Grass seed picture

What: A picture “coloured in” with glue and collected grass seeds.

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The placing of glue and seeds is a little imprecise, though if you have the patience to do a bit, let it dry and come back for the next bit you can get more precision. We didn’t.

How: First, I and Kid 3 went out into the garden and collected seeds. We found different kinds of grass – there are several kinds of tussock and weed grasses in our overgrown back yard – and collected handfuls of seeds from each in different bowls. TBH, I did a lot of the prompting and collecting here, including sneaking back out and getting more of the kind that were most different, though Kid 3 thought they did it all. All with lots of conversation about the colour and size and differences. Then we went inside with our loot.

Inside, the bowls gathered dust sitting on the table for a day or two while Kid 3 “played” with them (i.e. talked about them to anyone who came near). Then I drew a picture on a piece of cardboard with big black marker (Kid 3 requested “a house”), and one section at a time we applied glue, then tipped seeds of a particular kind into the segment and spread them around with a popstick. I say “we” because glue and tippy things with a Kid 3 generally involves some “assistance” to make sure results match intentions (both yours and theirs). It took a couple of hours to fully dry, even though it was poked regularly to check.

Extras: You could do this with spices, or left over garden seeds from different kinds of plants – grass seeds have some commonalities, but seeds from the daisy/lettuce family or from the salvias or poppies or brassicas or umbrella herbs (parsley, celery, dill etc) can all be quite different in shape and kind while being similar within the family. You could draw patterns or shapes instead of a picture. And if picking the seeds together just doesn’t work out, taking a mixed bowl you’ve prepared beforehand and sorting or sieving them into different kinds might be fun too (depending on seed type).

Cinderblock wall garden

What: A miniature garden in a small space, at kid height, planted in cinderblocks.

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New polkadot seedlings freshly planted. I have to work water into the soil each planting because of the drying effect.

How: The cinderblocks are stacked carefully against an existing small wall by our front door, where it’s easy for kids to remember to water them and also where school water bottles get tipped out daily. I made sure block holes were lined up so there’s a good 30cm of depth (the key depth for success), and filled them with good quality potting mix. Each time we plant I usually have to top up the soil a little as well, as it settles and drains out over time.

We’ve planted them with various seedlings over the seasons – beans that climbed up strings, a spider plant that came home from daycare, herbs that became snail food. It doesn’t matter – they’re in a very easy to see place so that they can be managed and interacted with regularly. Our current incarnation is Kid 6’s adored polkadot plant, with leaves in spots of several kinds of pink and white.

It’s wise to pick plants that don’t mind a bit of dryness, because the cinderblocks pull water out of the potting mix so the soil can get quite dry over time (re-wet it thoroughly every planting and dig the water in). Also make sure it’s plants that are good in pots, as the holes in the blocks are not wide. I tend to avoid plants that attract bees because ours is right by the front door, but your mileage may vary.

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The full block wall. It’s not a large thing. The bamboo stakes are leftover from when we grew beans and peas.

Extras: This makes a space where you can do all those lovely garden-interaction things regularly – talking about flowers, scents, colours; looking at bugs and snails; watching something grow; measuring it as it grows; whatever it is you want to do. In theory you can grow your own after-school snacks, which takes a bit of planning, discussion and responsibility, but I found that in small spaces like this the results aren’t that reliable, garden beds are better for that sort of thing. It’s not impossible though. Another option is mint leaves to pick and stick in water bottles on your way out the door.