Children are naturally curious about where things come from. They are experts at trying something just to find out what happens. Digging in the dirt to see what’s underneath, tipping over a jar to see what is at the bottom, taking things apart to see how it looks on the inside. This curiosity offers so many opportunities for engagement in the natural world and spring is a perfect time of year to get outdoors and explore what is underground.
3 ways to grow curiosity in your child using the great outdoors
Grow food or flowers from seed!
I wonder what would happen if you asked your child “What do you think we could eat that we could grow in our own backyard?” This may be easy for your child to answer or it may prove difficult. Nevertheless, what a great place to start fostering a sense of curiosity.
Kids already know how to plant seeds. My children have been planting seeds from their apples for a couple of years now. And even though none have sprouted a tree, I love that they are getting out there and trying. Seed starting projects can sometimes feel overwhelming to caregivers and teachers because what do you do when the seeds don’t do what they are supposed to do? Well, that’s exactly the point of starting seeds. Being curious with your child about ‘what could’ gives them a model for using those valuable critical thinking skills we want our children to learn.
As you plant, use direct questions such as “What do you think will happen with the seed today/tomorrow/in 10 days?”, “What could happen that we may not expect?” or “What could we do if we don’t see a sprout from a seed?” These types of questions build thinking skills and enhance our child’s growth mindset. Remaining curious and not letting your own knowledge lead the way will make this activity more engaging for your child.
With that in mind, here are some good tips to help you get started. I like to start seeds directly in the ground – especially in the spring when I don’t have to be reminded to water them. Of course, seeds started in little pots or egg cartons on the windowsill offer a micro laboratory for children to see seeds sprouting firsthand at any point of the day. Either way, experimenting with growing seeds is always a reward. Here is a sweet KITS infographic to get started.
When I was new at gardening, I remember wanting to know the basic do’s and don’ts. Over the years, I have appreciated learning from the informative videos by Get Growing with GrowVeg.com. Search for starting seeds and you’ll be directed to a great list of short videos containing things like Top Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors and 5 Hacks for Seed Sowing Success.
Grow a tree from a seed!
If your children are interested in a long-term foray into growing things, try growing a tree from seeds of fruit that they eat. Avocado Trees and Lemon Trees are among the easiest. The questions you and your child can ask and follow up on (such as growing a tree) will definitely build up your child’s knowledge base and flex his problem solving muscles.
Go on a 12-inch hike!
I really do mean 12 inches. Find a place in your yard or a spot in a local natural area that is a bit off the beaten path. Bring a ruler, a magnifying glass, a small hand trowel and set out for your adventure. Go all out by adding a notebook and pen to your pack so you can write down or draw a picture of the things you see.
This sort of hike can really pull out the observer in your child. The time you spend spreading the grass apart to see what is living in between the blades, gently prying up the root layer and seeing what lives below, and digging an inch or so below the roots to see who lives there is what this hike is all about. It’s always fun to discover an ant colony, seeing the ants running about delights children of all ages. Always teach your child to be gentle and put back the substrate so the ants are disturbed as little as possible and grass roots can continue to grow in that spot.
Great questions to ask on a 12 inch hike:
- What do you think we will see?
- How might the insects and bugs react to us peeking at their homes?
- What do you think these bugs and insects need to live?
- Why do you think they are living in this spot here?
- What did you find interesting that you want to know more about?
- What surprised you?
- Longer Hike Option: If you have the opportunity to go to a natural area like a forest or a meadow, look for signs of new growth. There are baby trees and bushes everywhere. Look around for seeds and have your child connect those seeds to the plants that they might have come from.
These are just a few ways to get your young ones outdoors and get curious about the natural world. We hope that however you do it – you have a chance this spring to dive into nature a bit, get your hands and shoes a bit dirty and continue to grow those amazing curiosity skills.
Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2019
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