In her new guest post, Parenting & Education Writer Rhonda Cratty discusses how parents can turn sunflowers into a summer-long family project.
Around Memorial Day, the ground becomes warm enough for planting sunflower seeds, and sunflowers can become an easy natural link to our children’s summer learning.
Sunflowers are a great educational tool for children. They are easy to plant and quick to grow. Each day, children should check their plants and add water as necessary, watching for those first shoots to appear. When their plants begin to push through the soil, have them measure, draw and record in their summer journals each day, creating authentic daily summer math enrichment. Tucking in a photo now and then creates a special memory.
Children planting sunflower gardens learn about nature, math and have a sense of accomplishment. Once the sunflowers stop blooming, the nutritional seed heads dry and attract birds and other critters, which extend our children’s learning well into winter.
A summer-long family project to begin now is a sunflower reading room:
- First, you will need to choose a flat sunny spot. Have your child measure a large rectangle, about 6 by 12 feet and leave an opening for a doorway.
- With a trowel, hoe or stick, have your child made a small trench a couple inches deep around the rectangle, skipping the doorway. (Parents can tap in wooden stakes every foot or so to tie up heavy stalks.)
- All along the trench plant large sunflower seeds, in between the sunflower seeds plant a flower that blooms on a vine, such as morning glory.
- Using a watering can, give the seeds a drink before your little one packs the earth over the seeds.
- Each day, have them walk their rectangle with a watering can to give their seeds a drink, watching for the first signs of little green coming through the soil. Remind your little gardener their flowers will need a little water each day, twice a day during the hottest days in summer. Let them journal about the entire process; maybe even take photos of the changes for their journal.
- As the sunflowers grow up wrap the morning glory vines loosely around the stalks. Wrapping the vines around sunflowers and around stakes will keep everything in place. Depending on what “vine flower” you use, they might even grow fast enough to tie strings across the top from sunflower to sunflower to make a roof.
Once their sunflower reading room has grown, your little gardener needs an old sleeping bag, books and their journal. Just maybe, if you’re lucky, you will be invited to share an afternoon of reading in their sunflower room.
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