Monday, March 28, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: A Trip to the Nursery by Erin Uda

With the recent snow everywhere (in Utah), I wasn’t sure if the weather would cooperate this week. So I’ve devised a fun field trip that should combat your nature cravings while keeping your little one occupied. (You may want to enlist a friend if you have more than two little ones.)

This week we’re going to visit a local nursery (or garden center if you don’t have a nursery nearby). On the way there, explain to your children where you are going and what they can expect to see. It always helps to build a bit of anticipation – they know what to expect and their attention span may even last a bit longer if you prep them right. I would recommend going over the following diagrams as you drive; answering their questions as they look at the pictures.

This diagram is best for younger children...

...but if you have older children, you might want to use this diagram that can be found at this Link.

When you get there, take time to explore each area of the nursery. I recommend starting in the tree/bush section. As you walk, encourage your children to gently touch the plants in front of them. Talk about the different textures, colors and sizes of the plants. Try to point out any plants that may be familiar, or that you have near your home. Keep walking, finding the produce section. Talk about how plants grow a lot of the food we eat; take the time to locate each child’s favorite vegetable or fruit. Wander over to the flower area. Let your child explore the different colors, shapes and sizes on display. Answer any questions that come up as best you can, and don’t forget to use the staff as a resource if your children stump you!

If there is a section for seedlings, take out your ‘Parts of a Plant’ and ‘Equation for Growing a Seed’ diagrams and help your children identify each part of the plants you see. Talk about how seeds can grow using just water and dirt, and how, once they sprout, they use the light from the sun to make their own food.

(Image found at

Once you’ve visited all the areas of the nursery, go back to your favorite area and ask a few questions, or do it along the way: Why do we need both plants that give us food and plants that are just pretty to look at (i.e. – feed our soul)? What keeps the plants growing straight and tall? Where do they get their food? How do plants make food that we can eat? What is your favorite plant? Why? As you walk and talk, let your children see your love for the plants.

If you can, splurge and bring something home (like a pack of easy-to-grow seeds). If not, take some pictures, or draw pictures of what you saw when you get back to the house. Be sure to display them somewhere once your children are finished.

And don’t forget to plant those seeds you brought home! It may be snowing still, but it’s the perfect time to start your seedlings inside. If you didn’t purchase any at the nursery, Target typically has a few options in their dollar section.

**For older children, begin the tour by asking them to find plants they would like to have in their own garden. When you get home, have them draw up a garden plan using the plants they found at the nursery or others they love. If you have the yard for it, plant your children's garden. If not, help them color their designs and put them on display. Ask them the following questions as you walk through the nursery, adding your own as well: What would you plant in your garden? Why? Would you have all flowers? All produce? Why or why not?

Use the following links as resources if desired:

Square Foot Gardening:

Garden Plans:

Interactive Garden Design Tool:

**I love reinforcing experiences with books. Here are some of my favorites about gardens and plants:

  • Weslandia – Paul Fleischman (ISBN: 978-0763610524; Call #: P Fleischman)
  • Something is Growing – Walter Lyon Krudop (ISBN: 9780689319402; Call #: P Krudop)
  • Jack and the Meanstalk – Brian Wildsmith (ISBN: 9780192723130; Call #: P Wildsmith)
  • Planting a Rainbow – Lois Ehlert (ISBN: 9780152063047; Call # P Ehlert)
  • The Tiny Seed – Eric Carle (ISBN: 9781416979173; Call #: Board Book/P Carle/582.0467 C192)

Visit your local library and check out the general areas of Call # 630-635 for more books on gardening and Call # 582 for more books on seeds!

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