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We’ve spent so much time in our garden lately that it only seemed fitting to create a tot school gardening theme!
I’ve rounded up the activities, ideas, recipes, and a book list we used to casually start our homeschool journey in an easy, gentle learning type of way.
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Character Development: Kindness
Planting seeds of kindness is so fitting since we’ve been working with Wyatt on being gentle & kind.
You can find an entire free lesson on kindness from Kids of Integrity (such an amazing resource!)
Some of the verses we’re tying into our tot school gardening theme are:
-”The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah 58:11
-“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
-“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
-“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Gardening Books for Early Learners
There are SO many beautifully illustrated picture books and resources for tot school gardening! You can find an entire post here with 70 book recommendations. (See, I told you there were a ton.)
A few stand-out favorites of ours are:
–If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson (THE best picture book for tying in the kindness!)
–The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
–Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
–Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens
Outdoor Play & Community
So, the obvious answer here is to work in your garden. If you don’t have a garden or have a black thumb (which I feel like I do), you can find a simple seed kit to experience planting your own seeds of kindness!
Another option would be checking to see if there’s a local or community garden near you. Taking a mini field trip is always a fun, hands-on adventure.
A random act of kindness is another way to get involved in your community by going out and serving! We donated some wipes and baby things to our local pregnancy center but it would be so fun to bring items to your fire or police station, donate items to a shelter, or to any need you feel called to! Something as simple as helping around the house with a new chore (and PRAISING them for it) is a great way to start.
-go berry picking and talk about how the berries grow from seeds, incorporating what you’ve read in the books you picked
-talk about the bugs you find in the garden or even hunt for them!
-visit a local nature center or park and pack a picnic lunch. Talk about the plants you see and enjoy being outdoors together.
Tot School Garden Crafts
Sunflower Handprint from Arty Crafty Kids
Caterpillar Craft Ideas from Crafts 4 Toddlers
Tot School Garden Sensory Play
Dig for Bugs and Bug Rescue– so easy and gave Wyatt hours of fun!
1. Sensory bin
2. Plastic bugs in all varieties (here’s a good set!)
3. Dry black beans
4. Baker’s twine or yarn for “spider web”
5. Scoop, big tweezers/tongs, magnifying glass
Fill the bin with beans and bugs. Let your little one dig around and search for the bugs with a scoop or tongs. After the first couple of play sessions I wrapped the bin with baker’s twine and told Wyatt it was a spider web and he had to rescue the bugs from the spider! He used the tongs to pluck the bugs out through the “web”. So much fun!
All you need are some pumpkin seeds (or beans), glue stick/tape, and this printable and you’re ready to roll!
Count the Pollen Flower Game:
Wyatt loved this one beyond words!
1.Yellow pom poms
2. Cupcake liners for “flowers”
3. Green flower “stems”
4. Numbers for center of flowers
5. Tweezers/tongs or transferring pom pom pollen
I counted enough pom poms to be able to sort each number into the corresponding cup. Wyatt was also a fan of just putting one in each cup and counting up to eight (that’s just past the number we’ve worked to consistently.) Wyatt used the tongs and as he put the pollen pom pom in the flower we counted them! Super easy and simple.
It’s also a fun way to introduce parts of the flower and how bees come into the picture.
I waited AS LONG as I could to start introducing letters and numbers because I wanted it to happen naturally. Wyatt’s taken such an interest in them that we just had to jump in!
We introduce each letter in the lowercase form and say the phonetic sound as we trace over the sandpaper letter with his finger. I demonstrate the first time by pulling the card toward me, tracing it and saying the sound, then he has a turn.
If your little one isn’t modeling the sounds just yet, that’s okay! Every baby is on their own timeline. Tracing with sandpaper letters helps connect what their hands are doing with what sound they’re repeating so it helps sink in a bit deeper. It also preps them for writing without having them do some kind of alphabet drill session!
These are the sandpaper letters we use and LOVE. They’re sturdy, thick, and come in a box that’s strong enough to store them in.
For our garden theme we introduced V for vegetable, B for bug, F for flower, G for garden, and D for dirt. You can pick however many letters you want but I recommend five at most. That way they’re not overwhelmed and you’ll have letters left over for other themes!
Tot School Gardening Songs & Rhymes
Would anything be complete without some sweet little songs to carry you through? I’m not a fan of elaborate things to memorize because my brain power just isn’t there. So let’s keep it simple. Pick one to sing together a few times throughout each week, or sing all of them. Do what makes you happy!
Seeds (tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
Dig a hole deep in the ground
Spread some tiny seeds around
Pat them down – so they will keep
They are lying fast asleep
Rain will help the seeds to grow
Sunshine keeps them warm I know
Planting Seedlings (tune of Frere Jacques)
Planting seedlings, Planting seedlings,
In the ground, In the ground,
Water them and they grow,
Water them and they grow,
Give them sun, give them sun.
This is My Garden (tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
This is my garden,
(extend palm of hand facing up)
I’ll rake it with care,
(rake palm with 3 fingers of the other hand)
And then some flower seeds,
(plant pretend seeds on palm)
I’ll plant there.
The sun will shine,
(circular action with other hand)
And the rain will fall,
(fingers flutter down)
And my garden will blossom,
And grow straight and tall.
(cup hands and ‘grow’ fingers upwards like flowers)
Tot School Gardening Recipes: Kids in the Kitchen
I love weaving in a good recipe that matches a book Wyatt’s especially loving. It makes the experience that much more memorable and it’s fun to help him start learning how to make things happen in the kitchen!
The clear winner from this theme has gotta be the ol’ fashioned dirt cup. We made homemade pudding and it was SO simple and delicious. Perfect sweet treat for a little kitchen helper!
Dirt Cup Recipe
Homemade Chocolate Pudding (recipe below)
Gummy Worms (we use Black Forest)
Oreo lookalikes from Goodie Girl Cookies
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup coconut sugar
⅛ tsp salt
3 cups milk of choice
1 cup chocolate chips (we love Enjoy Life)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1) Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan.
2) Slowly whisk in milk to make sure cornstarch doesn’t lump.
3) Use over medium-low heat, scraping bottoms and sides while whisking away any lumps.
4) After about 10 minutes (before it starts to simmer), it will slowly start to thicken. Mix in the chocolate chips until they’re melted and combined.
5) Remove from heat & stir in vanilla.
6) Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours to let cool and thicken.
To assemble the dirt cups:
Simply layer the cooled pudding, crushed cookie pieces, and gummy worms until gummies end up on top! These would be adorable in mini mason jars.
More Snack Ideas:
I’d love to hear which of these you’re most excited to try out with your little one! What do you think they’ll love most? Let me know in the comments and tag me on Instagram (@alyssalehrman) so I can see how you’re using the ideas in your own home!