean has sprouted but the girls have been super excited when they spotted some white roots poking out of the bean.

Seeds in plastic bag experimentBean sprouting in plastic bag experiment

I have to admit that all of the above have been good fun for mummy too as they have ignited the fun of gardening and caring for plants that I had never experienced as a child. So why not, embrace your inner child!

What activities do you do with your mini gardener that makes you see gardening from their perspective?

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