Children, Nature, Botany = it's our future

Edie Wogaman reads to her grandsons
Gardening is a wonderful way to help children appreciate and learn about the science in and of the world around them.

There are lots of easy to understand hands-on activities from planting seeds to pulling weeds that introduce children to the importance of what is going on with plants and nature.

Every child has access to nature even if it is only weeds in sidewalks and the birds in nearby trees. Houseplants, flowers, as well as fruits and vegetables at the grocery store can provide topics for conversation.

The library and the internet ( are loaded with entertaining suggestions for botany lessons with children. Schools, churches, and local public gardens offer gardening-with-children activities.

It's OK to touch frogs gently
Things to look for at the library include flower and tree identification guides for older children and  introductory books for little ones, such as “Wonders of Nature” Golden Books, “How a Seed Grows” Lets Read and Find, “The Tiny Seed” The World of Eric Carle, and “A Leaf Can Be” Millbrook Picture Book.

Pressing leaves in books, coloring and drawing flowers, planting the seeds from grocery store food are all available as videos on YouTube. “Sid the Seed, How Do Plants Grow?” and “What is Germination?” are just a few of the dozens available.

Growing sprouts in the kitchen is another way to show children how seeds become shoots and roots. Just go to the school pages at for ideas.

A new book that is of interest for older children, “Isabella’s Peppermint Flowers” was just published by United Plant Savers ( The author Susan Leopold wrote and printed the book with her own money in order to raise money for the nonprofit The illustrations in the book, by Nicky Staunton, are will delight children of all ages.

The peppermint flowers referred to in the title are Claytonia, commonly known as Spring Beauty. They pop up everywhere in the spring appearing to be white at first and the pink stripes showing only upon closer examination.

United Plant Savers 
conducts native plant habitat restoration. 
Annual Membership $35 includes Journal of Medicinal Plants
Links to preservation organizations, videos, educational resources

Take apart grocery store fruits and vegetables to use as botany lessons. Identify leaves, stems, roots and which parts can be eaten. You can point out and talk about where the plant grows (above or under the ground, which country, etc.) Look at the veins in the leaves the seeds inside, etc.

Max and Robby discover turtles
Actually gardening with children teaches them botany, too. Small container gardens, window boxes, and beds of plants present excellent opportunities to talk about nature. They can observe flowers attracting pollinators, followed by seed formation and the seeds feeding the birds in the winter.

Stick with easy to grow flowers and vegetables so the results are successful, showing them the process of plant growth throughout. Any potato that has sprouted in your kitchen will grow into a potato plant.

“The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 ways to get kids outside, dirty and having fun” is loaded with ideas. (Published 2012, Timber Press, $20 list and $14 online).

This book emphasizes making gardening fun for children with a play-friendly garden. There are hundreds of photos and illustrations, activity plans, and child-friendly recipes,

Turn into a Tourist is one of the activities. Take children to a local community garden or farm to look for plants they would like to grow at home. Take paper and pencil, a camera and seed catalogues along. Make a picture book that can become a plan for a bed or box to plant at home.

Or, make a simple soil test. Put water and soil into a clear jar. Shake and let it rest a day. Observe and talk about the layers of sand, clay, silt and water that result.

The future needs a new generation of plant and nature lovers so share your enthusiasm.


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