"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."
- May Sarton
Giving children the gift of growing their own food is not only giving them a valuable skillset. It also encourages a nature connection that they will carry with them into adulthood. They'll be more likely to care about their environment as well as the foods they're eating to nourish their bodies.
When starting a Montessori gardening program with children, the most important element is to include them as much as possible. We like to break tasks down into manageable components as needed, in order to suit the developmental readiness of each child. As they master each task and build on their skills, they increase in their independence and in the joy they experience in their work.
In this post, we'll share some Montessori gardening routines from our homeschool garden. The strategies we use empower kids to grow their own food and eat healthy. If you're looking for practical tips on how to start your children's gardening journey and a lifelong love for healthy food, this is an excellent place to start.
Montessori Gardening Plan
If you're starting a garden from scratch, there's some planning that goes into it. We really took our time setting ours up and involved our kids as much as possible. One thing we've noticed: there are a lot of opportunities for measurement. If you want to incorporate some math, this is your jam. Also, there are plenty of opportunities to use the Three Period Lesson when introducing new vocabulary. You can catch more on how we set up our Montessori homeschool garden here:
- Outdoor Practical Life: Soil Composition Test/Sediment Jars
- Outdoor Practical Life: PNW Vegetable Garden – Soil Temp & DIY Soil pH Testing
- Vegetable Garden Beds: Establishment & DIY Compost
- Vegetable Garden: Sun, Soil, Air, & Water… & Deer
This year, our beds are dug and our fencing is up. As a result, we start the planning process by asking our kids what they would like to grow and eat. What did they enjoy last year? Questions like that usually jump-start the flow of ideas pretty quickly.
Brainstorming ideas is a nice opening to breaking out the seeds we keep in storage. We prefer to use what we have first and having seeds on hand with packets for them to hold encourages that process. Our seeds live in a glass container in our fridge.
If you're not sure what to plant, when to plant it , or what grows well in your area, I would check out this guide before making any purchases.
Implementing a Gardening Schedule
We like to come up with the plan together and write it down in our nifty garden journal. Any dates we need to remember are written down as well and we add them to our family's monthly whiteboard calendar at the beginning of every month for everyone to see. Also, our kids keep up with daily and weekly tasks, such as watering and weeding, by using their Visual Schedule and understanding the rhythm of our days. For example, our oldest expects that every morning we talk about the weather and if we need to water the garden.
Our kids do the planting, whether its indoor starts or direct sowing. Recyclable egg cartons are great for indoor starts because they are easily manipulated by small hands when it's time to transplant them into your garden. For direct sowing, we usually mark the soil with a stick or trowel, as a guide, but it's mostly for our 2 and 3 year olds. Our 5 y.o. can pretty much estimate the spacing now. Again, we use our Visual Schedule and Monthly Calendar to keep up with any future planting: seeds or indoor starts.
Pulling weeds! That's no fun, right? Well, our kids disagree. Give our 5 y.o. a weeding tool, and she will spend hours removing anything that resembles a pesky weed in our garden. If she's not sure, she'll ask and we try to offer as much information as we can. At this age, the questions can get pretty deep. My husband takes a very comedic approach right now which she loves. The other day, she asked: "Dad, what's the difference between a flower and a weed?" My husband's response: "Your opinion, man."
Again, Montessori gardening tools for the win! A couple trowels and a bucket and they're on their way. We model what to do for each vegetable and follow-up if they ask for help. Child-sized tools work best, but sometimes our kids like to use Mom and Dad's tools. We don't mind sharing.
The level of interest varies for our 2 and 3 y.o. They generally hop back and forth between gardening and playing in the dirt with trucks or animals. Whatever floats their boat. Our 5 y.o. is very invested and does everything to completion. If you'd like to encourage interest at any step along the way, tools, books, and printables are great solutions. You can find what our kids enjoy listed at the bottom.
Speaking of tools, kitchen tools are a great way to promote independence and interest in food prep. Our kids can shell these fava beans using just their thumbnail, but you better believe they grab their knives and cutting boards every time. They love it. Look at those knife skills! We've used this knife set for years and we've never had an issue.
Composting is an awesome gateway to a variety of topics, including what is biodegradable and what is not. Plus, it's another dirty job and our kids love those. Ours consists of mostly kitchen scraps, grass clippings, cardboard, and rabbit manure. If you're new at composting, the books and courses we've listed below are great resources to get started. Also, this is a very useful free online resource.
Montessori Gardening Resources
Montessori Gardening Books
These books are great for all ages. Farm Anatomy is awesome for stimulating interest in a variety of farm-related and gardening topics and it has beautiful illustrations. Wings, Worms, and Wonder contains some great lessons and we look forward to using it more this year. In addition, there's a Print Resources section in the back that is packed full of ideas and references to extend your studies on a variety of topics. I was pleased to see that we already have several of them on our shelves. We all enjoy the Parts of the Biome Readers and there are several books in this set that are a great fit for further exploration.
Save $15 on your first Waseca Biomes purchase here.
OSU's Master Gardener course is geared towards adults and has something for all experience levels. You don't need to be an experienced gardener to have an awesome gardening program. However, this course is a useful resource if you're looking to learn something new.
Montessori Gardening Themed Printables
The printables are great for stimulating interest or for extending the gardening fun to other areas of your homeschool. Our kids really enjoy them. The activities in the phonological awareness pack really help lay the foundation necessary for sharp reading skills.
Now, are you ready to start your Montessori gardening program or have you already started? If not, what's holding you back? Let me know.
More Montessori Practical Life
- Montessori Grace and Courtesy
- Montessori Practical Life in the Kitchen: Baking Blueberry Cake
- Practical Life: Montessori Pets and Caring for Animals
More About Montessori Education & Montessori Gardening
- Building a Native Forest Garden with The Earth Project
- Montessori Primary Curriculum
- Montessori Elementary Curriculum
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