Our Project for the Summer term is “Planting and Growing”
Providing growing and gardening opportunities for young children enables them to connect with the living environment, something that not all children have access to often enough.
Regular hands-on experiences with plants, animals and insects provide an essential part of learning and development as well as supporting children’s emotional and physical health and wellbeing. Some of our children have particularly shown an interest in the vegetables and fruits we provide for healthy snacks in nursery, and we’ve been talking to them about how they grow. We thought that this would be a good summer term project for us to explore together.
- Encouraging the exploration of different foods
Children who are involved in preparing the soil, growing seeds, planting seedlings, caring for fruit and vegetables will be more motivated to find out what the food tastes like when it has been harvested.
We can incorporate our harvests into cooking/tasting activities. These develop mathematical and fine motor skills in measuring, weighing, stirring and pouring. Increasing vocabulary by discussions about what the food tastes like.
Children will show a greater willingness to try a wider range of vegetables and fruits that they have been accustomed to seeing and exploring in their environment. Some children will only recognise food items by their manufactured product, not realising chips and mash are actually potato. They may never have seen something raw and may not associate the cooked item with it at all. Do children know peas come in pods or understand that tinned sweet corn actually comes from the cob?
Growing and gardening will give children opportunities to explore the varieties available and where they come from.
- Providing a variety of ways to be physically active
Children will have the opportunity to dig, rake and plant as well as lots of lifting and carrying, pushing wheelbarrows and watering. These activities will not only help to develop their fine and gross motor skills but also offer physical activity for exercise too.
- Improving their social skills
Children will be supported to take turns, share tools and resources and work as part of team to achieve a goal together.
- Using all of their five senses
Children can explore plants that stimulate all of the senses. Great care was taken when selecting the types of plants that we have in our sensory garden to ensure a wide variety of colour, shape, smell and texture.
We can also include discussions about herbs and spices, how they smell, what they are used for and where they grow in the wild.
- Awareness of the world around them
Children will have opportunities to learn where their food comes from, what makes plants grow, the lifecycles of plants and animals, understanding of seasons, the weather, wildlife and recycling.
As part of our learning about Life Cycles we will be looking at both plants and minibeasts that we find in our gardens. The children are always particularly excited to watch real-life caterpillars in the nursery grow and eventually hatch into butterflies which we will release in the garden.
- Building self-confidence
There can be a huge sense of achievement in gardening when you can see what your ‘labours’ have produced!
- Developing a sense of time
Some plants grow fairly quickly but they are not ready immediately. Being involved in growing lets children understand more about the necessity of waiting for some things, particularly with plants where they can see new growth each day and are rewarded with the harvest at the end.
Many of the learning opportunities which we already plan for can be achieved using gardening and nature exploration as their vehicle. Growing and gardening experiences will support the principles and many aspects of learning, outlined in the EYFS.
It makes sense to provide plenty of growing opportunities for children as they encourage smelling, tasting, role play and investigation as well as songs, rhymes and stories.
Favourite stories that can be incorporated in this project are:
- Jack and The Beanstalk
- The Giant Turnip
- Oliver’s Vegetables
- Percy the Park keeper
All our activities are planned with the children’s individual needs, interests and developing learning characteristics in mind. Some experiences e.g. planting seeds and harvesting crops being adult-led and small group based. Small groups allow experiences to remain suitable and tailored to the individual children. Small group activities are great for developing language and communication skills.
Lastly, here are some tips for helping you to extend your child’s language development at home through growing and planting activities:
- Be on the same level as your child when taking part in gardening activities and nature exploration.
- Notice and encourage your child’s attempts to communicate. This could be a gesture, a look or words.
- Watch and listen.
Watching what the child is interested in and listening carefully to what they say.
- Use a clear, lively and animated voice. It will enthuse and motivate your child to communicate about what they are doing/enjoying.
- Match your language levels to your child’s.
If a child understands/uses 2 information carrying words you do the same e.g. Child: “seed in the mud” – Adult: “yes water on the plant”.
- Follow your child’s lead.
Let them lead where the conversation is going and support their communication to sustain it and include others if appropriate. e.g. Child: “Mine grew flower” Adult: “Charlie’s grew a flower too”
- Copy what your child says and correct mistakes by modelling.
Copy their word or phrase or model back what they say e.g. “I dig it” – “yes you dug the soil with your spade”.
- Extend the child’s language.
Add one extra word to their phrase e.g. Child: “It got peppers!” – Adult: “It’s grown red peppers”.
- Use more comments than question.
Label what the child is doing or comment on what the child is doing instead of asking them.
- Take turns and keep going. Repeat what a child says and add a comment or use a gesture to indicate they can take another turn.
We’re really looking forward to an exciting Summer term of ‘Growing and Planting’ at the Children’s House! Let’s see who can grow the tallest sunflower at home in their garden during the summer holidays – photos please, when they’ve grown to their tallest!