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Young Sprouts: Summer in the Garden

Activities and Play

6/8/2022 | Emily Jaeger

Summer in the garden is when things really get hoppin.’ Nightshades (tomato, peppers, potatoes, okra) and cucurbitas (cucumber, squash, and melons) are laden with fruit. You are even starting to harvest some of your learners’ favorite fruits and veggies. We’re branching out from the leafy greens and radishes! 

If your childcare facility is year-round or has a summer camp, there are so many things for learners to discover during this sunny season. Also, all that sun and hot weather mean that there is enough watering, pest patrol, and weed control to keep your hands full. 

Summer Garden Tasks

Water, water, water. Outdoor gardens require about 1 inch of water over the whole surface of the garden per week. Depending on where you live, you may occasionally skip watering if there is a heavy downpour. But don’t let plants get distressed and wilted waiting for an upcoming storm. 

Weeds and Pests. Now that your garden plants are reaching maturity, it is much more obvious what is a weed and what is a garden plant. Learners can pull any small (or large) weeds that develop before things get out of hand. And use their assistance to scout for any pest infestations. 

Harvest. Make bouquets, pick herbs, green beans, cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, and more. Summer is the perfect time for taste tests, garden-fresh recipes, and beginning to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Summer Garden Activities

Fruits, roots, shoots, and leaves. What are the parts of the plant? Do we eat the same part of every plant? What’s the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? These questions and more are a great entry into the mature stage of the plant life-cycle. Introduce a selection of summer vegetables to your learners. Make sure to include some plants where you eat the fruits (squash, tomatoes, green beans), roots (carrots, potatoes, turnips), shoots (celery, asparagus), and leaves (lettuce, kale, bok choy). You can also compare your collection of vegetables to a picture of a flower (or one you pulled out by the roots). How do the different parts match up? 

Vegetable rainbow. Reuse your vegetables from the previous activity and have learners sort them by color. If you have a rainbow block toy or a rainbow selection of colored paper, learners can match vegetables with the correct color swatch. 

What happens in summer? Fostering environmental awareness can sometimes be as simple as paying attention to the natural world. Take a “field trip” to the outdoors and pay attention to summer changes. Hot sun, plants fruiting and flowering, trees with full foliage, birds singing, etc. This is also the perfect time to check out what’s happening in the summer garden. 

Introduce learners to seasonal vegetables. Set up a (temporary) sensory table with zucchini, cucumber, green beans, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers for learners to explore. Do a taste test of summer vegetables and graph the results of learners’ favorite summer vegetables. Make a garden-fresh veggies pizza or vegetable kabobs from these ingredients and practice cutting with Montessori knives or adaptive scissors. 

Have fun in the sun with some great solar energy activities. Learners will also enjoy this sensory ice play activity with flowers. Freeze summer flowers into cubes or cups of water. They can melt the flower cubes in a water table or on the sidewalk during outdoor playtime. Learners can use tweezers and magnifying glasses to further examine the flowers. 

Summer art projects. There are only 75 thousand and six summer-themed art projects. You probably already have some favorites. If you haven’t tried these already, here are three more to add to the mix: 

  • Making art en plein air was popularized by the impressionists and just means making art outside. Bring art supplies or playdough out to your school garden and let learners portray a flower or vegetable in their own way.
  • Decorate DIY watering cans made from recycled soda or detergent bottles with holes drilled in the caps. Keep these on hand for the summer so learners can help out with watering.
  • Decorate your outdoor or windowsill garden with some painted stones or shells. 

Emily Jaeger is a professional writer with a background in education (she's taught every age group from preschool to retirement). Her writing has been featured on Parents Magazine, Kveller, Motherfigure and more. You can connect with Emily via her website emilyjaeger.com or on instagram @soulinparaphrase.

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