A Wonderful Activity for Kids Learning from Home
Dar Corrigan – Halton Master Gardener
Already dismayed watching your kids stare into the screen of their computers while learning remotely? An indoor veggie garden is one way to incorporate math and science themes through experiential learning. It may even help with snack time needs!
Reasons it can enrich their ‘study at home’ experience:
Despite some of the best intentions, online educational delivery can be flat. Gardening can get kids doing, thinking and learning. Particularly if they are part of the design process in setting up the garden. Gardening can include thinking about our ecosystems, math, engineering principals, nutrition, equity issues and food insecurity. At a minimum, just talking about gardening can stimulate interesting conversations that would benefit children.
What you need, to set up your own indoor veggie garden:
There are some set up costs involved in this project. To take the sting out of the expense, one might want to look at it as the equivalent of what you may have saved by not having to pay for regular extra-curriculars that have been cancelled due to the pandemic (maybe an art class or judo lesson). Still, I know that the pandemic has created great uncertainty for many families so I will do my best to point out ways to save money on each item.
- Seedling/sprouting soil (approximately $9 for a 2.5kg bag – more than enough!)
- Seeds for easy-to-grow vegetables, such as lettuces, kale, herbs and micro-greens: While you can certainly grow a variety of vegetables indoors, for quick results, try and limit seed selection to ones that require little soil (such as the ones mentioned above). You can get creative with these alone!
- Trays and pots for your plants and a watering/spray bottle: Here, you can save money by recycling outdoor gardening pots, re-purposing some everyday household items, or asking to borrow gardening pots from neighbours or family in the off season.
- Framework for your indoor garden: This can be the expensive part. Ready-made structures are sold at local garden stores and online but are in low supply these days. See these retailers if you are not deterred by the cost ($239+):Westcoast Seeds, Amazon
- Build your own structure and make the whole project a rewarding DIY experience in partnership with your children! It can be as simple as attaching grow lights to an existing shelf that you may already have in your home – see here what I have done to this Ikea shelf:
- Or make your own with simple cut of wood and four legs. Open the tool box and teach your children to use a screwdriver, the measuring tape or even the saw (if age appropriate). See this:
When building your own, the biggest cost will be the lighting, which is inevitable when you live in Ontario and want to grow indoors over the winter months. Grow lights are available at your local garden store, or online. For a review of light options, see HERE.
A Note on Safety
Of course, parents need to supervise the building and use of these indoor gardens. While I encourage you to think outside the box to drive down set up costs, safety comes first and one must remember to always use caution and read all the instructions for use of grow lights and tools.
Links to watch to compliment their growing/learning journey
For another article on the Indoor Veggie Cart from our newsletter, see HERE ((Cross Pollination April 2020)
This is also amazing program for older kids to WATCH on PBS.
An indoor garden can be an amazing learning tool during these months of remote learning. Instead of the flat experience of staring at a screen, gardening can encourage kids to get their hands dirty and minds stimulated. In addition to all that they can learn, the exposure to greenery may help with some of the winter blues that might be heavier this upcoming winter and fall. Finally, who knows? You might even get a salad or two out of it.