The author at 22 months Photo courtesy of V. Beatty

Studies have shown that children as young as a year and a half can become intrigued with plants, and by the age of 2 are eager to get growing. Young children learn by doing, by observing and by copying what they see around them.

Until they are taught differently, children enjoy playing with soil, examining caterpillars and earthworms and tasting everything. Adults, on the other hand, are often reluctant to try anything new. Growing together can often be a great adventure for both groups.

• Start by looking, feeling, smelling plants at home, in the garden, and in the grocery store. Compare fruits and vegetables. How are they the same? How are they different? Where do they come from?

• Look for beauty in the environment. Concentrate on the cheerfulness of dandelions rather than on the beer cans and discarded plastic bags. 

• Get up close and personal with plants. Check how they are put together. Study their parts: roots, stems, flowers and seed.  Learn ways to pick flowers and fruits without destroying the whole plant.

• Start with simple projects and repeat them often. Repeating provides great satisfaction and builds confidence.

A fun way to start gardening is by transplanting small plants. Make a hole in the ground or in a large container of soil. Carefully slip the plant, roots and all, into the hole. Pat the soil around the plant and water it well. This does not take long and looks great right away. 

Cut off a piece of a plant and stick it into potting mix or water. Begonias are easy. Cut a begonia leaf with a 2-inch stem. Place the stem in a small bottle filled with water. When the roots begin to appear on the bottom of the stem transplant the leaf into a small pot. Keep mix evenly moist. A collection of bottles with pretty leaves makes a beautiful table decoration.

 The first step in starting seeds is to take a plastic egg carton and cut it apart. Make small holes in the bottom of the bumpy half and fill bumps with potting mix. When that is done place the bottom half into the top half. Gently water the potting mix until the mix is damp. Press a seed (beans and marigolds are easy) into each section until it is barely covered.
Slip unit into a clear plastic bag and see what happens. Not every seed will produce a plant. Share information on the scientific method – there are no failures, only learning experiences.

Working with plants encourages creativity and develops powers of observation. Success with plants reinforces children’s feelings of self-worth. Start now. Have fun together and take the first steps on a wonderful journey.