Watching plants grow is a lovely experience for your little ones, and the rapid growing nature of cress makes it a great plant to monitor for a project. You can buy packets of cress seeds in supermarkets, garden centres and hardware stores; a single packet will have plenty of seeds for a few growing projects.
Cress grows very well on cotton wool which is less messy than using more traditional soil. You can grow cress in any receptacle, here are a few ideas:-
- Create growing 'pots' out of Duplo, Lego or other building blocks
- Take some egg shells and grow in there, draw faces on the front to make 'cress men'
- Use an egg box to create a mountainous landscape with cress 'trees'
- Grow cress in the shapes of your childrens initials, try creating their whole name!
- Use small boxes, tins or any other containers
Lay some cotton wool inside your chosen 'pot', sprinkle seeds on top and saturate it with water. Leave it in a warm and light place such as a windowsill. Look at the pot each day and see what happens. Watch as the seeds start sprouting and then grow into tall cress. After a few days you will be able to harvest the cress - chop it with a pair of scissors and sprinkle it inside a sandwich and enjoy the reward of your labours!
With spring upon us, now is the perfect time to start a diary project exploring how flowers and plants grow - here are some ideas for some growing fun...
- Take one flower pot for each of your children and write on their names. If you only have a single child then take three flower pots and give each a fun name. Fill each with soil and plant a sunflower seed in each. Every week, chart which one is the tallest. Is one always the winner, or do they each grow at different rates? Which one grows to be the tallest?
- Take a flower pot and draw a face on the front, stick on googly eyes. Fill it with soil and sprinkle grass seed on top. Sprinkle a fine layer of soil over the seed and water it. Watch the grass grow as green hair for your character. Every couple of weeks, give your character a hair cut, and see if you can keep it growing throughout the summer!
- Take a discarded plastic food container, wash it out and line it with kitchen roll. Sprinkle cress seeds over it and watch them grow over just a couple of weeks. When they have grown, start pulling them out and eating them in sandwiches or on salads!
- Collect a variety of berries and other seeds from the trees, shrubs and plants in your garden. Plant them in a large pot and see which ones grow. See how quickly you can identify which is which as they appear - do they all look the same to start with? How are they different? Do they appear at the same time or at different times?
- Try growing plants from cuttings rather than seed! Take a glass and fill it 3/4's full with water. Cover the top with two or three layers of cellophane, then go into the garden and take some cuttings from your plants. Herbs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme work well, as do climbing plants such as ivy, honeysuckle or vines; you may propagate many shrubs in this way. Take short stems of new growth, typically 4- 5 inches in length with just one or two pairs of leaves at the top. Pierce the cellophane over your water using a skewer and poke your cuttings through so that the ends are in the water. Over time you should see roots beginning to grow and in time, you will be able to plant them into pots and later into the garden! Seeing the root system grow in water is particularly fascinating - have your children study them and draw how the roots look.
Diary projects are lots of fun with your little ones - keep a log book with drawings of your observations over time, your children will love the ongoing project. If you feel really ambitious, why not plant some vegetables? ...or plant a pumpkin that can be ready for Halloween?!
It's never too early to introduce your toddlers to science - you don't call it science, of course, but there are plenty of fun activities that you can do to help build an understanding of the world around them. Here are a few ideas:-
Weather: Create a series of card pictures for different types of weather, and a picture for each of the seasons. Each morning look at the weather and put the appropriate weather and season pictures up on the wall.
Faces: Create a large picture of a head and then create a series of different eyes, noses, mouths, ears, eyebrows, hair and pairs of glasses. Have your toddler create faces, placing features in the right place. Discuss different coloured eyes, different shaped features and talk about what glasses are for.
Planting: Buy some cress or mung beans, plant them in a plastic pot, water them and watch them grow. Have your child chart the progress each day as they germinate and shoot up. Discuss the ways that they change each day, draw how they look and at the end, make a sandwich and enjoy them! Talk about how healthy they are and that good food makes you grow.
Colours: Show how mixing finger paints creates different colours. Create swirling patterns on paper by pouring on generous amounts of paint and swirling with your finger.
Growing: Use a wall to mark the height of your children. Have them stand against the wall, make a pencil mark at the height they stand and measure how tall they are. Add a date, and repeat on the first day of each month. Sometimes you'll see almost no difference, other months you might notice change. Over a prolonged time you will see how they grow. Discuss what makes you grow and the concept that your little ones are growing into big children.
These are just a few ideas, there are hundreds more activities that you can undertake with your toddlers to get them used to the concepts of science, and to spark an interest in the world around them.
The more you learn about the ways that children grow and develop, the more you will see in your own children. After birth, babies develop from the head downwards - first their head grows stronger, then their body, their arms and lastly their legs. Their larger muscles develop first (and therefore gross motor skills, or what we equate as Moving Activities) and then their smaller muscles (tuning their fine motor skills which are our Making Activities). As a member of ToucanLearn, our custom activity path will introduce activities to stimulate physical development from birth through to five years whilst at the same time, ensuring that you and your babies have fun! Two can learn much better than one!