It’s only December 4th, but shoppers are already rushing around, looking for the perfect gift. For many, this is an electronic toy, video game, or other passive form of entertainment, which do not offer children much in the way of learning opportunities (unless a zombie apocalypse should strike).
Instead of buying toys, why not instill skills? Building things, growing plants, making food, and the like are valuable skills that contribute to mental and physical health. The habits that children develop early on carry forward into the choices they make later in life.
A package of seeds, no matter how beautifully wrapped, may not seem to be a very interesting gift. Young children are fascinated, though, when they first realize that watering a seed will cause a sprout to grow, then develop into a seedling that produces vegetables or fruits that contains the same seeds. Bean seeds are a great choice for young kids; you can eat their sprouts throughout the winter, then direct sow them outside in the late spring, enjoy beans throughout the summer, and collect seeds for the next planting.
A few more ideas:
- If you have older kids, give each of them a couple of unidentified types of seeds to sprout. As the sprouts grow, have them guess what they received based on taste and appearance.
- Give neighbours some attractive pots, seeds, and potting soil, and plan a co-operative neighbourhood patio garden.
- Conquer the winter blues, and grow some plants indoors.
Let kids make their own containers. There are tons of ideas on the internet for DIY planters and containers. Depending upon their skill levels and ages, your children may be able to build or assemble containers, trellises, cold frames, and similar structures, or perhaps just decorate them. Once a child learns how to safely use a hammer, nails, and saw, then give them some scraps of wood and see what they can build.
Nothing tastes better than homegrown, homemade food. Why not do some extra canning to give away as gifts? Children follow their parents’ examples and learn that canning is simple, cost-effective, and nutritious. Recipients of your gifts realize the same. And, let’s be honest, there is always one vegetable you grow too much of–why not share some of it? You can use that giant zucchini to make pickles or marmalade.
If you’re fortunate enough to have the space to grow your own vegetables, then why not share your bounty with others? Many communities have plant-a-row, donate-a-row programs whereby you can donate a row of vegetables from your garden to a local food cupboard. Contact your local food bank to discover their needs, then plan how you will grow your contribution. Your children will feel pride in growing plants that can feed others.