I have a secret to share with all of you. I'm a nerd, and I really, really enjoy doing nerdy things with my kids, especially nature crafts and science experiments. If I can find a reason to sink my hands in the dirt, or blow something up, I will - and I will never, ever complain about the mess...although my husband often will.
From making baking soda and vinegar volcanoes on my stove top (they're great at getting rid of all sorts of crud) to starting a seed garden in our dining room windows (my neighbors were wondering what we were up to), I'm all about encouraging my kids to use their imaginations and to find solutions to ordinary problems that get in their way.
As many of you already know, winter just won't take a hike in the North East and this makes our family pretty grumpy. Usually, by now, we're able to run about without our coats on and the kids' dirty Crocs have already come out of hiding (Crocs + socks = this Mommy's worst nightmare!) We've been doing our best to keep the kiddos entertained, but they're bored of being cooped up inside.
I don't blame them. I'm bored too, especially since I can't put anything in the ground until Mother's Day (we're technically Zone 7, but I plant like we're Zone 6, or else everything would die). So after a recent discussion of how all of us were sick of being inside, I decided that we wouldn't wait for Mother Nature to get her butt in gear any longer. We would start our gardens inside this year - and when the temps finally caught up to us, we'd be ready for it.
I found some clean journals that I'd been holding on to and told the kids that these new journals would be their (We're Not Waiting For You, Mother Nature) Science & Nature Journals. After some initial pouting from my daughter (she wanted it to be a new sketchpad), we were ready to move on. My husband also joined in the fun after I tempted him to the table with a hot cup of coffee and the promise of a bike ride if he helped me out. ;)
We had a bunch of seed packets on hand from a recent shopping trip, so we decided to make our own little Seed-Starting Gardens in our East and South-facing windows. The kids thought it would never-ever work, so we made sure we put detailed notes in our journals to track the progress of their seeds. The windows look pretty cool , if I do say so myself, and I'm happy that we can stop complaining about the chilly weather and enjoy our garden indoors for now.
Update: It's been a few weeks since we started our Seed-Starting Window Garden. The project has kept the kids busy and has been an interesting lesson in patience. So in case you have some impatient little kiddos like we do, I wanted to help you out and let you know what some of our "faster" growing seeds were...
Overall, the fastest growers were our: peas, chives, cilantro, basil, oregano, and surprisingly, lettuce. The worst growers were our Shasta Daisies; they didn't do very well at all, but we could have just purchased a bad batch of seeds. Also, our slowest growers have been our Echinacea, but now that they've sprouted, they really are quite sturdy and should pot up well in another week or so.
KIDS CRAFT: MAKE A SEED-STARTING WINDOW GARDEN
* Plastic Baggies (we used the snack size)
* Thick paper towels (or double-up on thin ones)
* Water & Dropper (we used an old medicine dropper)
* Seeds (larger seeds work best for this craft - like peas)
* Windows (We used East and South-facing ones)
* Painter's Tape
* Sunlight :)
Step 1: Arrange all of your materials within easy reach of little hands. Kids 8 and older can probably do this gardening craft on their own, but smaller hands will need help getting the seeds into the paper towel and the paper towel in the plastic bag.
Step 2: Fold a paper towel so that it will fit into the snack-sized plastic bag. Once the paper towel "packet" is nestled in the bag, push it open and carefully space seeds into the paper towel. Do not over crowd - they need some breathing room.
Step 3: Close the paper towel "packet" and using your dropper, carefully dampen the paper towel. You need the paper towel to be fully moistened, but not soaking wet. If it's too wet, the seeds will grow mold and rot.
Step 4: Once the paper towel is fully dampened, lay it on the table and seal the plastic baggie closed. You do not want any air to get in or out of the bag. You're creating a little micro-climate in there! Label each bag with your child's name, the date, and what's inside.
Step 5: Using painter's tape (it won't leave marks on your windows), tape the baggies in windows that get some direct sunlight each day. You want the seeds to warm up and sprout.
Step 6: Check on your seeds every few days. Some will germinate faster than others. Your kids will be able to clearly see the growth of the roots and then the shoot. If you notice any rot occurring, ditch those seeds and repackage the good ones into clean, dampened paper towels.
Step 7: Once the seedlings have reached the top of the bag, you can carefully remove them and pot them up. Some of the roots will grow into the paper towel, so please be careful. If they are really stuck, just pot up your seedlings with the paper towel still attached. Paper towels can also be used in your compost bin, so don't chuck them in the trash when you're done - compost them instead!